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Cyprus, Santorini, Crete & Rhodes… Islands of sun and history

May 12 to 28, 2020

Cyprus is an island with a unique archaeological legacy - from its beautiful sanctuaries and monuments to the architectural marvels scattered along its craggy mountains, verdant plains, sweeping beaches, rolling hills and abundant vineyards. This Mediterranean island lies at the crossroads of three continents -  where East meets West and a new experience awaits you under the sun of Cyprus.

Crete is an island with an exquisite 700-mile-long coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays, and peninsulas, and a multitude of soft, sandy beaches that line the dazzling blue Mediterranean Sea. As the home of the Minoan civilization, the island is of historic importance in today's world with important archeological finds at Knossos, Phaistos, and Gortys. There are many jewels just waiting to be discovered by the more adventurous explorers. If you have not visited Crete yet, maybe now is the time to come and explore this fascinating Greek island.

 Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, forever shaping its rugged landscape. The whitewashed, cubiform houses of its two principal towns, Fira and Oia, cling to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater). They overlook the sea, small islands to the west, and beaches made up of black, red, and white lava pebbles.

 Rhodes, the largest of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, is known for its beach resorts, ancient ruins, and remnants of its occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. The city of Rhodes has an Old Town featuring the medieval Street of the Knights and the castle like Palace of the Grand Masters. Captured by the Ottomans and then held by the Italians, the palace is now a history museum.

Tour Escort: Led by local guides

Cyprus (Land ONLY): $2,995.00

Single Supplement: $550.00

 Santorini, Crete & Rhodes (Land ONLY): $3,450.00

Single Supplement: $550.00

Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 12 participants

Remarks: Cost based on current exchange rate of the US vs. the Euro and if it fluctuates, participants will be billed for the difference.

Your tour Includes:

  • Flights from Heraklion to Rhodes and Rhodes to Athens.

  • Ferry between Santorini and Heraklion.

  • Meet & assist at all transfers.

  • Transfers using A/C car/minibus.

  • Accommodation at First class (4*) hotels or best available in smaller towns.

  • All meals as per the itinerary (B: Breakfast,
    L: Lunch and D: Dinner).

  • 1 soft drink offered during lunches and bottle of water every day during tours.

  • Entrance fees to mentioned sites.

  • English speaking professional guides.

  • Donation to CAARI for local lecture at their office

  • Seminar by Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) during visit.

Your tour Does Not Include:

  • International airfare from USA or Malta to Cyprus.

  • Air from Cyprus to Santorini (Approx: $200-$400)

  • Any fluctuations in exchange rate to the Euro.

  • Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum.

  • Items of a personal nature (camera fees at sites, laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage, etc.).

  • Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled flights/tour dates.

  • Dayroom or overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.

  • Travel protection insurance.

  • Tips to guides, drivers, porters and restaurant staff.

Tour Notes

Optional Pre-Tour to Malta (May 06 to 12, 2020)

Trip Grade

I Easy  Reasonably paced sightseeing, easy walking, and leisurely days. No particular physical changes. However, walking always involves some exertion: trails are seldom flat, and you must still expect to have a reasonable amount of ascent and descent.

Lodging Level: **** Luxury: Regular style- usually large- hotels, typical western standard with ample venues, and full amenities. (4 or 5 stars)

View Tour Itinerary

Tuesday, May 12
Arrive Larnaca (Cyprus)-Nicosia

On arrival at the Larnaca airport (from the USA or Malta if you do the pre-tour Malta trip), our staff will be ready to greet you and assist with the transfer to your pre-booked hotel in Nicosia for check-in and dinner. The rest of the day will be free at your leisure. Overnight at the Cleopatra Hotel or similar. (D)

Wednesday, May 13
St. Hilarion & Kyrenia

After breakfast at the hotel, spend time exploring the north section of the island. Visit the picturesque Castle of Saint Hilarion, first fortified by the Byzantines but greatly strengthened by the Lusignan kings during the Middle Ages. Continue your drive to Kyrenia via Bellapais Abbey, a beautiful set of ruins overlooking the Mediterranean. Arrive at the picturesque Harbor of Kyrenia where you will have time to explore the town and the Shipwreck Museum. Have lunch at a local restaurant then return to the hotel in Nicosia for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, May 14

Today you will enjoy a medieval tour of Nicosia, beginning with the Cyprus Museum where most of the treasures of Cyprus' archaeological past are housed. Visit Agios Ioannis Church (St. John's Cathedral) and admire its colorful frescoes followed by the Byzantine Art Museum with its stunning collection of Byzantine icons. In the afternoon, there will be a lecture led by the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute Director (1 hour). Return to your hotel in Nicosia for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, May 15
Nicosia to Kakopetria

In the morning, visit the Church of Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. This Byzantine monastery is the only surviving 11th century catholicon (monastery church) in Cyprus. Your journey continues on through the Troodos Mountain to Platres, a mountainous wine village on the southern slopes of the Toodos Mountain. The drive ends at the traditional village of Kakopetria where you'll check into the Panayiotis Casale Hotel or similar for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, May 16

