Journey through Ancient Greece

Bronze Age Crete & Santorini

We are now looking forward to May 2016 when we plan to make another visit to Crete and our first to Santorini. We are sure you will be enthralled by the history, archaeology, art, scenery & people of these Aegean islands. The history of Crete & Santorini spans over 5,000 years; our tour will concentrate on the Bronze Age, or Minoan, sites with brief diversions into the Classical & Byzantine periods.

Santorini is a fabulously beautiful island with its dramatic caldera, the result of the volcanic erruption thousands of years ago, white houses and black beaches. It is also the site of the ‘Aegean Pompeii’, the remarkably well preserved Bronze Age town of Akrotiri, buried by the volcano, and only last year reopened to the public.

 

Crete in the Bronze Age is the subject of much debate; the buildings excavated in the last century, older than anything we see on the mainland, were called palaces by the archaeologists but there is no evidence of how this mysterious civilisation was governed; king Minos may or may not have existed.

We fly to Santorini, staying 2 nights in the village of Akrotiri, at the Caldera Romantica. We then take the hydrofoil to Crete, staying 3 nights at the Hotel Astoria Capsis, Iraklion, & 3 nights in Ayios Nikolaos, at the Hermes Hotel. These are all excellent hotels close to tavernas & local sights; the Caldera Romantica & Hermes have swimming pools. None of the journeys is long, the scenery is stunning. On Crete we will be looked after as usual by Christos who will bring his bus over from Athens for our tour; on Santorini his assistant Chrissa will be with us.

Day 1   We will fly at mid-day from Heathrow via Athens with Aegean Airways to Santorini.

Day 2   We go to the remote hilltop ancient city of Thira, founded around the 9th century BC; most of the remains we see today are from the Hellenistic period. We also visit the picturesque traditional village of Pyrgos, right. In the evening we go to the Santos winery, on the edge of the caldera, for a wine tasting.

Day 3  We will visit the Bronze Age town of Akrotiri & superb pre-historic museum in Fira where you will see the wonderful frescoes which decorated the houses at Akrotiri and a profusion of pots & jugs simply but elegantly decorated with swallows & grasses.
In the evening we will take the hydrofoil to Iraklion.

 

Day 4   We will first visit the museum (next to our hotel) which houses the stunning frescoes from Knossos, right, the painted sarcophagus from Ayia Triada, Kamares pottery, & many other glorious treasures from the Bronze Age and later Cretan civilisations.

We next go to the Bronze Age farm of Vathypetro, where we see a well-preserved wine press and then to Arhanes; where there is an excellent small museum containing finds from nearby Bronze Age cemeteries. We will have a picnic or light taverna lunch here.

Next we will visit the best known of the Cretan Bronze Age sites, Knossos, the 'palace' excavated at the beginning of the C20th by Arthur Evans and controversially reconstructed by him.

 

Day 5   We travel to the fertile agricultural plain of Mesara on the south coast where we will visit two important 15th century BC sites, Festos, right,  the second largest of the palaces & Ayia Triada, (right) possibly a summer 'palace', where Linear A tablets were found.

On the way we stop briefly at Gortyn, a Graeco-Roman site where, legend relates, Zeus married Europa; the 1st century AD Odeion contains the famous law code, dating from 500 BC.

Day 6 we leave Iraklion mid morning to visit the extensive Bronze Age palace complex at Mália. The first palace here was built around 1900 BC; the remains we see today (right) are of a replacement built around 1650 BC. It was here that the magnificent gold bee-pendant (below) was found.

We then continue to Ayios Nikólaos where we will stay at the 4 star Hermes Hotel, on the waterfront (there is a beach over the road and a sea water swimming pool on the roof)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 In the morning we will visit the town of Gourniá, where there are remains of seventy houses built on the side of a hill, on top of which is a small palace, built around 1500.

The afternoon is spent relaxing in Ayios Nikolaos where we hope the archaeological museum will have reopened. It has a fine & well displayed collection of local finds including the Goddess of Mirtos, a jug from 2,500 BC, (right) & a large number of clay larnakes (bath tubs/burial chests) painted with octopus, birds & fish.

In the evening, if it is open, we will visit the 4th century BC town of Lató dramatically set in the mountains (see right). Here there are a number of houses, an agora, a temple and other public buildings all of which were only excavated in the late 1960's.

 

Day 8 we will go to the former leper colony island of Sphinalonga (a short boat trip from the village of Plaka). We will have a picnic or taverna lunch by the water's edge in Plaka, overlooking Sphinalonga.

Day 9  We will visit the church of Panaghia Kira in the mountain village of Kritsa where we can see some of the most important C13th frescoes in Crete.

Return to Iraklion for the 11.30 flight to Athens and London, arriving at Heathrow at 15.30

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The Gold Bees, in Iraklion Museum

 

The 'Throne Room' at Knossos

           The Town mosaic, Iraklion Museum