Classic Mythology of Greece and the Holy Land of Israel: Icons of the Ancient World

Crossing the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece to Israel is a route featuring some of the world’s symbolic legends of history. With Windstar’s Icons of the Ancient World: Greece & Israel cruise, discover Greek mythology, holy sites and landmarks across the Mediterranean Sea.

Starting in Israel, walk in the footsteps of Jesus from the gardens of Gethsemane to the last five stations of the cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Explore Jewish culture at the Western Wall, or visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Baha’i Hanging Gardens and Masada. Visit the monasteries and castles of Cyprus and wander the Knossos Palace and the temples of Delos in Greece. 

With so much history and countless archaeological wonders to explore, here are some of the highlights:

Haifa, Israel

Haifa serves as a gateway to Jerusalem and Petra, and Windstar’s overnight in Israel’s third-largest city gives you the chance to do it all.

Explore the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Mount Carmel, or the tranquil Sea of Galilee and Tiberias, considered one of Judaism’s four holy cities. Visit the lush countryside of the Golan Heights, or pay homage to the burgeoning Baha’i faith at the Baha’i Hanging Gardens.

Just a few hours away, spend the day exploring Jerusalem as you walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent the last moments before his arrest. See the last five of the Stations of the Cross before arriving at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Then, immerse yourself in Judaism in the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall. Or go further afield with an excursion to the healing waters of the Dead Sea or the rose-colored city cliffs of Petra.

Ashdod, Israel

Located 80 miles south of Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, Ashdod is one of the oldest cities in the world, and it serves as another gateway to Jerusalem.

Take in the ancient city’s attractions at the ruins of the Ashdod Citadel, snap photos at the Eye of the Sun sculpture, or climb Giv’at Yonah, the highest point in the city, which offers stunning 360-degree views.

If you spent your time in Haifa on the first few days, head to the old city of Jerusalem for a deep dive into Christianity and Judaism. Visit the holy sites of Bethlehem like the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born, or Rachel’s Tomb, a biblical matriarch held in esteem by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Take a cable car up to Masada, an ancient fortress built around 30 B.C. that overlooks the Dead Sea. If relaxation is the goal, take in the healing waters of the Dead Sea, or visit the hot springs and nature preserve of Ein Gedi. 

Limassol, Cyprus

After leaving Israel’s coast, your Windstar yacht will stop at the island of Cyprus. Known for its centuries-old archaeology, beautiful beaches and rich textile and pottery culture, the city of Limassol combines history and modernity.

The Archaeological Museum of Limassol features exhibits from the Neolithic to the Roman periods, while the Municipal Folk Art Museum offers a Cypriot folk art collection, including garments and national costumes, embroidery, wood carvings, furniture, agricultural tools and utensils, and jewelry.

For history buffs, don’t miss the 12th century Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery, dedicated to Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate, or the medieval Limassol and Kolossi castles. The ancient city of Kourion is a UNESCO-protected archaeology park, including a Greco-Roman theatre and the ruins of the House of Eustolio.

For something unique, head to the harbor town of Paphos, a popular holiday resort that is home to the House of Dionysus and its breathtaking floor mosaics, which are considered some of the finest in the Mediterranean.

Rhodes, Greece

With an overnight on the Greek island of Rhodes, there is plenty of time to explore the medieval city, ancient acropolis, and stunning beaches, as well as get a taste of Greek cuisine.

Start out exploring Old Town, including its historically significant Jewish Quarter, the Turkish District, the Mosque of Suleiman, the Palace of the Grand Masters, and the Knight’s Hospital, considered the Old City’s most well-preserved building. 

Head to Lindos on the east coast of Rhodes to explore the Acropolis, including the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, a Byzantine church, the remains of the Governor’s quarters, and breathtaking views of St. Paul’s Bay. 

For a more cultural take on the city, sign up for a Greek cooking class at a local taverna, or learn how to make Rhodian pottery at Bonis Ceramic Workshop.

Heraklion, Greece

The capital city of the Greek island of Crete, Heraklion is a mecca for Minoan and Venetian architecture and history. The main attraction is Knossos Palace, which dates back 4,000 years, making Knossos the oldest city in Europe. Unearthed by British archaeologists at the turn of the 19th century, the 1,300-room palace was constructed as a labyrinth to confine the mythological Minotaur. Today, the palace features excavated and reconstructed living quarters, storerooms, workshops, theaters and more. Don’t miss the nearby Archaeological Museum of Heraklion for a deeper dive into Minoan civilization.

In town, be sure to visit the many ancient cathedrals and churches, or enjoy a local cheese pastry while admiring the Venetian Morosini Fountain at Lion’s Square.

Mykonos, Greece

One of Greece’s most photographed islands, Mykonos is a postcard-like scene of whitewashed buildings, blue-domed churches, and thatch-roofed windmills. Head to the bay to watch local fishermen work on their colorful fishing boats, or drop into one of the charming cafés on the streets of Little Venice for a taste of a Greek delicacy or a glass of ouzo.

For something more exotic, take a ferry to Delos, the mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and now a veritable island museum. Explore the ruins of the Sanctuary of Apollo, the Sacred Precinct, Sacred Lake and its famous marble lions, the amphitheater, the Temple of Isis, and the remnants of the opulent houses of the Theatre Quarter. 

For foodies, immerse yourself in Mykonos hospitality with a cooking class.

Athens, Greece

A trip to Greece isn’t complete without visiting the capital of Athens, which is considered the birthplace of Western civilization. Be sure to set aside a few days to explore this vibrant and cosmopolitan city. 

Head to the Acropolis and discover its architectural masterpieces, including the Parthenon, the statues of The Porch of the Caryatids, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater and the Temple of Athena Nike. The neighboring Acropolis Museum has every artifact found in the ruins of the Acropolis and helps put this archaeological wonder into perspective. 

Wander through the narrow lanes and the city’s charming squares, or stop by the bustling cafés of the Plaka. Visit the flea market in the Monastiraki district and pick up jewelry, pottery or a set of Greek komboloi (worry beads), the perfect souvenir icon of the ancient world.

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