Trireme in Stavros_Ithaca

Trireme in Stavros Ithaca Photo credit : Phil Cousineau

A Healing Pilgrimage into the Heart of Ancient Greece
with Phil Cousineau

A Healing Pilgrimage into the Heart of Ancient Greece - with Phil Cousineau

The author-filmmaker-mythologist Phil Cousineau is inviting you to join him on a pilgrimage to ancient Greece in 2024. The trip will explore the Greek Mysteries and their influence on various aspects of human history and culture. The journey will include visits to legendary sites such as the Parthenon, the Temple of Apollo, Odysseus and Penelope’s Palace, the Dream Temple and Theater of Epidaurus, and the Telestrion in Eleusis. Participants will also engage in sessions of Active Imagination based on Cousineau’s “Long Conversations” to connect with the ancient world. The contributions of women scholars in recent years will be highlighted during the pilgrimage. Participants are encouraged to bring a journal for daily exercises and thoughtful questions about spirituality. It is also suggested that participants bring a small gift from home to offer locals they meet along the way.

Athens - the old part of the town






A Healing Pilgrimage into the Heart of Ancient Greece


          “Every quest begins with a question.”                                                       

– Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage


“I heard the heart of the world beat. I know what the cure is:

it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little

 hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.”

—          Henry Miller


“May your journey be a long one…

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.”

—          Constantine Cavafy, “Ithaka”


April 2 -13, 2024


If the spirit moves you, please join author-filmmaker-mythologist Phil Cousineau on a pilgrimage to ancient Greece in the spring of 2024 when we will visit many of the legendary sites associated with the glorious Greek Mysteries. Together, we will explore why these mesmerizing stories, rituals, and ceremonies that have influenced our history, psychology, philosophy, art, drama, poetry, spiritual lives, athletics, and even our movies, for the last three thousand years. A special focus of our journey will be on the secret strength of sacred journeys, which for the last several thousand years has their spiritually transformative powers. As travelers have done for millennia, we will be visiting some of the most glorious sites from antiquity, from the Parthenon in Athens to the Temple of Apollo, site of the Oracle in Delphi, Odysseus and Penelope’s Palace on Ithaka, the Dream Temple and Theater of Epidaurus, and the Telestrion, in Eleusis, which honors the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. But we will also bring the past into the present by engaging in innovative sessions of Active Imagination based on Cousineau’s popular “Long Conversations,” soulful morning discussions and meditations that help provide context for our daily encounters with the ancient world. Special attention will be paid to the profound contributions of women scholars over the last few decades, such as Carol Christ’s work on the Eleusinian Mysteries, Bettany Hughes’ writings about Aphrodite, Venus, and Helen of Sparta, and Emily Wilson’s new translations of the Iliad and The Odyssey. Participants are encouraged to bring a beautiful journal for our daily exercises, as well as a few questions about the most probing spiritual issues in your current life. In the tradition of pilgrims everywhere, you are encouraged to bring a simple and heartfelt gift from home to offer someone local you meet along what was once called “The Glory Roads” of Ancient Greece.                                                                                                     

Note:  We recommend that you arrive a day early for rest and orientation, and to allow extra time to see a few of the sites in Athens that time does not allow us to see during our own time there. These extra sites include the Akropolis Museum, the Hill of the Pnyx, site of the birth of Western Democracy, the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the National Gardens, and the recently excavated Lyceum of Aristotle. Please contact us if you would like more information about other sites to see before our tour begins.


Day 1 - Tues, April 2: Arrive in Athens (D)

The Call to  Adventure 

 You will be met at Athens International Airport and transferred to our hotel in the heart of Athens. Depending on your arrival time, you will have an opportunity to explore this ancient city on your own. Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece, dominates the Attica periphery. One of the world’s oldest cities, it is full of myths, mysteries, and legends, and has long symbolized the very birth of democracy, aesthetics, and early scientific exploration. Steeped with an ineffably rich history that spans around 3,400 years, the city is home to many sacred ancient sites, monuments, and landmarks. A fusion of old and new, Athens is also a cosmopolitan metropolis buzzing with lively activity and vibrancy. In the evening we will gather in the hotel lobby at 6:00 pm and ascend to the rooftop where we will enjoy the glorious view of the Akropolis and enjoy a welcome drink. After our introductions we will take a casual saunter together through the Plaka district, the ancient heart of Athens, to a traditional taverna for our welcome dinner [included].

Overnight in Athens at the Royal Olympic Hotel


Day 2 – Wed April 3: Athens (B) 

"The Longing"       

This morning we begin with the first of our “Long Conversations,” a Phil Cousineau tradition for the last thirty years of his leading tours around the world, which began with his eight years of probing conversations with the great mythologist Joseph Campbell. These discussions are designed to help put each of our travel days into a spiritual and mythological context. We begin with a discussion of “The Longing,” the millennia long history of spiritual calls to make a pilgrimage, a spiritually transformative journey to a sacred site. We will also make time for a brief but exciting overview of Homer’s masterpieces, the Iliad and The Odyssey, which provide us with a timeless template for the archetypal urge to “get home again.” This model offers a mythic rendering of how we might rediscover our true selves.  

 After a brief break, we leave for a short but dazzling walk through the Plaka, the oldest neighborhood in Athens, up to the Akropolis, where will bask in the beauty of the glorious Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, built in the mid-fifth century BCE, and long considered one of the architectural masterpieces in the world, the very symbol of “The Glory that Was Greece.” From the viewpoint on the Akropolis, we will be able to see the ruins of the sixth-century Theater of Dionysus, regarded as the birthplace of drama, where the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus were performed, the Odeon of Herod Atticus, completed in 161 CE, renovated in 1950, and still in use today for theater and musical performances.

 After a leisurely visit, we take a short break and then descend from the Akropolis and stroll past the Areopagus (Hill of Mars), where Saint Paul preached in 51 AD (recounted in Acts 17:16-34) then we continue down the north slope of the Akropolis to the Agora, the ancient marketplace and heartbeat of ancient times in Athens. Nearby we will have a traditional Greek lunch [not included] at the Antica Taverna nestled next to the Agora.

In late afternoon we will take our van to the National Archeological Museum, founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, thus displaying their historical, cultural, and artistic value. We will focus on the many artefacts associated with the Homeric epics, such as the golden Mask of Agamemnon, the bust of the Minotaur, and the Aphrodite of Cnidus, and see many of the treasures uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann in Mycenae, the Antikythera Mechanism, considered to be the first computer, the bronze Paris of Troy, and the Aphrodite with Pan and Eros. These treasures at what is sometimes called the Memory Palace of Athens will provide us with visual markers for our entire journey. 

Overnight in Athens at the Royal Olympic Hotel


 Day 3 – Thu April 4: Athens – Eleusis – Delphi (B, L)  

"The Pilgrim’s Way to the Greek Mysteries".   

We enjoy a traditional Greek breakfast followed by our Long Conversation on “The Eleusinian Mysteries,” to prepare us for our pilgrimage this morning to the Sanctuary of Eleusis, one of the most mysterious sites in ancient Greece, and the focus of innumerable studies in modern depth psychology, comparative mythology, and feminist studies. Here was one of the greatest shrines of antiquity, the site of annual rituals in honor of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades. Here we will learn about the secret ceremonies that honored the wandering goddess Demeter, who was mourning the disappearance of her daughter Persephone, who had been abducted by Hades, God of the Underworld. Their dramatic story was reenacted here for 1500 years, witnessed by thousands of initiates who ventured here under a vow of secrecy. The famous playwright Sophocles remarked, “Happy is the man who has seen the secret rites,” referring to the rituals that scholars like Karl Kerenyi have described as the revelation of the mysteries of rebirth, and which Carl Jung regarded as the inspiration for the Christian mass.  

