Athens has a unique place in the history of Western Civilisation – it defines our image of ancient Greece.
The ancient Athenian calendar was dominated by religious festivals like the Panathenaia, Dionysia or Eleusinia, occasions when the city state acted out its own identity. Today, Orthodox Easter is the most important festival in modern Greece: celebrated passionately, solemnly and eventually exuberantly, it is a central expression of Greek identity and a spectacular experience for visitors.
This new tour combines a thorough introduction to Ancient Athens with a chance to observe the Easter festivities or to participate in them!
Our expert guides, steeped in Athenian life – ancient and modern – will show you all the major remains of the Classical, Roman and medieval city: the sacred rock of the Acropolis with its venerable monuments and its superb museum; the ancient Kerameikos cemetery; the Agora, the political, commercial and civic heart of the ancient city; and the National Museum, the world’s most important treasury of Ancient Greek Art. You will walk the streets and squares that were touched by immortal characters such as Aeschylus, Pericles, Herodotus or Socrates, the people who allowed Athens to become a cultural beacon shining across the millennia, creating or advancing philosophy, tragedy, comedy, history, art and architecture.
In parallel, you will have a daily chance to observe the celebrations of Orthodox Holy Week, from intimate and quaint observances to the drama of processions, all culminating in the celebration of light on Easter night and the exuberant feast of Easter Sunday.
Apart from deep archaeological and historical insights, you will experience a slice of modern Athenian life, as well many opportunities to enjoy some of the very best Greek food and wine at some of our favourite venues – including Easter specials. Your base for the week long tour is a fine 5 star hotel located near the heart of the city and old town, with perfect access to all its sights and amenities.
Day 1: Arrival in Athens. Transfer from the airport, about 40 minutes away, to our hotel in the centre of the city.
Day 2: The day is devoted to the Acropolis and its slopes. We visit the Theatre of Dionysos, where Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes produced their plays and where Saint Paul may have spoken. We follow the peripatos, the ancient path around the Acropolis, before climbing to the sacred rock to view the city’s eternal achievements. Passing through the gateway of the mighty Propylaea, we explore the fabled temples of Periclean Athens – dainty Athena Nike, the incomparable and enormous Parthenon, and the ornate Erechtheion, the most sacred place in the ancient city. In the afternoon, we visit the superb Acropolis Museum, devoted entirely to finds from the Acropolis itself.
Day 3: In the morning, we visit the Agora, with its wealth of remains from Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times and its informative museum. After a stroll through Plaka, the Old Town of Athens, to view its Roman, Hellenistic and Byzantine remains rubbing shoulders with Ottoman mansions and Neoclassical houses, we make our way to the National Archaeological Museum, home to the most iconic treasures of ancient Greek civilisation.
Day 4: In Greek Orthodoxy, Thursday is the day of the Crucifixion. After a free morning, we set out on a long excursion to Northern Attica. We visit the beautiful site of Brauron, a sanctuary of Artemis connected with the poignant story of Iphigeneia’s human sacrifice and divine redemption. A late seaside lunch is followed by a visit to the Pentelikon quarry, where the marble for the Parthenon was cut, and the Byzantine cave chapel of Davelis. Later, we proceed to the monastery of Daou (Moni Penteli) to observe Holy Thursday observances, accompanied by a re-enactment of the Crucifixion.
Day 5: Holy Friday is a solemn day in Orthodoxy, the day on which the Saviour is absent and when his funeral is observed. Appropriately, we visit the Kerameikos, the most important cemetery of ancient Athens, with its extraordinary examples of funerary sculpture. after a lunch of traditional lenten dishes, we visit the stunningly beautiful Temple of Poseidon at Sounion on the southeast tip of Attica. On the way back, we stop at Anavysos to see the tableau vivant of the Passion. After dinner, we visit the church of Agios Georgios Karitzi in the heart of Athens to hear beautiful choral singing, mourning the epitaph, the symbolic tomb of Christ.
Day 6: Holy Saturday is day of general mourning and fasting (optional for our guests, of course). We continue to Eleusis, one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Athens, hinged on a story of entering and leaving the Underworld. In the evening, you have the option of observing the Easter celebration of the Ethiopian and Armenian communities before we meet for the midnight mass in Agioi Anargyroi, one of the most ancient churches of Athens, to see the first appearance of the Holy Light in Greece. The experience will be followed by a traditional late-night Easter meal.
Day 7: Easter Sunday is a day of joy, celebration and indulgence and we enjoy the traditional Greek Easter feast of lamb in a taverna in the city, celebrating alongside the people of Athens.
Day 8: Transfers for Athens airport, about 40 minutes away.
Arrival and Departure Information for our Exploring Athens tour
Arrival Airport – Athens
Departure Airport – Athens
Check in time at your hotel in Athens is after 14:00 so we recommend choosing a flight that arrives in the afternoon/early evening on Apr 2nd in time for the welcome dinner. Check out time on Apr 9th is 12:00pm. We will arrange local transfers from the airport on Apr 2nd and to the airport on Apr 9th.
Booking Flights The cheapest way to book flights for our Exploring Athens tour is directly with the airline online.
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 Citizens of European Union member states, 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 If you are planning to stay in Athens before or after your tour we have included below links to more information and things to see and do.