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Cultural tour in the footsteps of Gustave Flaubert (self drive)

Gustav Flaubert’s favorite hiking holiday destinations Olympia & Delphi, that inspired Madame Bovary.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert visits Greece in December 1850 at the age of 29. Fascinated by the Orient and the exoticism of the East he starts a long journey through Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, before reaching Greece. This trip finds him in a decisive moment in his life, a moment of aesthetic quest and transformation that will eventually lead to the creation of Madame Bovary, his famous novel. Wandering through Greece with the writings of Pausanias on his mind he explores historic archaelogical sites, cities and villages and writes his memoirs in small leather notebooks, the «Carnets de Voyages». Reading these notes and getting acquainted with his rather “photographic” way of writing , we see the country through Flaubert’s eyes. Following his footsteps in Athens, Corinth, Mycenae, Sparta, Messene, Olympia and Delphi, we see what he saw and experience his enthusiasm for ancient Greek culture visiting his favorite holiday destinations.

Tour highlights

  • Ancient Corinth and Mycenae
  • Ancient Sparta and byzantine Mystras
  • Ancient Messene
  • Temple of Apollo Epicurius of Bassae
  • Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games
  • Sanctuary of Delphi


Day 1 From Athens to Ancient Corinth, Mycenae and Tripoli

Driving with your rented car you will leave Athens in the morning and head south to the region of the Peloponnese. Your first stop will be the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth, which is at the crossroads between Central Greece and the Peloponnese, and between the Corinthian and the Saronic gulfs. Corinth used to be one of the places that almost every traveller would cross on his way to Istanbul or to the Holy Land.

The continuation of your quest will bring you to the archaeological site of Mycenae, the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon and the richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Palatial complexes, Cyclopean walls, the famous “Tomb of Agamemnon” (also known as the “Treasury of Atreus”), huge arches, fountains and ramparts comprise one of the greatest architectural complexes known to the ancient world. Mycenae have been rediscovered in the 17th and 18th century by European travellers who explored Greece, its monuments and its treasures. In 1876 Heinrich Schliemann brought to light the royal vaulted tombs, the Treasury of Atreus.

Leaving behind the cyclopean fortifications and the vaulted tombs of Mycenae, you will head towards the city of Nafplio, to enjoy the ambience of this picturesque and romantic place. Nafplio was the first capital city of the newly born Greek state between 1823 and 1834 and is one of the most beautiful towns of southern Greece in the Peloponnese. The city, with its preserved architecture and neoclassical buildings, is “touched” by two great castles, Palamidi and Bourtzi. You can walk around the city through cobbled streets to reach Syntagma Square where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, the Vouleftiko, which was the building of the first Greek parliament, and the old mosque. Leaving Nafplio behind, you will move south towards the city of Kalamata, where you will overnight.

Day 2 In Sparta, Mystras and Kalamata

Today you will visit the city of Sparta and get to know about ancient Spartans and their laconic philosophy through a tour to the archaeological site of Ancient Sparta. You can also visit the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil and learn how the cultivation of olives and production of olive oil is connected to Greek everyday life throughout the centuries. You will continue the day with a walk through the byzantine ruins of the medieval fortified city of Mystras, that used to be the capital of the byzantine Despotate of Morea and the Paleologos dynasty. Built in a beautiful landscape on the slopes of mount Taygetos, this tower city is full of old medieval buildings and byzantine churches with impressive frescoes. Wandering through its cobbled pathways we explore it’s unique architecture and natural beauty. The view to the Laconian plain and mount Parnon from the castle of Mystras is unique. You can have a short break for lunch in a traditional taverna and after lunch you will return to Kalamata for a stroll in the old part of the city.

Day 3 In Ancient Messene and the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

You will leave Kalamata in the morning and visit the archaeological site of Ancient Messene, a city built in 370 BC by the Theban Epameinontas. This city developed into an important cultural center of Messinia until 395 AD, when it was destroyed by the Goths. The Ancient Theatre, the Ekklesiasterion, the Asclepieio, the Temple of Artemis, the fountain of Arsinoe, the imposing Stadium and the Gymnasium, the Odeon and many other monuments testify to the wealth and size of Ancient Messene. Your next stop is up in the mountains to visit the impressive Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. In the beautiful traditional village of Andritsaina you will have some free time to enjoy your lunch with traditional local recipes. In the afternoon you will drive towards Ancient Olympia, where you will spend the night.

Day 4 In Ancient Olympia and wine tasting in a vineyard

Today you will spend your morning exploring Ancient Olympia, the place where the Olympic Games were held between 776 BC and 394 AD. This archaeological site is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is situated in an idyllic natural location. After your visit to the archaeological site you can enjoy Greek hospitality in an organic honey farm in Olympia where you will learn about honey making tradition and taste delicious sweets made of honey and organic fruits. You will depart from the farm and after a short stop you will head to Delphi where you will stay for the night.

Day 5 In Delphi and 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 yourselves in the magical world of this ancient site. From Delphi you can also visit the nearby village of Arachova, where you can have a stroll through the picturesque alleys and traditional cafés of the village. In the afternoon you will return 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, 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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