At Voyages to Antiquity, we have created a cruise experience which is designed for travellers who want to understand more about the history, culture and natural wonders of the ancient world. Today, Aegean Odyssey called to the Greek island of Samothraki (or Samothrace), a destination that is rarely visited by cruise ships and one that further showcases our award-winning shore excursion programme. Guests had the choice of 2 included tours and our visit coincided with the annual festival held in honour of the goddess Nike.
Samothraki is a small island in the North Aegean Sea that is rarely visited by cruise ships. It’s a destination that allows those who do stumble upon it to experience the real side of Greece and explore an island that remains dominated by its unspoiled natural beauty, including one of the highest mountain ranges in the Aegean. It’s a place where golden beaches, small villages, ancient history and a rugged landscape effortlessly blend together to create something incredibly special and unique.
One of the islands most famous exports is the sculpture of Nike (Victory) that was discovered by amateur French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau in 1863. The statue has been described as “the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture” and it’s one of very few Hellenistic statues surviving in the original form, rather than as a Roman copy. It was created to honour the goddess Nike. It’s impressive to see, but you won’t find it on the island. It has been in the Louvre since 1884.
During our visit to the island, we offered guests a choice of 2 included excursions: ‘Scenic Samothraki and Festival Parade in Chora’ or ‘Sanctuary of the Great Gods’. Both tours highlighted this incredible destination, one that thus far has remained untouched by mass tourism.
The annual festival that is held in honour of the goddess Nike was a huge highlight for guests that opted to join our ‘Scenic Samothraki and Festival Parade’ tour. It was a real privilege to have had the chance to experience it and without a mass of other tourists getting in the way. In attendance were senior ranking officers from several of the Hellenic Armed Forces, and a Greek Orthodox Priest. There was also music from a military band.
In the time of Antiquity, initiation into Samothraki’s mystery cult of the Great Gods brought with it the promise of protection at sea and the opportunity to “become a better and more pious person in all ways”. The nature of these rites was held in silent trust by its members, but today the Samothrace Temple Complex still maintains the aura of a place where momentous events occurred. Our ‘Sanctuary of the Great Gods’ guided tour of this remarkable archaeological site offered all the major ruins, from the Propylon gatehouse of Ptolemy II, to the temple of Hieron, where initiation into the cult took place. Another highlight for guests was seeing the remains of the largest covered round space in the ancient Greek world, the Arsinoé Rotunda, which is believed to have been used for animal sacrifices during festivals.