Impressions of Life in the Greek Islands

Impressions of Life in the Greek Islands



With six days in Lesvos and five in Chios, we will have time to dig deeper to engage with the totality of the life of the islands. We will visit historic sites and villages, meet with representatives of local non-profit organizations and cooperatives, meet with practitioners of sustainable methods in agriculture and other fields, as well as artisans who work to preserve age-old crafts, learn about the islands’ culinary traditions and participate
in cooking demonstrations, experience the local cuisine and sample locally produced products.

Pricing from
Trip Type
Group Travel Tour, International Land & Rail Voyages
Departure Dates
Jun 4, 2024 - Jun 16, 2024


Accommodations at fine hotels:
Five nights at the Hotel Zaira, Mytilene, Lesvos
One night at the Aeolian Village Hotel, Eresos, Lesvos
Five nights at the Hotel Chandris, Chios.


Before exploring Lesvos and Chios, you may wish to participate in the 2-night optional tour of Athens, where accommodations will be at the Hotel Athens Capital. Arrive in Athens on June 3. Arrangements include airport/hotel transfers and visits to the city’s main classical monuments. On June 5, join the group for the flight to Mytilene.


PAYMENT SCHEDULE: A deposit of $1,000 per person is required to reserve your space on the tour. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Payment can be made by personal check or charged to a credit card.
CANCELLATIONS & REFUNDS: All cancellations are subject to a $300 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received 61-90 days prior to departure will be assessed a penalty equal to 50% of the total program cost per person. Cancellations received within 60 days of departure are subject to 100% cancellation penalties. Requests for cancellations must be made in writing. No refunds will be made for any part of this program in which you choose not to participate.


Greek Islands map


  • day 1


    Depart the United States for Athens, Greece.

  • day 2

    MYTILENE, Lesvos, Greece

    Arrive in Athens and connect with the flight to Mytilene, the vibrant capital of Lesvos, built between the sea and the surrounding hills, on the same site that was occupied by the ancient city. Upon arrival, transfer to the Hotel Zaira, an old olive mill converted to a small hotel, located on the spacious Gulf of Gera.

  • day 3


    Known for its beauty and spaciousness, Lesvos is characterized by a varying landscape that includes a dramatic ancient petrified forest, a profusion of geothermic springs, wetland reed-beds, and rocky steppes that harbor a diversity of bird life and flora. Spread around the island are old bucolic villages and over 11 million olive trees. Inhabited since around 3300 BC, during the Archaic period (beginning of 8th – beginning of 5th centuries BC) Lesvos became the cradle of Greek lyric poetry and music. Sappho, the first, and one of the greatest, female poets of Western literature, and her contemporaries, Alcaeus, Arion and Terpander, were from Lesvos. This literary tradition has continued to our day: Lesvos has produced some of Greece’s greatest modern writers and poets. After a morning lecture that will introduce us to the island’s history and other subjects of interest, drive to the nearby village of Vareia to visit two interesting museums: the Theophilos Museum, which exhibits paintings of Theophilos, Greece’s most endearing folk artist; and the Teriade Collection, which displays works by early 20th-century masters, including Picasso, Miro, Matisse, Chagall and Giacometti. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to Mytilene to explore the Byzantine-Genoese castle and its historic district, the church of Aghios Therapon, with its interesting Byzantine Museum, and the Old and New Archeological Museums.

  • day 4


    Explore today west Lesvos, whose rugged terrain reveals the volcanic origins of the island. Leave the hotel in the morning. After a stop at the town of Kalloni, continue to the seaside site of ancient Eresos, the birthplace of Sappho, and the 4th-century BC philosopher Theophrastus, who is considered the father of botany. Little remains of the ancient city, but the early Christian basilica of St. Andrew of Crete (5th century AD) is of interest. Continue to nearby modern-day Eresos, founded in the Middle Ages on the side of a hill, and known for its distinctive stone architecture. Amazingly, Lesvos is covered with more than 11 million olive trees that produce high quality olive oil. We will visit a magnificent private olive estate that is spread along a headland that overlooks the Aegean Sea, and will be hosted by the owner, Mrs. Fotini Tripintiri. Here, we will tour the olive grove’s facilities, enjoy lunch, learn about the health benefits of olive, and have an olive oil tasting. Nearby is the fascinating Petrified Forest, which we will visit in the afternoon, along with the Natural History Museum. To ease the pace of our exploration of west Lesvos, we will spend the night at the beachfront Aeolian Village Hotel.

  • day 5


    Leave the hotel in the morning for the Monastery of Leimonos. Dating to the 16th-century, the monastery houses an important collection of icons and manuscripts. Continue to Mesa, perhaps the most important ancient sanctuary of Lesvos, whose existence goes back to at least the 7th century BC, although the remains of the site visible today date mostly from the 4th century BC. For lunch, we will drive to Ayasos, where we will also spend the afternoon. Nestled in a wooded valley on the side of Mount Olympos, Ayasos is undoubtedly one of the most striking villages of the island. The narrow cobbled alleyways of Ayasos are lined with stone houses and artisanal workshops, while the church of Panaghia, which dates from the 1100s, houses an icon supposedly painted by the Evangelist Luke. Free time will be provided to explore this beautiful village before returning to the Hotel Zaira.

