6. Athens: 5 Days in Delphi, Meteora, Thessaloniki & Macedonia
Day 1: Drive through the fertile plains of the Beotia region, passing the towns of Thebes, Levadia, and Arachova. Arrive in Delphi and visit the archaeological site, the most famous oracle of the ancient world. Depart for Kalambaka, a small town located at the foot of the astonishing Meteora complex, whose gigantic rocks rise steeply from the plain of Thessaly (dinner and overnight). Day 2: Visit Meteora and admire the ageless Monasteries perched on top of huge rocks, where you can see exquisite specimens of Byzantine art. Depart from Kalambaka to Thessaloniki, driving through the valley of the longest river in Greece, the Aliakcmon. Arrive in Thessaloniki, the second largest and the most vibrant city in Greece (dinner and overnight). Day 3: In the morning visit the city that throughout the era of the Byzantine Empire was the “co-reigning” city, second in population and prestige only to Constantinople. Visit unique monuments and feel the glorious Byzantine past in some of the oldest and most characteristic churches of the Christian world as well as the Museum of Byzantine Culture, awarded with the Council of Europe's Museum Prize in 2005. The rest of the day is free, to enjoy time in the lively city center (dinner and overnight). Day 4: Spend the day exploring the highlights of Macedonia, first with a stop in picturesque Edessa to see the town's famous waterfalls. Then proceed to Naoussa to learn about Aristotle's School, the site where the great philosopher taught the doctrines of morals and politics to Alexander the Great and the Macedonian youth. Next drive to Vergina (ancient Aigai) to visit the museum created in the Great Tumulus covering the royal tombs of Macedonia. See the astonishing findings from the tomb of King Phillip II, Alexander's father, and feel the thrill of the greatest discovery of the 20th century. Continue a few miles further to Veria (Biblical Beroea) to visit Saint Paul's Bema, and stroll through the old Jewish neighborhood and the colorful market area. Return to Thessaloniki (dinner and overnight). Day 5: Drive to Pella, the capital of Alexander the Great. See the exquisite floor mosaics decorating the villas from the 4th century B.C. and visit the new Museum. Then proceed and visit the Archaeological Park of Dion, a city sacred to the Macedonians and situated at the foot of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece and house of the 12 Gods of Greek Mythology. On the way back to Athens, drive through the striking Thessaly Plain and the Valley of Tempi, admire the gigantic figure of Mount Olympus, and stop in Thermopylae to see the Leonidas Monument. Arrive in Athens late in the afternoon.