Set sail on an extraordinary journey through four of the most celebrated Greek islands: Crete, Patmos, Rhodes, and Santorini. Each island stands as a distinct jewel in the crown of the Greek archipelago, offering unforgettable experiences and breathtaking scenery. From the rich history of Crete to the spiritual ambiance of Patmos, the medieval charm of Rhodes, and the romance of Santorini's sunsets, you’ll never forget the magic of cruising through the stunning Aegean Sea. Join us as we delve into the Greek island cruise portion of our Turkey & Greece small group tour.
Greek Island Cruise: Where do we go?
Welcome to Patmos, often referred to as the "Holy Island" among the Greek islands for its profound ties to Christianity. It was here that John of Patmos, also known as John the Apostle, is believed to have received his apocalyptic visions which were transcribed into the Book of Revelation, the final chapter of the New Testament. This serene gem in the Aegean Sea is distinguished by its deep spiritual resonance, beckoning both pilgrims and travellers alike to explore not only its breathtaking landscapes, but also its sacred Christian legacy.
Monastery of Saint John
Monastery of Saint John, Patmos by Valeria Casali
Monastery of Saint John, Patmos by CaptSpaulding
Perched on the top of a hill in the island’s capital of Chora stands the Monastery of Saint John, a marvel of Byzantine architecture. Dedicated to the ‘beloved disciple’ in 1088, this Greek Orthodox monastery is a testament to the island's profound religious heritage. Within its ancient, fortified walls you’ll find wall paintings and frescoes from the Middle Ages, priceless manuscripts, and ritualistic artwork and objects, providing insight into the rich religious history of the Greek island. Both the Monastery of Saint John and the Cave of the Apocalypse were declared UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites in 1999.
Cave of the Apocalypse
Cave of the Apocalypse Building, Patmos by Simon Jenkins
Cave of the Apocalypse Interior, Patmos by Felipe Tofani
Following his exile from Rome, John the Apostle took refuge in what is now known as the Cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos. It is said that within the cave, that John heard the voice of God from a crevice in the cave’s rugged walls, unveiling the extraordinary events of the apocalypse. These visions would ultimately be transcribed into the Book of Revelation, a pivotal chapter in the New Testament. Today travellers can make their own pilgrimage to this holy site to see the rock that served as the saint’s pillow and the three narrow openings in the rock representing the Holy Trinity from where he heard the voice.
Crete by Eleni Afiontzi
Resting in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, Crete is the largest and most populated of the Greek islands, and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. Beyond its breathtaking natural beauty, Crete is a treasure trove of history and culture, serving as the birthplace of the ancient Minoan civilisation. This advanced and mysterious society that once thrived on the island during the Bronze Age reached its peak around 2,000 BC with an estimated population of 18,000 inhabitants. The remnants of this civilisation, such as the Knossos Palace, serve as a testament to Crete's historical importance. The island's history is multifaceted, with influences from various civilisations, including the Minoans, Venetians, Ottomans, and Greeks. This rich heritage has left an indelible mark on the island's architecture, cuisine, and way of life.
Knossas Palace, Crete by Shadowgate
Dolphin Fresco in Knossos Palace, Crete by Jebulon
In the island's capital, Heraklion, lies one of the world's ancient marvels – the legendary Palace of Knossos. This significant archaeological site once stood at the heart of the Minoan civilisation, under the rule of King Minos, and where, according to legend, the mythical Minotaur lurked within the labyrinth beneath the palace. Today, the well-preserved ruins offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into the past, from the stunning Throne Room decorated with frescoes of griffins, to the Fresco Gallery housing replicas of Knossos’s most famous pieces.
Chania Old Town
Chania, one of Crete's charming cities, boasts a well-preserved Old Town that encapsulates the island's diverse heritage. Its narrow streets are lined with Venetian, Ottoman, and Neoclassical architecture, creating a unique blend of cultures. The Venetian harbour and the impressive lighthouse add to its historical appeal.
Rhodes by Sacha Bunnik
Nestled in the southeastern Aegean Sea, Rhodes is the largest and historically the most important of the Dodecanese islands and is renowned for its compelling blend of ancient history, pristine beaches, and buzzing nightlife. Rhodes boasts a legacy dating back to antiquity, including one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes. This mammoth statue, representing the Greek sun god Helios, once stood proudly at the island's gateway, towering over the city at an impressive height of 33 meters – a stature akin to the modern Statue of Liberty from base to crown. Although the Colossus collapsed during an earthquake in 226 BC, its legacy as the tallest statue in the ancient world ensures its enduring legend.
Palace of the Grand Master
Street of the Knights, Rhodes by Sacha Bunnik
Palace of the Grand Master, Rhodes by Sacha Bunnik
Waiting at the end of the Street of the Knights in the Old Town of Rhodes, you’ll find the Palace of the Grand Master. This imposing fortress was built in the 14th century to serve as the residence of the Knights of Saint John, who ruled Rhodes from 1309 to 1522. Following the Ottoman occupation of Rhodes in 1522, the palace's significance waned and was mainly used as a prison, before an explosion in 1865 reduced the palace to ruins. However, during the Italian occupation in 1937 extensive restoration works were carried out, transforming it into a holiday residence for King of Italy, Victor Emmanual III, and Benito Mussolini. Today travellers can explore the palace, resplendent with mosaics, frescoes, and statues, reflecting the historical influences that have left their mark.
Acropolis of Lindos
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes by Matthew Goulding
Perched on a hill above the village of Lindos in Rhodes, the Acropolis of Lindos is a site of profound historical and architectural importance, founded by the Dorians in the 10th century BC. This Acropolis showcases a blend of architectural styles from various periods, including Hellenistic and Roman, with its most iconic feature being the 4th-century Doric Temple of Athena Lindia. Travellers who make the ascent can explore remarkably well-preserved ruins, from the temple, the grand Propylaea, the Hellenistic stoa with its colonnaded walkway, and the formidable medieval fortifications. The breathtaking panoramic views from this vantage point are a bonus, offering stunning views of the Aegean Sea and the village of Lindos below.
Conjuring images of whitewashed walls, blue tiled roofs and the sun sinking into the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, Santorini needs no introduction. The Cycladic gem sits in the Aegean Sea, roughly halfway between Athens and Crete, beckoning travellers to immerse themselves in this must-visit destination.
Oia, Santorini by Michaela Loheit
The picturesque village of Oia hugs the cliff face, producing some of the most scenic photos ever taken. Exploring this charming village is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any visit to Santorini. A winding pathway meanders through the village along the cliff face, dotted with a delightful array of cafes, shops, and bars. It provides the perfect setting to relax, savour local delicacies, and, of course, to witness the legendary Santorini sunset.
The Volcano of Santorini
The allure of Santorini extends beyond its Instagram-worthy sunsets and idyllic villages. This iconic island is also home to a remarkable natural wonder - its volcano. The volcanic caldera, a submerged crater, played a pivotal role in shaping Santorini's current crescent shape. After a cataclysmic eruption, the caldera gradually filled with seawater, leaving behind the island's distinct form. Travellers can embark on boat tours to explore the volcano and its hot springs, an adventure that provides a thrilling glimpse into the island's fiery past. Hiking to the summit of the volcanic islands, Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni, is an experience that offers panoramic views of the caldera and an understanding of the geological forces that shaped this magnificent island.
Each island is a treasure waiting to be discovered, and our Turkey & Greece small group tour offers the perfect opportunity to explore them all. Don't miss the chance to be seduced by Crete, Patmos, Rhodes, and Santorini on a Greek island cruise—an adventure of a lifetime.