Exploring the Ancient Greek Culture over 10 Days
Embark upon your journey with an overnight flight to Athens. Prepare yourself for a life-changing experience and get some rest on the flight. Tomorrow you will be walking where the apostle Paul walked! We arrive in Athens mid-afternoon and are met by our representative and given the tickets for our flight to Thessaloniki. This is the city where Paul was received by Jason. Paul was preaching the Word of God here until he was rushed out of the city. We transfer to our hotel for check-in and dinner. In the upcoming morning we start with the landmarks of the city: the White Tower, The Walls of the Byzantine Acropolis, the Roman Arch of Galerius and the Rotonda. We visit two of the city’s oldest and most admired Christian churches, the Basilicas of St. Demetrius and St. Sophia. We then follow the route of the Via Egnatia and visit, like Paul and his companions, the area of Amphipolis, to see the famous funerary Lion of Amphipolis. Then we travel onto Philippi. There, we visit the Baptistery of Lydia near the river, where Paul baptized her. Lydia was the first convert of Paul on European soil, followed by the jailer. Also, we visit the ruins of the Forum of Philippi, the Christian Basilicas, the “Prison of Paul” and the Theater. Then we drive to Kavala (Neapolis), Paul’s first step in bringing the Gospel to present day Europe. A picturesque port, we view the Byzantine Castle and the Roman Aqueduct. We return to Thessaloniki for dinner and overnight.
Cruising through the Greek Isles
The next morning we see the world-famous Byzantine monasteries that are perched on summits of gray rock peaks of varied and beautiful shapes. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the monks sought refuge in the cliff-side caves, then fled higher to build the original wooden shelters, which were later transformed into monasteries. Afterwards, we continue to Athens where we will have dinner and overnight. We sail the following morning from Athens to the quaint isle of Mykonos, called the island of windmills. We arrive at Mykonos, where we disembark and have time to experience the waterfront lined with shops and cafes. We stroll the charming walkways through a maze of white-washed buildings before returning to the ship for dinner and evening activities. No excursions are included today, as we will visit the island at our leisure. This morning we arrive in Kusadasi, Turkey. Excursion Included: A short drive takes us to Ephesus, where Paul spent three years during his ministry. The impressive remains of Ephesus include the Agora, the Theater, the Stadium, the Library of Celsus, the ruins of the Temple of Diana (one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”) and many more. Later, we sail for the island of Patmos. Excursion Included: Here we visit the Monastery of St. John, on one of the island’s highest points. From there, we walk down to the Grotto of the Apocalypse, the site of the apocalyptic Revelations of St. John the Divine. The next morning, we arrive at Heraklion, Crete and disembark. Excursion Included: During this excursion, we take a short ride through the town of Heraklion and then arrive at the Knossos excavations. Here, Sir Arthur Evan’s archaeological discoveries revealed a civilization dating back to 4000 B.C., when a great empire flourished on the island of Crete. Paul left Titus in Crete and gave instructions on appointing church leaders in the towns (Titus 1:5ff). In the afternoon, we cruise to the isle of Santorini and disembark. Excursion Not included: Santorini is often referred to as the most breathtaking of all the Greek islands. The exquisite whitewashed villages, including the town of Fira, or Thira, cling to volcanic cliffs, accessible by cable-car, or mule.
Experiencing the Breathtaking Athens
We disembark the cruise the following morning in Piraeus. After disembarkation, we will continue our sightseeing with a visit to Ancient Corinth. This is the once-glorious city near the Isthmus, where Paul met Aquilla and Priscilla and spent a year and a half preaching the Word of God. We visit the Archaeological Museum, the Forum, the Temples and the famous Bema, where Paul stood before Gallio, accused by the Jews of Corinth. Then we drive to Cenchreae, the little harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia, thus ending his second missionary journey. Here we admire the architectural wonders of ancient Athens, as we follow our guide to the world-renowned Acropolis, to see the Propylea, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon. We visit Mars Hill, where Paul delivered his speech on the “Unknown God.” Then we see the Agora, the ancient center of the economic and public life of the city, where Paul preached to the skeptical Athenians. During the bus tour, we also see Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus, the Old Olympic Stadium and the Neoclassical Buildings of Athens. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Athens on your own. Dinner and overnight are in Athens. The next day, we include a special visit to Delphi, this mountainous city which today is both an archaeological site and a modern town. For the ancient Greeks, Delphi was labeled the “omphalos” (navel) of the earth and it is here that the eternal flame burned in the Temple of Apollo. Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. It was also here beginning in 586 B.C. that athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the precursors to the modern Olympics. On our way up to Delphi, we’ll have time to stop and enjoy the small scenic villages that cling to the mountainsides. Dinner and overnight are in Athens. We transfer in the next morning to Athens Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. We arrive home the same day.
Optional Rome Extension
We transfer in the morning to Athens Airport for our flight to Rome. Upon arrival, we meet our tour escort and head to the coast to visit the spectacular ruins of Ostia Antica, the port of ancient Rome in New Testament times. The excavations continue today and provide insight into what Roman cities were like in the 1st century. On the way to Rome, we stop to walk on the ancient stones of the Appian Ways, as Paul did on his way to Rome. We then return to Rome to begin our touring, which includes stops at the Trastevere area of the city where Paul lived for two years. We then check in to our hotel for dinner and overnight. Our first stop the following morning is the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, the celebrated Chapel of the Popes and the venue of the conclaves for Papal elections. It is one of the most splendid masterpieces in the history of world art and is known around the world for its magnificent ceiling, beautifully decorated by Michelangelo. From here, our next visit is to the Basilica of St. Peter, the largest church in the world, which overlooks the enormous Piazza San Pietro. After a break for lunch (not included), we tour the eternal city. Driving through the main streets of Rome, we will marvel at the monuments of this great capital. Then we stop near the Fontana di Trevi, following tradition by tossing a coin into the fountain, promising to return to Rome. Dinner and overnight are in Rome. The following day, we enjoy a sightseeing tour, including a special visit to the Catacombs where we explore tunnels and see the carvings on the walls from early Christians. From here we continue to St. Peter in Chains. Then we visit the Colosseum, which symbolizes the eternity of the Roman civilization, the Forum, and the Piazza Venezia, dominated by the imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuel II. After lunch (not included), we visit St. John Lateran and the “Sacred Steps.” As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness. Afterwards, we visit St. Paul’s Church where tradition believes the Apostle Paul is buried, followed by dinner and overnight in Rome. We transfer our final morning to Rome Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. and arrive the same day.