Driving down the valley, you'll head to the coast for Paphos, a UNESCO Cultural and Natural Treasure, known for its impressive ancient remains. Stop at the ancient site of Palaepaphos (now knowns as Kouklia), once the capital of the city-state of Paphos. Spend some time exploring the most important sites including the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, dedicated to the goddess and the location of her legendary birth and the Archaeological Museum, which contains relics from across Palaepaphos. Another important site is the Tomb of the Kings, a large Necropolis from the Hellenistic period. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains underground tombs that are carved out of solid rock, some dating back to the fourth century B.C. Although there are no kings buried here, there are aristocrats and high officials. Overnight at the Boutique Anemi Hotels & Suites for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, May 17

Spend the day exploring the Nea Paphos Archaeological Park where you will see many important sites - from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. See the four Roman villas dating back to the second century A.D. and their excellent preserved mosaic floors. The House of Dionysos, destroyed in the fourth century A.D. by earthquakes, contains some impressive mosaics of the ancient Greek god of wine. The House of Orpheus contains a mosaic representing three mythological scenes - Orpheus and his Lyre, Hercules and the Lion of Nemea, and the Amazon. The House of Aion contains a mosaic floor that is considered to be one of the finest works of Roman art of its kind. The House of Theseus was the residence of the governor and contains a beautiful mosaic of Theseus and the Minotaur. Other sites include the Roman Palace (Castle of 40 Columns), a seventh century Byzantine fortification with many impressive columns and the fourth century A.D. Basilica. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, May 18
Paphos to Limassol

Depart for Limassol, stopping to visit the Rock of Petra tou Romiou, where the legendary goddess was born from the foam of the sea. There are excellent photo opportunities to be had here. Also stop at the ancient city of Kourion to explore its famous and magnificent Grekoroman Theater, a second century B.C. Hellenistic theater. Also see the Roman houses and their beautiful mosaics, the baths, and the basilicas. Before arriving at your hotel, visit the Kolossi Castle, once a Crusader fortress, famous during medieval times for its Commandaria, a sweet wine made from sun-dried grapes, thought to be the oldest continuously produced wine in the world. Check-in and overnight at the Miramare Beach Hotel or similar in Limmasol. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, May 19

Today you'll make the short drive out to Amathus and explore the ruins of this ancient city, which dates back to the 11th century B.C. You'll see the spiraled marble columns at the agora, the mosaic tiled floors at the early Christian basilica, and Hellenistic period houses. Continue east to Kalavasos Tenta, a Neolithic settlement dating back to around 7,000 B.C. Return to your hotel in Limmasol for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, May 20
Limmasol - Larnaca to (Santorini)

In the morning, drive back to the Larnaca Airport (1 hour) in time to check-in for your flight to Santorini via Athens. On arrival, you'll be met by our staff who will assist with the transfer to the El Gerco Hotel or similar)for check-in and overnight. (B)

Thursday, May 21

After breakfast, begin your Grecian island tour with a visit to Pyrgos, the largest preserved village on Santorini from where there are panoramic views overlooking the Mediterranean. Enjoy a walk to the ruins of the 13th century Venetian Akrotiri Castle and stop at Profitis Ilias, the highest point on the island. Afterwards, drive to Emborio, a charming village full of interesting white-washed homes and colorful alleyways. Visit the 15th century Goulas Castle, a once the commercial center of the island used to protect the village from pirate invasions. Next, drive north, stopping to see the eight traditional windmills at Gavrilos Hill and a Winery to taste some of Santorini's famous wines. Your last stop for the day will be at Oia Village, perhaps the most beautiful village in all of Santorini with spectacular views. Enjoy a walk through its narrows streets, past its lovely houses, blue-domed churches, and delightful cafes. Return to your hotel for your overnight. (B)

Friday, May 22
Santorini – Heraklion (Crete)

You'll have some leisure time this morning, then transfer to the port in the afternoon to catch the ferry to Heraklion, the largest city and administrative capital of Crete. On arrival, you'll be met and transferred to the Hotel Astoria Capsis or similar for your overnight. (B)

Saturday, May 23

Your exploration of Crete begins with a visit to the village of Peza, home of the winemaking industry. You'll see the exhibition, watch a video to learn more about the production of Cretan olive oil and olive oil soap, and sample some of the local products. Afterwards, visit Archanes, a small village lovingly restored to its original beauty. This village is one of the most picturesque in Crete and has been voted by the EU as “Best Restored Village”. Archanes is nestled at the base of Yiouchta Mountain, said to be the burial site of Zeus. Here you can relax, experience famous Cretan hospitality, and enjoy some Greek specialties at the village Taverna. The drive continues to the excavation site at Knossos, once the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilization between 1700 and 1400 BC. Neolithic findings here date back to around 7,000 B.C. The walking tour of the excavations takes about an hour and a half (comfortable walking shoes are recommended). The Palace of Knossos is situated on the top of a hill offering stunning views below. In Greek mythology, King Minos had Daedalus construct a very large maze at the palace to imprison his son, the Minotaur. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B)

