This is part 3 of our series about the 2020 Peter Sommer Travels brochure, which has been posted as a printed copy to our guests and friends and is also available on our website as a pdf download or as a browsable online brochure. Together, the posts in the series present a full overview of our activities and the experiences we offer to our guests in 2020. Part 1 looks back at what we did 2019 and forward to our new plans for 2020 and beyond, and part 2 showcases our cruises in Croatia. This post is about Greece.
Greece - a country of special historic importance
It's now ten years since we started offering cruises in Greece. It began with less than a couple of cruises per year, set in the Greek Islands just off the Turkish shore. By now, Greece has grown to be one of the main areas of Peter Sommer Travels' activities, with more itineraries and currently more guests than any other country. Greek archaeology is of nearly unparalleled depth and Greek hospitality is justly famous: the country offers wonderful travel experiences and a great range of things to discover. Peter Sommer Travels offers experiences of both the alluring Greek Islands and the fascinating mainland. It is a highly competitive market, but we are confident of our programme there, because we pour much effort and time into the design and maintenance of our Greek offerings, to make sure that they are the best-prepared tours available, a principle we follow wherever we offer tours. Our 2020 programme in Greece consists of fourteen tours on ten different itineraries.
Cruising to the Cyclades has been running twice a year for some time now, in May and September. First offered in 2012, it is certainly an ambitious cruise itinerary, entailing the longest distances we travel by gulet on any of our tours, moving from the Dodecanese to the Cyclades and back. The unforeseeable aspects of the Aegean part of Greece make it the most challenging of our cruises, an adventure that diverges from its written plan nearly every time it runs - but of course we have built the necessary flexibility into the trip. As a result, it always produces a fascinating combination of Greek Island experiences, The itinerary combines remarkable highlights like Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Delos and Kos with off-the-beaten-track secrets like Amorgos, Kalymnos or Nisyros. It is among our most popular offerings: for 2020, both iterations are sold out already.
The second Peter Sommer Travels two-week cruise in the Greek Islands is Cruising the Dodecanese. If you speak to some of our tour experts in Greece, they might discreetly mention this as one of their favourite itineraries: it is glorious. It includes sights and insights ranging from prehistory and the Greek/Roman past via the glories of the Byzantine era and the heritage of Crusader Knights of Saint John to the Second World War. Its highlights are many: The ancient city of Kos, the venerable monastery on Patmos, the rich finds from the Archaic shrine to Hera on Samos and the mighty walls of Medieval Rhodes. All that makes for superbly interesting content, and now combine it with the warm September/October waters: pure joy.
For a shorter experience in the Dodecanese, we offer two one-week options. Cruising the Aegean: From Kos to Patmos, is a leisurely exploration of the Central Dodecanese and some of the most beautiful and fascinating places in that area of Greece. This is the group of islands our experts are most familiar with and travelling with them is quite wonderful, very much like visiting friends of friends. It will run three times in 2020, in June and September as a regular cruise and in July/August as a family cruise.
After a long hiatus, we have also reintroduced our lovely week-long Cruising the Southeast Aegean, an itinerary that combines four Greek Islands with a stretch of Turkey's Carian coast, On the Greece side, it includes historic Kos, beautiful Nisyros, verdant Tilos and splendid Symi. In Turkey it follows a beautifully unspoilt coastline, centering on the extraordinary site of Knidos, one of the great Greek cities of ancient Asia Minor, but also of Caria, before making its way to the major ancient city of Halicarnassus (or Halikarnassos), the modern resort town of Bodrum, with its great Crusader castle, built by the Knights of Saint John (or Knights of Rhodes). In 2020, it is set for September.
In the same waters, we offer Walking and Cruising the Dodecanese, our first walking cruise in Greece. On this itinerary, our experts take our guests to the central cluster of the archipelago, the islands just north and south of Kos, to show them a totally different range of sites from those we visit on our regular cultural tours, places far off the beaten tourist track, among them a forgotten ancient city and a towering medieval castle on Kos, the ruins of an Early Byzantine basilica church on Kalymnos, the windswept remains of military installations from the Second World War on Leros, and the remarkable volcanic landscapes of Nisyros. Even if you have travelled the Dodecanese with us before, this tour will provide a new experience. It is on in September/October.
It is not possible to discover Greece only by cruising - many of the county's greatest sites are best seen in a land-based context. Our Exploring Tours are the best-prepared land tours wherever we offer them, based on hard principles of hands-on authenticity and first-rate narrative, conveyed by experts who are profoundly familiar with the region in question, its history, landscape, cuisine, stories etc. We are proud of these tours and Greece is one of the places where we started defining them.
Like last year, our land tour programme for 2020 kicks off in late April with Easter in Athens, one of our more unusual itineraries. It combines three aspects of the Greek capital: its great ancient remains, its current life as a vibrant and buzzing city, and the moving events of Greek Orthodox Holy Week, a sequence of sombre apprehension and deep mourning, followed by eager anticipation and culminating in sheer joy and celebration. What makes the tour even more unique are its activities: a chance to try one's hand at Classical Greek vase-painting and the opportunity to create Greek dishes under the supervision of a local chef. For more ways to see Athens, our equally-carefully designed add-ons there may also be of interest.
The first full-blown Exploring tour in Greece is always our Exploring Crete, an extraordinarily lively experience of what Greeks often call the Big Island, a place that belies its insular geography by containing an enormous wealth of different landscapes and by being home to a great many cultures throughout the ages. The tour covers nearly all of Crete and ranges through five millennia or more, focusing on the island's multiple 'Golden Ages', the first in the prehistoric ("Minoan") period, the second in the Archaic era of state formation and the third during the Byzantine/Venetian eras, but also highlighting the island's diversity of natural beauty, its living traditions and its excellent version of Mediterranean cuisine. Exploring Crete runs three times in 2020: in April/May (sold out already), May and October.
Exploring the Peloponnese is our other well-established land tour in Greece. It is as lively as our Cretan tour, opening up a region even more diverse and even more jam-packed with stories, from mythology via the great fifth century BC struggle between Athens and Sparta that bears the peninsula's name, to the great conflicts between the Byzantine East and the Latin West during the Medieval era and beyond. The southernmost part of the Greek mainland is a region of unique historic depth, a place like none other. It runs in May 2020 (nearly fully booked already).
In 2020, we are finally able to present a new Exploring itinerary in Greece, the first since 2016, and it is a spectacular one.
We proudly present Exploring Macedonia! The northern province of Greece is another unique region, an area of immense variety, from the snow-capped peaks of Mount Olympus to the sandy shores of the blue Aegean Sea, jam-packed with first-rate archaeological and historic sites ranging across many millennia. The golden age of Classical Macedon during the era of Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great, in the fourth century BC, is just one focus, and the Byzantine splendours of Thessaloniki, Greece's second city, are another, but there is so much more to find in this historic region, with key sites witnessing the first Neolithic farmers, the Roman domination of the area, the ambitions of western crusaders in the Middle Ages and the Ottoman's long presence, and our expert guides look forward to revealing it. The tour runs in June and there is only one room left available!
This is what we offer in terms of scheduled trips in Greece in 2020. At the same time, we are also providing multiple add-ons and private charters and tailor-made land tours. As mentioned in the first post of this series, there are more Greek trips on our mind and we have started working on them. The islands of the East Aegean are beckoning, as they are full of new and interesting content, but time will tell. We are thrilled to be able to run our current collection of unique land tours and cruises in Greece.
Also in this series: