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   GREECE/Ancient Sites and Hiking in the Pelenopenese
March 29-April 13, 2014
$2595
Ellen Blumenkrantz, Leader

blumenkranz greece 1
This two week trip combines guided sightseeing in Athens and several of  the major ancient sites of Greece (Parthenon, Corinth, Myceneau, Epidavros, Mystra, Olympia), with visits to small, quaint villages, and moderate hikes of 4-6 hours daily in the Peleponnese mountains, gorges and coast. The sites and trails provide beautiful views of snow covered mountains and/or the sea.  Spring flowers line the woodland trails and ancient sites (poppies, wisteria, anemonies, and iris). We stay at lovely hotels/inns with private rooms, ensuite bathrooms. Great Greek food. Experienced local guide is with us entire trip, and has been guiding this trip for 20 years.

Outing Cost
$2,595 (includes $85 registration fee) per person based on double occupancy

Payment Policy
A deposit of $585.00 is due at the time of registration (includes $85 registration fee).
The remaining balance of $2,010.00 is due no later than December 15, 2013.

Cancellation Policy
If you need to cancel the trip at any time, an $85.00 ADK registration fee is non-refundable.  The balance of the deposit is fully refundable up to December 15, 2013.  After December 15, 2013, no refunds are possible unless your space can be filled from a waiting list.  However, if ADK cancels the trip or if in the opinion of the leader, this trip is not for you, the full amount will be refunded.

Accommodations
All nights will be in small hotels and agriturismos.  All have private bath.  Group size is limited to 8 total.

Special Note
This trip is for moderate-experienced hikers, capable of hiking 4-5 hours most days, with elevation ascents/descents of up to 1,500 ft.  On several days there are options for hikes to be extended, but I have allowed ample time to include some of the special sites in this region.

Included in Trip Price:
Private guide/van/driver from airport pick up (Athens, Greece airport) Saturday morning March 29, until airport drop off Sunday morning April 13. All transfers within the itinerary, all lodging based on double occupancy, all dinners and breakfasts  from dinner day of arrival through to breakfast day of departure, entrance fees to sites/museums indicated in itinerary, detailed packing list to be provided 45 days prior to departure.

Single Supplement charge:  $400

Not included
Airfare to/from Athens, gratuities, and incidentals such as additional snacks, gelato, drinks.  Allow $200-$250 to cover gratuities/incidentals.

For more information and application to register contact Ellen Blumenkrantz, 43 Carlson Court, Closter, NJ 07624; 201-784-8417; eblumenkrantz@hotmail.com

Itinerary

Depart the U.S. on Friday night March 28 to arrive in Athens on Saturday, March 29.

Day 1, Saturday, March 29, 2014:
Arrive at Athens airport where our driver/van and guide will pick us up. We’ll stop at Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon, then scenic drive along the coast to Athens to check into our hotel:  www.plakahotel.gr/  has beautiful views of the Acropolis and full breakfast. Dinner at nearby restaurant (about 5-10 minute walk)

Day 2, Sunday, March 30, 2014:
Our private guide will be with us the entire day as we walk/visit the numerous sites in Athens  (includes: Acropolis – Herod Atticus Odeon-Plaka- The Tower of Winds- The Old Palace- Theatre of Dionysos-Monastiraki-Thisseio-Ancient Forum-Andrianos Gate-Syntagma Square, Parliament and the tomb of the unknown soldier – The Temple of Zeus- - The Greek and Roman Agora – Lycabettos Hill- Olympic Venues - Highlights ...etc).  We’ll take a lunch stop during the day at a cafe.  Late afternoon there will be an optional visit to the Acropolis museum which is fabulous.  Dinner will be near our hotel.

Day 3, Monday, March 31, 2014:
We will depart by 9am for ancient Corinth, with a quick stop at the Corinth Canal. Full day sightseeing will also include Acrocorinth, once Corinths acropolis it became one of Greece’s most powerful medieval fortresses on top of huge mass of rock, with fabulous views over the Saronic Gulf and Gulf of Korinthos. It is the largest and oldest fortress in the Peloponessos. There are a number of shrines and temples including the Temple of Aphrodite. The ancient Turkish remains are unusually substantial. Also building from Greeks, Romans, Myzantines, Frankish crusaders, Venetians. We’ll bring a picnic lunch to eat at the top, and then go down to Corinth for a guided tour of that site. Acrocorinth admission free open winter, Tues.Sun 8:30am-3pm. Corinth will have a fee.
greece 3
The ancient city of Corinth, known at least by name from the Apostle Paul’s talks to the Corintheans in the Bible, is now famous for its canal, one of the more impressive feats of 19th century engineering. Periandros originally conceived the idea of a canal through the narrow isthmus though at the time it was too much of an endeavor to carry out. Instead they devised a paved roadway that they used to haul the boats across on rollers. This method was used until the 13th century. The emperor Nero attempted to dig a canal but this chore was too much for him as well. A French engineering company finally built it in 1893.