 This morning we will enjoy what the legendary traveler Dame Rose Macaulay called “the pleasure of ruins,” stopping for a discussion about the ancient attitudes towards life and death and the existence of the soul in the shadows of the reputed Cave of Hades, the entrance to the Underworld. We will pause at the ancient Well of Demeter, and explore the scattered remains of the Telesterion, once the most revered site in ancient times. This is where the all-night rituals took place, culminating in the raising of a sheaf of wheat to symbolize the return of Persephone. There we will enjoy contemplative time to discuss the very role of the goddess in Greek mythology, the connections between Ancient Greece and modern Christian Europe, as well as the role of ritual and ceremony in both cultures.  After our initiatory morning we will walk to the nearby Kykeon Taverna and enjoy a lovely traditional Greek lunch together under an ancient olive tree. After our lunch [included], we will depart Eleusis for a coach drive to Delphi.

Free evening in Delphi. Optional discussion at a cliffside Greek taverna about the tradition of the Oracle, which many scholars now consider to be an early form of psychotherapy.

Overnight in Delphi at the Amalia Delphi 


Day 4 – Fri  April 5: Delphi, Ossios Loucas Monastery (B, L)  


After breakfast at our hotel, we will gather for today’s Long Conversation, which will explore the numinous question asked by the ancients who ventured here for over twelve hundred years: “Are You Going to Delphi?” This was a common greeting in ancient times that was a way to ask, “Are you philosophical, are you seeking meaning in your life?” Thus inspired and enthused (both ancient Greek words), we will walk in meditative silence from our hotel in the village of modern Delphi to the archaeological site, to help orient ourselves for our own symbolic encounter with the Oracle. At the Castilian Springs near the entrance, we will meet our local guide, who will lead us for an hour and provide an overview of the magnificent history of Ancient Delphi, the most revered site in antiquity. Afterwards, each of us will be granted a few minutes of contemplation at the symbolic entrance to the Temple of Apollo, where the Delphic Oracle resided for over 1200 years, remembered ever since for the inscribed Sayings of the Seven Sages, which were etched into the Temple of Apollo (the most famous being Gnothi Sauton, Know Thyself), and where the Oracle or Sibyl who uttered prophecies and answered the questions of pilgrims who had traveled there from all over the Mediterranean. After our time exploring the Ancient Theater and the beautifully excavated stadium, the site of one of the four alternating Ancient Olympic gatherings.

After our official time with our guide, we will have the rare and numinous opportunity to ask “The Question,” the spiritual inquiry that brought us to Greece. Our visit will be topped off by a visit to the magnificent Archaeological Museum. There is housed what is believed to be the original Omphalos stone, dropped from the heavens by Zeus himself, and Praxiteles’s sublime marble statue of Dionysus.

After lunch [included]  we will visit the nearby World Heritage Site, the Hosios Loukas Monastery, one of Greece’s most historically important Byzantine monuments of architecture and art. The beautiful tenth-century walled monastery is noteworthy for its great dome, crypt, and breathtaking frescoes.

Ossios Loukas
Ossios Loucas Monastery

This evening we will dine in our hotel’s restaurant [not included] that overlooks the gripping scenery of the valley, a view that the ancient Greeks believed to be the most beautiful in the known world.

Overnight in Delphi at the Amalia Delphi 


Day 5  – Sat  April 6: Delphi – Patras - Ithaka (B)

"Crossing the Threshold"          

After our opening Long Conversation, we will take the two-and-half hour drive to Patras, Greece's third-largest city and the bustling regional capital of Western Greece, in the northern Peloponnese. There we will catch a four-hour ferry to Pisaetos harbour, Ithaka. En route, our recommendation is to use the beautiful journey to the island of Odysseus and Ithaka time to journal or engage in soulful conversation about our journey. Upon arrival, we take our coach to the nearby beautiful seaside town of Vathy.

