Unforgettable Travels to Greece with Iro Smith: "The Greek Collection"

Unforgettable Travels to Greece with Iro Smith: The Greek Collection

Join Aramco ExPat Iro Smith on exclusive travel adventures in Greece. As a native Greek, Iro will arrange unique trips and tours for fellow ExPats that will enrich your education, pleasure, adventure and entertainment.

Tentative dates: first trip April 12 to 25, 2020; the second trip is planned for 28 May to June 11, 2020

Please email Iro at [email protected] with your interest in either of the dates above. Tour sizes can be arranged between 15-40 passengers depending upon your replies. Tour package pricing will be finalized depending upon the tour size.

Read a Letter from Iro

North of Greece Tour Summary:

Day 1-3: Athens Museums and sites

  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)
  • Plaka by night
  • Parthenon & Acropolis Museum
  • Kolonaki shopping
  • Bouzoukia!
  • Benaki Museum
  • Sunset tour of Cape Sounion, Temple of Poseidon

Day 4: Full day islands cruise

Day 5: Meteora, Kavala

Day 6-8: Kavala, including Easter Day celebrations

  • Byzantine castle, the Kamares, and the Imaret Hotel tour
  • Philippi & Lydia
  • Drama wine tour & Krinides medical mud baths
  • Greek Orthodox Easter Day celebration

Day 9: Thassos island tour

Day 10-13: Thessaloniki

  • Thessaloniki's Archaeological sites
  • Pozar Thermal Baths, Vergina
  • Hiking Zagori and Ioannina (optional)
  • Leisure shopping day
  • Bouzoukia!

Day 14: Return to Athens and departures


Athens (ATH) Day 1: hotel check-in, then:

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) - Designed by the architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the SNFCC is a sustainable, world-class cultural, educational and recreational urban complex that includes new facilities for the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, located within the Stavros Niarchos Park.

The SNFCC is the first public-private partnership of its kind in Greece, and the largest cultural/educational project ever undertaken in the country. As one of the biggest projects in recent Greek history, the Center is an engine of short- and mid-term economic stimulus. It is a testament and commitment to the country’s future.

Plaka by night - Plaka is one of the most ancient settlements in Europe, with a history of more than 3,500 years. In the shadow of the Acropolis and its ancient temples, hillside Plaka has a village feel, with narrow cobblestone streets lined with tiny shops selling jewelry, clothes and local ceramics. Sidewalk cafes and family-run tavernas stay open until late, and Cine Paris shows classic movies al fresco. Nearby, the whitewashed homes of the Anafiotika neighborhood give the small enclave a Greek-island vibe.

In or around Plaka are the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments, Roman Agora, Hellenic Children’s Museum, Frissiras Museum, Syntagma (Constitution Square), Hotel Grande Bretagne, and endless sites of interest.

Day 2: Parthenon & Acropolis Museum:

The Parthenon, the temple that dominates the hill of the Acropolis at Athens, was built in the mid-5th century BCE and dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos (“Athena the Virgin”). It is the most magnificent creation of Athenian democracy at the height of its power.

The Acropolis Museum is an archaeological museum focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies over the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens. It opened to the public on 20 June 2009 with nearly 4,000 objects exhibited over an area of 14,000 square meters.

The top level of the Museum sits askew on the lower levels to achieve the same cardinal orientation of the ancient temple on the Acropolis. The spacing of the columns of the Parthenon hall is the same as that of the ancient temple, and the use of glass walls on all four exterior walls allows the natural light to illumine the Parthenon marbles as they do on the ancient temple. The 48 columns in the Parthenon hall mark the outline of the ancient temple and form a colonnade for the display of the Parthenon marbles.

Kolonaki shopping - the chicest part of town, is a district where you can find exquisite eateries, trendy cocktail bars, art galleries and museums. It is also where Greek fashionistas go to find exclusive, high-end pieces from both local up-and-coming designers and globally established high fashion brands. Whether you want to splurge or just browse, the luxury boutiques make Kolonaki a retail paradise in the heart of Athens.

Bouzoukia! In case you bump into a Greek who claims he has never been to bouzoukia, do not believe him. Not everyone is fond of this kind of entertainment, but everyone has at least once gone – or been dragged by his friends – to bouzoukia. OPA!

This will be a late-night event, so the following morning will start late and slow.

Day 3: Benaki Museum - The Benaki Museum was founded by Antonis Benakis in 1930 and subsequently donated to the Greek state. It is the oldest museum in Greece operating as a Foundation. The Benaki Museum has emerged as the most active museum institution in Greece. Arranged across nine buildings open to the public, the Museum’s collections are extremely diverse, featuring four archives, an extensive library and over 500,000 works of art, books, photographs, and rare documents. The Museum welcomes over 300,000 visitors per year and offers a range of activities serving various educational and social needs. It holds a unique place as a truly multifaceted institution within the broader network of museums in Greece. Every year, the Benaki Museum presents dozens of temporary exhibitions and organises conferences, lectures and special events on subjects connected to its collections and expansive range of activities.

