Announcing our upcoming online courses. Sign Up Now
meteora sunset

Secrets of Ancient Civilizations of Greece and Crete

Experience Sacred Monasteries, Holy Week, Greek Mythology, and the Yugas. A transformative pilgrimage to the mystical islands of the Gods.

April 16 to May 2, 2022 – Open to Everyone

Yes, sign me up for email updates about the trip!

Why do Shiva and Poseidon both wield a trident? Is there really a Shiva Lingam in ancient Delphi? Can we find echoes of Saraswati’s divine melodies in the artistry and beauty of the Greek muses?

Join Ananda College for 17 inspiring days in Greece and the island of Crete. Together we’ll explore parallels between Greek, Hindu, and Egyptian mythology in a stunning landscape while encountering thousands of years of spiritual practice.  Learn ancient Greek myth, history, and culture while exploring mystic oracles, gleaming temples, and miraculous caves and streams. Most days before breakfast there will be optional led Energization Exercises, chanting, meditation, and healing prayers.

This tour will combine devotional pilgrimage with the teachings of the Yuga Cycles, an area of expertise of Ananda College.

Ananda College studies other cultures from the lens of “The Yuga Cycles of Time,” a circular Vedic calendar that comprises 24,000 year cycles that repeat themselves in ascending and descending “Yugas”. These Vedic cycles show the vast civilizations that have been created, maintained, then destroyed on our planet.  

Itinerary

athens acropolis

Our tour begins in Athens, the ancient and modern capital of Greece. In Athens, we’ll take in the imposing and inspiring Acropolis, the majestic symbol of Classical Greece and its artistic achievements.

We’ll visit the Acropolis Museum and learn about the goddess Athena, plus much more. We’ll stay in a centrally located area within walking distance to the famous Plaka shops and cafes.

dining in athens

There will be time to explore or dine out in the tavernas along the slopes of the Acropolis hill. Our journey will involve daily walks and some easy-moderate hikes. Greek cuisine is very vegetarian-friendly. Most Greeks speak English and are very welcoming to tourists.

ruins at delphi

From Athens, we’ll travel north towards Delphi, a vast site of ancient temples, treasures, and a stadium built on a mountainside overlooking the Corinthian Gulf. In ancient times, Delphi was known as the “navel of the world,” the pinnacle of spiritual and political power.

delphi temple at sunset

In Delphi, we’ll visit the sites of the Delphic Oracle where the priestesses of Apollo prophesied the fate of the Greeks. Delphi is suffused with mystery and natural beauty, located as it is on the slopes of Mount Parnassos. We’ll visit the Corcynan Cave of the nymphs and Muses and weave our own prayers of enchantment. We’ll also take in the Kastalian Spring, the prophetic and purifying waters of the Delphic Oracle.

On the way to Delphi, we’ll see the 10th Century monastery of Saint Luke of Steiris and see a well-preserved Byzantine church and the relics of the saint. The Saint’s relics have been said to heal pilgrims for hundreds of years through spontaneous miracles, dreams, and the healing scent of myrrh. 

kalambaka monastery

From Delphi, we’ll travel to Kalambaka, a small town in central Greece where we will experience the sacred liturgies and practices of Greek Orthodox Holy Week. Kalambaka is the home of the monastery complex of Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where six monasteries are built on tall pillars of rock.

meteora monasteries

We’ll visit these sacred monasteries, and in Kalambaka have the opportunity to experience the passion of Christ and the celebration of the Resurrection in a place of natural beauty, tradition, and spiritual community.

candles holy week

There will be time for meditation, prayer, hikes, and special arts and culinary activities, such as painting our own icons.

knossos crete

Before heading to the island of Crete, we’ll tour south to Athens. Here, we’ll board our overnight ferry cruise to Crete, complete with private cabins, restaurant on board, and an upper deck to take in the sights. We’ll arrive in Heraklion, Crete early the following morning, where we’ll go to a city hotel for breakfast before departing on our tour of Knossos and Heraklion.

beaches in crete

In Crete we will immerse ourselves in the history of the Minoan civilization, a Bronze Age civilization that thrived beginning in 3,500 BC. We’ll chart their rise and fall as we visit their palace complexes and mountain cave shrines, traversing the natural landscape and coastlines of Crete.

crete outdoor dining

Some of the most scenic villages and oceanside dwellings in all the Greek islands exist in Crete. This is where we’ll connect with the laid-back Greek culture, experience Greek dancing and sample Greek cuisine the island is known for.  Here, we’ll also explore the mysteries of Minoan culture and discover some of the little-known spiritual traditions that have persisted since the descending age in the Yuga Cycles of Time. 