After checking into our hotel, uncannily called the Mentor Hotel (a word coined by Homer in The Odyssey), we will take a gentle half-mile seaside walk to the Mythos Taverna [optional meal], one of the favorite restaurants for the local people. There we will engage in a Long Conversation and open discussion about the importance of initiation, thresholds, and ritual, as illustrated in the timeless tale of Odysseus and Penelope.   

Overnight in Ithaka at the Mentor Hotel


Day 6 – Sun, April 7: Ithaka; Stavros (B, L)

“What is Home?”     

Following our hotel breakfast, we will engage in our daily Long Conversation this time exploring the symbolic power of Ithaka in mythology, psychology, poetry, and the arts. Tonight, we will enjoy dinner at a lovely local restaurant on the harbor (included in tour price). After breakfast we will craft a group reading of pertinent passages in the Odyssey that are set in Ithaka and discuss the way the translations have shape-shifted over the centuries. We will also explore the centuries-long debate, which dates back to the 3rd century BCE, about the specific location of Homer’s Ithaka. 

 After lunch (included) we will be guided by Spyros Couvaras, a member of the Odyssean Studies Center to the town square of the beautiful village of Stavros to see a scale model of ancient Ithaka, and the small but important Archaeological Museum of Stavros, where we will see fragments of twelve bronze ceremonial tripods in honor of Odysseus found in the nearby Polis caves. One is famously inscribed: EYXHN ODYCCEI, a reference to the gift of Alcinoos, King of Phaecia, to Odysseus.

Odysseus bust - Ithaca
Odysseus bust, Ithaca - Credit : Phil Cousineau

Then we take a short drive by coach to the reputed ruins of Odysseus and Penelope’s palace that is referred to locally as Homer’s School, which archaeologists date back to the 8th century. The most recent excavations, culminating in 2010, have fueled the controversy about the existence of a real Odysseus, reminiscent of Heinrich Schliemann’s digs at Troy, in Turkey, which many believe provides an historical basis for the Trojan War. After our visit to these haunting ruins, we will visit the actual Polis Cave, where the “Odysseus cult” was ritually celebrated for eight centuries. Time permitting, we will end our visits with a drive to the peak of Pilata Hill, which overlooks the Three Seas that Homer describes are visible from Odysseus’ Ithaka, and finally to the Homeric “Melanydros Fountain.”

Overnight in Ithaka at the Mentor Hotel


Day 7 – Mon. April 8: Ithaka; (B, L)

"The Arrival"           

Today we enjoy a languorous breakfast and Long Conversation on the patio of our wonderful hotel overlooking Vathy Bay, which will be based on how Homer’s story has taken on a life of its own, the very word “odyssey” coming to mean not just any journey, but the one that changes everything. This morning we discuss the wide range of influence it has on world culture, from ancient theater to the movies, including Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and Mary Zimmerman’s brilliant adaptation, The Odyssey: A Play. We will also explore a few recent mythopoetic renderings of Greek myths, including Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Jean Houston’s The Hero and the Goddess, and Madeline Miller’s Circe, and Emily Wilson’s glorious new translations of both of Homer’s epic poems.

Today we will attempt to visit the Archaeological Museum of Vathi to see its beautiful collection of rare vases from the so-called “Dark Ages,” as well as vases from the Geometric Period, and striking Ithacan bronze coins from Classical times, some with the very face of King Odysseus. As it is Easter Sunday, we are not sure if the museum can be opened for us, but we will try using our local contacts.

Overnight in Ithaka at the Mentor Hotel


Day 8 – Tue April 9 - Ithaka - Olympia (B, D)

"Our Spiritual Home."

We have a very early morning departure (7:40 am) from Ithaka for the four-hour ferry ride to the coastal port town of Patras where we will arrive around noon. Our day’s Long Conversation will take place on the two-hour coach ride to Ancient Olympia, which the classical world regarded as their “spiritual home,” with an estimated arrival around 2:00 pm.

Once we get checked into our hotel, we will take a gentle walk to a wonderful taverna (with a beautiful gift shop) next to the world-class Olympic Museum. There we will enjoy a wonderful traditional Greek lunch (not included), and an introductory talk on the dazzling lore of the Ancient Games.