Sunset tour of Cape Sounion, Temple of Poseidon - The Ancient Greek temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, built during 444–440 BC, is one of the major monuments of the Golden Age of Athens. It is perched above the sea at a height of almost 60 metres (200 ft). The temple of Sounion sits above the beach on a mountain that juts out into the sea and was dedicated to Poseidon. In ancient times the temple was the last sign of civilization the Athenians saw as they sailed away from home and the first as they returned. Experience the breathtaking sunset while the late afternoon sun bathes the Temple of Poseidon with a golden glorious glow!

Day 4: Full-day cruise to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina from Athens - Discover three beautiful Greek islands on this full-day cruise from Athens. Sail to Poros, Hydra, and Aegina in the Saronic Gulf and enjoy free time at each island to stroll, sightsee, and shop as you wish.

Day 5: Enroute to Kavala, a stop in Meteora, a UNESCO-listed monastery complex: Eastern Orthodox monasteries listed as a World Heritage site, built on top of rock pillars. The monastery was featured in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

Day 6-8: Kavala – the birthplace of Iro! (castle & Imaret Hotel tour, and the Tobacco warehouses tour) - Kavala is one of the most attractive of Greece's largest cities, rising like an amphitheater from the beautiful harbor up to a huge Byzantine fortress. Built on the ancient city of Neopolis, the city's population doubled in 1922 when the Greeks from Asia minor made their way here following their expulsion from Asia Minor.

Depending on the season, fishing vessels, ferries, sailboats and cruise ships all drop anchor at Kavala’s two ports – the old and the new. This coastal city counts approximately 60,000 inhabitants, split among the Palia Poli (old town) and the Nea Poli (new town).

The latter may enjoy a larger share of Kavala’s residents; however, the former is constructed atop the Panagia peninsula and provides easy walking tours. Elements harking back to a variety of eras and architectural styles coexist throughout the narrow lanes of the old quarter, under the commanding Kastro (castle).

Among the city's impressive landmarks are the old walls, the Byzantine castle, and the Kamares - the aqueduct erected by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, Mehmet Ali's house (18th century) and the Imaret, a Turkish building. The walk up to Profitis Ilias takes you through the fascinating old district. The old houses of the Panagia quarter of town are in excellent condition. In particular, the Imaret, an old building with 18 domes overlooks the harbor.

There is also the unique Imaret, an exceptional sample of Islamic architecture, which also enjoys a “double identity” – that of hotel and monument, as well as the early 16th-century Kamares, which manage to stand apart amidst the buildings in the new town of Kavala. According to the prevailing view, the Kamares were constructed between 1520 and 1539 on top of an even older Roman aqueduct, so to as cover water supply needs, linking Panagia with the springs at Palia Kavala.

Day 7: Philippi & Lydia – Visit the important monuments such as the UNESCO-protected Archaeological Site of Philippi, and the Baptistry of St Lydia, where the Apostle Paul founded the first Christian church on Greek soil, in AD 49-50.

The ancient city of Philippi, an important archaeological site in Eastern Macedonia, was colonized by the people of the island of Thasos, who established the city of Krinides in 360 BC. But in 356 BC, King Philip II of Macedonia renamed the city after himself, after saving it from a Thracian invasion. It was here that the Apostle Paul, in 49 A.D. first preached the teachings of Christianity in Europe and where the first European Christian woman, Lydia, was baptized.

Iro Smith - The Greek Collection

Drama wine tour & Krinides medical mud baths

While the modern industry is relatively youthful, winemaking in the region dates back thousands of years. Archaeological research shows this to be an important center for worship of Dionysis. Evidence has also been found of grapevine cultivation stretching back to the Fourth Millennium BC.

Iro Smith - The Greek Collection

The Krinides medical mud baths is a place where people nowadays take care of their health, by the use of therapeutic clay and thermal water, has been a "sustainable laboratory of nature" for tens of thousands of years ago up to today, manufacturing this precious, for our health, material with admirable precision. In the past, geological, ecological, biological, chemical conditions and complex physical mechanisms were favorable in the creation of the right environment by and in which therapeutic clay was created and aged naturally.

Day 8: Greek Orthodox Easter Day celebrations (April 19) - Known for practicing religious fervor through Orthodox Christianity, Greece observes Easter as its main religious festival, according to the ancient Greek religious calendar. Easter Sunday is known as 'Megali Evdomada' (meaning the Big Week) in Greece. The festivity centers on the church and 'Megali Paraskevi', also known as Good Friday. Easter celebrations, however, attain the pinnacle on the midnight of Holy Saturday, when the priest turns off all the lights of the church, symbolizing the darkness and silence of the tomb. After some time, they light a candle from the Eternal Flame and sing 'Christos Anesti'. Herewith, they present the candle to the people present in the church, who in turn pass it to everyone present there. It is during this time only that the bells start ringing and fill the ambiance with their mesmerizing sound.