dining in greece

We will visit the quaint village of Kritsa where we will have time for lunch and shopping. We’ll also visit the town of Gortyn, a place that was continually occupied since 7000 BC in the Treta Yuga. This is the site where the myth of Zeus and his lover Europa, turned into a bull, supposedly took place. Gortyn is also known as a place where an early Greek law code was discovered. 

crete harbor at sissi

We’ll have 2 free days in Crete to explore additional sites and museums on your own, relax, visit the beach or the spa, and take in the simple and arresting beauty of the Cretan coastline. 

overnight ferry

We’ll take an overnight ferry from Crete to Athens. The overnight ferry offers private cabins with berths, bathroom and shower.

flowers on hillside

Upon returning, we’ll go to a lovely lake with hiking trails and a chance to relax in nature before taking breakfast at our hotel in Athens. That day, there will be free time to explore additional archaeological sites such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus, or the Ancient Agora, and walk through the shops in the Plaka. There will be an option for spa treatments and relaxation. On the evening of May 1st, we’ll have a special farewell dinner in Athens.

Pilgrimage Highlights

From the time we come together as a group on Saturday, April 16 and until we all say goodbye on Monday, May 2nd, we’ll be entering the sacred space of pilgrimage. This is a time to let go and begin to attune ourselves to the places we will visit on our tour.

Each time we go on spiritual pilgrimage, we open ourselves to what Paramhansa Yogananda calls a state of grace. “Expect the miraculous”, Yogananda would say. If we truly live like this we will draw to us little miracles that affirm God’s presence in our lives. This state of grace becomes more magnetic when a group travels together for the express purpose of spiritual attunement.

We invite you to travel with us to Greece and Crete, enjoy the land and the people, and experience a deepening awareness of these sacred sites that will provide spiritually uplifted inspiration for the rest of your life.

Many of the places that we will be visiting have been inhabited with saintly people. We will also visit some places where pilgrims have experienced healings and personal transformation. We’ll hear stories of Greek mythology and we will also be attuning to the higher ages of The Yuga Cycles of Time. Together, perhaps we’ll piece together what may have occurred in some of these higher ages.

A short introduction for travelers to Greece and Crete on “The Yuga Cycles of Time”

By David (Byasa) Steinmetz
Ananda College Professor and co-author of “The Yugas: Keys to Understanding Our Hidden Past, Emerging Present and Future Enlightenment”

The places we visit on a pilgrimage tour are beautiful windows into a variety of cultures and times, but is there a larger picture, one that helps us see how it all fits together? Yes, there is. It is called the Yuga Cycles of Time. Based on ancient knowledge preserved in India and expounded by Swami Sri Yukteswar over a century ago, this model of the evolution of human consciousness provides a framework on which we can hang all sorts of things. The prevailing consciousness of a people finds enduring expression in their art and architecture, history, mythology, language, and literature. We can use these clues and our knowledge of the evolution of consciousness to help us attune to the people and times associated with each place that we visit.

For instance, when we visit Byzantine monasteries, realize that they come from a time, called Kali Yuga, when the general population had a lower, more material consciousness than most people do today, so these monastics isolated themselves to seek a higher consciousness. We can tune into the depth of devotion and strength of determination these people had to have to remove themselves so completely from society.

Most of the sites on this tour are from the age called Dwapara Yuga which preceded the Kali Yuga and followed an age of higher consciousness called the Treta Yuga. Today we are in the lowest part of an ascending Dwapara Yuga, so we might get a glimpse of our own future by tuning into cultures from the higher (i.e. earlier) part of the descending Dwapara Yuga. In general, that age corresponds to the Bronze Age of archaeology.

These considerations enrich our appreciation of the artifacts we see. For example, we might look at the famous Minoan fresco that depicts acrobats gracefully vaulting over the horns of a bull and compare that sport from the early Bronze Age (higher consciousness part of descending Dwapara) with the bloody bull fight spectacles left over from the lower consciousness of Kali Yuga.

(The above image is from a fresco in the Knossos Palace on Crete. Today some say these bull acrobats would never have been able to grab a bull by the horns, let alone participate with it, because it would have gored the participants to death. However, in the higher yugas of Treta and even Descending Dwapara Yuga, people would have had much higher consciousness and attunement with all life, including with animals, trees, plant forms, etc. In Treta Yuga, people and potentially animals communicated telepathically. Therefore, even in descending Treta and Dwapara Yuga, this higher consciousness would have allowed interactions like these that were more harmonious, perhaps even entertaining. We know Dwapara Yuga was the age of energy. The acrobat on the right hand side of the fresco appears to be using hands—possibly to move energy. In Minoan Art, men were depicted as red, women as white. As we descended down to the Dark Ages of Kali Yuga, both humans and animals lost their connection to higher consciousness and their awareness dropped significantly. Humans began killing and eating animals, animals fought to protect themselves. During the ages of higher consciousness, the bull was revered, even honored, much as they are today in places like India. – Nayaswami Nischala)

ring

(A closer look at this ring from a tomb next to the Knossos Palace on Crete shows a Goddesses like figure descending from the heavens. In other rings found in tombs nearby, women appear to be invoking a Divine Mother figure from above, also showing attunement with the plant and animal kingdom. Some art historians claim the Minoan Civilization provided proof of the first matriarchy, where women were priestesses, lived harmoniously with all nature and animals, and was essentially a spiritual civilization. – Nayaswami Nischala)

Whenever we investigate the ancient civilizations of Greece, Anatolia, the Aegean Sea, and Egypt we encounter a blank wall around the time of transition from Treta Yuga to Dwapara Yuga c. 3100 BC. That is largely due the nature of Treta Yuga. It was a mental age, with little emphasis on building the physical structures that archaeologists love. The artifacts of the Treta will be found in the oral traditions and myths that have been handed down to us over the millennia. When those civilizations disappeared, much of those precious traditions were lost. India is the one culture that has a continuous history dating back even beyond the Treta Yuga to the highest of all ages, the Satya Yuga. We can get clues from Indian Vedic traditions and literature as to the history and consciousness of those times. The Vedic knowledge was spread westward toward the Aegean and beyond in ancient times and traces abound in mythology and placenames. Mostly what this tells is that the ancestors of the cultures we know have their roots deeper in antiquity at least back to the end of the last ice age c.12000 years ago.

Something catastrophic happened in the Eastern Mediterranean c.1200 BC. as the end of Dwapara approached. All the prominent civilizations in the region collapsed in a very short window of time. Greece was thrown into a Dark Age period, the Hittite empire of Anatolia (modern day Turkey) failed, the Mycenean civilization collapsed, many kingdoms were no longer. Those who survived, notably the Egyptians were much weakened. Many scholars have sought for a single cause, to no avail. It seems that a series of earthquakes, uprisings, migrations, climate changes, trade disruptions and more contributed to the collapse. If we are to look for a single overreaching cause it would be the change of consciousness between the Dwapara and Kali Yugas. Such a change has myriad manifestations in both human and natural realms. As the poison of dark Kali Yuga consciousness begins to mix with the dynamic energy of Dwapara the consequences are bound to be cataclysmic. A sobering thought is the realization that we are a few hundred years into the Dwapara Yuga now and seem to be approaching a similar flash point and collapse. The good news is that we are on the upward arc of the Yugas and can look forward to a few hundred years of peace and prosperity similar to the corresponding period of the Bronze age preceding its collapse.

yugas timeline

The chart shows the relationship of our time to the ancient times associated with the sites visited on the tour. You will be visiting archeological sites mainly of three different cultures:

  1. Mycenaean and Minoan – Bronze Age cultures of the mid Dwapara Yuga. The roots of these cultures are hidden in time, but probably extend from as far back as the Treta Yuga.
  2. Ancient Greek and Roman – After the Bronze age collapse these cultures flourished in the descending Kali Yuga. Note that the Roman empire ended with the transition between the descending and ascending Kali Yugas.
  3. Byzantine and Ottoman Empires – These were the dominant Western cultures during the ascending Kali Yuga but ended with the return of Dwapara Yuga.

After Holy Week we return to Athens and take the overnight ferry to Crete. We will be visiting the Knossos Palace. Knossos is a vast Bronze Age palace complex excavated by British archaeologist Arthur Evans in 1900. Evans’ excavations made this pre-Greek civilization that began in Treta Yuga known to the wider world. Evans is responsible for creating the name Minoan, which speaks to the mythology of King Minos, a legendary Cretan king who was the son of God Zeus and Europa the bull. King Minos’s myth tells of his son, the Minotaur, residing in a labyrinth where he kills any humans who enter. The Knossos palace design is typical of the Minoan sites, with many small rooms for commerce and storage accompanied by large spaces for outdoor communal religious activities. The palace complex resembles a labyrinth, which is one inspiration for the name Minoan.

crete knossos

Knossos Temple (above) in Crete also has a mythical connection to “the navel of the world” at Delphi. Myths that abound in Hindu, Egyptian and Greek mythology often included Gods with superhuman abilities, similar to what we might expect in Treta and possibly higher Dwapara Yuga. Sometimes these Gods were half animal, half human.

dolphin fresco

Minoan dolphin fresco in the Temple of Knossos. In Greek Mythology, there exists the Myth of the Delphinian, which relates to modern day Delphi. The myth is that Apollo travels about after his birth on Delos seeking a place for an oracle. He is advised by Telephus to choose Krisa, “below the glade of Parnassus,” which he does, and has a temple built, killing the serpent that guards the spring. Subsequently, some Cretans from Knossos sailed up on a mission to reconnoiter Pylos. Changing into a dolphin, Apollo cast himself on their boat’s deck. The Cretans did not dare to remove him, but sailed on. Apollo then guided the ship around Greece, ending back at Krisa, where the ship ran aground. Apollo then entered his shrine with the Cretans as its priests, who worshipped him as Delphineus, “of the dolphin.”

(Above: Olive groves on the island of Crete. The oldest tree in the world exists on Crete, “the olive tree of Vouves”, an olive tree that still produces olives and some say is at least 3,000 to 4,000 years old.)

As we visit other Minoan palace complexes such as the Phaistos and Agia Triada, we’ll uncover the consciousness, lifestyle, and possible religious beliefs of the Minoans. We’ll immerse ourselves in their art and architecture, including the symbolism of the bull, and ask what their culture can tell us about the descending spiritual consciousness of the Treta Yuga.

The Minoans worshipped trees, in addition to their gods and goddesses. We’ll visit the Monastery of Paliani, today a convent, where an ancient and venerable myrtle bush is tended to by the nuns. Pilgrims have been coming for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, to make an offering to Divine Mother at this holy myrtle bush. The tree is believed to be endowed with powerful healing properties.

We’ll also visit two religious shrines of a very different nature: Zeus’ Cave and the Church of The Virgin of Kera. Zeus’ Cave is a deep well of amazing stalagmites where both the Minoan and later Greek ancient cultures worshipped a father god and enacted ritual initiations. In mythology, it is where Zeus was hidden by his mother to avoid being killed by his father, Cronos.

The Church of the Virgin of Kera (above) is a 13th century, Byzantine-era church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its interior is covered with the remnants of vibrant and arresting frescoes depicting Christ’s Resurrection and the life of St. Anna (mother of the Virgin Mary). The images have an inspiring realism and devotional quality.

Travel Details

All accommodations at 4 and 5 star hotels.

Ocean facing cabins on the overnight ferry to Crete, round-trip

Enjoy a hearty breakfast every day. At the breakfast buffets you can expect fresh breads and pastries, dry bread rusks, eggs prepared several ways, yogurts, cereals, cheeses, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and both fresh and dried fruits. 

Greek mid-day meals are eaten considerably later than in the US, around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. A variety of vegan and vegetarian salads, spreads, and entrees will always be available no matter where we are in Greece. Food is always prepared fresh with local ingredients and local flavor combinations; this is a way of life in Greece. Dinners are much the same.

greek restaurant

Your Tour Leaders

jenny kellogg

Jenny Kellogg, PhD, a Kriyaban who is fluent in Greek and has led Hellenic tours for Harvard.

Jenny holds a PhD in Modern Languages and Literatures from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium and a BA in Classical Philology from Beloit College. She has worked in academia and non-profits in a variety of administrative and leadership roles, including ten years at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies. Since 2005, Jenny has developed and led many service-learning programs for college students in Greece.

Jenny is a Kriyaban and a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda since 2013. She teaches the courses “Comparative Mythology of Greece, India, and Egypt,” “Finding Your Dharma,” and leads travel-study tours to Greece for Ananda College. Besides teaching, Jenny is both an astrologer and spiritual coach, helping her clients navigate change, find meaning in their lives, and reconnect to their authentic selves. She specializes in trauma-informed astrology, combining the Compassionate Inquiry approach of Dr. Gabor Maté with modern astrological techniques and ancient wisdom traditions.  She is also a literary translator from the Modern Greek and enjoys volunteer work within Greece’s refugee crisis. 

nischala cryer

Nayaswami Nischala, co-founder of Ananda College of Living Wisdom, and the New Horizons Gap Year.

