Cochin to Athens (Piraeus)
20 days with Silversea Rating:
Day 1 Cochin
Departure 10:30 PM
A hodgepodge of cultures collide on the banks of the estuary where Cochin carves out her home. Chinese fishing nets the size of skyscrapers, boxy Dutch architecture and pretty Portuguese palaces point to the blend of influence here, while the Raj era remnants, soaring spires of old-world mosques, and near-abandoned synagogues all add to the dense, varied tapestry of inspirations and imprints. Founded by a prince in the 15th century, Cochin immediately became a favoured anchorage for sailors and traders from every far-flung corner - even taking nearby Kerala’s crown as the world's first global port city. Now, fragrant spice markets cut the hot air with cardamom and clove, while antique stores groan beneath the weight of singing copper. Hit the backstreets of Fort Kochi for a deep and dreamy Ayurvedic massage, marvel at the Krishna murals that adorn the bedchamber walls of the Mattancherry Palace, or admire India’s one of the oldest European-built Christian churches - as you duck into the cool hues of St Francis. A day can easily meander past on a backwater cruise, spreading south from Cochin, and gliding down a lacy network of creeks, lagoons, lakes and rivers. Surrounded by swaying palms and rice paddies – you’ll experience rural India in her best dress. When daylight dwindles, taste the soft spicy kick of dal roti, followed by Firni – almonds, apricots, and sweet milk crushed with pastel green pistachios for a silky light finish.
Day 2 Day At Sea
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.
Day 3 Mormugao (Goa)
The gateway to Goa, set on the south west coast of the Arabian Sea, Mormugao is a former Portuguese colony, which invites you to explore beautiful beaches and crumbling fortresses. Taste the spicy kick of Goan cuisine and discover a cultural landscape of gilded churches and colonial history. You may even recognise the area - it served as the setting for the film The Sea Wolves. Brilliant birdlife and plunging waterfalls wait in the wildernesses and national parks around the city, should you venture further afield. Take in the sea view from the Japanese Garden, as you explore the peninsular that Mormugao inhabits. Wander to enjoy stunning views of the coastline and beaches spreading along the shore, or head straight for the embrace of a luxury coastal resort, where you can lie back and enjoy a rejuvenating beach day. Take your pick from various welcoming beaches, like the palm-tree fringed Bogmalo beach, which has clear, turquoise water and is perfect for swimming. Hollant beach is ideal for a laidback coastal wander and is a scenic fishing spot, while Colva is bedecked with restaurants and shacks serving up refreshing coconut milk, and coconut curry – flavoured with poppyseeds and red chilli. For an accompanying drink, as your skin gently bronzes, give local feni a try – a delicious Goan spirit distilled from cashews. The colourful buildings of the Latin Quarters add a Portuguese echo to the city and its architecture. Goa is notable for its array of Catholic churches, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, illustrating the Catholic influence on Asia. These churches and convents date back to the 16th century, when St. Francis Xavier was sent to these shores to restore the virtue of the colonisers. His remains still rest here, within the treasured Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Days 4-5 Day At Sea
Day 6 Muscat
Oman’s capital rests overlooking the coast of the Gulf of Oman, tucked away among the country’s mountains. Discover a city surrounded by neat gardens - with streets lined by palm trees and crumbling Portuguese forts providing a tangible link to the past. Explore an elegant array of domes, minarets and marbled Arabic archways, as you’re immersed in a city where a traditional conservative outlook mingles with a pragmatic modern approach. Despite a relative boom in recent years, Muscat has clung to its old-world Arabian charm. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the main mosque and an iconic landmark of Muscat. No fewer than 20,000 people cram inside below its towering minaret, which soars upwards for a stunning 90 metres. In the evening, lights shine on the exterior, and the dome glows like a mirage floating above the city’s rooftops. White and grey marble gleams inside, and you won’t miss the showpiece chandelier - which weighs in at a staggering eight tonnes. The handwoven carpet is no less impressive, created using 1.7 million knots. The Mutrah area is rich with local culture. Wander among the groaning tables of the lively fish market and busy Mutrah souk. Mutrah Fort was constructed during the Portuguese occupation of the 16th century and offers views back down over the harbour. Things can get a little sticky in this humid climate, so head to the beach to enjoy a gentle breeze and unwind. Nearby, you’ll find plenty of indulgent stretches of soft sand, met by pristine water. Swim with fish and turtles or relax below the palm trees. Or take a cruise to spot spinner dolphins playing in the waters offshore.