Sunday, May 24
Villages of Crete

A morning drive takes you to the historical and picturesque town of Rethymnon, Though the third largest town on Crete, this old Venetian town has maintained its traditional old world charm. Wander the narrow streets and endless shops. Visit the 16th century Venetian Fortress, which will take you back to another place in time. Continue the drive westwards to the scenic town of Chania, with its Venetian harbor, narrow lanes and old buildings from the Venetian and Turkish periods. The town has many beautiful Neo-classical buildings and a unique covered market in the shape of a cross. Also, visit the Archaeological Museum of Chania located in the former Venetian Monastery of St. Francis. Its collections include Roman and Minoan artifacts excavated around the city including coins, sculptures, mosaics, and inscribed clay tablets. Next, drive to the historical Monastery of Arkadi, situated along a spectacular scenic spot at the edge of a gorge. It represents a symbol of freedom for the Cretans after a battle between the Turks and the Greeks took place here in 1866, practically leading to the liberation of Crete. Your last stop for the day will be the beautiful village of Fodele, the birthplace of the famous painter El Greco. This village is surrounded by lush green vegetation including citrus trees and is known as a center of traditional textiles and handicrafts. There will be some free time for coffee or shopping. Return to your hotel for a final night in Crete. (B)

Monday, May 25
Heraklion to (Rhodes)

Early this morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, a group of islands located in the southeastern Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. On arrival, you'll be met and immediately taken on a driving tour starting with a drive through the New Town, past Mandraki Port, the Town Hall, and Evangelisms Church to Monte Smith Hill from where there are magnificent views of the Aegean Sea and the city. Continue driving past the ancient Rhodes Acropolis, dedicated to Zeus Polieus, Athena Polias and Pythian Apollo. Four columns of this Acropolis have been reconstructed. The final leg of this drive will be past the second century Stadium and Theatre - both of which have been restored. Afterwards, enjoy a walk through the Medieval City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is sure to take you back to the Middle Ages. Visit the Gothic style Grand Master’s Palace, the most imposing building in medieval Rhodes. Stroll down the "Street of the Knights" which, in spite of its restoration, has remained untouched for 500 years. This was home to the Knights Hospitaller and each section was divided into different nationalities including England, France, Germany, Italy, Aragon, Auvergne, and Provence with each being responsible for a section of the fortification. The inns of the various "tongues" stand in a row, with impressive arched doorways, their emblems carved above them. The tour continues with a one-hour scenic drive along the East Coast of the Island. Stop at the village of Archangelos, and enjoy a visit to a pottery factory, for a demonstration of handmade pottery being created by a potter’s wheel. Visit Lindos, the most attractive village in Rhodes, known as the "Jewel of the Island". Next, visit the fifth century B.C. Acropolis and its great stoa, the ancient theatre, and the few remains of the Temple of Dionysus, making your way to the picturesque medieval village, built amphitheatrically around the foot of the steep rock that leads to the acropolis. Admire the traditionally built white stone houses, with their decorated pebble stone floors. Your final visit for the day will be to the 15th century medieval church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with its octagonal dome, unusual belfry, carved iconostasis and 17th century wall paintings (guiding inside the church is not allowed). Arrive at the Blue Sky Hotel City Beach for your overnight. (B)

Tuesday, May 26

After breakfast, head out to Kremasti Village where you'll visit the beautiful Kremasti Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This is one of the largest churches on the island and within the church you can find impressive murals and wood carvings. The drive continues on to the picturesque small port at Kamiros Skala, where you will find many fish taverns. After a short stop for coffee or other refreshments (on own), drive on to the Venetian Castle of Kritinia, which dates back to the 16th century. The castle stands on a steep rock and dominates the entire area. Further to the south, you'll come to the small, amphitheatrically built mountain village of Kritinia, offering fantastic views of the Aegean Sea. Also, visit the traditional mountain village of Embona, perched on the flanks of the Atavyros Mountain. It has beautiful houses, built in local style, full of character, and richly decorated on the inside. Visit the local wine factory where you will have a chance to taste some of the best wines and other spirits produced on Rhodes. After an excellent BBQ lunch (on own), drive to Profitis Ilias, named after the monastery that stands on the hill. From this spot, the views of the surrounding wooded mountainsides are superb. A few miles down the road takes you to Fountoukli where you visit the small 16th century Church of St. Nicholas with its four apses. Before arriving back at your hotel, stop to visit the Seven Springs, one of the most beautiful spots on the island. (B)

Wednesday, May 27
Rhodes to Athens

In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Athens where you will be met and transferred to your hotel for check-in and overnight. (B)

Thursday, May 28
Athens to the US

This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight back home.

“We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed.”