 
Probably the most interesting part of the citadel is the entrance but the view from Acrocorinth is simply incredible and if for no other reason this site should not be missed. Though most of ancient Corinth has either disappeared over the years or been destroyed by Earthquakes there is still a temple to Apollo built in the fifth century BC. The Peirene Spring is said to have been a woman transformed by the tears she shed for her son who was killed by the God Artemis. It still supplies old Corinth with water. There is a museum on the site as well. Next to the Lechion road which led to the ancient port is the garden of Apollo a courtyard with some restored Ionic columns.

From Corinth we’ll stop at a winery in the Nemea area on the way to our hotel.


Dinner/overnight Nafplio  www.hotelmarianna.gr/   for next  2 nights. Dinner out in town.
For desert: Antica gelateria di Roma – recommended by NY Times and according to Frommers best ice cream and ices in Pelopennese.

Nafplio has 3 fortresses – 2 built on cliffs above the town – including the Palammidi Fortress a vast citadel built between 1711-1714 by the venetians. It’s the largest complex of its kind in Greece. Late afternoon walk up to the fortress and also the headlands from town.

Akronafplia  is site of the Byzantine and early medieval town and contains 4 Venetian castles built in sequence from west to east. Interesting relic is the Venetian Lion of St. Mark over the 15th century gate just above Catholic Church. Also the clock tower is a major landmark here
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Possible stop while staying here just 2 miles from Naflpio is the 12th century convent of Agia Moni, with octagonal dome-drum resting on 4 columns with Corinthian capitals. Just outside the walls, in an orchard, the Kanathos fountain still springs from a niche decorated with animal reliefs. This was ancient Amymone, where the goddess Hera bathed each year to renew her virginity.


Day 4, Tuesday, April 1, 2014:
Breakfast at 8am

After breakfast we will walk directly from our hotel along the coast and then up the road to the Palamadi Fortress where we can wander around the ancient walls and have fabulous views over the town and surrounding area/water. We then descend back into town on a well-made stone staircase of about 1,000 steps – but they are not very steep. None of us had any problems/complaints with our knees after the descent. Outing can also be reversed. We’ll then have some free time in town for lunch and to visit one of the museums or just wander around the town/shops.


Award winning Peloponnese Folklore museum http://www.pli.gr/  and/or can also visit  an archeological museum: the Nafplion Archaeological Museum is once again open after 5 years of renovations. The museum now has large, bright rooms (no more dusty display cases) with exhibits themed to demonstrate life in the area from Neolthic to Christian times. An excellent video (with English text) shows and explains the sites where most objects were found. The collection, from sites in the area, includes pottery, jewelry, and some quite terrifying Mycenaean terra-cotta idols as well as a handsome bronze Mycenaean suit of armor. The museum is in one of the best-looking buildings in town, the handsome 18th-century Venetian arsenal that dominates Plateia Syntagma. The thick walls make this a deliciously cool place to visit on even the hottest day.


At 2pm drive about 45 minutes to Epidauros, where we will have a  guided tour of the site. The theatre at Epidavros is the best preserved example of a classical Greek amphitheater and a person on the top row can hear a conversation being spoken in normal tones in the center of the theatre, a remarkable feat since the theatre can hold 14,000 people. If time we may visit the town of Ancient Epidavros which is on the coast and has another small theater which was just discovered in the last twenty years in some guy’s backyard. The town itself has an attractive waterfront with fishing boats, fish tavernas and cafes and the whole area smells of orange blossoms.
greece 4 
Next to Epidauros is the village of Lygourio with 3 Byzantine churches, most distinguished being the 14th century Koimisis tis Theotokou which has superb early medieval frescoes.