Day 7 Sur
In centuries past, Arab wooden vessels dominated the trade routes of the Indian Ocean. Many were built and based at Sur, which was a major port from the 6th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries the port often had 150 vessels as Sur continued to be a centre of trade between Oman, East Africa and Asia. Its strategic location at the junction of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea was a key to the town’s importance. Modern ships and the opening of the Suez Canal reduced the maritime fortunes of the town, although some fishing and pleasure dhows still sail today. Sur’s fortunes are now tied more to the nearby gas processing industry and supporting nearby rural villages. Traditional wooden dhows are still constructed in the shipyard of Sur for local use. You can watch skilled craftsmen building the boats using age-old techniques and tools. Plans don’t exist, as the designs and measurements are all in the shipwright’s head and passed on by word of mouth and experience. Dhows may not be as fast and comfortable as our cruise ship but they have proved an effective and resilient ocean going design. Forts and watchtowers around Sur reflect the historic importance of the valuable trading port. The lighthouse dominating the harbour entrance is a converted watch tower. Sunaysilah Fort, with its four towers, is a fine example of Omani defensive structures. Sur itself still embraces old architecture and many traditions. One is the importance of souqs (markets) plying a trade in everything from fish to perfumes.
Day 8 Day At Sea
Day 9 Salalah
Combining thrilling history with gorgeous beaches and luxury spas, Oman’s second-biggest city is cradled by tempting ocean waters and the soaring Dhofar Mountains. A refreshing rainy season waters down the intense heat of the Gulf region, painting a rich green hue across the land and separating it from the barren desert elsewhere. Banana plantations sprawl out, and dense gatherings of coconut palms rustle together, before Salalah's cherished powdery white beaches. Sweet fragrances linger in Salalah's souqs, where exotic incenses, perfumes and spices are traded. Set in Dhofar province, the desert staging is smudged with greenery and life during the downpours and misty rains of Khareef season. The clouds tame the heat and fuel stunning waterfall torrents, with a local festival celebrating the arrival of this monsoon each year. Even in drier months, the earlier deluges ensure that there is an added vibrancy to the ravines and wadis nearby. Enjoy the sunshine and settle into the sandy embrace of luxury beaches, before indulging in stress-relieving massages. Head to popular spots like Al Mughsail beach, where explosive blowholes boom with frothing spray, as the waters collide with coastal rock formations. Travel back in time at the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed ancient city of Dhufa - which has been reclaimed from the rusty desert soil at Al Baleed Archeological Park. An ancient centre of frankincense trade, the on-site museum explains the history of this precious ingredient, extracted from the region's fragrant Boswellia trees and exported far and wide.
Days 10-13 Day At Sea
Day 14 Safaga (Luxor)
Unravel the mysteries, and marvel at the artistry and scale, of some of Ancient Egypt's most important and impressive monuments, which rise from the fertile plains and palm groves of the River Nile. Safaga’s port sits on the Red Sea's dazzling coastline, where gorgeous beaches and super waters for diving and snorkelling await. Unwind here, amid the colourful fish life, or lie back to soak in ever-reliable sunshine. Most will choose to head inland to the banks of one of the world’s longest and most storied rivers - where the immense treasures of Ancient Egypt loom in the desert's haze. Modern Luxor rests beside the Nile, and is set amid an unparalleled archaeological site of swirling legend and ancient beauty. This vast, open-air museum sprawls out below the burning sun, and you'll discover preserved ancient tombs, momentous statues like the Colossi of Memnon, and vast columned temples with rows of statues, such as the Temple of Karnak. Soak in the surroundings on boats, which meander up and down the river, or head out to tick off as many of the remarkable ruins as you can. Cultural treasures like the World Heritage Site listed Valley of the Kings – carved into the copper rock of the desert – provided elaborate resting places for Ancient Egypt's revered Pharaohs. Built between the 16th and 11th centuries BC, no fewer than 63 temples have been discovered here so far. Head into incredibly preserved tombs, decorated with majestic and mystical symbols and colourful artworks. See famous sites like the cursed tomb of King Tutankhamun, and the imposing rise of Queen Hatshepsut's temple, amid the countless highlights and wonders.
