The Apostle Paul’s Greek Journey
Embark upon your journey to the lands of ancient treasures and Christian history with an overnight flight to Thessaloniki. Prepare yourself for a life-changing experience and get some rest on the flight. Tomorrow we will be walking in the Greek world that the Apostle Paul knew. The world and culture of the New Testament is about to come alive! We arrive in Thessaloniki, the city where Paul was received by Jason. Paul was preaching the Word of God here until he was rushed out of the city. We transfer to our hotel for dinner and overnight. This morning we travel east to the amazing site of Philippi. On the way we will make a brief stop at Amphipolis. Paul stopped here on his way to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). Arriving at Philippi, we visit the Baptistry of Lydia, near the river where Paul baptized her. Lydia was the first convert of Paul on European soil, followed by the conversion of the jailer. We also visit the ruins of the Forum of Philippi, the Christ a Basilicas, the “Prison of Paul” and the Theater. We then drive to the coast, to the port of Kavala (ancient Neapolis). Here, Paul took his first step in bringing the Gospel to present day Europe. It is a picturesque port! We view the Byzantine Castle and the Roman Aqueduct. To end the day, we drive back to Thessaloniki for dinner and our second overnight here. This morning we tour the city of Thessaloniki. We’ll see the White Tower, the Agora, and the Church of St. Demetrius. We will also gain a panoramic view from the upper part of the city before leaving Thessaloniki. From here, we drive south through the beautiful landscape of inland Greece. We make a brief stop in Berea, visited by Paul (Acts 17:10f). It was here that Paul planted a church that “studied the Scriptures” on a regular basis. Close by is Vergina, the burial place of Philip II (Father of Alexander the great), now a museum. In the afternoon, we drive through the scenic route over the mountains to Kalambaka. Weather permitting, we might see Mt. Olympus, the legendary abode of the Greek gods. In the late afternoon, we arrive at Meteora. Here, we will see the famous Byzantine monasteries that are perched precariously on summits of gray rock pinnacles of varied and beautiful shapes. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the monks sought refuge in the cliff-side caves. Then they fled higher to build the original wooden shelters, which were later transformed into monasteries. We spend the night in Kalambaka, located in the shadows of the unique monasteries of Meteora. We leave the hotel after breakfast and drive to Thermopylae. It was here that the famous 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas, fought with an alliance of Greek city-states against the large Persian army in 480 B.C. From here we drive to Delphi, one of the best preserved classic Greek sites in the country! Here we tour the ancient oracle of Apollo at Delphi. We will also visit the local museum with its renown bronze statue of the charioteer. Then, we will see the stadium where the ancient Pythian athletic games were held every four years. Second only to the Olympic games in fame, these games were in honor of Apollo. Next, we see the temple of Apollo where the young priestess Pythia gave her prophecies. In the late afternoon, we drive to Athens, check into our hotel and enjoy a late dinner together.
Embarking on our Greek Isles Cruise
We sail this morning from Athens to the quaint isle of Mykonos, called the island of windmills. We arrive at Mykonos, where we disembark and have time to experience the waterfront lined with shops and cafes. We stroll the charming walkways through a maze of white-washed buildings before returning to the ship for dinner and evening activities. No excursions are included today, as we will visit the island at our leisure by foot. In the morning we arrive in Kusadasi, Turkey. Excursion Included: A short drive takes us to Ephesus, where Paul spent three years during his ministry. The impressive remains of Ephesus include the Agora, the Theater, the Stadium, the Library of Celsus, the ruins of the Temple of Diana (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and many more. Later, we sail for the island of Patmos. Excursion Included: Here we visit the Monastery of St. John, on one of the islands highest points. From there, we walk down to the Grotto of the Apocalypse, the site of the apocalyptic Revelations of St. John the Divine. In the morning, we arrive at Heraklion, Crete and disembark. Excursion Included: During this excursion, we take a short ride through the town of Heraklion and then arrive at the Knossos excavations. Here, archaeological discoveries revealed a civilization dating back to 4000 B.C., when a great empire flourished on the island of Crete. Paul left Titus in Crete and gave instructions on appointing church leaders in the towns (Titus 1:5ff). In the afternoon, we cruise to the isle of Santorini and disembark. Excursion not included: Santo-rini is often referred to as the most breathtaking of all the Greek islands. The exquisite whitewashed villages, including the town of Fira, or Thira, cling to volcanic cliffs, accessible by cable-car, or mule. Optional guided excursions are available from the cruise line, but not recommended by the tour host.