On Easter Sunday morning, in many parts of the country lamb is skewered and cooked over charcoal. Our tour will include a traditional Easter lamb roast with Greek music and dancing in one of our favorite restaurants in Nea Peramos, with plenty of food and drink for everyone!

Day 9: Thassos island day tour- Thassos is a Greek island that boasts an incredible natural setting. The standouts of Thassos are its beaches and its mountainous villages. The island’s quaint villages boast a traditional architecture, as they are full of stone-made houses, narrow paved streets, and grey-tiled roofs.

Surrounded by lush greenery and having crystal clear waters, Thassos beaches boast a unique natural landscape. Some of them are organized with umbrellas, sunbeds and water sports facilities, while others are totally unspoiled and private. Paradise, Makriammos, Golden beach Thassos, Alyki, Metalia and Livadi are some of the best beaches in Thassos! Dive into the crystal clear waters of these beaches, laze under the sun and then taste the local delicacies at the seaside taverns.

The Ancient Agora above Limenas and the Monastery of Archangel Michael will introduce you to the island’s history and tradition.

Day 10-13: Thessaloniki: Evidence of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history remains, especially around Ano Poli, the upper town. The ruins of Roman Emperor Galerius’ 4th-century palace include the Rotunda that has been both a church and a mosque. Much of the city center was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1917. The rebuilt 20th-century city has a modern European layout.

Visits to any number of Thessaloniki's Archaeological sites including:

  • The ancient forum (dated to the late 2nd or the early 3rd century AD) with squares, porticoes, additional buildings and odeum (293-395 AD), the palace complex of Galerius Maximianus (4th c. AD), the thermae, the hippodrome, the temples and other monuments and moveable finds (among them mosaics of exquisite art) brought to light in excavations and surveys. In the south square, is the famous Stoa of the Idols, which was two-storied and lavishly decorated.
  • The Triumphal Arch of Galerius (Kamara), built in AD 305 to commemorate his military successes in general in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.
  • The Rotunda is an early 4th-century building which later was converted into a Christian church.

Day 11: Pozar thermal baths - Near the base of the Voras Mountains, these thermal baths have facilities which include 6 indoor pools, a large outdoor pool, hammams, jacuzzis, spa services and individual baths and are noted for their healing properties for such ailments as arthritis, rheumatism, as well as dermatological, gynecological, and respiratory and circulatory system conditions and of course muscle aches and back pain. The most unique thing about Loutra Pozar is the cold stream and waterfall located right next to the hot springs.

Iro Smith - The Greek Collection

Vergina – Philip II of Macedon burial. Three royal burial clusters have been already excavated. Twelve monumental temple-shaped tombs are known. Among them is the tomb of Euridice, mother of Philip II and the unlooted tombs of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and his grandson, Alexander IV, which have been discovered in 1977-8 and made a worldwide sensation. The quality of the tombs themselves and their grave-goods places the Archaeological Site of Aigai (modern name Vergina) among the most important archaeological sites in Europe.

Day 12: Hiking Zagori and Ioannina (optional, as time allows) - Zagorohoria – to give the area its full name – is a cluster of stone villages, masterfully constructed bridges and monasteries carved into the Pindus mountains in Epirus, in the northwestern part of the country.

The expression to “live like the Pasha in Ioannina” means that a person is enjoying the absolute best that life has to offer. It is not enough to have the title of ruler; he also has to live in Ioannina. It is the distillation, in colloquial terms, of the idea that Ioannina was always a wealthy and aristocratic city.

Ioannina, the capital of Epirus, spreads out around beautiful Lake Pamvotida. The natural environment, the climate and character of the town are defined by this stretch of water – the area’s trademark. Ioannina was always multicultural, dominated mainly by Christian, Islamic and Jewish influences. This coexistence of cultural influences is clearly evident in the historic city center. The Stoa Louli arcade is one of the locations where the three communities worked together and prospered. The arcade was originally an inn and then became a mercantile exchange of great importance throughout the whole of Epirus.

Day 13: Last full day at ease exploring Thessaloniki’s many interesting districts, waterfront strolls and shopping areas.

Bouzoukia! Last chance to claim you’ve been to the Bouzouki. Night entertainment in Thessaloniki is unthinkable without the experience of a night out in bouzouki clubs. OPA!

This will be a late-night event again, so the following morning will start late and slow before departures.

Day 14: Return by bus to Athens for departure from Athens (ATH). Should you prefer, departures from Thessaloniki international airport "Makedonia" (SKG) can be separately arranged.

Extended stays beyond the scheduled departure date can also be arranged.

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