Athens: May 12—17, 2018
Pre-trip to Circumnavigation of the Peloponnese
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This optional pre-trip to our Circumnavigation of the Peloponnese cruise completes the Greece experience, featuring iconic temple ruins, lovely scenery, and superb birding opportunities.
An optional pre-trip to Greece’s capital city provides an excellent complement to our 2018 cruise: Greece: Circumnavigation of the Peloponnese. While Athens today is clearly Greece’s largest and most important city, it was also the wealthiest and most influential city state in Classical times (fifth-fourth centuries B.C.E.). Our program combines visits to two of the country’s most revered archaeological sites and other historical locations with several birding field trips to destinations outside of the city.
For first-time visitors, a trip to Athens is highlighted by the pilgrimage to the Acropolis, the most instantly recognizable landmark in Greece. We will spend our first afternoon together at the ancient hilltop citadel meandering among the remains of the magnificent structures for which the site is so justly famous. A guided interpretive walk will focus on the timeless monuments constructed to honor the Olympian gods worshipped by the ancient Greeks. Our tour will also incorporate a visit to the Theater of Dionysus Eleutheris, which is considered the first theater in Greece. On another morning we’ll make our way to the Agora, the primary site of public assembly in ancient Athens and the center of administrative, judicial, and social activity during the Classical era, including during the times of Socrates and Plato.
Complementing our focus on the iconic historical sites, we’ll visit a variety of habitats and ecosystems outside the city in pursuit of specialty nesting birds and late-season migrants. We will head to the slopes of Mount Hymettus, a 3,000 ft. limestone massif offering superb views of the Athens city center, as well as habitat for nesting dry-country birds. Among the many possible species we’ll encounter are an array of birds with limited ranges in far southeastern Europe including Rueppell’s and Eastern Orphean warblers, Woodchat Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear, and many others. We’ll travel to the low-lying coastal community of Marathon to search for waterbirds and dry-country landbirds. Ferruginous Duck, Little Egret, Short-toed Eagle, Gray Heron, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Blue Rock-Thrush, and Cretzchmar’s and Black-headed buntings are all prized species that occur in the region. An added bonus is a visit to the famous battlefield where the Athenian army defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.E.
Our last full day in the field blends birding and history along the east and south coast of Attica. At Vravrona we’ll view the Temple of Artemis, seeking special birds such as Squacco Heron, Long-legged Buzzard, European Turtle-Dove, Red-rumped Swallow, and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler among others, while a day-ending trip to Cape Sounio features the dramatic Temple of Poseidon and chances for Eleonora’s Falcon and Pallid Swift.
A multi-themed tour program blends history and culture of the ancient Greeks with birding and natural history observation; excellent accommodations and food; guided walking tours and birding excursions; lots of walking and standing; warm and dry conditions expected.