Olympia –Mycenae –Nafplio – Epidaurus –Corinth

Visit Olympia, the “Valley of Gods”, the most celebrated sanctuary of ancient Greece and the birthplace of the most important athletic mega-event of all times: the Olympic Games! Walk through Mycenae, the city of Agamemnon, who was king of all Greeks during the Trojan War! Discover Nafplio, one of the most romantic cities all over Greece and the first capital of Greece after the Greek Independence War! Enjoy the symmetry and beauty of the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus! Cross the Corinthian Canal, which got finally completed, 2,500 years after being just a vision of Periander! Find out why Apostle Paul chose to stay in Corinth for a while

The tour starts from Olympia the birthplace of the Olympic Games, 300 km from Athens. Olympia is one of the most well-known tourist destinations in Greece, and one of the most powerful brand names worldwide. The Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Experience living history through the priceless, but mainly free of charge offerings of the area!

The earliest archaeological fragments indicate that the site of Mycenae was inhabited since the 7th millennium BC, from prehistoric times. Agamemnon and Menelaus, Danae and Perseus, Pelops and Atreus are the apparent forefathers of all of Europe, and the birthplace of all of these historical figures, is golden Mycenae.

The Archaeological Site of Olympia offers you the unique opportunity to walk through the impressive ruins of the area where athletes trained and run in the ancient stadium; just as the ancient Olympians did after their victory 3000 years ago. The sanctuary, known as the Altis, consists of an unordered arrangement of various buildings. Enclosed within the temenos (sacred enclosure) are the Temple of Hera (or Heraion/Heraeum), the Temple of Zeus, the Pelopion, and the area of the altar, where the sacrifices were made.

To the north of the sanctuary lie the Prytaneion and the Philippeion, as well as the array of treasuries representing the various city-states. The Metroon lies to the south of these treasuries, with the Echo Stoa to the east. The hippodrome and later stadium were located east of the Echo Stoa. To the south of the sanctuary is the South Stoa and the Bouleuterion, whereas the Palaestra, the workshop of Pheidias, the Gymnasion, and the Leonidaion lie to the west.

You can also visit the Archaelogical Museum of Olympia to see some unbelievable sculptures such as the sculpted decoration of the temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the famous Hermes of Praxiteles and the statue of Nike of Paionios.

Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin was a French pedagogue and historian, founder of the International Olympic Committee, and considered father of the modern Olympic Games. The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens, Greece, and the second, the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. He was buried in Lausanne (the seat of the IOC), although, in accordance with his will, his heart was buried separately in a monument near the ruins of ancient Olympia.

Leaving behind the Valley of Gods, Mycenae is an ancient city in the Peloponnese, 140 km from Athens. Until 1871, when Heinrich Schliemann, a German pioneer of Archaeology, discovered Troy, the famous Trojan War, narrated by Homer in Heliad, was just a myth. Schliemann brought again to light, not only Mycenae, but also proved with the finds of his excavations the interaction between Greeks and Trojans.

The earliest archaeological fragments indicate that the site of Mycenae was inhabited since the 7th millennium BC, from prehistoric times. Agamemnon and Menelaus, Danae and Perseus, Pelops and Atreus are the apparent forefathers of all of Europe, and the birthplace of all of these historical figures, is golden Mycenae.

The Citadel of Mycenae is the core fortified area of the city and served both as an observatory area and as the centre of actions of the city’s defenders, in cases of enemies’ attack. The Archaelogical Museum of Mycenae is built next to the citadel. While the most important Mycenaean artifacts are exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, a variety of other objects unearthed in the vicinity are exhibited in its three halls. It provides context to the excavations and it is easily visited after a tour of the archaeological site. The Tomb of Agamemnon is the best example of a tholos tomb in existence. It was built partly into a hill, and its dromos (path to the entrance) is impressive and well preserved. According to the Greek traveler of antiquity, Pausanias, the people of his day (2 C BC) believed that the tholos graves were treasure stores. This is why it is known as a Treasury, and although it may originally have contained treasure, it was just a grave, when archaeologists discovered it. The fortification, built on the Hill of Tiryns, in order to protect the palace complex, is such an impressive construction that the ancient Greeks could not believe that it was built by human hands. All the great heroes with supernatural powers are associated with Tiryns: Bellerophon, Perseus, and Hercules. Indeed, the construction of the wall is unbelievable and a challenge to logic, even for today’s visitors. One stands in awe in front of the perfect assembly of these huge boulders, unable to understand either how or who could have performed such a great feat of engineering.

