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A week long highlights trip of the Greek islands. Starting in cosmopolitan Athens, travel by ferry to experience the best of the Cyclades Islands. Sample delicious Greek food, explore remote villages and enjoy a sunset dinner cruise on Santorini.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Athens at any point in the day. Combining the ancient and modern world, the centre of Athens in surprisingly compact. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit one of the cafes in the colourful Psyrri district which offer traditional Greek cuisine of scrumptious aubergines, tomatoes and cheese washed down with ouzo or raki. There are traditional rustic tavernas in the well-known Plaka area at the foot of the Acropolis.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6.30pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Due to a number of flights arriving into Athens later in the evening, our welcome meeting will take place on day two. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Athens at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Athens International Airport (ATH), which is about one hours' drive, depending on traffic.
Our time in Athens on this highlights trip is limited, if you can spare more time why not consider extending your trip by arriving a couple of days earlier.
Arion Athens Hotel (or similar)
Heading out on foot from our hotel, its a short walk to the Plaka district, to soak up the atmosphere of the old town.
The streets are full of atmospheric tavernas with their tables spilling out onto the narrow cobbled streets and small traders selling all kind of specialties. Its a very picturesque area. Climbing up from Plaka to the Acropolis we pass through the Anafiotika district, where the architecture is more in keeping with Santorini than the Greek capital.
We have a guided tour of the Acropolis, deservedly one the wonders of the ancient world made up of the Temple of Athena Nike, Pericles and the Parthenon tower and the monument most venerated by the ancient Athenians themselves - the Erechtheion.
Making our way back to our hotel, we collect our bags and drive to Piraeus harbour where we board the ferry to Naxos (which departs at around 5.30pm and takes just over five hours). On the ferry we will have reserved seating, so we are assured of a seat, but you are also free to take in the sea air from the deck or enjoy a drink in the bar.
We disembark at the port of Naxos and drive to our hotel close to the town centre. Naxos is the largest and most fertile of the Cyclades island group, covering an area of about 430 square kilometres, with fine beaches and a mountainous interior.
Hotel Grotta (or similar)
The morning is free to relax at our hotel. Read a book in the garden courtyard, take a dip in the pool or take a stroll on Agios Georgios Beach.
This afternoon we head out to explore Naxos town on foot. At the entrance to the harbour sits the grand Portara stone that has greeted visitors for over 2500 years. The town itself is a mix of whitewashed houses and medieval Venetian mansions, with the fortified 'kastro' or castle occupying a prominent position overlooking the bay. Our tour leader will show us around the network of alleyways and courtyards, as well as making recommendations for eating out in town. We return to our hotel along the promenade alongside Grotta beach.
Heading inland, we drive to a small chapel at the foot of Mt. Zas. Situated at over 500 meters, the air here is noticeably cooler most days, a welcome escape from the summer heat.
Walking to the village of Apiranthos along the foothills of Mt. Zas (also known as Mount Zeus), the highest mountain in the Cyclades island group, we stop at the amazingly well preserved Fotodoti Monastery before continuing to Apiranthos. In total we cover just over five kilometres, for those who want to opt out of the walk there is the option to drive directly to Apiranthos and re-join the group for lunch.
Apiranthos is a charming village, far removed from the crowds of the beaches along the coast; with the most Cretan influence of all of the interior villages of the island. The village square is surrounded by cafes and tavernas looking out to the terraced valley below. It is an idyllic spot to have a leisurely lunch, with time afterwards to visit the village museum.
Returning to Naxos town we make a stop at the Vallindras distillery, known for its distinctive citron liqueur. Now in their fifth generation the Vallindras family continues the tradition producing their fragrant liqueur made from the leaves for citrus fruits grown on the islands' fertile slopes. We have a tour of the distillery followed by a tasting.
Checking out of our hotel we head back to the port of Naxos to board the lunch time ferry to Santorini, a journey of 2.5 hours.
Renowned for its amazing natural beauty, Santorini (or Thira as the island is also known) is the most southerly of the Cycladic Islands. It's one of the most picturesque areas in the Aegean and the familiar images of whitewashed churches with blue-domed roofs adorn this beautiful landscape. It's also an area of particular interest to those keen on the Lost Atlantis legend.
Formerly a huge volcano, its centre disappeared in an enormous explosion in around 1450 BC and this area now forms a lagoon where some believe that the city of Atlantis now resides having been destroyed by the eruption and swept into the waters. Record show that the eruption did overwhelm the Minoan settlements at Akrotiri as well as those on Crete.
We drive to our hotel which features a large swimming pool and beach front location. The rest of the day is at leisure. Please note that our accommodation is located near the village of Kamari. It is a 20 minute drive into Santorini's main town of Fira, there are frequent bus departures from the bus stop near the hotel.
Kamari Beach Hotel (or similar)
This morning we have a coastal walk from Thira to Oia. This moderate walk takes approximately three to four hours and covers eight kilometres.
We head to our starting point by public bus. The path goes along the lip of a caldera and provides great views along the way out to sea and of the surrounding countryside. Halfway through the walk there's the option to stop at a coffee shop for refreshments.
