Travel Q&A: Classical Greece; Touring Hawaii's Big Island With a Teenager

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 15, 2009

Q. Our son is graduating from college in May with a major in classical civilization. We'd like to take him on a trip to Greece, with a concentration on classical sites. I'm not sure where to begin: Should we join a tour, take a cruise or try to set our own itinerary?

Lee Ann Regan, Burke

A. Stick to a land tour, says Pamela Lassers of Abercrombie & Kent, a travel company that emphasizes culture and history (800-554-7016, "The problem with a cruise is that the shore excursions tend to be really short, and if someone is seriously into history, they're going to want to spend more time" at the historical sites, she said.

Lassers recommended starting in Athens to explore the Acropolis and other ancient sites, then renting a car and heading to Delphi, home of the Temple of Apollo. "It's just 110 miles from Athens, so you could even do it as a day trip," she said. "If you can manage it, arrive first thing in the morning so you can see it without the crowds." Or stay overnight to enjoy the ruins at sunset, and visit the Archaeological Museum the next morning before the buses arrive. The classical sites of Mycenae also can be done on a driving trip from Athens.

Don't miss the island of Delos, considered a holy sanctuary for a thousand years before Olympian Greek mythology declared it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Roman villas were built on top of the Greek ruins, Lassers said, so it's possible to see the remains of three very distinct civilizations.

If you'd rather join a tour group, many companies offer trips focusing on classical sites. At Homeric Tours (800-223-5570,, spokesman John Klados said all of the company's guides are college graduates who have majored in history. He recommended spending three days visiting classical sites in the north, then taking a three- or four-day cruise.

We will be visiting the Big Island of Hawaii with our 15-year-old son. We are planning to drive to see the volcanoes, but can you offer any other suggestions? My son would like to snorkel and surf.

Donald Poole, Waldorf

Probably the coolest thing to do on the Big Island is to hike across the lava fields of Kilauea, a volcano that has been erupting continuously since 1983. Watching molten lava flowing into the ocean is a tough act to follow, but here are other things to do:

-- Stargaze at the top of Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain (measured from the ocean floor), and take a free telescope tour.

-- Drive through coffee country, stopping at cafes in the laid-back town of Holuakoa.

-- Visit the lush Waipio Valley, celebrated for its dramatic waterfalls, jungles and beaches.

-- Take a snorkeling cruise to Kealakekua Bay on the South Kona coast and swim amid dolphins, sea turtles and octopuses.

-- Surf at Kahaluu Beach Park on the west coast.

-- Visit the Parker Ranch in Waimea for a glimpse of Hawaii's cowboy traditions.

For more info: Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, 800-GOHAWAII,

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