Travel & Archaeology

Essence of Greece

Athens, Sparta and the Argolid

Essence of Greece

8 Days


per person

Encapsulate the essence of ancient Greece by focusing on its core region, and enjoy a perfect balance of famous and lesser-known sites, all within easy reach of an ideal hotel base.


  • Athens and Sparta, the two great powers.
  • The Argolid—heartland of the Mycenaeans.
  • Myth and reality converge in paradigmatic archaeology.
  • Lesser-known gems of rural Greece.
  • Based in the charming historic town of Nafplion.


Greece possesses such a wealth of archaeology that it can leave one wondering what to prioritise for a single trip. In this 8 day tour we focus on the core region of the Argolid, along with Athens and Sparta, an area which embodies the epic story of ancient Greece and provides a great balance of famous and lesser-known sites, all within easy reach.

Greece is the cradle of western civilisation, and the Argolid is the cradle of Greece. This is the original land of gods and heroes, a scenic sweep of mountains and valleys carpeted with olive and citrus groves, and bordered by the sparkling Aegean Sea. It was the heartland of the Mycenaean civilisation of the late Bronze Age—the time of the Trojan War and the origin of Greek identity and culture. It is the setting for much of the mythology that came to define Classical ideals, and a treasure trove of the archaeology that continues to unite myth and reality.

Centrally placed between Athens and Sparta, the Argolid features strongly throughout Greek history, and also allows us to get off the beaten track into the old, rural Greece. Its charming historic town of Nafplion, with its cobbled streets and picturesque waterfront, forms the perfect base for our tour. It was the first capital of an independent Greece in the 19th century, so with Athens, Sparta and Mycenae, we can say this tour features all the capitals of Greece through the ages.

See the ‘Itinerary’ tab above for full itinerary details.

Dates & Prices:

  • 17–24 May 2021. Early booking price only £1995.

Single supplement only £385. Reserve your place early for the lowest price.

What’s Included:

  • Seven nights hotel accommodation (2 in Athens, 5 in Nafplion).
  • All breakfasts, two evening meals and two winery lunches.
  • Daily excursions with all transport, entrances and guiding.
  • Expert tour director supported by a local Greek guide.
  • Airport transfers in Greece.
  • Flexible flight arrangements.
  • 100% TTA Financial Guarantee.

Your Tour Director

This tour will usually be led by Dr Sandy McGillivray. Sandy is a field archaeologist who currently lives in Greece, specialises in Greek archaeology, and has led many tours there. His expertise enables us to get off the beaten track a little to fully appreciate the beauty and eminence of Greece, one of the truly great destinations for archaeological travel.

Activity Level

This tour requires a reasonable level of mobility and independence. There is plenty of walking and standing, and some sites have slopes and uneven ground, but the pace is gentle and stops are frequent. Please feel free to ask us for more details.

Flights and Extended Stays

Flights are added on a personal basis rather than included in the tour price. This gives you complete freedom to choose your preferred departure airport, flight times, length of stay, airline etc. We will be pleased to quote and book flights for you, and any extended stays, or you can book your own if you prefer. Flights booked with us are fully ATOL protected and can be available from as little as £100 return.

How To Book

Reservations & Enquiries: To reserve your place or enquire further simply fill in the booking form on this page, or call us on (UK) 0121 444 1854. There is no commitment and no payment at this stage; reservations are purely provisional until we have confirmed availability and proceeded with booking and payment.

Booking & Payment: Once you have checked availability and reserved your place, we will require your full details and a deposit of £250 per person to secure your booking. This can be done with a credit/debit card over the telephone (0121-444-1854) or by sending us a completed booking form and cheque. To print a booking form click here.

See our booking conditions for further details.

All Hidden History’s tours include a host of fully guided excursions and interesting talks to create an enriching travel experience. They also include some luxury and leisure by choosing great hotels and keeping the itineraries fairly relaxed and varied. More about What to Expect…

  • Departure Time
    17 May 2021.

Day 1: UK/Athens

You are met on arrival at Athens airport and transferred to your hotel in central Athens. Your tour director can help you get acquainted with your surroundings.


Day 2: Athens

After a welcome meeting with your director, we explore the streets of ancient Athens on a gentle walk through largely pedestrianised areas. We visit the famous Acropolis, with its iconic Parthenon temple, get to grips with democratic and philosophical debate in the Agora, and enjoy masterpieces of art in the stunning Acropolis Museum. We include dinner in a traditional Greek taverna.


