Exploring the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea in spring is one of the most rewarding travel experiences, when the fabled islands become a vast natural garden. Greece is home to a stunning number of plant species, comprising the richest flora in Europe. Just the island of Crete is home to over 2,200 species, of which a large number are endemic. Greece is also the land that, in the 4th century BC, gave birth to the science of botany. The ancient Athenians planted the Agora, the city’s civic and commercial center, with trees and plants and created leisure parks, considered to be the first public gardens in Europe.
On this springtime voyage we will witness the exquisite display of wildflowers that cover the land as we explore the ancient sites, quaint port towns, villages, and islands where the presence of the gods and legendary heroes is still felt. We start in Athens, the city where democracy and so many other ideas and concepts of the Western tradition had their origins. Here, we will tour the ageless monuments, including the Acropolis, crowned by the magnificent Parthenon, and visit some its notable museums. Athens is not just about the ancient past. It is a dynamic and lively city that features a vibrant contemporary culture and art scene, superb restaurants and cafes, quaint markets, and boutiques.
At the small port of Lavrio, located near Athens, we will board the Elysium, an elegant and spacious small private-yacht-like cruise ship that accommodates only 48 guests, that will take us on a voyage to the shores of the Aegean and magnificent islands. Included are the well-preserved medieval town of Monemvasia, built by the sea against an enormous rock and surrounded by walls; Crete, the birthplace of Zeus and home of the Minoans, who, during the Bronze Age created the first civilization of Europe; crescent-shaped Santorini, perhaps the Mediterranean’s most spectacular island where a volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC collapsed half of the island and buried Akrotiri, the island’s main town that was occupied by a sophisticated society; Rhodes, the island of Helios, the sun god, known for its ancient sites and beautiful landscapes; uninhabited Delos, the birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, a vast archaeological site; and Siros, built on the slopes of two hills, each crowned by a church. Included also is Ephesus, one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, known for its imposing monuments and ancient homes decorated with elegant mosaics, dating from the ancient Roman period.
To explore these beguiling lands when the ancient sites and landscapes are carpeted with a profusion of wildflowers and aromatic herbs is a rare privilege and travel-study experience.