Dinner/overnight Nafpio


Day 5, Wednesday, April 2, 2014: 
After breakfast we pack up and drive about 45 minutes to the ancient site of Myceneae for our guided tour.
Myceneae  The Argolis Peninsula was the center of Greek culture from 1600 to 1100 BC under the Myceneans until the city was destroyed. The enormous stone walls of the ancient city make one wonder how anything short of a nuclear blast could harm it. Because the stones were so massive, the Greeks believed the giant Cyclops must have lifted them, thus the term ‘Cyclopean walls’. The ancient city is entered through the famous Lion Gate and contains the palace of Agamemnon. If you remember your Iliad you will know that Agememnon was the brother of Menelaous, the husband of Helen, who was abducted by Paris and taken to Troy. The combined Greek forces under the command of Agememnon took ten years to conquer the city of Troy. On his return home Agememnon was murdered in his bath by his wife Clytaemenstra who had taken a lover in his absence and was still smarting over the sacrifice of their daughter in an effort to gain favorable winds for the expedition. Their son Orestes then murdered her.

 
After the tour we drive about 2.5 hours to Mystras where we will spend the next 3 nights. 

 http://www.mystrasinn.gr/protaseisen.html

Afternoon walk from nearby Parori on a spectacular cliff path up through Langadhiotissa Gorge. At a water crossing we join the  E4 footpath back to Mystras. Enjoy amazing views of the plain of Sparta and of the castle of Mystras.
Sections of the path up through the gorge are very narrow and are right on the edge of the gorge so this is not a hike for anyone with vertigo issues.  Anyone concerned about trail conditions could take the afternoon off.


Day 6, Thursday, April 3, 2014 
An interesting full day hike that starts from Parori just outside Mystras. The walk begins on an old path which ascends via the deserted and well- concealed cliff hung monastery of Panayia Zayouna to the modern monastery of Faneromeni. Here we turn briefly south towards the mountain village of Anavriti where we have lunch in the village taverna.  Afterwards we continue on our hiking path over fabulous rock outcroppings with an amazing  display of wild flowers, and the sound of goat bells, then descend  to the semi deserted hamlet of Pergandeika. From here the path ascends quite steeply to a lovely viewpoint where there are the remains of an old wheat  threshing ring.   The higher mountains should still be covered in snow, forming a striking backdrop to the scenery for the final part of our hike, which takes us up a gently ascending dirt road to the walk’s end at an elevation of 3,300’.

Day 7, Friday, April 4, 2014

We begin at the isolated monastery of Ghola and descend through shady forest to cross the river via a beautiful stone bridge. Spring flowers such as anemones and iris bloom in the woods along the path.  We then walk through the spectacularly located village of Koumousta, where we will take a short stop at the lovely town fountain where we can refill our water bottles with fresh mountain spring water, and a short walk to the old church, where the approach and surrounding property is a blanket of flowers.  We then take the old path which connected Koumousta with the high level summer pastures. This climbs through brush  and eventually through forest to emerge onto a forest road at an elevation of over 3,500’. The final section of our walk contours the mountainside on this road for 4 miles to the walk’s end at the spring of  Manganiari.

  
Day 8, Saturday, April 5, 2014 greece 6
Morning walk over to historic site of Mystra where we will visit the historic monasteries and see their beautiful frescoes/architecture.  Can also go see/buy the lovely needlepoint’s sold by the nuns.  Then short drive/visit ancient Sparta, and have a picnic lunch in the site. 
 
After lunch we drive south towards Areopolis (1 hr) Just before reaching our destination we head into the mountains to the village of Germa. We walk first to the abandoned Spiliotissa Monastery, situated high above the surrounding  countryside and offering panoramic views. We retrace our steps part of the way then take a dirt trail which leads through a colourful valley up to the village of Kelefa and to the ruined castle of the same name. From here we descend to the village of Neo Itylo on the Lakonian gulf, just a couple of miles from our hotel.


Aeropolis,
www.areospolis.gr   for next 2 nights.  Dinner out in town.

Day 9, Sunday, April 6, 2014:
Full day hike down in the Mani peninsula to the lighthouse with stop at Vathia, one of the historic “tower” towns on the way. Dinner/night at www.areospolis.gr

Day 10, Monday, April 7, 2014:  
After breakfast, we will walk from Aeropoli via the beach at Diros Bay to to Diros Caves, option to visit caves (extra charge) then we will drive about one hour north to our beautiful waterfront hotel located In the quaint village of Kardamyli:  Anniska & Liakoto http://www.anniska-liakoto.com/  where we will stay 3 nights. This hotel does not provide breakfast – so we will stop at a market to pick up yogurt, fruit, cereal to eat in for the next few days.  Our suites will be stocked with coffee, milk, sugar and tea.

