This luxury holiday is the perfect introduction to the historic wonders and glorious coastlines of Greece. Starting amid the buzzing streets of Athens, your expert local guide will introduce you to some of the highlights of the city, from the stadium which hosted the very first modern Olympics to the world-famous Acropolis – an ancient treasure in the heart of the capital. You’ll then fly on to Crete, staying in a luxurious retreat on the shores of Elounda Bay. Here, between guided visits to Venetian island fortresses and traditional olive oil farms, you’ll explore at your own pace, taking in the likes of ancient palaces and spectacular cathedrals and monasteries. Of course, you’ll also have time to make the most of your hotel, with its indulgent spa and a pair of private beaches.
Start your holiday in style with included airport lounge access before your flight to Athens, the capital of Greece. On arrival, you’ll be met by your driver for a private transfer to your city-centre hotel – a stylish urban retreat just a short stroll from the National Garden and some of the Greek capital’s top museums. Settle in and enjoy the remainder of the day exploring the city at your own pace.
Stay: NJV Athens Plaza Hotel
You’ll be met this morning by your local guide who’ll help you explore the many and fascinating highlights of this multi-faceted city. Begin with a short stop at the Panathenaic Stadium, host to the first modern Olympics, staged in 1896, followed by the Prime Minister’s residence, guarded by colourfully uniformed Evzones guards. It’s then on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch for a further look a the city’s rich history. However, few sites compare to the mystery and majesty of the Acropolis. From the Temple of Athena Nike to the magnificent Parthenon, it’s a treasure trove of architectural marvels and a wonderful spot to round of the day’s organised activities.
Stay: NJV Athens Plaza Hotel
After breakfast, and between a pair of included private transfers, you’ll fly to Crete this morning where you’ll check into the gorgeous Elounda Beach, with its sprawling gardens, private beaches and elegant accommodation. You’ll have the rest of the day, and the next, free to explore the facilities, delve into the dining options, indulge with a spa treatment or simply relax poolside, taking in the views.
Feeling rejuvenated, you’ll embark on a day’s guided touring, beginning with a boat trip from the fishing village of Elounda to the island of Spinalonga – a 15th-century Venetian fortress turned 19th-century leper colony. Returning to Crete, you’ll then head on to a typical farm, famed for its olive oil. Enjoy a guided tour of the farm, then wrap things up with a tasting and your chance to understand why Cretan olive oil is reputed to be among the best in the world.
With a further two days free, take the chance to explore some of Crete’s other highlights under your own steam, or ask our specialists about adding more guided touring to your schedule. For historians, there’s the impressive Palace of Knossos – the political and ceremonial centre of the Minoan Civilization. Or, you might prefer to get into nature with a trip to the Samaria Gorge, the longest in Europe. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is another highlight, or you might prefer to simply explore the coastline, dotted with secluded bays and hilltop monasteries.
Enjoy a final Cretan breakfast before your private transfer sees you back to Heraklion airport for your direct flight to the UK.
"For me, Greece is the ultimate summer and autumn destination, a country blessed with glorious beaches, sublime food and some of the world's most important historic sites. With stays at two of my favourite Greek hotels, plus some excellent touring options, this itinerary is a wonderful introduction to these very highlights, perfect for first-time visitors and those who've perhaps only been for the beach before. "