Arrive in Athens, Greece, by 4pm and transfer on your own to the group hotel, located near a charming historic district at the foot of the Acropolis. Early this evening we meet in the hotel lobby for introductions, followed by a short walking tour the city?s oldest neighborhood. The Plaka?s narrow lanes and stepped alleys, little squares with small churches, lively shops and cafes, and grand neoclassical-style houses are delightful and picturesque. Dinner is at a traditional Greek tavern serving family-style meals. All meals included.
Walking: 1+ hour
We begin the day at the Parthenon, a temple on the Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena, and also visit the New Acropolis Museum. After lunch and explorations by the port of Rafina, we travel by high-speed catamaran to the island of Tinos and the true start of our island hopping adventure. In ancient times Tinos was known as Hydroussa and Offiousa, because of its abundance of water (hydro) and snakes (ofis). The late afternoon is free to rest or sightsee until the group meets for dinner. If you're out exploring, look for examples of the island's intricately designed dovecotes. In medieval Europe the possession of a dovecote was a symbol of status and power. The doves were an important source of food and their droppings were a coveted fertilizer. All meals included.
Walking: 3 hours; Ferry: 2 hours; Transfers: 1+ hour
AAfter transferring to Volax, known for its traditional woven baskets, we begin hiking toward Koumaros village. The views from this tiny whitewashed village are spectacular! We pass the unique round granite boulder formations of Xobourgo hill before continuing to the beautiful village of Kionia. Small chapels, old windmills and of course dovecotes, the trademark of Tinos, dot the landscape as we hike. We arrive at a beach just in time for lunch with free time to relax or swim next to the ruins of the ancient temple of Poseidon and his nymph Amphitrite. We will return to our hotel to freshen up before a visit to the white marble church of the Virgin Mary which draws thousands of pilgrims to view its miracle-working icon, discovered in 1823 after the Virgin Mary appeared in a series of visions to a local nun. We have time to explore the cobbled streets of Tinos Town before dinner at a local tavern. All meals included.
Hiking: 5.5 miles, 4 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +820'/-1700'; Transfers: 30 minutes
We ferry from Tinos to Naxos Island, the largest and most fertile of the Cyclades, where meadows open into immense beaches. This afternoon's hike begins in the backyard of a local family's home at the site of the Kouros of Melanes statue. Historians suspect that the incomplete statues depicting young men were supposed to support a temple roof. Ultimately the project was abandoned due to faults in the marble and stone. The statues have not been moved from the location where they were found more than 2,500 years ago. Following the footpath to the village of Ano Potamia we'll stop for a homemade dessert to regain our strength. We end our hike in Chalki village with free time to explore and do some shopping for traditional goods before regrouping for dinner. All meals included.
Hiking: 4.3 miles, 4 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +912'/-666'; Transfers: 1 hour; Ferry: 1.25?2.5 hours depending on schedule
The little chapel at Santa Marina is the start of today?s hike to the summit of Mount Zas (Mount Zeus). This is the highest point in the Cyclades at 3,290?, and the views are worthy of the gods. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised in a cave on this mountain. The trail starts as a dirt path and becomes a stone walkway. As we near the crest, the trail contains large limestone rocks to step around and over. After raising our water bottles to toast our successful summit and taking in the views, we head back down the trail to the chapel for a picnic lunch. Our hike continues along a road to the charming, whitewashed village of Filoti. From here, we return to our hotel by taxi and have free time to swim in the pool before we meet up for dinner. All meals included.
Hiking: 4.9 miles, 4.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +1100'/-2000'; Transfers: 1+ hour
Following a breakfast that includes some of the best yogurt in the world, we ferry to Santorini, the fairest of the Cyclades islands. Santorini differs from the other islands due to its geology, the result of a now-dormant volcano. Around 1600 BC an eruption submerged the central part of the island, the thriving civilization was destroyed and a huge underwater crater was left behind. After we check into our hotel and eat a light lunch, we board our sea kayaks to explore the world famous Red and White beaches of Santorini. Our guides give us an introduction to our equipment, a safety briefing and tips on the basics of sea kayaking. Once on the water be ready for stunning rock formations, towering cliffs and tranquil beaches. Keep your eyes open for sea turtles, kestrels and falcons! We'll watch the sunset from our kayaks before having dinner at a family-owned tavern by the sea. All meals included.
Sea kayaking: 3 hours; Ferry: 2 hours; Transfers: 1 hour
We set out for Oia along the Santorini volcanic crater rim. The trail is set high above the sea and follows the edge of the caldera, rewarding us with extraordinary views. There is free time in Oia to enjoy lunch on your own and soak in the atmosphere. Later this afternoon we tour the ancient ruins of Akrotiri to learn about Santorini's most influential inhabitants that lived here in 3000 BC, the Minoans. Akrotiri, known as the Greek Pompeii, became a flourishing Mediterranean trading center before its abrupt destruction by the volcanic eruption. We'll tour the streets and squares of the ruined city, which were buried in volcanic ash and frozen in time. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore, shop or swim. Tonight we'll enjoy our final dinner together overlooking the volcano and drink a toast to three beautiful Greek Isles. Breakfast and dinner included.
Hiking: 6.6 miles, 4.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +1,600'/-2,030
The trip concludes after breakfast. Transfer on your own to the airport, or continue your stay to see more of Greece. Breakfast included.