Travel consultant focused on cultural travel in the Middle East & Mediterranean
A 17-day tour of the Greek mainland and a Cycladic island
The itinerary will be unhurried (we spend a minimum of two nights in all stops except one), and of course we’ll get to see all the major classical sites. The Acropolis in Athens, the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, the Homeric capital of Mycenae, the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia, and the incomparable mountain complex of Delphi.
In addition to the must-see places, we’ll get out into the countryside to some less-visited sites. This includes the mountain town of Metsovo with its enduring craft tradition; the village of Tsepevolo in the spectacular mountain region of Zagoria; and the charming lake-side city of Ioannina.
Greece is justly famous for its classical heritage, but we will also be looking at its wonderful medieval heritage, in the form of some spectacular monasteries – the ancient monastery of Ossias Lukas, and in particular the complex of Meteora. This is a group of medieval buildings perched on giant rocky outcrops, still inhabited by nuns and monks and still going strong.
A visit to Greece is incomplete without the islands, and of course, we’ll be no exception. The magical Cycladic island of Santorini, with its ancient Minoan site of Akrotiri, its spectacular volcanic caldera, and its dazzling light, is generally regarded as the most beautiful of Mediterranean islands; and we’ll have three nights there to make up our own minds.
A feature of this tour will be four visits to wineries – as you may know, Greece’s wine industry has undergone a major revival, and these visits (on the mainland and Santorini) will give us an opportunity to sample some fine wines, as well as giving us a great excuse for lunch in the spring sunshine.
One of the great pleasures of travel is interaction with the locals; and our last trip there showed us that the Greeks’ economic problems have not affected their welcoming attitude to visitors or their obvious pride in their culture.
Group size will be small and accommodation will be of a good standard, with the emphasis on centrally located hotels that feel Greek rather than big bland ‘international’ hotels.
The group will be escorted by me throughout, and we will have the services of a professional English-fluent guide throughout the tour. We will also have a single driver for our coach on the mainland.
A small-group tour for U3A members and their friends
After our arrival in Casablanca, we spend some time at the magnificent Mosque of Hassan II – modern Moroccan architecture at its finest. Then we’re off to the attractive capital of Rabat, with its old medina overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
From Rabat we drive to Meknes, once the imperial capital associated with the great ruler Moulay Ismail, and now a charming and historic old city. Nearby Volubilis, the country’s major Roman site, repays a visit.
Fes is the oldest Islamic city in Morocco, and is a living treasure house of history and culture (the old city is listed in its entirety by UNESCO). It’s a major centre of art and craft, and it seems to be the Moroccans’ favourite city – the bustle of the medina is very appealing.
After a long drive south, crossing plains, mountains, rivers and traditional villages, we reach Merzouga, our staging post for a visit to the incomparable Sahara Desert – we see the Erg Chebbi dunes, a village of musicians descended from African slaves, and some spectacular scenery.
After driving through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs (the name says it all) and the spectacular beauty of the Todra Gorge, our next stop is the UNESCO-listed kasbah of Ait Benhaddou – a beautifully preserved small fortified town, where several movies were shot.
Marrakech is always a highlight of any trip to Morocco. The city has an ancient medina, with a huge central square famous throughout the world, palaces and bazaars, museums, quiet medieval alleys, and an elegant New Town.
Next stop is Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, a quiet and beautiful old town favoured by Moroccans as a summer resort. It started life as a fortified port in the 18th century, and lately flourished as a charming resort and artistic town. Its well preserved medina is still home to most of the inhabitants, and its craft workshops and restaurants are a delight.
From Essaouira we drive up the Atlantic coast to overnight in Casablanca, where our tour ends.
Group size will be small and accommodation will be of a very good standard – the riads are princely mansions set in the heart of the old cities, now converted to gorgeous boutique hotels.
The group will be escorted by me throughout, and we will have the services of a professional English-fluent guide throughout the tour. We will also have a single driver for our coach.