History is everywhere you look in Greece's lively capital. Gods and goddesses glow alabaster white in the Mediterranean sunshine, for centuries having watched over the place where western civilisation was born. Since this is a place of beginnings, it's a fitting place to start your discovery of ancient lands. But first, you'll be transferred to your hotel in the city before exploring Athens your way and enjoying all its characteristic xenia which will make you feel completely at home.
All the treasures of Athens are brought to life this morning. You'll join an expert Local Specialist who'll share the history, myths and legends of places you've always wanted to see like the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch where Socrates once questioned ancient Athenians' understanding of the meaning of life. Imagine that with every step you take exploring the Acropolis, you're standing in the very place where the ancient Greeks once shaped world views, political ideologies and philosophies that have stood the test of time. Standing just as tall today are the ancient ruins of the Parthenon and the stadium built for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. What better way to spend the rest of your day than soaking up the sizzling energy of Athens with its fun-loving locals? Of course, that could mean indulging in a feast of Greek souvlaki or gyro at a traditional taverna, with a bit of opa thrown in for good measure.
Get ready for island-style living as you embark on your idyllic Aegean cruise. You're in for sun-kissed days, laidback lunches and the beauty of the Greek Isles you've only dreamt about, over the next four glorious days. Set sail for Mykonos and keep your eyes peeled for its 16th-century windmills that overlook the island's capital, Chora, and its glistening bay. There's no better way to explore 'Little Venice' than getting lost in its maze of cobblestone lanes lined by whitewashed houses and tumbling cerise bougainvillea. Take a break and spend some time with the locals in a café or bar, sampling some of the favourite ouzo before you get going on the next leg of your journey.
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus is the highlight this morning. You'll see the former Mediterranean trading centre first-hand - an astoundingly well-preserved collection of ancient buildings that hint at what was once a powerful city. Walk down Curetes Street past the homes of rich Ephesians to the Library of Celsus and imagine its ancient residents gathering within the marble walls. Return to the comfort of your cruise ship and sail to Patmos where the Book of Revelation was written by St. John. This is where the Apostle is said to have recorded his Revelation from Jesus. On an Optional Experience, you'll have an opportunity to join many Christian pilgrims who visit the Cave of the Apocalypse.
Prepare for an encounter with one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World today. Arriving in Rhodes, a complimentary Shore Experience will lead you along the path of religious knights who once conquered the island of Rhodes. These Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem ruled the island from 1310 to 1522 and you'll hear all about the island which became a bastion for Christianity in the East, defying pirate raids and Turkish sieges for centuries. There's time to explore it for yourself as you trace the thick stone walls, gates and cobblestone lanes of its capital before returning to your cruise.
Sailing overnight, you'll arrive early just in time for an exploration of Crete's ancient capital and Europe's oldest city, Heraklion. If you choose to join and Optional Experience, the rise and fall of the Minoan civilisation and culture will keep you captivated as you explore the ruins of the Palace of Knossos, with its ruby red entrance and charging bull fresco. You'll learn about the ancient city's long history from Neolithic times to the invasion of Crete by the Greeks, as well as the myth and legend that gave rise to the Minotaur. Then trade history for epic sunsets as you continue to Santorini where you could choose an Optional Experience to the stunning clifftop village of Oia, passing quaint villages and sun-kissed vineyards along the way.
The islands of the irresistible Aegean will want to keep you in their warm embrace forever, but it's time to return to Athens this morning and you'll be glad you did. Get your final fix of this vibrant city your way. For history buffs, there's time to get stuck into those ancient sites you weren't able to see when you first arrived. Or perhaps you'll want to head to Monastiriki for antiques and Greek handicrafts or explore the lanes of Plaka under the shadow of the Acropolis in search of a buzzing café with your name on it. However you choose to spend your evening, make sure it's filled with aragma, the small joys of life.
Your epic adventure through ancient lands has sadly come to an end. You've seen all the historic sights, kicked back and enjoyed the local hospitality in the glittering Greek Isles and discovered ancient capitals and stunning island landscapes. It's time to say a fond farewell to newfound friends before catching a transfer to the airport for your return flight. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.