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Peloponnese and Ionian Sea 7-day cruise CELESTYAL from Athens (Lavrion)
We depart from Lavrio, one of the major ports of Athens. At 60 kilometers from Athens, Lavrio is an ancient silver mining center and a bustling port – the city’s silver mines date to prehistory.
From here you can tour the Temple of Poseidon, with its incredible view of the Saronic Gulf, and Cape Sounion – the giant columns at the Temple of Poseidon were “excavated” in Lavrion, which is also home to the oldest and largest ancient amphitheater in Greece.
We sail for one of the most beautiful towns in the Peloponnese and one of Greece’s most romantic cities, elegant, architecturally homogenous Nafplio, the capital of the First Hellenic Republic from 1823 until 1834.
We sail to the breathtaking Monemvasia, Greece’s answer to Mont Saint-Michel and Gibraltar! The Kastro (Greek for “castle” or “fortress”), a massive fortress of rock, rises 350 meters from the sea just off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese. A charming, labyrinthine medieval village awaits inside over a single causeway.
The Kastro’s cobbled main street is lined with shops and tavernas and punctuated by stairways that weave a course between stone houses with walled gardens and courtyards. The main street leads to the central square and the Cathedral of Christ in Chains which dates from the 13th century – across the square stands the Church of Aghios Pavlos (St. Paul), built in 956.
Kalamata is the second-largest city in the Peloponnese. The picturesque old town, beneath the 13th century Kastro, was rebuilt by the French in the 1830s, after its near-destruction by the Turks during the War of Independence. Kalamata is home to a number of wonderful museums, including the Archeological Museum of Messina, the Military Museum and the Historic & Folklore Museum of Kalamata. Built on the site of ancient Pharai, the name comes from an icon of the Virgin known as “kalo mata,” (good eye) discovered in the stables of the city’s Ottoman governor who, as a result of the miracles attributed to the icon, converted to Christianity.
Our next stop is the Ionian harbor of Katakolon. A postcard-perfect harbor town, Katakolon looks toward the deep silver-blue sea. Situated on a peninsula famed for its 19th century lighthouse, this sleepy port is home to just over 600 people.
Katakolon is the gateway to Ancient Olympia, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition to temples, Olympia is home to all the structures erected for the Olympic Games, the first of which were held in 776 B.C. The site’s modern Archeological Museum is a treasure trove of Archaic, Classical and Roman sculptures, including the legendary Nike, the Winged Godess of Victory.
We sail overnight from Katakolon to picturesque, bustling Igoumenitsa, the third-busiest port in Greece and the key gateway for travel by ferry to Corfu and Italy. Igoumenitsa is the capital of the Prefecture of Thesprotia, one of the most mountainous and isolated in northwestern Greece.
Artifacts and monuments dating from the Paleolithic Era have been found throughout the prefecture. Excavations in Igoumenitsa revealed the ruins of two temples and an ancient theater which held 2,500 seats.
We spend all day in Saranda. Burning blue on the Ionian coast, this unspoiled resort beckons you to its glistening sands. Saranda is named for Ayii Saranda, a monastery dedicated to 40 saints, whose bombed remains, including some preserved frescoes, look down on Saranda from a hill high above town. Nearby Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric, it is also home to a Roman temple.
We leave Saranda and cross the Adriatic to arrive at our final destination, Bari, nestled along the Adriatic coast at the top of the boot heel of Italy, Apulia. Old Bari is an atmospheric maze, home to 40 churches, the Norman basilica of San Nicola and the Cathedral of St. Sabino, both among the finest extant examples of Apulian Romanesque architecture.