Tour the City of Thessaloniki
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.
Visit the Temple of Apollo
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. 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 make a brief stop to Cenchreae, the small harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia. Upon arriving back in Athens, we’ll enjoy dinner together, followed by an optional walk. We travel early this morning to the port of Piraeus for an 11am departure on our 4-night Greek Isles Cruise. Our first port-of-call is Mykonos, which uniquely combines luxury and sophistication with the simple and yet charming life of a Cycladic Island. We can stroll the winding, narrow streets full of boutiques, visit tiny chapels, and take pictures of the famous windmills. Another option is just to sit by the waterfront and enjoy the beautiful sunset. In the morning, we arrive at Kusadasi, a lovely Turkish port and the gateway to the Ancient city of Ephesus, a city often visited by St. Paul. It is one of the seven churches of Revelation. (Excursion to Ancient Ephesus included). We drive along the coast to reach Ephesus, famous in antiquity for its Temple of Diana. Also known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Ephesus later became the home of the Apostle John. We will see the monuments such as the Forum, the Odeon, the Library of Celsus, and the Thermal Bath of Scolastika. We will also visit the magnificent, open-air Great Theatre, built in the Greek era and reconstructed in the Roman period, which seated 24,000 people. Next, we walk back to the motor coach along the Arcadian Way, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession. Traveling back to Kusadasi, we view the Basilica of St. John. Just downhill lies the site of the famous Temple of Diana, which today is in ruins. We also visit the Church of the Virgin Mary. By late afternoon we arrive on Patmos, the island where the Apostle John was exiled. It was here that John wrote the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:9) in one of the local caves. The excursion for this island is not included. Dr. DeLancey will lead an optional excursion on Patmos via rented taxis (at your own expense). Alternatively, we can choose to disembark and explore the island on our own.
Spend an Evening in Santorini
Today, we will visit the Island of Rhodes. The ship enters the port, which was once dominated by the Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The excursion for this island is not included. Dr. DeLancey will lead an optional excursion on Patmos via rented taxis (at your own expense) to travel to Lindos, located on the other side of the island. The impressive Acropolis of Lindos is certainly a site worthing seeing! Alternatively, we can choose to disembark and explore the island on our own.This morning, we spend time in Crete, the largest and most-rugged of the Greek Islands. It is also the ancient home of the great Minoans and the mythological god, Zeus (Excursion to Knossos Palace and Heraklion City included). After a short ride through the town of Heraklion, we arrive at the Knossos excavations. Here, Sir Arthur Evan’s 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). Next, we spend an evening on what many would consider the most spectacular of all the Greek islands, Santorini. We will have time to stroll the cobbled lanes of this fascinating town or simply relax over coffee. A short cable car ride (not included) will take us down to the pier where we will rejoin the ship. We sail back to the port of Athens. Upon loading the bus, we enjoy the architectural wonders of ancient Athens. First, we climb the world-renowned Acropolis, to see the Propylea, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon. Next, 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. In the afternoon, we will enjoy some free time in the Plaka, Athens market. We’ll grab a gyro or a Greek salad for lunch before we meet at a designated area. You will then have the option to be dropped off at the hotel or driven to the base of Lycabetus, the highest point of Athens. You can either walk to the top or take the cable car to the top (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 3 Day Rome Extension
For those doing the optional Rome extension, we drive to the Athens Airport for our morning flight to Rome Italy. We meet our tour escort and guide once we land. Our first stop will be to the ancient port of Rome, Ostia Antica. The site is massive, with ruins from the 1st century BC through the Byzantine Period. Among the ruins we see numerous houses, the theater (built in 12 BC), bathhouses, the Forum (Capitalium), and the Thermopolium. The site is somewhat like Pompeii three hours to the south. We even see a Menorah here on one of the marbles. It’s very possible that Paul knew this Jewish community here (and perhaps visited this group of Jews?) when he was in Rome. Next we make 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 entrance into the city. We then drive to our hotel. After checking in, we enjoy dinner together. An optional walk to the Colosseum will follow dinner before we retire for the evening. Our first stop this morning on this full day 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. We visit the St. John’s Lateran Church (formerly called Church of our Savior). This was the very first official church, built in 313 AD. Twenty two Popes are buried here. Across the street we also briefly visited the Sacred Steps. As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness. It is believed that Helena brought the 28 steps from Jerusalem. The steps are to believed to be used by Jesus went brought before Pontius Pilate. Today, we enjoy a sightseeing tour, beginning with a visit to the Colosseum, which symbolizes the eternity of the Roman civilization. Next, we walk through the Forum. We pass by the Constantine and Titus Arches. We pause at the Basilica Julius to remember Paul’s life. He was probably sentenced to death by beheading here. Near the Roman Forum is a church that traditionally locates where Peter was held in chains here. 1 Peter 5:13 suggests that Peter was in Rome. Inside the church, a Moses sculpture by Michelangelo is displayed. He began this project when he was 30 years ago. Next we walk to the area of the Piazza Venezia, dominated by the imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuel II. At the northern end of the Forum is the Mamertine Prison. Beneath this structure are the remains of the traditional site of the imprisonments of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter in Rome. According to tradition, the apostle Peter caused the well-water to spring up so that he might baptize his jailors. We end the day by visiting the Fontana di Trevi. We will enjoy a traditional gelato here. We then walk to the Pantheon, the largest dome built in the ancient world. Most confidently date the building to the Emperor Hadrian’s reign and describe its purpose as a temple to all the gods. We get pick up by our bus and drive back to our hotel for dinner and overnight. We depart the hotel this morning for the Rome Airport for our flight back to the States. We then make our connecting flights home.