Nischala is co-founder of Ananda College of Living Wisdom, and the New Horizons Gap Year. She and her husband Nakula lived at Ananda’s remote Meditation Retreat for 18 years, and for many years served as Directors of the Retreat, created the college, and raised their son Rama here. She has been a minister and Lightbearer with Ananda Sangha for 25 years, and a practitioner of Kriya Yoga for over 36 years. Nischala enjoys working with people of all ages and walks of life. She took her Nayaswami monastic vows in 2009.

For Ananda College she has led spiritual tours to Northern and Southern India, Italy, France, England, Peru, and Egypt. Nischala is also author of “Reflections on Living 30 Years in a Spiritual Community”, and the Amazon bestseller, “The Four Stages of Yoga” (Crystal Clarity, Publishers, 2018).

Costs

Flights Not Included

Early Bird Special

Double occupancy per person $6,400

Single occupancy $7,200

After January 5, 2022

Double occupancy per person $6,800

Single occupancy $7,600

A $1,000 deposit is required to reserve your place.
The remaining balance must be received before February 15, 2022.

Please note that we have limited rooms on this journey and expect to fill this trip by mid-January 2022 . We aren’t able to offer scholarships for our spiritual travels.

Includes:

  • all accommodations at delightful 4 and 5 star hotels
  • transportation during the journey, entrance to all holy and ancient sites and museums including the Delphic Oracle and Acropolis Museum
  • welcome dinner, farewell dinner, Easter lunch, daily heartybreakfasts, 11 dinners enjoyed together at lovely restaurants
  • ocean facing cabins on the overnight ferry to Crete, round-trip
  • iconography private workshop where you’ll create your own special icon
  • all expert guides for monastery and Delphi visits, Athens morning walking tour, hiking and cave expert guides

Cost does not include:

  • your international flights to/from Greece
  • any extra nights at hotels before or after trip
  • travel insurance that we require proof of
  • transportation from the Athens airport to our Athens hotel
  • any spa treatments you choose to have
  • any personal expenses, laundry costs
  • any medical expenses
  • Meals other than the above.We do not cover drinks at meals we provide, lunches and dinners we do not provide.
  • NOTE: Greeks like to eat a light meal at 3:00 so we will visit small tavernas around lunch and dinnertime where people can order for themselves. We will do some ‘Dutch’ group dinners in Crete.
  • We suggest you plan your budget to include tips for the specialty expert guides we have contracted with at key trip locations.

Current Updates!

  • Round trip airline tickets to Athens, Greece are very low right now.  If you’d like to come with us consider getting your tickets now.  
  • If anyone is planning on flying from San Francisco Bay Area to Athens, Greece round trip, we have someone who wants to go on the trip who is looking for a travel partner to fly with.
  • If you are a single traveler looking to find a female roommate to share with, Contact Us.

Requirements for traveling to Greece:

Health/COVID

Requirements for traveling internationally are changing with some regularity. We will keep you informed as we approach the date of this trip of the then-current requirements. For now, these are the circumstances. Link for Greece travel health portal: https://travel.gov.gr/#/

Prior to departure, all travelers must ensure that they carry an acceptable form of certification of their health condition. Acceptable documents include:

  • A negative PCR molecular test result from a laboratory; the test must be taken up to 72 hours before entry.
  • A negative antigen (rapid) test result from a laboratory; the test must be taken up to 48 hours before entry.
  • A vaccination certificate issued by a certified authority.
  • A certificate of recovery from the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection

You should be reasonably fit to walk up stairs and uneven surfaces. At Delphi, there are trails on the slopes. You can walk slowly, or one of our tour leaders or guide will walk with you.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our travelers and should be taken out at the time of booking. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, death, medical expenses and emergency repatriation with a recommended minimum coverage of US $200,000 for each of the categories of cover. We also strongly recommend it covers cancellation, curtailment, personal liability and loss of luggage and personal effects. You must provide proof of your travel insurance a couple weeks ahead of departure; you will not be able to join the trip without it. Here are a couple options:

Travel documents

You must hold a valid National Travel passport with an expiration date at least six months after the end of your stay. No visa is needed for travelers from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and most other countries in the Americas and Europe.

Reserve your spot on this transformative pilgrimage

A $1,000 deposit saves your place!

Questions?

We are available to Skype or Zoom with you for questions you may have.

namdevi

Namdevi Nagahara, Administrator

nischala cryer

Nayaswami Nischala, Director


Please leave your email address and name here and we will get in touch with you to schedule a call.