Greek Odyssey – A Rail Journey Through Ancient and Modern Landscapes

Greek Odyssey A Rail Journey through Ancient and Modern Landscapes

From Homer’s epic tales of courage and heroism to the world-famous UNESCO-listed monasteries at Meteora, Greece has a rich and varied history. This is why mature travellers love our escorted tours to this cradle of Western civilisation.

Visit Olympia to see the Gymnasium, where ancient athletes competed for victory. Or take in Delphi’s holy sanctuary, where people sought the oracle’s advice.


Immerse yourself in the legacy of ancient Greece as you walk in the footsteps of the gods at the Acropolis and follow in modern residents’ footsteps in downtown Athens. At Delphi, Epidaurus and Cape Sounion, you’ll discover how an old belief in mythological figures still influences medicine, politics and philosophy.

You’ll also delve into the legendary sites of Naxos, Santorini and Crete. Among them, you’ll visit the site of a Minoan city preserved in time and on the Peloponnese, where legends of kings and vicious warriors abound.

The epic poem of the Odyssey has endured for 2,700 years not simply because of its antiquity, but because it speaks with such clarity to human struggles against fate and nature on a massive scale. Its language is rich in advice, inquiry, request, resignation and passion. Its characters struggle with their peers, their ancestors, their gods and monstrous spirits.

Odysseus is a particularly familiar figure in Western culture. The eponymous hero of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey strayed from his true path on many occasions, and he spent years trying to reclaim his homeland. Along the way, he battled savage beasts, ruthless warlords and mortal suitors vying for his wife’s affection.

While on his odyssey, Odysseus encounters the monsters and men he had fought in previous wars and even the spirit of Heracles himself. He converses with the prophet Tiresias and, on the island of Thrinacia, he sacrifices to the dead and meets his mother’s ghost. He also talks to his fallen comrades from Troy.

The eponymous hero of the Odyssey is an archetypal wandering soul, one of humanity’s great storytellers, a poet who captured on a grand scale the triumph and frustration of human life. Join Matt Barrett and explore the timeless themes that run through this epic tale.


Upon departing the Cyclades and heading for the mainland, Odysseus sails close to Aeolia, home of the god of winds, Aeolus. He asks the wind to protect his ships, and the god obliges by blowing them in a safe direction. Aeolus then gives Odysseus a bag full of winds to guide him through his remaining journey. Odysseus guards the bag night and day but eventually becomes sleep deprived, and the bag is stolen by one of the crew who throws it out to sea.

After the cannibalistic Laestrygonians are chased off the island, Odysseus reaches Naxos, where his men override his wishes and hunt sacred cattle. Zeus punishes the crew by causing a shipwreck, but Odysseus survives by clinging to a fig tree. Odysseus is rescued and taken to the court of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, where the bard Demodocus performs his narrative poem for them.

From the port of Naxos, a dramatic marble gateway called the Portara (identical to the National Geographic logo) looms over the town. Narrow alleys lead to monasteries, churches and mansions. The island also has an extensive network of hiking trails, and many of the beaches feature a backdrop of soaring cliffs and secluded coves.

The wealthy island has long been a center of agriculture, producing such products as olives and wine. In addition, the island has plenty of natural spring water. This has enabled its inhabitants to be self-sufficient, and it is still a place where people work the land and live off the land.

Throughout the years, Naxos has been visited by various emperors and kings and has seen a number of civil wars. In the mid-18th century, the island became part of the Ottoman Empire, but its people resisted Turkish rule and remained relatively independent until 1821. Then, Naxos joined the Greek state. Today, the island remains beautiful and inhabited by friendly people. Its beaches are spectacular and its restaurants offer delicious food and drinks at a reasonable price. It is one of the best-preserved islands in the Cyclades.


When Heinrich Schliemann gazed upon the glittering death mask of Agamemnon in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, he uttered a famous line: “I’m thrilled to bits!” Well, if it were only about the 5,000-year-old artifact—not to mention the dazzling Aegean and Adriatic scenery you’ll see as you sail to this sun-soaked corner of Europe. Among the treasures you’ll find on this voyage of discovery are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make Greece such an epicentre for classical culture.

From Delphi to Dubrovnik, you’ll marvel at a remarkable array of archaeological treasures. But you’ll also find an abundance of fascinating cultures and azure seas, as you explore far-flung isles, including Albania and Croatia.

Among the many iconic sites of Greece you’ll visit is Apollo’s holy sanctuary at Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was so sacred that one ancient king decreed no burials be allowed, and even today this tiny island is considered one of the most important cultural monuments in the world. You’ll also sail to Ithaca, the fabled home of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey and the subject of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s immortal poem, Ulysses.

The volcanic Santorini archipelago is a breathtaking sight, with its white villages clinging to the cliffs that jut out from the sea. Time your visit to take in a dramatic sunset in the famed village of Oia. You may also wish to stroll along the path over Perissa Rock connecting the villages of Kamari and Perissa to the clifftop capital of Fira or to walk inland to Pyrgos, with its grand old houses and renowned churches.

The islands of the Aegean Sea offer a rich variety of landscapes and traditional architecture. On the small island of Mesa Gonia, visit a village with a mixture of ruins from the 1956 earthquake and restored villas, or wander inland to Pyrgos, which features a dazzling array of architecture set against a backdrop of volcanoes and vineyards. During the trip, you will travel on the Coastal Corridor, an ambitious network of purposefully grooved tracks whose construction began as early as 600 BCE—considered to be among the first railways ever constructed.


During the voyage to Greece’s Peloponnese, Crete and Santorini, you will uncover some of the country’s most legendary sites. You will also discover contemporary Greek culture as you enjoy the country’s famed cuisine, sample raki (the national spirit), and dance to its infectious rhythms.

The largest of Greece’s 13 islands, Crete is a land of contradictions. Sandy beaches hide among soaring mountains and bustling modern cities share coastlines with centuries-old structures. Cities such as Heraklion reflect the island’s multicultural past with architecture reflecting styles from the Minoans, Venetians and Ottomans, yet there is a clear sense of unity throughout the island.

Heraklion has a wealth of sights to see, including the palace of Knosos, built around 1700 BC and excavated by Sir Arthur Evans. You will also visit Ithaca, the site of Odysseus’ home in Homer’s Odyssey and the setting for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses. Then there is Messene, where a trail of ruins includes a stadium and huge Asclepion, one of the ancient world’s great healing temples.

At Olympia, you will see where the Olympic Games were held in antiquity and examine the treasures of the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. Nearby is the mighty Temple of Zeus, which once crowned a colossal statue of its namesake god—one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

You will also explore the Peloponnese, with its magnificent Mycenaean palaces and the superb natural harbor of Pylos, where the battle that ended the War of Independence was fought in 1827. And you will visit the remarkable Diros Caves, which were inhabited since Neolithic times and rediscovered in 1895.

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