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Discovering the Wonders of Greece 

Departure       September 6 – 16, 2020

Greece possesses some of the most varied and impressive landscapes in Europe.  Combined with its magnificent past, Greece is an alluring destination.  Perhaps the most impressive and rewarding landscape is found in the country’s northwest corner, in the province of Epirus, which lies just south of the frontier between Greece and Albania.  This area of remarkable beauty is the focus of our journey.

Known as the Zagorochoria (the Zagori villages), it’s a place of towering mountains, thick forests, sparkling streams and a unique flora that serviced as the basis for traditional medical practice.  Around the slopes of the mountains are delightful stone-built villages that have changed little through the centuries.

Dominating the landscape is the incredible UNESCO-protected Vikos Gorge, with the steepest walls of any gorge in the world.

Our base in Zagori will be the Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, a Unique Lodge of the World.  Our journey will provide walks and hikes, with local naturalist guides.  We will also offer a choice of activities, a cooking class focusing on the area’s distinctive cuisine, bird watching, rafting and yoga.  

Our time in the Zagori region will be preceded by two days in Athens, the oldest city in Europe.  Following our exploration of Zagori, our journey will end with two days in Corfu, one of the most beautiful islands in Greece.

Why Travel with Thalassa Journeys

Thalassa Journeys was established by the principals and managers of Travel Dynamics, the company that 50 years ago pioneered the concept of educational travel for America’s educational and cultural institutions. The belief that travel is primarily a learning experience forms the core principle of Thalassa Journeys.

Each Thalassa Journey is constructed around a particular theme. Unlike most tours, each of our journeys are intimate, and led by lecturers who are truly subject-matter experts for each theme. Although many other companies claim to have expert lecturers, few truly have accomplished, renowned experts in their fields, like Thalassa.

Itinerary

Day 1 : Sep 6 - Depart THE USA

Depart the United States for Athens, Greece.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 2 : Sep 7 - ATHENS

Arrive in Athens and tranfer to the Athens Plaza Hotel, located on Constitution Square, in the center of the city. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner at a local taverna.

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Meals Included

Day 3 : Sep 8 - Tour ATHENS / THE AGORA & ACROPOLIS

One of the world's most venerable cities, Athens is the capital of Greece and the oldest city in Europe. This morning explore the Agora, the civic and commercial center of ancient Athens and the living heart of its democracy. See the remains of the civic buildings and visit the Agora Museum. In the afternoon, tour the Acropolis and its celebrated monuments. Occupied since prehistoric times, the rocky plateau of the Acropolis rises dramatically out of the plain and dominates the modern city as it did in ancient times. The incomparable Parthenon, built in the 5th century BC under the leadership of Pericles, represents the highest achievement of architecture and art of the Classical period. Later, visit the Acropolis Museum and view an outstanding collection of artifacts excavated from the site.

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Meals Included

Day 4 : Sep 9 - Tour ATHENS

The morning is at leisure for independent exploration. In the afternoon, tour the Vorres Museum, a cultural foundation established by the late art collector and businessman Ian Vorres. The Museum includes an outstanding collection of contemporary Greek art as well as folk art displayed in lovely 19th century buildings and courtyards, surrounded by extensive gardens. Enjoy an early dinner before transferring to Athens Airport for a flight to Ioannina, the main town in Epirus in northwest Greece. Upon arrival, drive to the characteristic Zagori village of Aristi and the excellent Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas.

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Meals Included

Day 5 : Sep 10 - Tour THE ZAGORI COUNTRY & VILLAGES

After a morning orientation at the hotel, drive to the nearby village of Vikos, where a promenade provides a staggering view of Vikos Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. About 12 miles long, and up to 1,600 ft. deep, Vikos is reputed to have the steepest walls of any gorge in the world. The unspoiled condition of this amazing canyon makes it valuable to science as it is home to endangered species and because it contains many and varied ecosystems. After admiring the panorama of Vikos, hike to the springs of the Voidomatis River (about 30 mins, a bit longer on the return), where, in a thick forest of plane trees, we will visit the 16th-century Monastery of Panaghia Spiliotissa, built inside an enormous cave overlooking the river. Then, drive to Megalo Papingo, a delightful village surrounded by imposing mountains, for lunch at a local taverna and free time to explore the village. Continue to Mikro Papingo, its smaller namesake, stopping along the way to view the Rogovo canyon and the natural pools. Those who wish, instead of driving the 1.5 miles from Megalo Papingo to Mikro Papingo, may walk on an old path that connected the two villages in the past.