We start the day by visiting the site of Mycenae, the legendary city rival of Troy, and described by Homer as “Mycenea rich in Gold.” This city dates back to the late Bronze Age and is famous for the “beehive” Tomb of Agamemnon (Treasury of Atreus) and the gold masks. We then continue to ancient Corinth. This is the once glorious city near the Isthmus, where Paul met Aquila and Priscilla and spent a year and a half preaching the Word of God. We visit the Archaeological Museum, the Forum, the Temple of Apollo, the Roman forum and the famous Bema where Paul stood before Gallio, accused by the Jews of Corinth. We also will try to see the acropolis of the city and the Temple of Aphrodite. Then we drive past Cenchreae, the little harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia, back to Athens. An optional walk will be offered after dinner. Today we admire the architectural wonders of ancient Athens, as we follow our guide to the world-renowned Acropolis, to see the Propylea, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon. We visit Mars Hill, where Paul delivered his speech on the Unknown God. Then we see the Agora, the ancient center of the economic and public life of the city, where Paul preached to the skeptical Athenians. During the bus tour, we also see Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus, the Old Olympic Stadium and the Neoclassical Buildings of Athens. The afternoon we will provide an option to walk to the top of Lycabetus, the highest point of Athens. A cable car is also available to take (for an extra cost). From here you will enjoy a panoramic view of Athens below. We return to our hotel for dinner. We transfer in the morning to Athens Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. We arrive home the same day.
Optional Rome Extension
We transfer in the morning to Athens Airport for our flight to Naples, Italy. We meet our tour escort who takes on a short orientation of Naples, often known for its centuries of important art and architecture. The city’s cathedral, the Duomo di San Gennaro, is filled with frescoes. Other major landmarks include the lavish Royal Palace and Castel Nuovo, a 13th-century castle. From here we then drive to Pompeii to visit the spectacular ruins, which were covered by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. The city remained buried and undiscovered for almost 1500 years until excavations began in 1748. These excavations continue today and provide insight into life during the Roman Empire. We then make our way north for our 3-hour bus ride to Rome in time for dinner and overnight. Our first stop this morning is the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, the celebrated Chapel of the Popes and the venue of the conclaves for Papal elections. It is one of the most splendid masterpieces in the history of world art and is known around the world for its magnificent ceiling, beautifully decorated by Michelangelo. From here, our next visit is to the Basilica of St. Peter, the largest church in the world, which overlooks the enormous Piazza San Pietro. After a break for lunch (not included), we tour the eternal city. Driving through the main streets of Rome, we will marvel at the monuments of this great capital. Then we stop near the Fontana di Trevi, following tradition by tossing a coin into the fountain, promising to return to Rome. Dinner and overnight are in Rome. Today, we enjoy a sightseeing tour, including a special visit to the Catacombs where we explore tunnels and see the carvings on the walls from early Christians. From here we continue to St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls. We then make our way to the Appian Way. Paul would have used this road initially built in 312 BC. Paul walked 170 miles of this road into Rome, beginning at Puteoli (where his ship landed). We will walk a short section of this 350-mile-long road as we consider Paul’s trial. After lunch (not included) we visit the Colosseum, which symbolizes the eternity of the Roman civilization. Next, we walk through the Forum. We pause at the Basilica Julius to remember Paul’s life. He was probably sentenced to death by beheading here. Finally, we walk to the Piazza Venezia, dominated by the imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuel II. We get picked up nearby by our bus and we drive back to our hotel for dinner and overnight in Rome. Day 14 – Saturday, September 23: Rome, Arrive in U.S.A. We transfer in the morning to Rome Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. and arrive the same day.