 Picnic lunch on the way to to Kardamyli and afternoon walk which follows the old path between the villages of Laghada and Thalames and then down a lovely old path from Thalames to the sea at Traxila.
Dinner out at local restaurant 2-3 blocks from our hotel.


Day 11, Tuesday, April 8, 2014: 
greece 7Another full day hike in the mountains behind our hotel/village. One option is through the village of Sotirianika following dirt trails through olive groves to the deserted monastery of Agios Nikolaos.  we continue along a mule path and impressive stone bridge over the Koskarakas Gorge and to a dirt road leading to Kambos. Here, in the church of Agia Theodoroi, are some excellently preserved 18th-century frescoes painted by a local artist, which depict an unusual combination of biblical, historical, and pagan influences. If there is time we will visit  a Mycenean beehive tomb, reputedly the burial place of Machaon, son of Asclepios, the Greek god of healing.

Continuing along the old village trails we climb up to the village of Stavropigio where we may visit the strategically located castle. From Stavropigio a combination of old trails and dirt roads leads us back to Kardamili. 

Alternatively we could start from Altomira and come down the path that joins this walk just outside Sotirianika. It’s a beautiful path but a long way down.
Dinner out in town.


Day 12, Wednesday, April 9, 2014:
Today’s hike takes us to several of the unspoilt villages close to Kardamili. We begin in Petrovouni, a very short drive from Kardamili. A beautiful trail leads us down through a grotto then up to the tiny village of Agia Sofia. From here we follow a modern dirt road down towards the Viros Gorge, then we take an old trail which leads up the side of the gorge to the isolate village of Chora. From here we walk through the larger neighbouring village of Exohori then follow a dirt trail down to the village of Proastio where we visit the church of Agia Triada and, just outside the village, the monastery of St George. The final part of this fascinating hike is a beautiful shady path through olive groves which takes us back to our starting point.

Dinner out at another nice restaurant in town within a short walk of our hotel
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Day 13, Thursday, April 10, 2014:
3.5 hour drive to ancient Olympia for tour of this beautiful site and fabulous museum.  We will stop on in town for a quick lunch, and then spend about 2-2.5 hours touring the site (it is open until 5pm). Then another 2 hour drive to our final hotel for our last 3 nights. Karytaina: Pelasgos Guesthouse http://www.pelasgoshotel.gr/index_en.html   Dinner at our hotel all 3 nights.

Day 14, Friday, April 11, 2014:

Today is an easy walk right from our hotel through the village, and lovely countryside towards Megalopilos, and back the same way – about 3 hours, crossing ancient bridge over the Louisous river/gorge with beautiful views down to the river. Return to the hotel and drive 30-45 minutes to Stemnitsa for lunch.  A lovely small town with folklore museum, and several medieval churches. Return to our hotel, and then option to walk up to the old fortress on the cliffs above the town

Option to go white water rafting (extra charge about 50 euros) for 3-4 hours on Lousios River.

Day 15, Saturday, April 12, 2014: 
A 30-45 minute drive to ancient Gortys (very very small site) where we start a full day hike through a beautiful river gorge, with unbelievably clean/clear water, passing waterfalls, 2 monasteries built into the cliffs, wild flowers along the trail, and trail continues up to lovely mountain town of Dhimitsana. Water shoes might be needed for some of this hike. We’ll stop in Dhimistana for celebratory drink at a local café. Return to our hotel for final dinner/night.
 
Day 16, Sunday, April 13, 2014:
Drive to Athens airport (about 3 hours) for afternoon flights home. Flights must depart at 1:00pm or later or separate airport transfer (costs about 150 euros) will be needed.

For more information and application to register contact Ellen Blumenkrantz, 43 Carlson Court, Closter, NJ 07624; 201-784-8417; eblumenkrantz@hotmail.com

Please note:  Prices and trip arrangements are subject to change due to circumstances beyond ADK's control.  All registration fees are non-refundable.  Details including cancellation policy will be supplied to all those requesting trip information.

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