On the coach, Phil will regale the group about the Greek fascination with sports based on his book, The Olympic Odyssey, which was selected by the U. S. Olympic Committee as a gift for all our athletes at the 2004 Athens Games. The brief review is important to help us understand the Greek ideal of living a life of excellence—in mind, body, and soul. En route, he will also give a colorful review of “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” because we will be encountering the ruins of one of them in Olympia, the Temple of Zeus, which featured Phidias’ colossal Statue of Zeus. Long considered a national shrine for the ancient Greeks, the site housed many treasures and works of art in its many temples, monuments, altars. To imagine it, we must visualize a combination of the Louvre, Chartres Cathedral, and the New York World’s Fair. Our visit will enrich our understanding of the role of athletics for Homer, but also the Greek pursuit of excellence and beauty.

 In the late afternoon we will make our way with our local guide to the ancient Sanctuary of Zeus, site of the “Great Games” between the twelfth century BCE and the fourth century CE. Our stops will include the glorious ruins of the gymnasium and the palaestra (wrestling forum), the Temple of Zeus, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Hera, where the Olympic Torch is ignited for every modern Olympics, and the wondrous Archaeological Museum, which features the astounding statue of Hermes by Praxiteles. We will then walk through an old olive grove for a visit of the Olympics Museum, which features a collection of Olympic torches, medals, and memorabilia of the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the visionary who revived the Modern Olympic Games in the belief it would revive the spirit of the well-lived life.

Group dinner (included) at our hotel in Ancient Olympia.

Overnight in Olympia at the Hotel Amalia Olympia.


DAY 09 – Wed. Apr 10  Olympia, Nauplion (B)

“The Beauty of Our Quest”

Our morning Long Conversation today will be based on Phil’s new book, Who Stole the Arms of the Venus de Milo? The statue was inspired by one of the most famous stories in history, the love affair between Paris, prince of Troy, and Helen, Queen of Sparta, a combustible tale that has inspired more art, according to many scholars, than any other work.

When we arrive in Nauplion, we have free time in the afternoon, which includes the option of taking a double deck bus ride around the medieval city,  a local train ride, or visit the Bourtzi islet. In the early evening we will meet at a seaside taverna for an optional evening Open Discussion about our journey together.

Overnight in Nauplion at the Hotel Ippoliti


  Day 10 – Thu. April 11: Nauplion, Mycenae, Epidaurus (B, L) 

“The Healing Centers of Greece—Then and Now” 

After our traditional Greek breakfast at our Nauplion hotel, we will have a Long Conversation about one of the most exciting and revered sites in all of Greece, the sixth century BCE site of Ancient Epidaurus, the birthplace of Asklepius, the Greek God of Healing, whose caduceus still graces our hospitals and pharmacies. This was one of the more than three hundred “Healing Centers” of Ancient Greece and is enjoying a powerful revival as a healing site for the sick and infirm but also of war veterans suffering from PTSD, which is covered in two recent books by Dr. Edward Tick, War and the Sou and Passage to Poros, for which Phil wrote the Foreword. After our group meeting, we have the option of strolling around the beautifully restored center of town or taking the open deck bus for a tour of the city, coastline, and spectacular castle.

 From Nauplion we drive to the revered site itself and visit the sacred grounds with our local guide, including will visit the mysterious Dream Temple, the ancient amphitheater with its still astounding acoustics and where live performances are still staged, the recently restored ancient stadium, and the marvel-filled Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus, which contains testimonials by cured patients carved on stone tablets. Here, we will discuss the ancient role of dreams in curing the sick and wounded, the use of medicinal herbs, the power of the local oracle, and the ancient Greek belief in drama and music to help heal mind, body, and soul. After our walking tour, we will take time to meditate, journal, sketch, and walk what Van Morrison once called the grounds of ancient peace.