Nafplio is where we will spend our evening. Follow a dream trail starting from the medieval Old Town, with the narrow cobblestone alleys and the neoclassical well preserved mansions, into the very heart of the city, the Italianate Syntagma Square, where you can enjoy coffee, food and drinks. Nafplio is full of cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs for all tastes. Most of them are concentrated along the waterfront, looking at the port and the Bourtzi Castle.

Palamidi Fortress stands proudly 216 m above sea level. In order to reach it you have to climb all of its 999 steps carved into the rock. Not to worry, though: the view is totally rewarding! However, the most photographed spot of Nafplio –and its point of reference as well– is Bourtzi, the Venetian Castle standing on the rocky islet of Agioi Theodoroi. During the Venetian rule it was connected to the mainland through a huge metal chain that secured the port against enemy ship attacks.

The second day of the tour will start again in Nafplio, but the highlight will be Epidaurus. Epidaurus is one of the most important archaeological finds reflecting the splendour of Greek culture through its imposing beauty! Clear running waters, beautiful natural landscapes and beneficial climatic conditions served to create the ideal place for healing of man with the power of the gods, with the divine power of Apollo! Hence, the Sanctuary of Asklepieion, which was erected at Epidaurus before the 4th C BC, gained fame throughout the ancient world for its unique healing practices. It is said that more than 200 healing centres worked under Asklepieion’s authorization throughout the Eastern Mediterranean area. On the southeast end of the sanctuary lies the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus! According to Pausanias, the ancient theatre was constructed by the architect Polykleitos the Younger. Pausanias praises the theatre for its symmetry and beauty. At a maximum capacity of 13,000 to 14,000 spectators, the theatre hosted music, singing, ancient classical tragedies and dramatic games that were included in the worship of Asklepios, God of Medicine. It was also used as a means to heal patients, since there was a belief that the observation of dramatic shows and tragedies had positive effects on mental and physical health. Today, the monument attracts a large number of Greek and foreign visitors and is used for the performance of ancient drama plays.

Next stop is the Archaeological Site of Ancient Corinth is 9 km north-west of the modern city. You can see the ruins at Pirini fountain, the courtyard of Apollo, the foundations of a significant Roman basilica, the temple of the goddess Tyche (Fortune) or Apollo Klarios, the stores in the agora, the temple of Apollo, the ruins of the theatre and the Lerna fountain. The town of Acrocorinth, at whose foot the ancient city was built, dates to circa 4000 B.C. The Archaeological Museum operates at the archaeological site (built in 1931-32) with an exhibition collection dating from the Prehistoric Period through to the Roman and Byzantine Period. It is worth seeing the large Mycenaean crater (vessel) (circa 1200 B.C.), the Corinthian amphora and stopper (600 B.C.) etc.

Must see attractions of modern Corinth are the seaside zone, especially around the El. Venizelos square with the impressive statue of Pegasus and the small port of Floisvos with the marina, the pedestrian walkway on Pilarinos Zografos Street, which is a popular meeting place for the residents with stores, coffee shops and bars, the Apostolos Pavlos (Apostle Paul) metropolitan church, on the street of the same name, which was built after the 1928 earthquakes. The “Apostle to the Nations” lived and taught here for a short period and is the city’s patron saint.

The tour ends at the Corinthian Canal: the idea for the canal, which connects the Saronic to the Corinthian gulf, was conceived by Periander (6th century B.C.); however, the canal was finally opened after Greece’s independence, during the period 1882-1893. It has a length of 6,346 metres, a width of 24.6 metres at sea level and a depth of 8 metres.

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