  • day 6


    Lesvos is famed for its therapeutic hot springs, and this morning we will visit the gentle Thermal Spa of Yera, where two ornate spouts feed 100 degrees Fahrenheit water to marble-lined pools in vaulted chambers. Those who wish may take a relaxing warm bath in the separate facilities for men and women. Lesvos is equally famous throughout Greece for its production of ouzo, the national drink of the country, an apéritif flavored with anise or fennel seed. The nearby seaside town of Plomari is the center of the island’s ouzo production, and we will have the opportunity to learn about ouzo and also taste it at one of the town’s distilleries. End today’s activities with a cooking lesson and demonstration that will highlight the island’s cuisine.

  • day 7


    Explore north Lesvos, a fertile and green countryside blanketed with poplars and olive groves. Stop at the beautiful hill village of Sykaminia, and then drive the short road down to its picturesque small fishing harbor. Continue to Methymna, also known as Molyvos, Lesvos’ prettiest old town. Built between the sea and a headland that is crowned with a striking castle that was built by the Byzantines in the 14th century, the town’s stone houses with red-tiled roofs and gardens full of flowers cascade down to the shore. Explore this magnificent place, including the castle, and enjoy lunch at a seaside taverna. Before returning to the hotel, stop at the hot springs of Thermi, where the water rises to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is said to cure arthritis, rheumatism, and other ailments. Those who wish may take a bath in the warm and therapeutic water.

  • day 8


    Sail from Mytilene to Chios on a ferry (3 hours). Perhaps more than any other Greek island, Chios is a world in itself. Grand and prosperous from antiquity to the present, the island is rich in architecture, flora, notable old villages and monuments, customs and traditions that have been preserved through the centuries. Settled since the Neolithic period, it later attained a high degree of prosperity, and the arts and literature thrived. Homer was reputed to be a native son, and a long list of thinkers, authors and artists hailed from Chios. During our stay in this beautiful island, we will learn about its history, customs and traditions, and its unique product, the mastic resin, explore its countryside, and visit its historic monuments and old villages. Our home in Chios will be the seaside Hotel Chandris.

  • day 9


    After a morning lecture on the history of Chios and other aspects of life on the island that will take place at the historic Korais Library, explore the fortified castle. Dating mostly to the 14th century, within its walls is the town’s still inhabited old quarter, with its narrow streets and characteristic houses. Visit also the 15th-century Giustiniani Palace, which houses superb Byzantine mosaics that date from the 13th century, and the church of Aghia Myropi and Aghios Isidoros, underneath of which are the remains of an Early Christian basilica. Following a cooking lesson and demonstration, explore Kambos, Chios’s main cultivated area since antiquity, which became especially prominent from the 13th to the 16th centuries, when the island was under the rule of the Genoese. With its narrow lanes, old trees, and gardens, Kambos remains an enchanting place to explore. Visit the small Ypapanti Chapel, whose interior is entirely covered with murals painted in 1963 by Honolulu-born artist Juliette May Fraser, and the 12th-century church of Panaghia Krina.

  • day 10


    Visit in the morning the Archaeological Museum, whose exhibits chronicle the long history of Chios. Then on to the Monastery of Nea Moni, which was built by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI in the 11th century. One of Greece’s most important ecclesiastical Byzantine monuments, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nea Moni is decorated with exquisite mosaics and frescoes. Nearby is Anavatos, a mostly abandoned village that is set dramatically on a precipitous cliff, its narrow pathways lined with stone houses. Continue to the west coast of the island, known for its wild beauty and rich flora. At the attractive village of Lithi, which hugs a small bay, we will enjoy lunch at a seaside taverna. Return to the hotel later in the afternoon.

  • day 11


    Spend the day exploring the northern part of the island, which is known for its scenic beauty. Stop first at the impressive Monastery of Moundon, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Dating to the early 15th-century and commanding beautiful views, the monastery was an important center of learning. Its interior walls are decorated with impressive paintings. Continue to the village of Volissos, the legendary birthplace of Homer. Volissos is crowned with a hilltop castle, and is known for the distinctive architecture of its houses. Chios was famous in antiquity for its wine, which was produced in this area. We will visit the Kefalas Estate, a family-owned vineyard
    and winery that produces wines from indigenous varieties of grapes that relate to the island’s famed wine of the ancient past, and taste its products. Cross to the attractive hillside village of Kardamyla, home to many of Greece’s prominent shipowners, and continue along the coast to Langada and Daskalopetra, where, according to tradition, Homer taught his disciples, before returning to the hotel.

  • day 12


    Drive late in the morning to the island’s south, an area of gentle hills and the only place where the small mastic trees grow and produce the mastic gum, Chios’s emblematic product that was the favorite aromatic gum of Byzantine and Ottoman courts. Stop first at Armolia, an attractive village with a long tradition in the production of ceramics. After lunch, continue to the interesting Chios Mastic Museum to learn about the history, production and uses of mastic, and then explore two of the most prominent and attractive mastic villages, Pyrgi, where the facades of houses are decorated in intricate grey-and-white geometric and other patterns, and Vessa, whose narrow alleyways are lined with houses that contain architectural elements from the Genoese period. Enjoy a farewell dinner in the evening.

  • day 13


    Transfer to the airport for the flight to Athens to connect with flights home.

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