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Cultural tour: Ancient Sanctuaries of Healing (self drive)
Overview

Unique Destinations: discover ancient sanctuaries of Healing .

Asclepius, the ancient god of healing, was the focal point of a cult that swept over Greece in the 5th century BC. Almost every city had an Asclepieion sanctuary dedicated to the health of its citizens through the worship of Asclepius. These sacred places were famous for their cures and thousands of people would visit them to be healed from various health problems but also mental health illnesses.

They were the first holistic medical care centers, combining experimental therapeutic methods with a variety of religious and magical elements. More than 300 Asclepieia existed across the ancient Greek world, from the times of the Trojan War up to the 6th century AD. They were built in locations of great natural beauty, rich in vegetation, with thermal springs and spectacular views. Buildings such as theatres, gymnasia and hippodromes, used by patients for physical exercise and recreation, were constructed next to the buildings where physicians were practicing medicine.

Sacrifices, prayers, proper nutrition, the intake of medicinal plants, the healing power of water, hypnotherapy, physical exercise, were the main prescriptions. However ancient Greeks also believed in the therapeutic power of art. Watching musical and theatrical performances was part of the healing process, the theatre was more than a place of entertainment, it was a place of catharsis, a way to relieve anxiety and emotional stress. This holistic healing approach of the ancient Greek Asclepieia is now, more than ever appealing to the modern world! In this journey we will visit some of the most important healing sanctuaries of ancient Greek antiquity and will learn the secrets and the philosophy of healing in the ancient world. We will discover how ancient Greeks treated the body and the mind through the power of divinity, art and nature.

Tour highlights

  • Sanctuary and Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
  • Tomb of Machaon, son of Asclepius and ancient healer
  • Greek Olive Oil tasting in Kardamyli
  • Sanctuary of Ancient Thouria
  • Ancient Messene
  • Wine Tasting in Western Peloponnese
  • Magnificent sunset over the Ionian sea
  • Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games
  • Sanctuary of Delphi

Itinerary

Day 1 Epidaurus

Epidaurus was believed to be the birthplace of Asclepius, the god of healing. Driving with your rented car you will leave from Athens in the morning and start your tour heading south to reach Epidaurus. You can start your visit with a short stroll on an ancient footpath: the same ancient route that patients used to take to reach the Epidaurus sanctuary. Your next stop is the Asclepieion, the most celebrated healing center of the classical world. The main Epidaurus sanctuary included the Temple of Asclepius, the “Sanctum” and the “Tholos” (the Dome). On the same archaeological site you can explore the Theatre of Epidaurus, where theatrical performances were taking place as part of the healing process, the Stadium and accommodation facilities for patients and their relatives. After the visit to the archaeological site you can head to the seaside village of Palaia Epidavros, for lunch in a taverna by the sea. In the afternoon you will drive towards south to the city of Kalamata where you will overnight.

Day 2 The Tomb of Machaon and Olive Oil tasting in Kardamyli

Today you will travel southeast towards the beautiful village of Kardamyli. On your way you can visit the Mycenean Tomb of Machaon, one of the sons of Asclepius. Machaon was a valued surgeon and medic of Ancient Greece following the footsteps of his father. It is believed he was buried in this tomb near the ancient city of Gerenia. Later you can have a short walk on a historic footpath that connects the village of Petrovouni with Kardamyli, where you will visit the older part of the city, the Troupakis castle and the imposing church of Saint Spyridon. After the visit to the castle you can take a nice break for olive oil tasting. You can taste an olive oil that originates from Koroneiki olives grown on the rocky seaside region of Mani, and has been awarded as “one of the world’s best olive oils”. Later on you will head back to Kalamata, to take an evening stroll in the Old City and have a gastronomic experience with traditional Messenian food.

Day 3 Ancient Messene and visit to a vineyard

Today you will leave Kalamata in the morning and visit the archaeological site of Ancient Messene, its theatre, the Agora, the Asclepieion and its Stadium. Your next stop is a vineyard & estate, which was founded in 1864 and has 150 years of history in the production of wine. There you will taste the Greek varieties of Asyrtico, Robola and Agiorgitiko. The end of the day will find you in a village in the region of Elis, where you will enjoy the magnificent sunset as it sets over the Ionian Sea. You will overnight in a boutique hotel in the region of Elis.

Day 4 Ancient Olympia

Your mythical journey continues as you drive to Ancient Olympia. There you will explore the archaeological site, the principal sanctuary of Zeus and site of the pan-Hellenic athletics competitions. The museum contains some of the most impressive works of classical Greek art. Afterwards you will depart for Nafpaktos where you can visit the Sanctuary of Asclepius, which according to Pausanias, was founded by Falysios after his eyes were healed. Your last stop for the day is Delphi, where you will stay for the night.

Day 5 Delphi, Arachova and return to Athens

The elite ancient Greeks would come to the sanctuary of Delphi to get the prophecies of the famous oracle of Pythia. Delphi was regarded as the centre of the world and was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre of ancient Greece. Visiting the archaeological site, exploring the sanctuary of Apollo, the tholos of Athena Pronaia, the stadium, the gymnasium and the theatre of Delphi, you will immerse yourself in the magical world of this ancient site. From Delphi you can head to Arachova, where you can stroll through the picturesque alleys and traditional cafés of the village. In the afternoon you will start your return trip to Athens.

Important Tips

  • Travel Bite date and/or time might be modified or cancelled due to weather conditions and in this event the option of an alternative date or full refund will be given.
  • We would recommend to bring with you good walking (closed toes) shoes with non-slippery soles, hat, sun glasses, sunscreen and a camera.
  • Single occupancy with extra charge 120 euro per person (in case of interest please send email from contact us section or here)

Tips & Useful Info

Starting point: Eleftherios Venizelos athens internation airport
Languages: English, Greek
Included Amenities: Accommodation in hotels and characterful local guesthouses with breakfast, Information material with maps and guides about the itinerary and the places you will visit, Public Liability Insurance, all applicable taxes, 24x7 support
Excluded Amenities: Personal Travel & Health Insurance, personal expenses, gratuities, meals not mentioned in inclusions, Airplane (international and domestic) tickets, single room supplement, Sea view supplement, Regional Flight supplement (if needed), Hotel transfers to/from airport other than those mentioned in inclusions, meals not stated in the inclusions, optional activities that are not included in the day-to-day itinerary, tour leader for the whole trip, Car Rental, fuel consumption & tolls, Guided tours and entrance fees to museums and organized archaeological sites unless otherwise mentioned in the proposal above, Tickets for national parks, boats and buses, Culinary tasting experiences with organic olive oil, local products and wine, Anything not mentioned above
Minimum number of guests needed: 2
Maximum number of guests: 8
Physical Level: No difficulty. Previous experience is not required. Basic level of agility and fitness is needed.

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