Agamemnon's Tomb
Mycenae - Agamemnon's Tomb - Credit : Phil Cousineau

Our afternoon will feature a visit to the magnificent citadel of Mycenae, home of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra, and the site of the gathering of ancient Greek (Achaean) kings who decided to go to war against Troy ruins of the palace of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. The site of so much grief will be illuminated by a discussion of Helen’s use of nepenthe, grief-banisher, Lotus-Eaters banish home-thoughts. For it was in nearby Sparta that the Trojan prince Paris, enchanted by the goddess of love, Aphrodite, came to seek out Helen, regarded as the most beautiful woman in the world, who was likewise under Aphrodite’s love spell. To catch a glimpse of the importance of these mythic figures, we will visit one of the most unusual sites in Greece, the strange pyramid-shaped Sanctuary of Menelaus and Helen, where they were worshipped as gods for centuries, and according to Pausanius, were buried there. With our local guide, we will climb up to the infamous ruins of the palace and have time to contemplate the staggering views of the valley and the distant harbor from where the famed 1,156 ships left for Troy and consider what the philosopher Hannah Arendt called “the universal urge to war.”  

After our “ruin-haunting,” we will visit one of the architectural marvels of the ancient world, the so-called “Tomb of Agamemnon,” a glorious tholos or beehive hut.

Free evening in Nauplion, a seaside village founded in antiquity, a vital port in the Middle Ages, and since the Greek Civil War, renowned for its distinct blend of Venetian, Ottoman, and Greek architecture. Tonight, we will be free to promenade along the ancient harbor and enjoy a traditional dinner (on our own) on the beautifully restored Constitution Square. 

Overnight in Nauplion at the Hotel Ippoliti


Day 11 – Fri. April 12: Ancient Corinth - Athens (B, D)

“The Return and the Boon” 

After breakfast we will commence with our final Long Conversation, “The Boon,” the gift, the wisdom. Everyone will have the opportunity to share in there Mythic Moments from our journey together.

Our first stop will be the astonishing architectural marvel of the Corinth Canal which connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean. Begun in the seventh century BCE, then abandoned until the aborted efforts of by the Roman emperor Nero, the massive dig was finally resumed in 1881 and completed in 1893. After a brief visit, we will visit Ancient Corinth to learn about its immortal mythical King Sisyphus, who was regarded by the classical Greek playwrights as the true father of Odysseus.While in this marvelous site we will visit the wonderful site of The Apollo Pottery Shop for a very special private demonstration of the recent revival of traditional Greek pottery making with owner Dumitru Romancius and his son Ratu. Your guide commissioned them to create the vase that graces the cover of his recent book, The Lost Notebooks of Sisyphus.  

After our arrival in Athens, we will have a free afternoon to stroll or shop or visit one last site on their own.

Tonight, we celebrate our travels with a Farewell Dinner (included).  

Overnight in Athens at the Royal Olympic Hotel


Day 12 – Sat . April 13: Athens 

After our final traditional Greek breakfast at the hotel, we will be transferred to the airport for our flights home.




  • 11 nights’ accommodation in  3* and 4* star hotels based on double/shared occupancy.
  • Breakfast daily, 5 lunches, Welcome Dinner & Farewell Dinner in Athens & 1 hotel dinner in Olympia.
  • Arrival and Departure Transfers in Athens .
  • Transportation by deluxe A/C private coach.
  • Admission to all sites as per itinerary.
  • Ferry tickets to/from Ithaka
  • English speaking local guides in Athens, Eleusis, Ancient Corinth,  Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia, and Delphi.
  • All current local taxes and charges


Added Features:

  • Travel with author, teacher and filmmaker, Phil Cousineau
  • Insightful group discussions and “Long Conversations”
  • Guide from the Odyssean Studies Center in Ithaka.


Rate does not include:

  • Any air tickets to/from Greece.  
  • Any travel insurance – strongly recommended .
  • Any personal expenses.
  • Tips.
  • Any drinks during meals.
  • Anything not specifically mentioned above as included.