Jewish Heritage Tour of Mainland Greece – and Corfu
Availability: all year round
11 days / 10 nights
Private Tours Available
Highlights: Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioaninna, Corfu, Veroia, Meteora, Vergina, Chalkis, Trikala, Metsovo, Monodendri and more
DAY 1, SUNDAY: Departure from the US
DAY 2, MONDAY: ATHENS
Arrival and hotel accommodation. Depending on arrival time, initial orientation around Athens.
Welcome dinner at a traditional taverna with live music.
Overnight in Athens. Hotel Parthenon or similar.
DAY 3, TUESDAY: ATHENS
Morning orientation at the Jewish museum, lecture on the history of Jewish life in Greece from ancient times to the present. Our Jewish city tour of Athens continues with the Beth Shalom Sephardic Synagogue (1935) as well as the Romaniote Etz Hayim Synagogue (1904), also known as the “Ioannina Synagogue.” We will then visit the Holocaust Memorial. Head on to the Acropolis, the Parthenon gallery, the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athina Nike, and the Propylaia. Other notable sites are the Temple of Olympian Zeus, The Arch of Hadrian, and the Theater of Dionysus.
Overnight in Athens. Hotel Parthenon or similar.
DAY 4, WEDNESDAY: ATHENS
Visit the Athens Jewish community center and meet some of its members. Then enjoy the picturesque historic Plaka neighborhood with its charming narrow streets, cafes, galleries, and restaurants. Stroll through the Monastiraki and Psiri areas, the former home of Athens’ Jewish quarter. Free time to continue enjoying the wealth of culture, history, archaeology, and bustling city life that Athens offers. Overnight in Athens. Hotel Parthenon or similar.
DAY 5, THURSDAY: ATHENS—CHALKIS—trikala
Morning departure for Chalkis by deluxe coach. Chalkis is located about sixty miles northeast of Athens, on the charming island of Euboea. The Chalkis Romaniote Jewish community prides itself for over 2,500 years of continuous existence, one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Europe. Visit the 19th century synagogue on Kotsuo Street and learn about the Chalkis Jewish community. Stop at the monument of Mordehai Frizis, a noted Jewish war hero. The Jewish cemetery in Chalkis is the second-oldest in Greece, with tombstones from the 16th century. We then continue on to Trikala, one of the important historic Jewish centers in Greece. Beautiful Trikala is located on the banks of the Lithaios River and is the administrative center of the Thessaly region. Overnight in Trikala. Hotel Ananti or similar.
DAY 6, FRIDAY: TRIKALA—meteora—metsovo—corfu
Morning city tour of Trikala including a visit to the Romaniote Kal Yavanim Synagogue, located in the heart of the historic Jewish neighborhood. We will also visit the Jewish cemetery and the newly unveiled Holocaust memorial dedicated to the 139 Trikala Jews who perished during the Holocaust. One of the architectural landmarks of Trikala is the 16th century Osman Shah Mosque, the work of the noted Mimar Sinan. We then head to the spectacular monasteries of Meteora, perched atop precipitous rock formations, suspended between earth and sky. Enjoy some truly breathtaking views. Explore the priceless, exquisite specimens of Byzantine art kept at the monasteries. Continue to the lovely mountain village of Metsovo and enjoy its unique mountain-style architecture. Local crafts, handiwork, unique cheeses, and regional wines are all specialties of the place. Afternoon arrival to the bucolic island of Corfu. Optional Kabbalat Shabbat at La Scuola Greca Synagogue. Overnight in Corfu. Corfu Holiday Palace.
DAY 7, SATURDAY: CORFU
Optional Shabbat morning Services. The town of Corfu is flanked by two Venetian fortresses, and you will also recognize the Venetian influence in the local architecture, street layout, and general atmosphere. Jewish presence on this Ionian island dates back to the 12th century, and the community thrived during Venetian rule (14th -18th century). Our walking tour of Corfu includes the lively Liston promenade, the Old Fortress, the Campielo quarter, the Jewish ghetto, and the Holocaust Memorial. A few streets in the old town bear the names of prominent Jews. Free time in the afternoon to enjoy the bazaar alleyways, offering a wealth of olive oils, wood carved olivewood items, and much more. Overnight in Corfu. Corfu Holiday Palace.
DAY 8, SUNDAY: CORFU—IOANNINA
Today we leave Corfu and head to Ioannina, historic home to the largest Romaniote Jewish community. The Romaniotes were the oldest Jewish settlers of the region, their name associated with the Roman Empire. The community in Ioannina preserved its Romaniote identity even after the arrival of the Sephardim, while many Romaniotes elsewhere in Greece were absorbed into the Sephardi majority. Significant numbers of Ioannina Jews settled in Manhattan in the early 1900s. Visit the historic Jewish cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial, walk the streets of the fortified old town and the Jewish neighborhood, and enjoy the lovely scenery of the Pamovits Lake. We also recommend taking a boat ride to the iconic Island on the Lake. Overnight in Ioannina. Hotel Du Lac.
DAY 9, MONDAY: VIKOS GORGE—MONODENDRI—IOANNINA
Today we drive north to one of Greece’s most impressive natural sites – the Vikos Gorge. Part of the Pindus Mountains, the Vikos Gorge is one of the world’s deepest canyons. The region is also home to some of the most pristine mountain villages in Greece, where old ways of life and traditions have been wonderfully preserved. We will walk through the streets of the enchanting Monodendri stone village (located at an elevation of 3500 ft.) Visit the 15th century Monastery of Ayia Paraskevi and enjoy splendid panoramic views of the gorge. Return to Ioannina for free time in the afternoon. Overnight in Ioannina. Hotel Du Lac
DAY 10, TUESDAY: VERGINA—VEROIA—THESSALONIKI
As we depart Ioannina, our first visit for the day will be Vergina (Aigai) – one of the country’s most spectacular archaeological sites! We’ll explore the Royal Tombs of the ancient Macedonian kings, including the tomb of Philip II. Our next stop will be the charming nearby town of Veroia, where Jews fist settled in the 1st century BCE. As he did in Thessaloniki, St. Paul also visited Veroia and preached in the local synagogue. The Jewish neighborhood has some stately large mansions, and the Veroia synagogue – dating back to the mid 19th century – has a truly unique appeal. In the afternoon we continue on to beautiful Thessaloniki (Salonika). Greece’s second largest city and port has a long and rich history. Of specific interest to us is the arrival of some 20, 000 Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century, inaugurating a period of vibrant religious and cultural Sephardic activity. Overnight in Thessaloniki. City Hotel – a modern, upscale hotel located in the heart of the city center.
DAY 11, WEDNESDAY: THESSALONIKI
We have a busy day to explore – by bus and on foot – much of what Jewish Thessaloniki has to offer. Salonika’s thriving Sephardic culture, at its creative peak in the 16th century, earned the city the monikers “Madre de Israel” (“Mother in Israel”) and “Jerusalem of the Balkans.” By the early 1920s, the majority of the population was Jewish, and roughly 50,000 Jews lived here when the Germans arrived in 1941. We’ll visit Salonika’s two synagogues – Monastirioton (1920s) and Yad Lazikaron (1984) – the Jewish community center, and the Jewish museum, located in a historic building. We’ll also explore the Upper City and its lavish Jewish villas, the new monument commemorating the destroyed Jewish cemetery, and we will end our tour at the Byzantine Walls, from where you can enjoy fabulous views of the bay. Festive farewell dinner. Overnight in Thessaloniki. City Hotel.
DAY 11, THURSDAY: THESSALONIKI—AIRPORT
Free time and departure back to the USA.
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