Biblical Tour Experiences for the 13 Day Extensive Biblical Greece Tour (including a 4 day Aegean Sea cruise)
September 10-22, 2018
God blessed us with a wonderful tour! Thanks so very much for following the trip and for praying for us as we journeyed in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul!
Individual Group Members
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY/TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10-11: DEPART U.S.A. & ARRIVAL In GREECE
Our day of departure for this Footsteps of Paul trip finally arrived. 19 of us met at the Philadelphia Airport for our flight to Athens. The other 9 made flight arrangements on their own and met us in Greece. Following our 9 hour flight, we arrived in Athens at about 9:15 am. After landing, Costos, our Greek agent, met us and helped us to secure our boarding passes for our afternoon flight to Thessaloniki.
We arrived in Thessaloniki about 2:30. We were met by Aliki, our Greek guide, and our bus driver, yes another Costos. After exchanging some money into Euros and loading the bus, we headed towards the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. We got our first look at downtown Thessaloniki. When we arrived at the hotel, we also met the others in the group. We enjoyed a brief orientation meeting together and dinner. Following dinner we retired for the evening.
We are excited to be here in Greece, and we anticipate the world of the New Testament coming alive in remarkable ways! We are also eager to learn life-lessons of faith along the way as we engage in the ministry of Paul.
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12: PHILIPPI, KAVALA, THESSALONIKI
Today was our first full touring day here in Greece., a country of about 12 million. Most in the group slept well, helping with overcoming jet lag. The weather here in this northern province of Macedonia (one of 6 provinces in the country of Greece) was very nice, with a mix of sun and clouds, and highs in the low 80s.
Following an incredible breakfast, we left at 7:40 and drove northeast out of Thessalonica to Philippi. We passed by Amphipolis Apollonia on the way (Acts 17:1-2). Part of this highway we took took the exact same route as the ancient Egnatia Way, the primary road used in Paul’s day.
We arrived at the archaeological site of Philippi in the mid-morning. Here we saw a number of Roman ruins, including the theater (dating actually to the 4th century BC and built by Phillip II), a few Later Roman basilicas, the agora (marketplace), and many pillars. In front of the suggested ancient prison (although it dates to the 2nd century AD though), we read from Acts 16 about the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. It is remarkable to consider they we singing praises to God during this challenging time. Following seeing the site we ate lunch on the premises.
Just outside the ancient walls of Philippi we enjoyed a stop at the Zygaktis River. Here we read from Acts 17 about the conversion of a certain Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple cloth. After God opened her heart, she and her household were baptized here in the river. Lydia was the first convert on European soil! We also shared a few songs together as well as visit the Greek Orthodox chapel located here.
Kavala / Neopolis
Driving the the coastline, our last stop was Kavala. In Paul’s day, this port-city was called Neopolis. Paul and his companions (Luke & Timothy) sailed into this port from Troas (in Turkey today, see Acts 16). Here we saw the modern day harbor, the monument dedicated to Paul, and the Roman aqueduct and Byzantine castle.
From here we drove back to Thessalonica along the beautiful coastline of this area of northern Greece. The ride back to our hotel took about 2 hours. We enjoyed dinner together and a free evening. Some went down to the city square to enjoy some Greek culture.
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13: THESSALONIKI, BEREA, VERGINA, KALAMBAKA
Today provided another opportunity to connect to the world of the Bible and the mission trips of Paul. It was a sunny day with temps in the 80s.
Leaving the hotel after breakfast, we packed the bus and enjoyed a city tour of Thessaloniki. The city was established in 317 BC and named after the daughter (and also half-sister of Alexander the Great) of Philip II. Today the city is 1.2 million, the second largest city in Greece (Athens has 5 million).
We first stopped by the water front to see the White Tower. This was initially an Ottoman structure dating to the 15th century AD. Here also was a statute of Alexander the Great.
In the heart of the city was the Roman Forum (agora in Greek). This was the marketplace mentioned in Acts 17 where Paul was. Close by is the Church of St Demetrius. This was an ancient church dedicated after Demetrius, a martyr who died in 303 AD. Some of the early structures can be seen below the level of this modern Greek Orthodox Church today.
Lastly, we drove to the acropolis for a great view of the city and harbor below. We read from Acts 17 (that mentions the role of Jason) and I Thessalonians 4 (about Christ’s Second Coming). We also remembered another certain believers mentioned by name (Aristarchus and Secundus) who were from this city (Acts 20, Romans 16). They served as later companion travelers with Paul.