Day 15 Day At Sea
Day 16 Suez Canal Transit
The Suez Canal, gouged through Africa, is one of the world’s engineering marvels - linking two seas, and drastically shortening boat voyages around this huge continent. Few manmade waterways are so storied and iconic, and sailing the length of it is a bucket list item for many explorers. The construction of the canal started in 1859, and took ten years to complete, with the canal officially opening in November 1869. More than a million people worked on the project, often in unimaginable conditions. An engineering breakthrough, the canal connected the Mediterranean to the Red Sea - drastically improving global trade's efficiency. A hugely strategic and precious bottleneck, it has inevitably led to conflicts - and been vulnerable to scuttling to block its usage. The Six-Day War closed the canal, leaving 15 unfortunate ships trapped within for eight years. An amazing story, the crew members of the Yellow Fleet - named as their ships slowly gathered desert sand - adapted and created a community within the confines of Bitter Lake. Sit back and admire the desert views, as you transit the 101 Mile expanse, occasionally interrupted by little villages, with domed mosques and minarets towering into the sky. Look out for the tiny fishing boats that share the canal’s waterway, dwarfed by giant container ships - the plucky fishermen courageously refuse to yield to the massive vessels they sail beside. There is no need for locks in the canal, as the two seas sit at the same level, and passing lanes ensure that ships can travel the engineering marvel in both directions.
Day 17 Day At Sea
Day 18 Rhodes Island, Symi
With an endless sun-soaked season, earthy history and vibrant culture, the island of Rhodes has it all. At the crossroads between continents, and sandwiched between Crete and Turkey’s coastline, Rhodes has swayed between many mighty civilisations throughout its tumultuous history. Part of the Dodecanese Islands, which are sprinkled across the blissfully blue Aegean Sea, dive into this island of dazzling beaches, historic medieval towns, and whitewash villages. Crusted with turrets and walls, alluding to its strategic significance over the years. Incredible history has been left behind, and the cobbled streets of the UNESCO World Heritage site listed Old Town are some of Europe’s best. Wander back through time, with occasional minarets from Ottoman-era mosques rising from the tangle of Medieval history, and the smells of cinnamon, cumin and pepper lingering above stone-paved streets. Discover inviting outdoor restaurants, which spill across flower-filled courtyards, and enjoy fresh Greek cuisine with an eastern influence. The preserved columns of Lindos's spectacular Ancient Greek Acropolis watch out over electric blue water, while the Gothic Medieval stronghold of the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Rhodes, adds more fascinating history to explore. Fragrant, pine tree coated hills, and gorgeous beaches of eye-watering blue water, offer your choice of unbridled relaxation or thrilling action, and you can raise the pulse with water sports, or shelter in coves with shocks of turquoise water and monolithic rock formations.
As you sail into Symi harbour don’t be surprised if you’re left speechless. With its rows of elegant cream and beige neo-classical houses, its unique blend of gentle aristocratic beauty and its bleating hillside goats, Symi seems set in another time. This is the Greece of history; well preserved mansions, pretty inlets and film set prettiness that is the real deal. As part of the Dodecanese Islands, Symi is one of the lesser known Greek Islands. Once a thriving sponge-diving and ship building centre, the island attracted riches that far outstripped its neighbour Rhodes (and placed it among Greece’s richest islands). The island’s history is too, rich and rewarding. Although not much is known pre-14th century (bar a mention in Homer’s Illiad), it is known that the name comes from Greek mythology, and the island is widely thought to be the birthplace of the Syme, daughter Ialysos and Dotis. Syme was one of the wives of Poseidon, God of the Seas, and mother of Hthonios. But Symi is above all a place to relax, whether it be in by splashing in the achingly beautiful waters, climbing the rocky hinterland (be on the lookout for these goats) or just gazing at the Aegean Sea. The Panormitis monastery, on the south of the island is well worth visiting. Foodies should note that Symi’s eponymous shrimps are a must try - pan fried and eaten with the shell, they are a quintessential delicacy of the island. Enjoyed in a seaside taverna, we can think of no better way to experience authentic Greece.
