10 h. tour (Private tour)
(transportation + guided tour of Mycenae + short stop at the city of Nafplion + guided tour of Epidaurus + stop at the Corinth Canal)
For those of you that can't leave Athens without visiting the one of the most important areas in ancient times, the land of Argolis, this is a good chance to experience as much as possible of this sacred land.
Departing Athens, you will drive towards the west of it and you will continue your journey through the highway. One of the most impressive parts of the scenery will be the unique and historical location, between mount Aegaleo and the island of Salamis, where the naval battle of Salamis was fought, in 480 BC, with Xerxes viewing everything from the top of the mountain and the Persians receiving a devastating loss from the Athenians.
Continuing the drive, you will pass the valley of Megara many centuries old, filled with groves of pistachio and olive trees with the view of the impressive mountains of the Peloponnese on the one side in the background.
You will have a short stop by the Corinth canal, which separates the mainland from the peninsula of the Peloponnese and connects the Ionian Sea with the Aegean Sea. There you will have the chance to walk over the bridge and enjoy breathtaking views, taking as many photographs as you would like to.
Your journey towards Epidaurus will continue with a 40 minute scenic drive along the coast of the Saronic Gulf. On the way your driver will point out the ruins of the ancient port of Kechries, from where St. Paul embarked his ship departing to Ephessus. Your windy but picturesque drive will give you impressive views of small islands and several fish farms. Reaching Epidaurus you will have a private tour of the spiritual sanctuary of Asclepius and the theater with the most famous acoustics in the world.
Among other things you will see the ancient stadium, the remainings of the ancient gymnasium and restaurant, the remainings of the temple of Artemis, as well as the very impressive Tholos, a round building with a labyrinth still existing in its basement, where some traditions say that the sacred snakes of Asclepius used to be kept. Since Epidaurus used to be one of the most famous ancient Greek healing centers and health treatment was very much related with the worshipping of the gods, the priests were often at the same time the healers of people. Partly restored and very impressive stands out the Avaton, a long rectangular building where the patients had to spend their first night and the god would come to their dreams. Part of their treatment would be based on that dream - message that the god had sent. With the great success that this sanctuary and healing center kept on having, more and more visitors with even more precious offerings kept on coming, and the evolution of the sanctuary was that created the need of building the ancient theater.
At the end of your guided tour you will be given some free time to walk up and down the theater or to stand in the center of the orchestra and speak out loud a monologue. The feeling of your voice spreading out all over the theater will be fascinating. During your free time you can also go for a quick walk through the tiny museum. Most statues and artifacts are in display in the archaeological museum of Athens, but some copies of them along with several marble bases with inscriptions and some of the ancient tools the doctors used, can be found there.
Leaving ancient Epidaurus you will continue with the drive to Nafplion, a picturesque sea port town on the Argolic Gulf. This was the first capital of modern Greece; it's a city with beautiful monuments and neoclassical buildings as well as two famous forts Palamidi and Bourtzi which is situated on an island opposite the port. You will be able to stroll around, take pictures and have lunch in the "shade" of the tall neoclassical buildings next to Sydagma square if time allows it.
Continuing your journey in the afternoon you will drive to the archaeological site of Mycenae, passing through the lush valley of Argolis with its many olive groves, lemon and orange trees. On your way you will drive pass the Mycenaean citadel of Tiryns and you will be impressed by its remaining cyclopean walls. Once upon a time there used to be a two story high palace of great importance on top of that hill. Continuing your drive you will also pass from the outside of one of the most ancient cities of Greece, dating back to 6000 BC, the city of Argos. Unfortunately almost nothing remains of it since the modern city was built on top, except for the ancient theater that was carved out of the rock of the Larissa hill. On the height of 300 meters(900 feet) lies the castle of Larissa or Argos, very well preserved and standing out from the distance.
Once in Mycenae you will enjoy a private guided tour through the treasury house of Atreus and the ancient citadel.
The Mycenaeans were very strategic and were always choosing the places to built their citadels having always in mind the defensive advantage over the attacks by their enemies. Therefore Mycenae was built at the one side of the lush valley, where most of the inhabitants of it would be occupied with farming, with the very steep and rocky mountains on the other side. There was only one way to reach the citadel and that was extremely well fortified, even more than what they really needed. The cyclopean walls, consisted by huge conglomerate blocks of local stone, still make us wonder how they managed to move them all the way up there. Cannons, guns and similar weapons did not exist at the time, which makes us think that these walls were mostly there to scare off the enemy and to show off how wealthy and powerful they were.
You will first stop and visit the beehive tomb of Agamemnon, as most of the locals call it, although the official name of it is the treasure of Atreus. Very much influenced by the Egyptians, with whom they had a great connection and commerce going on, the ancient Mycenaeans gave very big importance to their funerary customs and to where the royal family's last residence would be. The beehive tombs were being built many years before the death of whoever was supposed to be buried in them, impressing the people and giving additional honor to the "owner" of the tomb. There were at least nine monumental beehive tombs around the Acropolis of Mycenae, but this one is the largest and most impressive, which at the same time is also very well preserved. Walk inside the tomb passing the ancient pass that was leading to its one and only entrance and enter the tomb that still stands intact. Once inside you will see another smaller gate leading to an extra room, which must have been the treasury house of it. If the assumptions of the archaeologists are correct and this was the tomb of Agamemnon, try to imagine the amount of gold and jewels that must have been placed there, in order for him to take with to the afterlife.
Afterwards you will get back to your private vehicle for a short drive up the hill. From the parking of the site you will start ascending towards the citadel, seeing parts of the ancient city and two more beehive tombs on one hand and the cyclopean walls on the other. Take a deep breath as you finally reach the legendary Lions' Gate, the one and only official entrance to the citadel that still bears the emblem over the gate that represents a column protected by two lions. Walking a bit further uphill, you will have a magnificent view of the whole valley that ends by the port of Nafplion, the outside remainings of the ancient city, as well as the grave circle A which is inside the walls and was excavated by Heinrich Schliemann. Among the several skeletons on fetal position were found jewellery, seal stone rings and golden masks that were weighting 14 kilos in total. One of the masks was so different and impressive, that Schliemann yelled out that he had found Agamemnon's tomb, to be proved wrong when the treasury of Atreus was unearthed. This huge treasure from the grave circle A is now in display in the national archaeological museum of Athens.
At the end of your guided tour you will be given some free time to walk further up the citadel and reach the top, where the palace with two floors used to exist. Be prepared for a lot of hiking on steep rocks and to being exposed to the weather conditions since there are almost no trees inside the citadel today.
On your way down you can also make a small deviation and go visit the museum of Mycenae, if there is enough time available, which although it mostly has copies of the treasures that are displayed in Athens, it still is very interesting. Among other things you will see wall paintings(frescoes) from the palace and local houses, armor and weapons, a collection of pottery, jewellery made of seashells and non precious beads, as well as tablets that still bear the inscriptions of Linear B syllabic script.
As soon as you meet your driver back at the parking area, you will be offered the drive back to Athens, where you will be dropped you off either at your hotel, or another location of your preference.
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