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Cruising the Aegean: From Kos to Patmos

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Sat May 27 - Sat June 3, 2017

Tour Guide: Prof. Tony Spawforth and Nota Karamaouna
8 DAYS £2,525 / Single Supplement: £665

From Kos to Patmos: A Greek Island Cruise

The Dodecanese islands are perhaps the most ethereally beautiful part of the Aegean. Set in a sparkling topaz-blue sea, they have a rich and intricate history stretching back millennia, and a distinctive culture. From the deck of our gulet, you will cruise in comfort as the islands come to you, each with its own distinctive silhouette and story: mountainous Kalymnos; Nisyros with its brooding volcanic cone; Patmos crowned by its extraordinary monastery - a World Heritage Site; and serene, secluded Pserimos. Anchoring in coves of the bluest shimmering water and harbours with bright white houses rising above you, you can relax as you wish before dining on meals freshly-prepared on board or go to specially selected tavernas on the islands themselves. In a tranquil and unhurried way, you can drink in the vistas of picturesque villages, rocky backdrops and volcanic cones as verdant headlands and glittering bays slide by.

The islands have a long history as a place where cultures met and learned from each other, or came into conflict. Our expert guides will introduce you to some of the finest traces of this long past. You will see the great columned temples of the Greeks, including the famed healing shrine of the god Asklepios on Kos, and their spectacular statues, some newly brought up from the depths of the sea. Roman imperial rule brought with it the fine houses of aristocrats, blessed with cool sheltering colonnades and intricate mosaics, and the buildings that supported their busy trading, a testament to a long era of peace. As the Roman Empire became the Christian Byzantine Empire, so we find artists’ hands turning to the intense emotion-filled icons of Orthodox Christianity, and lovingly-made manuscripts prepared in the exceptional monasteries central to their way of life.

With the fading of Byzantine power, we encounter new strands in our story: the Crusader Knights of St John, who ruled the islands and added their own military stamp to them as they strove long and hard in a doomed struggle to maintain an increasingly-isolated Christian outpost in the east. The long Ottoman years followed, adding another layer with their own characteristic architecture and culture, fountainhouses and baths. From the unexpected and singular traces of Italian occupation, we reach modern times and the captivating culture of today’s islanders. From the food, sounds and atmosphere of the welcoming tavernas, to the unique local craft of sponge-diving, you will come away feeling truly immersed in this varied archipelago’s many delights.

Day 1: We embark on our gulet, 35 minutes from the airport, in the harbour of Kos, a traditional mooring-point for two-and-a-half millennia. Welcome drink and dinner on board.

Day 2: We begin our adventure by exploring some of the many-layered archaeological riches of Kos Town. Around the crystal-blue harbour, Roman houses set with mosaics, the squat walls of a Crusader castle and the eclectic architecture of the period of Italian domination rub shoulders, offering a vivid panorama of the island's turbulent history. In the afternoon, after a beautiful first swim, we continue over lapis-hued waters to the picturesque port village of Mandraki on the volcanic island of Nisyros.

Day 3: This morning we head off on an exciting adventure to the atmospheric steam crater of Stephanos, where we see, hear and smell the true nature of Nisyros: the whole island is an active volcano. We walk past mud pools to stand in the stark amphitheatre of its crater where hot water bubbles on the surface and steam vents from beneath, leaving mounds of crystallized sulphur, before heading off to enjoy a well-earned lunch. Later, we make the long and scenic crossing to a bay off rocky Kalymnos. 

Day 4: In the morning, we cross over to the sacred island of Patmos for some of the most memorable images of our tour. Picturesque windmills stand sentinel over a vista of bright white flower-strewn houses speckling the tree-clad hillside below the island’s summit with its extraordinary monastery. After ample time for swimming and relaxing in one of its many coves, we go ashore to discover the Cave of the Apocalypse, traditionally the refuge of St John the Divine as he composed, or transmitted, the Book of Revelations. At the great Monastery of Saint John, we find one of Greece's greatest medieval treasures, whose soaring and stout walls house some extraordinary Byzantine survivals. Clustered below is the breathtakingly beautiful town of Chora with its maze of cobbled streets and beautiful houses, the very image of a Greek island town. The setting, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, is stunning and reveals a thousand years of life in a small and remote island uniquely connected to a greater world.