Day 19 Naxos, Folegandros
A little bit more rough and ready around the edges than a lot of other Greek islands, Naxos is the thinking-person’s Greece. The largest of all the Cyclades islands, it was once the cultural centre of Classical Greece and Byzantium, so do not be surprised that the world’s oldest culture has left its mark. Museums range from the Archaeological Museum (housed in an elegant Venetian mansion), an impressive geological museum to the lovely Venetian and unusual museum, housed in an 800-year old private house. For those who want to venture further afield, Haki, the old capital of Naxos, has a great distillery museum, run by the same family who first opened it in 1896. Not only are there two lovely monasteries worth visiting, but because of its high mountains Naxos benefits from much more rainfall than most other Greek islands, which makes the land very green and fertile. Local produces includes olives, grapes, figs, citrus fruit, corn and potatoes and if you get a chance, a healthy home-grown meal in a back-country taverna will be undoubtedly be memorable. The golden sands that circle Naxos are particularly nice, catering for all personality types. The active among you will certainly want to head to the eastern side of the island, where the wind is perfect for budding kite and windsurfers, as well as those who like their beaches as natural as can be. The western side of the island, notably Platka beach, is where the sun-lovers will be seen soaking up the rays.
There is popular saying that good things come in small packages, or that small is beautiful. And never has a truer word been said when talking about Folegandros. Because this little island in the Aegean packs a big punch. What it might lack in mainstream tourism – you won’t see any all-day breakfasts or Sky sports channels here – is more amply made up by the mouthwatering cuisine, stunning beaches, azure Aegean waters and secluded coves. At just 12.5 m2 this tiny Cycladic gem – along with its 765 year round inhabitants – is a pearl waiting to be polished. Named after the son of King Minos, the island’s auspicious history is eclipsed by its beauty. Used as a prison for exiled political prisoners until last century, the island’s remote location is a happy blessing for those who want step back in time. Despite being so secluded, there is plenty for visitpors to do once they have arrived in the charming harbour and its village. The pebbly beaches are covered with tamarisk trees, while scenic Karavostássis, with its beautiful beach is the perfect starting point for an exploration of the five other glorious beaches of on the island. Livádi, a village with a sandy beach and turquoise waters is a must-see for all those who want to go off the beaten path, but still want to swim in the warm Aegean waters. A boat tour of the island offers day-trippers to fully appreciate the tall cliffs and large “golden” cave (unfortunately closed to the public due to the archaeological excavations taking place). The whitewashed houses and zigzagging path are certainly worth the view from the water! A walk up the same path from the pretty village to the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary takes about 15 minutes, and offers stupendous views once you’re at the top.
Day 20 Athens (Piraeus)
Arrive 7:30 AM
A city of legend, civilisation and enduring culture, Athens is a majestic and magical urban sprawl. Extraordinary elegance and grace combine with grit and graft in Greece's capital, where highways encase ruins from antiquity, and gleaming museums and galleries stand beside concrete sprayed with edgy street art. These contrasts enhance and elevate the wonders of this 2,500-year-old city, however, which can count notable contributions to philosophy, drama and democracy, among its global legacy. Piraeus' giant port and naval base welcome you to the edge of the Athens' urban area. From there it's a simple jaunt to the centre. The majestic ancient citadel of the Acropolis dominates an elevated platform and is a constant presence as you explore the city. The wonderful remains of the columned temple of the Parthenon - which date back to the 5th century BC - stand here, representing the pinnacle of classical architecture. The nearby Acropolis Museum adds context to your visit and frames the broad views from its giant glass windows. Or rise up Mount Lycabettus, to be rewarded with perhaps Athens' best panorama of the Acropolis sitting high over the city on its grand stage. See the marble horseshoe of the Old Olympic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, for more of the city's enduring legacy. Elsewhere, golden beaches and temples stretch out along the coastline, should you wish to explore a little further afield. Coffee is an art form to the Greeks, and it's an unwritten rule that coffee time must never be rushed. So prepare to settle down for a couple of hours and lose yourself in a good chat. Feeling hungry - try traditional souvlaki made with sauces handed from generation to generation.
All This Included
Channel your inner Vasco de Gama and set sail on the spice routes that brought home the exotic. Departing Cochin, learn of the fabled expeditions during your sea days, or simply enjoy the pleasures that the ocean brings. Punctate days of blue with age-old cities and UNESCO World Heritage sites, not forgetting a Suez Canal crossing. From Oman’s opulence to Greece’s blue-domed idyll, we guarantee every moment matters on this trip.
Cruising: Cabin onboard Silver Cloud
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