Holidays arent just about lazing about on the beach anymore.
The world of travel is opening up more and more doors to the intrepid adventurer these days, and its easier than ever to fit more into your time away. Whether its day excursions to historic sites led by experts in the field, or hands-on craft workshops hosted by local artisans, adding a little enlightenment to your vacation has never been more accessible.
And if youre keen to go even further and travel to more than one country during your holiday, thats becoming more straightforward too. Take the Three Continents itinerary from Celestyal Cruises. This seven-day trip takes you on a tour of the ancient world, enabling you to step back in time and fully immerse yourself in the different cultures and histories of four enthralling destinations: Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Greece. Its the perfect adventure whether youre looking for winter sun over the Christmas period or a fun-filled summer holiday.
All this without the added hassle of arranging transfers and accommodation makes this a pretty sweet deal – but thats not all. Here, we show you exactly what to expect on what is, quite possibly, the coolest holiday itinerary ever.
The adventure begins in Athens, birthplace of theatre, culture and democracy.
Theres flexibility to spend the whole day here before you set off on your voyage, and there are incredible things to see and do within easy reach of the port. For example, just a 15-minute train journey away is the Acropolis, locally known as the Sacred Rock.
Sitting above the city since the 5th century BC, this iconic site was once a buzzing centre where market traders haggled in the shadows of magnificent statues and temples. Throughout its diverse history, many of its gems have fallen to decay or now live in museums around the world, but there are still many exciting things to discover.
The Parthenon, the once grand temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, patron deity of Athens, is perhaps the most famous of the sites. But make sure you get a look at the fascinating Tower of the Winds too: a marble structure that is considered to be the oldest meteorological tower in the world, with a weather vane and a sundial to help keep track of the seasons – a real feat of engineering for the time.
A full day of exploring will work up an appetite, and youll be spoilt for choice in Athens for culinary treats. Spinach pies and tomato balls are great options for snacking on the go, while pastitsio – best described as a mix of moussaka and lasagne – will make a filling feast.
Alexandria and Port Said
After a day at sea, youll arrive in Alexandria, Egypts second city. This urban port is now a cosmopolitan wonderland, where youll find world-class restaurants and a mixture of bustling markets and high-end retailers. But there are still traces of the ancient capital to explore.
Once home to the Great Library and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the city has been the epitome of extravagance and splendour since it was founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and there are plenty of museums and tours you can do to learn all about its own past and that of wider Egypt.
In fact, while youre in town, join an excursion to nearby Cairo, just 2 hours away, and come face-to-face with the Great Pyramids of Giza – the only surviving wonder of the Seven Wonders of the World. Built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu over 4,000 years ago, the pyramids are still standing strong, and you can wander the corridors inside and explore these architectural wonders firsthand.
Alexandrias also near Port Said, home of the Suez Canal. Bask in the sun and enjoy views across the glittering Mediterranean while taking in the glory of this feat of human engineering.
Heading east along the coast, youll arrive in Ashdod, Israel for day four of your cruise.
Today, this city is the perfect base for visiting Jerusalem, where you can dip beneath the pavement and explore Hezekiahs Tunnels, visit the iconic Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall, or climb Mount Zion and enjoy the panoramic views of this city steeped in history.
Whether youre au fait with religious history or not, youll be overcome by the incredible energy of this city and its inhabitants.
Back in Ashdod, meanwhile, theres plenty of shopping and eating to do. Or you can sign up for an excursion with Celestyal; explore Jaffa and Tel Aviv on a four-and-a-half-hour tour and enjoy a spot of lunch en route.
Up into the heart of the Mediterranean sits the wonderfully sunny island of Cyprus and the town of Limassol.
This island may be small but its history is great, with everyone from the Mycenaeans and Romans to the Ottomans leaving their mark here – and Limassol is one of the best spots on the island to get a flavour for every aspect of this diverse history.
Perhaps the most famous site here is Limassol castle, a Medieval port build under the Ottoman Empire. Today, it houses a museum which boasts an amazing collection of pottery and tombstones from the period; a great mix of art and history for the culture fanatic.
Limassol is also a short drive away from Aphrodites Rock, where it is believed the daughter of the sky first sprung from the sea. Other than being a great spot for holiday snaps, this stretch of coast is defined by pearl-white sands and crystal clear waters – perfect for catching those rays.
Heading back towards Greece and the Aegean, youll arrive in Rhodes on your penultimate day of the cruise, famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, another of the Seven Wonders of the World which depicted the Greek sun god, Helios, deity of the island.
While this grand statue is long gone, the island still holds plenty of allure. Rhodes Town and its Old Harbour for example, are an enchanting maze of winding cobbled streets, Byzantine architecture and Italian-style townhouses. Simply walking around this UNESCO World Heritage site is a pleasure, but if you want more focus to your day here, stop off at the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes to learn about the Jerusalem Knights of the Hospitaller who once ruled the island.