Day 5: On the little-visited island of Leros, we make our way to the formidable Byzantine Castle of Panteli, whose military history extends as recently as the tragic Dodecanese campaign of 1943. Its still-extensive medieval walls crown the heights of the former ancient acropolis as it sits high above a deep blue sea and overlooks a fascinating scenery of coves, bays, and a dense jumble of ornate mansions. Dating to the tenth and eleventh centuries, it became a major outpost of the Hospitaller Knights of St John, who greatly expanded it to ward off the threats of the fiercely-contested fourteenth century Aegean. From the castle we take a stroll around the Italian military town at Lakki, a unique planned outpost in a then-showpiece architectural style before making our way to a beautiful cove off Kalymnos for a relaxing evening. 

Day 6: In the morning, we visit the beautifully laid-out archaeological museum of Kalymnos, home to a rich collection of ancient Greek sculpture. Outstanding even amidst the fine marbles is the over life-size ‘Lady of Kalymnos’, a superb bronze of a himation-swathed woman, drawn up from the sea as recently as 1994 after being found by fishermen. Kalymnos being the last redoubt of the once extensive sponge fishing industry, we take the opportunity to visit one of the remaining sponge-washing workshops and observe this almost-lost art – whose intrepid exponents have found more than a few archaeological relics – first-hand. In the afternoon, following a short stay in the Turkish port of Turgutreis for customs formalities, we moor by the barely inhabited islet of Pserimos – a secluded spot, far apart from the busy world.

Day 7: Back on Kos, we explore the Casa Romana, the vast mansion of a Roman aristocrat, partially restored to give a strong sense of the palatial residence’s original opulence. Mosaics and wall paintings still adorn its spacious expanse and the restoration offers a rare chance to experience what the colonnades and courtyards of a Roman aristocratic home really felt like. Afterwards, we go to the beautifully-set Asklepieion, the most important sacred site on the island. The extensive shrine, an important international sanctuary where pilgrims sought the attentions of the healing god Asklepios while they slept, post-dates Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’ so closely associated with Kos, but the picturesque terraces, monumental stairways and ornate columns attest the god’s lasting presence. We conclude our story amid the superb mosaics and sculpture of the archaeological museum. Farewell dinner on the gulet.

Day 8: Transfer to Kos airport, about 35 minutes away. 

Arrival and Departure Information

Arrival Airport - Kos Island International Airport (Hippocrates) 
Departure Airport - Kos Island International Airport (Hippocrates)

The gulet will be in Kos Harbour (approx. 30 minutes from Kos Airport) from around 17.00 on May 20th.

Disembarkation in Kos Harbour on June 3rd is at 09:00. We will arrange local transfers from Kos airport on May 20th and to Kos airport on June 3rd.

Booking Flights 
If you are staying in or connecting via Athens then the easiest way to get to and from the gulet is to fly. There are a number of airlines that offer domestic flights in Greece such as Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air. Both Airlines have a wide selection of flights on these days. The cheapest way to book flights is directly with the airline online.

Please note: Flights are subject to change. Please contact the airline for exact details.

If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.

Travel Insurance 
Travel insurance is a requirement of our booking conditions and we recommend you investigate the options thoroughly to make sure that your trip is properly covered. Please be advised some insurers may require you to take out a policy within 15-20 days of booking your holiday to receive all of their insurance benefits. If you would prefer not to take out travel insurance please let us know. We would require you to complete and return to us a travel insurance waiver form.

Visas 
A Visa is required to pass through Turkish customs during the cruise. Visas are easily obtained online at eVisa and must be purchased before you travel.

Citizens of European Union or Schengen Treaty member states need no visa for Greece, those from the United States, Canada and Australia do not need to apply for a visa to visit Greece for trips of less than 90 days duration.

Athens Destination Guide 

Cruising Cyclades Tour Map

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