15 Day Luxury Grand Tour of Greece and the Balkans
15 Day Trip Exploring Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, see sun-bleached temples, magnificent monasteries and local Landmarks, visit flea markets, bazaars and learn the secrets of Greek cooking
Our adventure map
Day by day
First day Welcome to Athens!
You are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, where there is time to settle in and relax. Later, meet your Tour Director for a Welcome Reception and an opportunity to mingle over a pleasant evening of dinner and wine.
Second day Explore Athens, City of the Gods
Your sightseeing takes you past the University and the Stadium where the first modern Olympics took place in 1896. See the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch before moving on to the Acropolis with its exquisite Temple of Wingless Victory and majestic Parthenon. This afternoon, you may want to hunt for bargains in the Monastiraki flea market or join the relaxed café scene on Constitution Square. Alternatively, the energetic may wish to visit the Theatre of Dionysos where the great Greek tragedies were first performed, or stand with the strangely costumed soldiers guarding the Royal Palace.
Third day Spectacular scenery leads to Delphi and Kalamabaka
A scenic drive brings you to mystical Delphi, clinging to the side of Mount Parnassus at 2000 ft. Ascend the Sacred Way, once lined with offertory temples and statues to the honour of Apollo. See the Parian marble Treasury of the Athenians and superb Polygonal Wall, its interlocking stones still perfectly intact, even after thousands of years. Now approach the Temple of Apollo itself, where the mysterious Oracle breathed her enigmatic ‘words'. Continue north via Thermopylae, site of the famous battle between the Spartans and Persians. Stop for a wonderful photo opportunity before driving through fertile Thessaly to Kalambaka
Fourth day Drive to Meteora, Vergina and on to Thessaloniki
Today's fascinating journey takes you from vertiginous clifftop monasteries to unearthly, underground tombs. First, visit one of the amazing hanging Monasteries of Meteora, incredibly perched on top of pinnacles of rock and enjoy stunning views over the Peneios Valley. Continue to Vergina in the foothills of the Pierian Mountains, site of ancient Macedonia's first capital, where one of the world's most astonishing discoveries awaits. Descend through subterranean stone passageways to a specially built museum housing the tomb of Alexander the Great's father and the treasures found within. Muted lighting dramatically showcases King Philip II's exquisite golden burial treasure. Now on to Thessaloniki.
Fifth day See thriving Thessaloniki
Join a local expert to explore the second city of modern Greece, a vibrant port full of great gastronomic tradition. Thessaloniki rose to prominence under the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD. During this time, many fine churches were built and your sightseeing showcases the best of this Byzantine metropolis. See the historic Arch of Galerius followed by a visit to the Archaeological Museum and explore some of the city's colourful markets and culinary highlights. The afternoon is at leisure in this vibrant city.
Sixth day Go through the Balkan Mountains to Rila Monastery and Sofia
Cross the Bulgarian border and follow the fertile River Struma northward, before turning off towards the Balkan's highest mountain range. Rising out of a forested valley, the magnificent Rila Monastery is the largest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Its austere fortress-like exterior belies the striped red-and-cream brickwork and kaleidoscopic frescoes inside. A local expert explains the apocalyptic artwork beneath horseshoe shaped arches, while black-robed monks go about their daily business. Continue on to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
Seventh day Sample Sofia Sophistication
Scattered around Sofia, are various ruins and remains proclaiming the city's early origins. Sightseeing with a local expert takes in the St. Sofia Church across the square from the golden domed St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the archaeological complex, dominated by St. George's Church. The afternoon is at leisure to shop or continue sightseeing.
Eighth day Stop in Skopje then on to Ohrid
Cross the border this morning and head for the FYR Macedonian capital. Skopje is an ultra modern city with an age-old bazaar, where Turkish influences can still be seen and felt. Enjoy a guided walk through these enchanting streets to see the churches, mosques and old Turkish buildings. Then continue south to the lakeside resort of Ohrid, where you can wander café-lined promenades or cobblestone streets of the old town and shop for the famous Ohrid pearls.