Driving about an hour south, we came to Berea. While there is no archaeology here to see, we remembered the Acts 17 passage at a very nice monument constructed in the heart of this city. We read about how the believers here searched the Scriptures diligently. Sopiter, a believer from this city (Acts 20) was another one who eventually became a traveling companion with Paul as well. We also saw the modern Jewish synagogue here (probably built over the ancient one) as well as the river nearby.
About 15 minutes away is Vergina. We first enjoyed lunch in this small village (enjoyed traditional Greek dishes like moussaka, bean soup, lamb, and a Greek salad. It was a great lunch! From here we walked to the archaeological ruins of the royal tomb of Philip II and Alexander IV. Discovered in 1977, these tombs were quite impressive! While there are actually four tombs to see here, the tombs of Philip and Alexander IV (or the “Prince”) are amazingly well preserved even after 2,300 years! These two tombs were found intact. In the museum we also saw many of the items found in these tombs, including many incredible gold pieces.
In the mid-afternoon, we continued our scenic drive south to Kalambaka. This is the heart of the country of Greece. We traversed up and over the Pindos mountain range. At about 6 p.m. we arrived at our hotel at the base of Meteora, a complex of Greek Orthodox monasteries that date as far back as the early 1,300s AD (we plan to see them tomorrow morning). Before dinner 15 in the group got a ride by Costos to the downtown area. We enjoyed some exploring on our own before we returned to the hotel for dinner together.
It was another great day of seeing impressive sites and the beauty of the Greek inland.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14: METEORA, THERMOPYLAE, DELPHI
Today was another incredible day, providing us a mix of beautiful scenery, unique sites, and classic ancient ruins from Greece’s past. The weather was fantastic, with mostly sunny skies and temps around 80.
Leaving our hotel around 8 a.m., we drove to the area of Meteora. Six (6) Greek monasteries are here, the earliest dating back to the early 1,300’s. Some of the older wooden structures can still be seen today. The mountain formations in this area are so unique. At every turn a new panoramic view opened up. We then entered the monastery of St. Stephen’s. Aliki took us into the chapel area. Monks for 100s of years have dedicated their lives in carefully building these with such precision. The view from the top of Kalambaka below was stunning as well.
From here we drove south to the area of Lambia. After eating lunch here we continued for just a few miles to Thermopylae. This is where the famous battle between the Spartans and the Persians took place in 480 BC. Led by King Leonidas, the battle between the “300” (there were actually other alliance soldiers who fought along with Leonardis) and the Persians happened in the narrow pass between the mountains edge and the coastline of the Aegean Sea. All there is to see here today is a large monument and statue.
Driving towards Athens now, our last stop of the day was the famous site of Delphi. Nestled in the Parnassos mountains, this classical site dates back to around the 7th century BC, with most of the ruins we saw dating to the 6th through 4th centuries. Delphi was best known as one of four places were Oracles took place. It is not mentioned in the New Testament that Paul was here. However, Delphi represents well the religious culture of the day that posed the biggest challenge to Paul’s mission journeys.
First we visited the museum of Delphi. Many amazing artifacts are on display here, including many statues, figurines, gold items, temple reliefs, and the omphalos stone (or navel stone) from the 5th century BC. One inscription found here mentions the name of Gallio of Corinth. He is mentioned in Acts 18:16, which helps us date Paul to be in Corinth between 50-52 AD or so.
Next, we climb the archaeological site. We passed by the Treasury of Athens as we climbed up to the famous Temple of Apollo. According to Greek mythology, Apollo was the god of light, life, and prophecy. He was the son of Zeus and the twin brother to Artemis.
Above this massive temple was the theater. At the top of the site was the stadium. This is the best preserved stadiums from this time period in all of Greece. We were reminded that Paul used the imagery of the running the race (I Corinthians 9:27f). He probably had stadiums like this in mind.
After descending from the site, we bussed 2 minutes to our hotel right here in Delphi. We enjoyed dinner together before we retired for the evening.
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15: DELPHI, OLYMPIA
Today was another sunny day, with highs a little warmer today (in the mid 80s). We traveled to the southern region of Greece called the Peloponnese. We also had a great experience at another classical site filled with Greek history and mythology.
The Coastline Drive / Rio-Antirrio Bridge
This morning we enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast and later departure time. As the sun came up to the east, the Adriatic Sea below reflected its rays! What a great view while sipping coffee on the deck of the hotel!
After loading up about 9 a.m., we drove down to the coastline and followed it all the way until until the Rio-Antirrio Bridge. This was a bridge started in 1988 and completed in time for the 2004 Olympic Games held in Greece. It cost 630 million Euros. Prior to crossing the bridge, we enjoyed a wonderful coffee/pastry shop as well as a short stroll down to the edge of this beautiful body of water.
