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Ancient History and Magnificent Beauty Lure Travelers Back to Greece

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If there is only one thing to be said about Greece and about Greeks (though believe us, there are many, many astonishing things to be said about them) it is this: This dreamy place is one of the friendliest, most welcoming spots on earth. The fact that it is rich in coastal and mountain beauty, home to some of the most visually stunning islands on earth, center of an unrivaled history that changed the course of humankind, and overflowing with the bounties of the earth only gives you more reason to visit.

When you do journey to Greece, you'll be in good company. In 2013, 2.4 million more visitors traveled here than in 2012. Numbers for 2014 look equally promising. We've already summarized above the reasons why travelers are returning, and we'll go into more detail in this month's issue. Suffice to say that there is one simple and exciting fact that is placing this breathtaking country on center stage once again, and it supersedes any discussion about its economy: Greece is back.

Civilization's Cradle

Civilization's CradleJust as Athens is the cradle of civilization, it is also the central focus of many trips to Greece. Its Acropolis stands gloriously atop its hill like a beacon in the Grecian sun, as if shining down upon the modern-day city that it shaped. So many elements of civilization were born here—democracy, philosophy, arts—that it's impossible to not be moved by a simple stroll among its temples and past its masterfully preserved Parthenon. Much of the site and its relics (as well as artifacts from Greek antiquity worldwide) are beautifully illuminated by a visit to the Acropolis Museum. Indeed, it is considered one of the great museums of the world.

The legacy of the ancient Greeks lives far and wide, but it is especially poignant to witness the houses of democracy in the city of its birth, from the President's residence to Constitution Square. And when it's time for a relaxing stroll, the intimate streets of the shop-lined Plaka district at the base of Acropolis Hill invite you to explore.

The Pleasures of the Peloponnese

The Pleasures of the PeloponneseA 19th-century engineering marvel separates the mainland from the Peloponnese Peninsula. The Corinth Canal, which opened in 1893, was literally carved out of solid rock. It had long been a dream of the ancients to connect the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf; construction efforts date as far back as the 1st century AD. Today, the sculpted gorge is sheer-faced and dramatic, and only able to accommodate small vessels.

The rustic Peloponnese Peninsula—situated to the west of metropolitan Athens—boasts a rich past of its own. Perhaps most famously, the first Olympic Games were held here, in Olympia. They were first staged in honor of the god Zeus, whose temple is still impressive despite that it lies in ruins. The hillside city of Nauplion, with its stunning setting on the azure waters of the Argolic Gulf, was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic and a coveted city of many royal houses. Its cobbled streets, stone buildings, and multi-hued shutters date back centuries. Two castles add to its scenic splendor: The Venetian Bourtzi sits in the middle of the harbor and the hilltop Palamidi offer dramatic views of the town. In the second millennium BC, however, it was Mycenae that held sway over southern Greece. This major center of ancient civilization was defended by a solid stone fortress whose ruins whisper of sieges past.

Stunning Places of Worship and Wonder

Stunning Places of Worship and WonderBack on the mainland, north of the Peloponnese, Delphi attracted countless devout worshipers in ancient times. Legend recalls that a high priestess delivered prophecies here in a highly agitated state created by the vapors rising from a chasm in the rocks below the temple. Today, Delphi still inspires awe, albeit more from its natural setting than from its incantations. This vast complex includes the Temple of Apollo, the Delphi and Tholos temples and a huge amphitheater—all of it surrounded by soaring mountain slopes.

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All prices are per person based on twin occupancy. Prices are valid as of November 20, 2014 and subject to change without notice. Book by December 4, 2014. Not valid on existing reservations.