Ninth day Move on to the Albanian Capital, Tirana
Cross into Albania, Europe's last Cold War convert and drive to Tirana, renowned for its unfailingly friendly locals. Meet a resident expert at the landmark Skanderbeg Square for an insider's look at the Albanian capital, taking in the Et'hem Bey Mosque, Clock Tower, National Historic Museum and other major sights. As the cool of evening descends, why not head for the green spaces of the city where Albanian families gather to play ball, drink coffee or catch up on gossip.
Tenth day Back to Greece and pretty Ioannina
Spectacular scenery brings you back to the northern mountainous region of Greece and the pretty resort of Ioannina, on the banks of placid Pamvotis Lake. Maybe take a stroll beneath the walls of the citadel and gaze out over the waters to the island.
Eleventh day Travel to Dodona and Olympia
Visit the peaceful Shrine of Dodona this morning, overlooked by the majestic twin peaks of Mount Tomaros. The original Holy Oak, where Zeus' voice would whisper in the breeze, has long since gone, however, the enormous, ancient theatre remains. Its weather-beaten limestone seats are the perfect place to contemplate the prophetic priests who could interpret the will of the Gods. Continue south around the small fishing villages and shallow waters of the Ambracian Gulf, before crossing the soaring Rio-Antirrio Bridge to the Peloponnese. In Olympia this evening, join a qualified chef for an entertaining cookery demonstration. Afterwards, these authentic flavours of Greece are yours to taste for dinner.
Twelfth day Visit Birthplace of the Olympics then on to Nafplion
After breakfast, join your local expert to see the Olympic Stadium, where the original games were first held in 776BC, plus the athletes' gymnasium and time-worn temples. Then a delightful drive through the Arcadian Mountains takes you into the heart of Argolis before continuing on to the elegant seaside town of Nafplion, first capital of modern Greece.
Thirteenth day Head to ancient Mycenae
A local expert will join you as you head to the ancient site of Mycenae today, home to several important excavations such as the Lion Gate, Royal Palace & Tomb of Agamemnon, all of whose sophisticated architecture testifies to the advanced culture of the Mycenaean civilisation. Later, learn traditional ceramic techniques and patterns, meet the artisans and view beautiful works of art at a family-run pottery studio.
Fourteenth day Return to Athens
Cross the Corinth Canal, begun in the 1st century BC by the emperor Nero but not completed until the 19th century - an amazing rock-cut channel dividing the Peloponnese from mainland Greece. Follow the shores of the Saronic Gulf back to Athens where the rest of the day is at leisure for last minute shopping. This evening enjoy a rousing Celebration Dinner in true Greek style, complete with wine and good cheer.
Fifteenth day Return to Athens Airport
Your journey comes to an end with a transfer to Athens airport.
Athens, Ascend the ‘Sacred Rock', the Acropolis, to admire the Parthenon built in 5th century BC as well as the smaller Temple of Athena Nike and Caryatid Beauties. See Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus.
Delphi, Ascend the Sacred Way in mystical Delphi, past the superb Polygonal Wall to reach the temple where the mysterious Oracle breathed her enigmatic 'words'. See the Parian marble Treasury of the Athenians, Polygonal Wall and the Temple of Apollo.
Meteora, Visit the amazing hanging Monasteries of Metéora, incredibly perched on top of pinnacles of rock.
Vergina, Then descend through subterranean stone passageways to a specially built museum housing the tomb of Alexander the Great's father.
Thessaloniki, Experience the history of ancient Macedonia through important findings dating back to the end of 6th century B.C. at the Archaeological Museum. Experience the best of this Byzantine metropolis, as well as exploring some of the city's colourful markets and culinary highlights.
Rila, See the Rila Monastery, the largest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Ioanina, Visit the Theatre of Dodona, one of the largest and best preserved of ancient Greece.