We crossed the bridge into the Peloponnese. Driving another hour or so, we arrived at Olympia. Following a traditional Greek lunch right outside the site, we entered this classical site known for where the Olympic Games began in 776 BC. They were held here every four years up through 393 AD.
Located along the Alpheios River, Olympia was built in honor of Zeus. It is a massive archaeological site complete with everything you would expect to find at the Olympic Games: The gymnasium, the palestra, the Temple of Zeus (dating to the 5th century BC; it took 30 years to build), the Temple of Hera (the wife of Zeus, built in the 6th century BC), and of course a stadium that could fit 45,000 people. It was fun for all of us to line up on the starting line. Experiencing this stadium made us recall what Paul said about “running the race for the prize…” (I Cor. 9 and other passages).
In the museum we saw many impressive statues and artifacts as well. This included statues of Zeus, Apollo, the bronze soldier helmet of General Miltiades responsible for the famous victory at Marathon in 490 BC., as well as many other things.
Before arriving at the hotel right in the modern city of Olympia, we enjoyed 45 minutes of walking the quiet streets and shops. Upon checking in to the hotel, we once again enjoyed dinner together.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16: MYCENAE, CORINTH, ATHENS
Today was our last day of our Greece-mainland tour, and it was another great one! The weather would once again be perfect, with sun and blue skies, and temps in the 80s. The weather has provided clear visibilities the entire trip so far! Thanks be to God for this blessing!
Leaving our hotel around 8 a.m., we drove along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea as well as through the scenic mountains of the Peloponnese for about 2 hours to Mycenae. Unlike some of the classical and biblical sites we have seen so far, this site takes us back to about 1,400 BC. The site resembles an Old Testament tel, in certain ways, in Israel. Fortified by a huge stone wall around the city and the famous Lion’s Gate, we ascended up to the top. The views in all directions were fantastic. Just inside the gate we saw what is left of one of ten circular beehive tombs. It was here where the famous gold masks were discovered! Nearby we actually walked into one of this tombs, the famous tomb of Agamemnon (dating to around 1,250 BC).
What makes this site so interesting is the theory that the Mycenaeans were the Aegean area forerunners to the Philistines of the Old Testament (some would suggest the Minoans were as well). In either case, people migrated to Israel from somewhere in this Aegean area.
After seeing the site, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the small town of Mycenae.
About 30 minutes away is the impressive New Testament site of Corinth. Paul spent a year and a half here during his second missionary journey. While there was Jewish population that lived here in Paul’s day, the city was quite pagan, with 14 temples. We read from Acts 18 and 2 Corinthians 4 by the bema overlooking the forum. Paul would have addressed people here. Gallio also would have spoken from here when address the accusations about Paul. The bema was where judgement was pronounced.
At the site we saw the Temple of Apollo (now with only 7 pillars of the 30 still standing, it dates to the 6th century BC), the cardo (or main north-south pavement used by people coming into Corinth from the port), and the area sacrificial meat was sold (1 Cor. 10). We also saw the recent inscription of a man named Erastus (Romans 16:24). He was Corinth’s director of public works.
Upon leaving the site, we drove up to the acropolis of Corinth. While we could not enter due to being closed, the view from here was spectacular!
On our way to Athens, we stopped briefly to see the Corinthian Canal. This canal joins the Adriatic (Ionian) Sea with the Aegean Sea. It is 3.4 miles in length, 80 feet wide, 280 feet high, with the water level only 26 feet. At the eastern end of the canal is Cenchrea. From this small harbor Paul ended his second journey and sailed back to Jerusalem.
After crossing this canal, we drove about an hour, arriving at our hotel in Athens about 6:45. We checked in and enjoyed dinner together. About half the group then walked after dinner to the Parliamentary Building to watch the changing of the royal guards! We returned to the hotel, looking forward to the start of our four day cruise tomorrow morning!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17: START OUR 4-NIGHT AEGEAN-MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE
Today started earlier for 12 in the group, while the others enjoyed a relaxing and casual morning. Today was there start of our four-day Aegean-Mediterranean cruise to the islands of Greece! The weather was sunny, with highs in the 80s.
For 12 in the group, we got up early to hike to the top of Mt. Lycabetus. Leaving at 6:15 we made it to the top just after 7 a.m. Wow… what a great view we had no only of the sunrise but of Athens too! In the distance was the Acropolis. We came back to the hotel to enjoy with the rest of the group a “scenic breakfast” on the top floor of the hotel. From here we could see both the Acropolis and Mar’s Hill (we will visit the site on Friday after the cruise).