Day 3: To Nafplion via National Archaeological Museum and Ancient Corinth

We conclude our exploration of Athens this morning with a city coach tour and a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, to see its glorious collections from all over Greece. We then head for the Argolid, crossing the Corinth Canal to arrive first at ancient Corinth. This was one of the foremost city states of ancient Greece, a once flourishing centre of commerce which became famous for its cosmopolitan and decadent living, as we know from Saint Paul’s epistle. A short drive then brings us to the charming town of Nafplion, our base for the next five nights.


Day 4: Tyrins, Dendra & Epidaurus

We start today with a visit to the Nafplion archaeological museum, which provides an excellent introduction to the archaeology of the Argolid. We continue with visits to two nearby and lesser-known sites from the Bronze Age Mycenaean world; the fortress of Tyrins, with its massive ‘Cyclopean’ walls, and the cemetery at Dendra, one of the richest Mycenaean cemeteries in Greece.

We conclude the day at the peaceful sanctuary of Epidaurus, an important centre of ancient medicine, and today an extensive archaeological site with a superbly preserved 4th century BC theatre where drama brought mythology to life.


Day 5: Mycenae and Nemea

Let myth and reality converge as we explore further into the Argolid region, the original land of gods, heroes and Mycenaean kings. We visit the Bronze Age palace of Mycenae, home of King Agamemnon and the heroes of the Trojan War, and the lesser-visited site of Nemea, with its impressive stadium and panhellenic sanctuary where Hercules slayed the lion. This area is also well-known for its vineyards, so to add to the fun we include lunch and wine-tasting today in a local winery.


Day 6: Sparta & Mistras

Among the city states of ancient Greece, Sparta is well known as the great rival of Athens. Today we focus on the city and the mystique surrounding it, exploring the archaeological remains and ancient sources as we examine the Peloponnesian Wars and the highly distinctive Spartan way of life. We include a visit to Mistras, a UNESCO World Heritage site very close to Sparta. In the 14th century AD this was the centre of Byzantine power in southern Greece, and is today a breath-taking set of medieval ruins standing in a beautiful landscape.


Day 7: Lerna, Tegea & the Argive Heraion

Today is especially off the beaten track. We begin on the shores of the Bay of Nafplion at Lerna, an unassuming prehistoric site but actually one of the most important in Greece. Occupied in Neolithic and Bronze Age times, it passed into mythology as an entrance to the underworld guarded by the Hydra, the many-headed water snake slain by Herakles.

We then take a spectacular drive into the mountains of Arcadia, part of old, rural Greece. We stop at Tegea, one of the oldest and most powerful cities of Arcadia, and we include lunch in a local winery before concluding our tour at the Argolid’s most sacred site; the Sanctuary of Hera, patron goddess of the city-state of Argos.


Day 8: Departure

You will be transferred from your hotel to the airport for your flight home, or why not stay longer and make the most of your time in Greece – feel free to ask us for information and ideas.

Tour Location

Cradle of Civilisation: Greece provides a seemingly endless encounter with famous places, great names and historical events – a wealth of archaeology which today constitutes the western world’s richest landscape of memory.

Why Greece? Click Here to see our brief overview of the archaeology of Greece.

Map & Virtual Tour

We will soon have a Virtual Tour available, with a gallery of photos and information about the sites we visit.

We have carefully chosen the following hotels for their great locations and high standards. Please note that we sometimes have to change hotels for reasons beyond our control. We always choose hotels of a similar standard, designed to give you a little luxury and leisure alongside your cultural enrichment.

The Elia Ermou Hotel, 15-17, Ermou str, 105 63 Athens.

An elegant 4-star hotel located within walking distance of all the important sights. Its rooftop restaurant provides stunning views of the Acropolis..

The Hotel Grande Bretagne, Filellinon Sq. Nafplion port.

A charming boutique hotel with a long-standing history and neoclassical architecture, located right in the heart of the town overlooking the picturesque Argolic Gulf.

Flexibility: Rather than reserving group seats for a particular flight, we keep your flight options open to give you greater choice of price, departure airport, airline, flight times, cabin class, use of air miles etc. Once we have confirmed availability of the tour, you can choose either to book your flights with us, or to make your own travel arrangements. Before booking any flights of your own please ensure we have confirmed the availability of the tour, as our tours are subject to minimum and maximum numbers of participants.

Airports & Airlines: Direct flights to Athens are available from a number of UK airports.

Airfares: Ask us for a quote. Use the reservation/enquiry form or call us on 0121 444 1854.

ATOL Protection: If you book your flights with us you will be ATOL protected, which means that you will not lose your money or be stranded abroad if things go wrong. If you book your own flights they may not be ATOL protected, even if you book direct with the airline or with an online search facility.

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