Olympia, Join a qualified chef for an entertaining cookery demonstration, then enjoy these authentic flavours of Greece. See the Olympic Stadium where the original games took place in 776BC, plus the ruins of temples dedicated to Zeus.
Mycenae, Walk through the Lion Gate, see the Royal Palace and Tomb of Agamemnon on this ancient site.
Argolis, View beautiful works of art during your visit to a family-run pottery studio, which embraces traditional methods.
Thermopylae, See the memorial to Leonidas and his heroic Spartans.
Sofia, See the Cathedral, churches, and Soviet-era buildings.
Skopje, A guided walk through these enchanting streets to see the churches, mosques and old Turkish buildings.
Ohrid, Walk through the cobbled streets with a guide.
Tirana, Enjoy a guided sightseeing tour.
Patras, Cross world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge.
Corinth Canal, Cross the amazing rock-cut channel dividing the Peloponnese from mainland Greece.
Athens, Enjoy a Celebration Dinner in true Greek style, complete with wine.
A Welcome Reception , 14 Breakfasts , 6 three-course table d'hôte Dinners, or Buffets, plus tea or coffee , 1 Highlight Dinner and 1 Celebration Dinner.
Most tours already include a host of bonus highlights and comprehensive sightseeing. There may also be an exciting array of Optional Experiences which will turn an already amazing experience into the trip of a lifetime! These are entirely optional and can be booked through your Tour Director/Local Representative at the commencement of your tour. Please note, many Optional Experiences are operated by independent third party suppliers. The Optionals and pricing listed here are a guideline only and subject to change.
Dinner "Meze" Style In Psiri With Acropolis Illuminations
Enjoy a lovely dining experience at a wonderful restaurant located in the lively area of Psiri. Dining is “meze style”, giving you the opportunity to taste many Greek cuisine dishes, which are served in the centre of the table. After dinner we are whisked away on our wheeled mini train for a fun ride up one of the most famous streets in Athens - Dionyssio Areopagitou for a fantastic photo opportunity of the Acropolis illuminated so beautifully. Casual dress. Dinner and drinks, and mini train ride included.
Take a relaxing trip down to the southernmost tip of Mainland Greece to see the fifth century B.C Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. See if you can spot where Byron carved his initials on one of the temple's sixteen columns. Marvel at the sheer rugged beauty of the coastline and the ancient temple perched above a 197-foot drop down to the Aegean Sea below. Stand above the site of the world's first lighthouse, overlooking an area steeped in classical Greek history, ever since the tragic King Aegeas threw himself from the rocky precipice into the sea below, thereby giving his name to the Aegean Sea. Entrance fees to site included.
Evening out in Cultural Thessaloniki. Experience the unique colour of this captivating city this evening as we stroll through the area of "Ladadika" which exhales the spirit of old Thessaloniki. Here, during the Ottoman Occupation and earlier stood the central market and bazaar. Now a bustling plethora of cafés and tavernas, we savour tastes of Northern Greek cuisine at our selected restaurant frequented by locals and visitors alike. Afterwards we enjoy a drive to the highest point of Thessaloniki adorned by the Byzantine castle boasting views of the city and port below. Includes dinner with wine.
Bulgarian Folklore Show With Dinner
Take your seats for a fun-filled evening of wine, traditional entertainment and hearty Bulgarian cuisine. Expect delicious dishes prepared according to age-old recipes, an authentic atmosphere and colourful folklore show featuring traditional dancers, musicians and songs.
Where you stay
All hotels included in your tour package are hand-picked, of an outstanding standard and far better value than if booked individually. Our valued travel partners who organise these tours also own the Red Carnation Hotel Group and where possible Red Carnation Hotels are used and please see our link for further details.
Guarantees, Bonds and Awards
- This tour is run by our outstanding travel partners who are multi-award winning Globe Best Tour operator in the world 2013, 2014 and 2015.
- Tours are fully bonded, protected and guaranteed and you pay the operator directly when booking.
- ABTA, IATA and ATOL protected
- Part of the Trade Right Foundation
Best prices, more information and booking
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