Cruising the Aegean: From Kos to Patmos - Culture & Archaeology Tour with Expert Guides
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From Kos to Patmos: A Greek Island Cruise
The Dodecanese islands are perhaps the most ethereally beautiful part of the Aegean. Set in a sparkling topaz-blue sea, they have a rich and intricate history stretching back millennia, and a distinctive culture. From the deck of our gulet, you will cruise in comfort as the islands come to you, each with its own distinctive silhouette and story: mountainous Kalymnos; Nisyros with its brooding volcanic cone; Patmos crowned by its extraordinary monastery - a World Heritage Site; and serene, secluded Pserimos. Anchoring in coves of the bluest shimmering water and harbours with bright white houses rising above you, you can relax as you wish before dining on meals freshly-prepared on board or go to specially selected tavernas on the islands themselves. In a tranquil and unhurried way, you can drink in the vistas of picturesque villages, rocky backdrops and volcanic cones as verdant headlands and glittering bays slide by.
The islands have a long history as a place where cultures met and learned from each other, or came into conflict. Our expert guides will introduce you to some of the finest traces of this long past. You will see the great columned temples of the Greeks, including the famed healing shrine of the god Asklepios on Kos, and their spectacular statues, some newly brought up from the depths of the sea. Roman imperial rule brought with it the fine houses of aristocrats, blessed with cool sheltering colonnades and intricate mosaics, and the buildings that supported their busy trading, a testament to a long era of peace. As the Roman Empire became the Christian Byzantine Empire, so we find artists’ hands turning to the intense emotion-filled icons of Orthodox Christianity, and lovingly-made manuscripts prepared in the exceptional monasteries central to their way of life.
With the fading of Byzantine power, we encounter new strands in our story: the Crusader Knights of St John, who ruled the islands and added their own military stamp to them as they strove long and hard in a doomed struggle to maintain an increasingly-isolated Christian outpost in the east. The long Ottoman years followed, adding another layer with their own characteristic architecture and culture, fountainhouses and baths. From the unexpected and singular traces of Italian occupation, we reach modern times and the captivating culture of today’s islanders. From the food, sounds and atmosphere of the welcoming tavernas, to the unique local craft of sponge-diving, you will come away feeling truly immersed in this varied archipelago’s many delights.
ADDITION RATE INFORMATION
Single Supplement: £675
Maximum 18 guests.
Day 1:Kos, Dodecanese, Greece
We embark on our gulet, 35 minutes from the airport, in the harbour of Kos, a traditional mooring-point for two-and-a-half millennia. Welcome drink and dinner on board.
Day 2:Kos, Dodecanese, Greece
We begin our adventure by exploring the archaeological museum of Kos, a superb collection of sculpture, pottery and other finds, ranging from prehistory to the Roman era and serving as a perfect introduction to the archaeology of the region. We then set out for our first crossing, stopping at the Turkish resort of Turgutreis before continuing to the little-visited island of Leros, where we anchor in a picturesque bay.
Day 3:Leros, Dodecanese, Greece
On Leros, we make our way to the formidable medieval castle of Panteli, whose military history extends as recently as the tragic Dodecanese campaign of 1943. Its extensive medieval walls crown the heights of the former ancient acropolis as it sits high above a deep blue sea and overlooks a fascinating scenery of coves, bays, and a dense jumble of ornate mansions. Originally a Byzantine stronghold, it later became a major outpost of the Hospitaller Knights of St John, who greatly expanded it to ward off the threats of the fiercely-contested fourteenth century Aegean. From the castle we take a stroll around the Italian military town at Lakki, a unique planned outpost in a then-showpiece architectural style before making our way westwards to sacred Patmos, to anchor in a beautiful cove.
Day 4:Patmos, Dodecanese, Greece
In the morning, we explore the extraordinary cultural riches of Patmos, some of the most memorable images of our tour. We discover the Cave of the Apocalypse, now a chapel, and traditionally the refuge of St John the Divine as he composed, or transmitted, the Book of Revelations. At the great Monastery of Saint John, we find one of Greece’s greatest medieval treasures, whose soaring and stout walls house some extraordinary Byzantine survivals. Clustered around is the breathtakingly beautiful Chora, the island capital with its maze of cobbled streets and beautiful houses. The setting, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, is stunning and reveals a thousand years of life in a small and remote island uniquely connected to a greater world. In the afternoon, we set out for the rugged island of Kalymnos.
Day 5:Kalymnos, Dodecanese, Greece
In the morning, we visit the beautifully laid-out archaeological museum of Kalymnos, home to a surprisingly rich collection of ancient Greek sculpture. Outstanding even amidst the fine marbles is the over life-size ‘Lady of Kalymnos’, a superb and near-complete bronze statue of a himation-swathed woman, drawn up from the sea as recently as 1994 after being found by fishermen. Kalymnos being the last redoubt of the once extensive sponge-diving industry, we take the opportunity to visit one of the remaining sponge-washing workshops and observe this almost-lost art first-hand. In the afternoon, we continue southwards, anchoring near the tiny islet of Pserimos with a permanent population of just a few dozen.
Day 6:Nisyros, Dodecanese, Greece
Southwards to Giali, a small island famous for its ample supplies of pumice and obsidian, a rare volcanic glass, used for cutting tools since early prehistory. There is ample time to swim and relax before we enter the port of Mandraki on Nisyros. Here, we discover the astonishingly well-preserved Hellenistic fortification of Palaiokastro, probably built by the Rhodians to secure their northernmost possessions. Afterwards, we enter the island’s huge volcanic caldera to visit the atmospheric steam crater of Stephanos, where we see, hear and smell the true nature of Nisyros: the whole island is an active volcano. We walk past mud pools to stand in the stark amphitheatre of its crater where hot water bubbles on the surface and steam vents from beneath, leaving mounds of crystallized sulphur, before heading off to enjoy a well-earned dinner with unforgettable views of the island.
Day 7:Kos, Dodecanese, Greece
After a morning visit to the small but excellent archaeological museum of Mandraki, with rich finds from the island’s ancient cemeteries, we return to Kos. Here we explore the Casa Romana, the vast mansion of a Roman aristocrat, partially restored to give a strong sense of the palatial residence’s original opulence. Mosaics and wall paintings still adorn its spacious expanse and the restoration offers a rare chance to experience what the colonnades and courtyards of a Roman aristocratic home really felt like. Afterwards, we go to the beautifully-set Asklepieion, the most important sacred site on the island. The extensive shrine, an important international sanctuary where pilgrims sought the attentions of the healing god Asklepios while they slept, post-dates Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’ so closely associated with Kos, but the picturesque terraces, monumental stairways and ornate columns attest the god’s lasting presence. Farewell dinner on the gulet.
Day 8:Kos, Dodecanese, Greece
Transfer to Kos airport, about 35 minutes away.
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