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Meals Included

Day 6 : Sep 11 - Tour THE ZAGORI COUNTRY & VILLAGES

Leave the hotel in the morning to explore Zagori's superb country, some of its most beautiful villages and landmark sites. Drive to Dhikorfo, stopping on the way to visit two of the most notable stone bridges dating from the 18th century: the bridge of Kokkoris and the enormous triple-arched bridge of Plakidas. The village of Dhikorfo is known for its grand stone houses. Continue to the village of Dhilofo, one of the most delightful of Zagorian villages. Then onto Vitsa, another attractive village, where we will enjoy lunch at the Kanela kai Garifolo ("Cinnamon and Clove") restaurant whose cuisine specializes in local ingredients. After lunch, drive to the Oxya lookout which provides stupendous views of the Vikos Gorge, before returning to the hotel. For those interested, there will be a two-hour hike, led by a knowledgeable local trekking guide, from the triple-arched bridge to the village of Kipi, following an old country path, rejoining the group at the Cinnamon and Clove restaurant for lunch.

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Meals Included

Day 7 : Sep 12 - Tour VIKOS GORGE & THE CENTRAL ZAGORI

Today we offer two different activities. Experienced hikers may hike a sizeable portion of the length of the Vikos Gorge, starting at the entrance to the gorge near the village of Papingo, ending at the village of Vikos. Starting in the morning, and led by an experienced local guide, the hike will take about six hours. Alternatively, take an excursion that involves shorter walks. Drive from the hotel to the lovely village of Koukouli where we will visit the Lazaridis Cultural Center, which houses a fine collection of local flora. Continue to the village of Vradheto for a walk to Beloi (about 30 mins each way) which overlooks the Vikos Gorge and offers one of the best views of it. After lunch at a local taverna, drive to the Monastery of Aghios Ioannis Rongova. Built in the 11th century, the monastery contains exquisite frescoes from the 18th century. From the monastery, walk the short distance to a spot that provides an outstanding view of the Vikaki Gorge ("Small Vikos" Gorge), a beautiful narrow gorge, and then drive through magnificent scenery to Tsepelovo, the main village of Central Zagori. After exploring the village and visiting the imposing Ioannidis mansion, return to the hotel.

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Day 8 : Sep 13 - Tour ARISTI & INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITIES

The cuisine of the Zagori region is as distinctive as it is delectable. It relies on fresh ingredients, some of which are grown wild on the side of mountains. While level land for large-scale farming is not available, shepherding and diary production have been practiced since antiquity. One of the main characteristics of the cuisine is the savory pies that come in countless variety. For lunch, we will enjoy a cooking demonstration at the Aristi, where the hotel's chefs will demonstrate the preparation and cooking of representative Zagorian dishes. You are welcome to participate and assist the chefs. You will also have the opportunity to partake in a variety of other activities that will include a yoga session, bird watching and rafting.

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Day 9 : Sep 14 - IGOUMENITSA / CORFUONI/IOANNINA

Leave the hotel in the morning and drive through magnificent scenery to the seaport of Igoumenitsa. Here we board a ferry for passage on the Ionian Sea to the island of Corfu where we enjoy two nights at the Corfu Palace Hotel, located in the Old Town. Corfu is notable for its superb landscape and wealth of historic landmarks. Identified as the green and fair island of the Phaeacians, where Odysseus landed after ten years of wandering in the Mediterranean, Corfu, was colonized by Corinthians in the 8th century BC, becoming a prosperous city-state. From the 14th to 18th centuries, it was a prized possession of Venice whose influence survives today in the tow's characteristic architecture.

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Day 10 : Sep 15 - Tour CORFU

This morning explore the island, including the historic center with its two prominent fortresses; the church of the Metropolis, with its splendid iconostasis; the Archaeological Museum which houses the huge Gorgon pediment among other artifacts; and the iconic islets of Vlaherna and Pondikonissi. In the afternoon, there will be time for independent exploration and shopping. Enjoy a festive farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

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Day 11 : Sep 16 - CORFU / ATHENS / USA

Take an early morning flight from Corfu to Athens to connect with your flight from Athens to the USA.

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Meals Included

Tour Price

$4,990 per person, double occupancy

Single room supplement: $990

Inclusions

Expert Guest Lecturer

Nikos Zacharakis

Nikos Zacharakis

Nikos Zacharakis, as an Expert Guide, has a deep and passionate knowledge of Greek history, culture and archaeology, combined with his warmth and enthusiasm, and is a favorite among Thalassa Journey travelers.  Nikos holds a Bachelor's degree in Archaeology and History from the University of Crete.  In addition, he holds Master of Arts degrees in Museum Studies from Corfu's Ionian University, and in Folklore Studies from the University of Ioannina.  He is a PhD candidate in Archaeology and History.  Nikos has conducted field work in various parts of Greece, and since 2014, has worked as a licensed guide.  He enjoys sharing with travelers not only the rich history of Greece but also its cultural traditions and undiscovered places of beauty.