Boarding the Cruise
Leaving at 9:30 from the hotel, we arrived at the port of Piraeus for check-in for the ship. Everything went smoothly as we boarded. Following the mandatory safety / life-jacket procedures, we enjoy lunch and a relaxing afternoon.
About 6 p.m. we arrived at the island of Mykonos. We took tender boats from the ship to the picturesque harbor. We then walked with Costos through the maze of shops to the famous windmills of the islands. The sunset was incredible! With the white houses, blue roofs, and windmills, Mykonos gave us a good first taste of the classic Greek islands!
We returned back on the ship on our own. Tonight we “sail” through the night to Kusadasi, a port on the western coast to Turkey, and a visit to Ephesus.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18: KUSADASI, EPHESUS, PATMOS
This morning we arrived in another country, the western coastline of Turkey! Sailing all night while we were sleeping, we enjoyed breakfast in the Turkish port of Kusadasi. Once again, we were blessed with another full sunny day, with perfect temps in the 80s.
Waiting our turn to disembark from the ship, we finally left the ship and boarded our bus to take us to Ephesus. This is the premier site in all of Turkey. On the way to this impressive archaeological site, our local guide, Eylem (uniquely, a Turkish Christian actually) introduced us to his country.
Upon arriving at Ephesus, we walked down through primarily Roman excavations. The site was first excavated in 1878, with only 20% of the city being uncovered to date. During it’s prime, up to 250,000 people lived in Ephesus. We saw many ruins, including the terrace houses, arches, marble stone, the Library of Celsus, and the large theater that could hold 25,000 people. This is where we read about Paul’s mission here from Acts 19. It was in the theater where people shouted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” for two hours! Despite these religious and cultural challenges, Paul served here for three years.
We boarded back on the ship about 12:30 and had lunch. This afternoon we sailed to Patmos, an beautiful island not far from the coastline of Turkey. We disembarked by using tender boats once again. While only a traditional site, we visited the Grotto of the Apocalypse and the Monastery of St. John. The views from the upper part of the island were stunning! It was here where the apostle John was exiled and had his vision about Revelation (Rev. 1:9).
After seeing these two places, we enjoyed some free time in the port area before tendering back to the ship at our leisure. We returned for dinner and some of the night events on the ship. During the night we sail to Rhodes!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19: RHODES, LINDOS
Today was a full day on one island, Rhodes! We docked right inside what used to be the Colossus, a 95 foot statue marking the entrance into the harbor (it was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). What a pretty island this is. Today was also our warmest day, with highs around 90 with full sun. We made the most of our day!
Rhodes – Lindos
First we enjoyed a later breakfast while most on the ship departed on paid excursions. So at 8:30 we all departed for the other side of this island. Our destination was Lindos. Arranging a private bus, we drove an hour along the southeastern coastline to one of the three great cities in Hellenistic days. As we approached the city, we could already see the towering acropolis.
From our drop-off point, we walked to the base of the acropolis before ascending to the top, about a 350 foot climb! The view of Paul’s Bay” was magnificent from the top! The archaeology was impressive as well. In the 4th century a grand Temple of Athena stood here. The perimeter of the temple and the steps leading to it still are visible. Surrounding the acropolis today are the Crusader walls built by the Knights of St. John. These were crusaders who developed Rhodes as a fortress from 1307 to 1523 when Suleman the Great (the Ottoman ruler) took the city.
Rhodes – the Port
About 12:30, we met our bus and drove back to the port. Here with Costos’ help we explored the Old City of Rhodes, with walls dating to the Crusader period (and later modified by the Ottomans in the 16th century) and built by the same Knights. We saw the Palace of the Knights of St John as well as walked up the Knight’s Street. The walls of the Old City traverse about 3 miles around the city here. We enjoyed the many shops and most had a bit to eat here before we boarded the ship by 5 p.m.
On board we enjoyed dinner and then gathered up on the deck at about 7 p.m. to watch the sunset. It was a great day here on Greece’s third largest island!
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20: HERAKLION, KNOSSOS CRETE / SANTORINI
Today we awoke at our arrival time into the harbor of Heraklion on Greece’s largest island, Crete. About 600,000 people live here (more like a million in the summer). The weather was a mix of sun and clouds today, with temps in the 80s.
After breakfast we departed the ship and boarded our bus to the Knossos Palace. The ancient Minoans established this site in about 3,000 BC (contemporary with Abraham in Mesopotamia). The best preserved ruins that we saw date to around 2,000 BC when the palace was rebuilt. The ancient Minoan civilization came to an end in about 1450 BC due to the volcano eruption at Santorini.
