Journey through Ancient Greece

Itinerary: Northern Greece - Macedonia & Epiros












We plan to once again visit Macedonia, the Meteora and Epiros, regions rich in history and with dramatic scenery.
Macedonia is the land of Philip & Alexander & Epiros where Caesar Octavius defeated Anthony & Kleopatra, while the Meteora contains several splendid monasteries of the Byzantine era. The different (wetter!) climate means the scenery is quite different to the south, much greener and more cultivated with fruit trees rather than olives. This part of Greece is much less visited than the South & we often have the sites almost to ourselves.

Day One   We fly from Heathrow via Athens to Thessaloníki, the capital of Macedonia, where we stay 3 nights. In this vibrant city are a wealth of remains from the Greek, Roman and Ottoman periods of its history, including a large Roman forum, Turkish baths, mosques, dozens of churches, both Byzantine and modern, a large bazaar, two magnificent museums and many excellent restaurants.


 Pediment of tomb at Lefkadia

Day Two  The next morning a short drive takes us to Pella the palace and capital city of King Philip ll where his son Alexander was born in 356 BC. There are some stunning 4th century BC pebble mosaic floors on the site and in the lovely museum.

Next we will visit two Macedonian tombs at Lefkadia, of the same type as the ones at Veryina. These beautiful marble tombs, quite unlike anything we see in the south, are built in the style of small temples with lovely painted decoration much of which remains.

Then we will go to Aristotle's school at Mieza, where Philip sent Alexander & his friends to be taught by the philosopher. The site is tranquil & atmospheric, set amongst exotic trees with a stream running through it; we can enter the caves where it is thought the pupils slept. It is an idyllic place for a picnic lunch listening to nightingales singing & picking wild mulberries for dessert!

In the evening we will do a walking tour of Thessaloniki, passing (but not visiting) the Palace and magnificent triumphal Arch of co-emperor Galerius Caesar, the Rotonda, the Roman Forum, the Turkish Baths, White Tower, the bazaar, Ayia Sophia, and so on!


The sanctuary of Isis at Dion,

Day Three  is a 'free' day in Thessaloníki visiting the Palace, magnificent triumphal Arch & Rotunda of Galerius Caesar, the archaeological museum, with its magnificent display of Macedonian gold, the Byzantine museum, the Roman Agora, the Turkish Baths, White Tower, bazaar, the churches of Ayios Dimitrios and Ayia Sophia, & much more, leaving time to enjoy a drink on the sea front!

Day Four   We will leave Thessaloniki and go first to Veryína (ancient Aigai). This site was only confirmed in 1974 as the old capital of the kings of Macedon. For many this is the highlight of our tour: 'one of Life's Experiences!'. The Great Tumulus containing Philip's tomb & two others, and a staggering array of articles which were found in them, including some stunning gold, are truly awe inspiring. Here is the gold casket with the 12 pointed star, which contained the bones of Philip, found wrapped in a purple and gold cloth, remnants of which we can see. Philip's palace & the theatre where, in 336 BC, he was murdered & Alexander crowned king are nearby but are closed to visitors at present.

Next we will go to the 'Archaeological Park' of Dion, another idyllic site, situated at the foot of Mount Olympos, home of the gods, (more nightingales, & rollers, also sometimes a coypu swimming ). Here there were a number of sanctuaries (to Demeter, Dionysos, Isis & Zeus were built here in the C6th BC) & it was here that Alexander held a massive party & supplication to Zeus, before his campaign to India. There are also substantial Roman remains including a fine mosaic of Dionysos, a well preserved hypocaust and public latrine.


From Dion a drive along the coast and through the Vale of Tempi brings us to the Kalambaka where we will spend the night close to the Meteora .

Day Five  We visit three of the extraordinary Byzantine monasteries built improbably on the weird pinnacles of limestone. They are a breathtaking sight & contain some magnificent frescoes & icons.

After lunch in a taverna at Kalambaka a drive west through the dramatic Pindhos mountains, takes us to the region of Epiros and Ioannina where we will spend four nights.



The Mosque at Ioannina


There are remnants of Ioannina's Turkish past everywhere including the kastro and the excellent folk museum set in a mosque. The town is set on the shores of a large lake with an island on which are 3 churches and the room in which Ali Pasha was killed.

Day Six  While in Ioannina we can go up to the Zagoria region to the village of Monodhendri & walk to a tiny monastery from where there is a stunning view of the Vikos Gorge.

Day Seven   South of Ioannina Caesar Augustus built the city of Nikopolis to celebrate his victory over Mark Anthony & Kleopatra at the battle of Actium in 31 BC. We will visit the remarkable & extensive remains including an odeion, a theatre, a stadium, & hundreds of yards of Roman & Byzantine walls and the memorial Augustus built.

We will also go to the Nekromanteion of Ephyra, the 'gates of Hades', an extraordinary place where devious tricks were played on pilgrims, & can take a boat trip up the Aheron River (the ancient River Styx) and have a swim at a nearby beach.


Day Eight   We will visit a remarkable waxworks museum, and also go to Dodona, site of the oldest Oracle (consulted by Philip's wife Olympias before the birth of Alexander) with a well preserved 3rd century BC theatre. This is a really lovely site with the Pindhos mountains as a backdrop, another perfect picnic place!


Day Nine  Fly back to Heathrow




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