The town of Oia on the northwestern tip of Santorini, is built along a rocky stretch of coastline and is one of the most photogenic places on Santorini. It has a long seafaring culture and there are two types of houses here - the whitewashed cave houses that are dug into the volcanic rock in the cliff side and the captain houses above ground where the upper class ship owners once lived.
Oia has a host of taverns and cafes; it is well worth spending time here after our walk and getting the bus back to hotel later in the day, it's also a great place to witness a magnificent Santorini sunset.
The morning you can choose to join a local wine tasting at Artemis-Karamolegos Winery in Exogonia, t he island is best known for its delicious white wines.
The middle of the day is left free to further explore the island. Late afternoon we head to the port of Athinios and board a shared sailing boat. The Captain takes us to the best spots to enjoy the views and take spectacular pictures of the Caldera and the Volcano. A delicious buffet dinner is served during the cruise. Before the sun starts setting into the sea, the Captain brings the boat to the best location to see the amazing sunset of Santorini. After the sunset we sail back to Athinios port, where we are met and returned to our hotel.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Santorini.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Santorini at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Santorini Airport (JTR), which is about fifteen minutes drive, depending on traffic.
Greece has such a vast geographical difference between the mainland and the islands, and travel is possible at all times of year but the climate can vary depending on when you go.
During late spring or early autumn, in the months of April-May or September-October, temperatures are warm and pleasant, usually hovering around 25 degrees. Rainfall is low, but can be erratic during these months. Cooler evenings take the heat off the day. If you have booked a walking holiday, wild flowers bloom during the spring, adding colour to the hiking trails.
Summers are hot and dry, with plenty of sunshine and little rain. Temperatures can go north of 35 degrees in July and August. On the islands, restaurants and bars may be busy with cruise ship passengers. While this period definitely gives you a ‘summer holiday’ feeling, those wishing to explore Greece’s ancient sites may find the heat challenging.
When travelling in winter, from late November to early March, the villages will be very quiet. Temperatures in Athens at this time are around 10-15 degrees, while the nights will be colder. Hotels in northern Greece in particular are well adapted to deal with cold winters, having proper heating and warm fires to retreat to after a day of exploring. This makes it a good destination for travel between November-March.
2 Pin Round
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your trip, please note that some of the walks and boat trips will be weather dependent, trips departing in the early season (in particular in April) are more likely to be effected. Athens: On the afternoon of day two you may like to do the following: Acropolis Museum entrance €15.00 per person National Archaeological Museum entrance €12.00 per person Olympic Stadium entrance €10.00 per person Trams - 24 hour ticket costs €4.10 per operson If you are a student or over 65, please carry ID for half price museum entrance fees. only cash accepted
July and August are the hottest months though the islands are freshened by cooling sea breezes, and so lightweight cotton clothing is ideal. Earlier or later in the season it's best to be prepared for drops in temperature and the odd shower, so we recommend wearing layers and taking a lightweight raincoat and an umbrella. A warm sweater will also help to fend off the unexpected chilling wind that on occasion races across the open deck of the ferries between the islands. Women wearing trousers or shorts are not permitted to enter monasteries, so please bring a skirt and ensure your shoulders are covered should you wish to visit any.
Lightweight walking boots (especially for volcanoes as flip flops melt) or stout shoes with good ankle support for island walks and sandals or trainers for relaxing.
One main piece of luggage and a day pack. You will have to carry your own luggage on and off ferries. Not many of the hotels used have lifts, and porters are not always available so don't overload yourself.
We recommend taking a water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses, torch (in case of emergencies), sun cream and insect repellent with you. You may also find walking poles useful for our included and optional walks, as the terrain can be uneven underfoot. You should also bring swimwear and a towel. In Greece sink plugs aren't always provided in hotel rooms, so we would suggest bringing your own.
Bus, Boat, Ferry, Public Bus
Our hotel in Athens has been chosen for its very close proximity to the city centre, with the Acropolis a short fifteen minute walk away and the delightful Plaka quarter with its excellent choice of bars and restaurants even closer. Tucked away from the bustling centre, the hotel has a 7th floor roof garden with views looking out directly to the Acropolis, an ideal spot to watch the sunset. The breakfast buffet includes products from the Mediterranean including seasonal fresh fruits, cereals, scrambled eggs, honey, cakes, bread rolls with olives, raisins or multi-grains, croissants and hot and cold beverages. In Naxos we stay in town, just a few meters behind the beach and ten minutes walk from the old town. This small family run hotel is known for its fantastic breakfasts, has a wrap around garden and decking area and a small indoor spa swimming pool and Hamam, the setting is perfect to relax after exploring the island. Moving to Santorini, we have opted for a hotel out of town as Fira, the main town is extremely busy. It is a 15 minute drive into Santorini's main town of Fira, served by a frequent local bus. The hotel as a large swimming pool, all rooms are air conditioned and have satellite TV and private balconies or terrace. All hotels offer free Wi-Fi.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
No, although there are several swimming opportunities on this trip.
Nothing compulsory but we recommend protection against tetanus and polio. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.