At this archaeological site we saw the throne rooms of King Minos and the queen, many colorful frescos on the walls of other buildings, uniquely shaped pillars, and large clay pithio (storage) jars. Most of these ruins have been reconstructed with only replicas of the frescos. The palace was designed as a labyrinth.
Following visiting the archaeological sites, we bused back to the center square of the port city of Heraklion. 180,000 people live in this city. We enjoyed about an hour of exploring the shops and stores on our own. Some in the group purchased the famous olive oil. The island produces some of the best olive oil in all of Greece here. Part of the modern city is still surrounded by the Venetian walls dating to the early 13th century (1204 AD). Also, a Venetian harbor-fortress is also still standing out along the blue-green waters of the Aegean Sea. Later on, the Ottomans would occupy Crete in 1669.
We boarded back on the ship about 11:30 for lunch and a free afternoon.
About 3:45 the much-anticipated arrival to one of Greece’s most beautiful islands came. Santorini is an island built high on the cliffs of an ancient volcano that erupted in 1,450 BC. As the ship slowly sailed into and set anchor in the bowl of what was a volcanic mountain, the scenery was breathtaking! From here we took tender boats to the shoreline.
Upon reaching the shoreline at about 5:30 some ascended to the top by cable car, while others walked up the donkey path. From here we ventured off on our own, taking in spectacular views of this city built literally on the rim and top of the mountain. The sunset was equally incredible out over the sea. Many took the time to grab a bite to eat in one of the many “restaurants with a view” of the water below. Even after the sun set, the lights of Santorini are amazing to encounter!
On our own we made our way back to the tender boats and to the ship. We picked up our passports from the reception and retired for the evening. Tomorrow we arrive back in Piraeus, the port of Athens for our last day of touring this capital city of Greece.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: PIREAUS, ATHENS: ACROPOLIS, MAR’S HILL, FREE AFTERNOON
Today was our last full day. After “sailing” all night, we arrived in Piraeus, the port of Athens, around breakfast time. The full sun and warm temps (in the 80s) greeted us again, making for an entire trip without any rain.
Athens – Acropolis & Hill of Aeropagus (Mar’s Hill)
After disembarking the ship in a somewhat orderly fashion, we were met by Aliki (our guide) and Costos (our driver) with big smiles and open arms! Leaving the port, we began our city tour of Athens.
After battling the morning Athenian traffic, we arrived at the base of the Acropolis. For sure, this is the highlight site of Athens! The Parthenon and the Erechtheum all reflect the magnificent Golden Age of Athens (480-400 BC)! There were temples on top of the Acropolis prior to this age, but the Persians raised the city and burned the temples in 480 BC.
Walking to the top we passed by the small odium (theater), the Nike shrine, and the Propylea (pillared gateway to the top). The pillars are massive. On top, the Erechtheum was the most important shrine on top. Athena, Posedein, and Erechtos were honored here.
The Parthenon was built over the course of 10 years (447-438 BC). Another 5-6 years were needed for finishing the final facade/decoration, making this building project complete in 432 BC. The architect was Phidias and it was built with the best of 4,000 people. The number of pillars of the Parthenon were 17 on the long side, and 8 on the short, following the Golden ratio. Optical illusions were also used. With the columns leaning inward slightly, and the middle 4th and 5th row of the column being positioned a little wider than the base ones, the temple was built to look at perfect as possible. A 40 foot high statue of Athena (Mernerva in Latin) stood inside the temple. It was made of one ton of gold!
From here we descended the Acropolis and climbed the Hill of Aeropagus (Mars Hill). An airshow of some kind gave us a good glimpse of Greece’s version of the “blue angels.” We read from Acts 17 and Romans 1 here as we considered Paul’s strategy in sharing the Good News here in this very “religiously-pagan” city. Upon hearing Paul’s message, a number become believers!
Afternoon in Athens
Meeting the bus below once again, we passed by the Temple of Zeus (2nd century AD), the Olympic stadium (re-built in 1896 for the first modern-day Olympics) and the Parliament building on our yea back to the hotel. The afternoon was free for us to eat lunch and explore on our own, visit the National Archaeological Museum (to see the golden masks of Mycenae, an altar found in the agora of Athens similar to what Paul referred to in Acts 17, among many other things), or nap. We gathered at 7p.m for our farewell dinner in the hotel. Tonight was our last night in Greece as we fly home tomorrow morning!
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22: FLIGHT HOME
Today most in the group flew home. We arrived back in the States following a 10 hour flight.