Hellene Travel: A Specialist Company for Classics Tours

Many, but not all, will know of this specialist company, which helps Classicists to organise tours. Here’s Sarah Thomason…

Welcome to Hellene Travel – and a huge thank you to Stephen for this slot!

How I wish the Classics Library had existed when I was teaching – especially as Departmental staffing dwindled in direct proportion to the increase in twilight teaching. A Department of one can be a lonely place and there’s only so much networking one can accomplish during breaks at Conferences!

For those of you that know us; you can skip this next bit about who we are and how we started. For those to whom we are new – please read on.

Hellene was born as a result of a disastrous School Trip organized by a major Company that had made us a financial offer we couldn’t refuse. John (husband and veteran of many a School Trip and our own Classics Trips in school holidays) felt we could do better. Hellene is his creation but without the support of the late Dr Hector Catling (former Director of the British School at Athens) nothing would have been possible. We remain immensely grateful for the continued support and advice offered by the BSA.

Initially, Hellene was only for the benefit of the school where I taught (lower costs with content specifically directed to my students) but we grew as colleagues started to ask our advice and our existence spread by word of mouth; advertising was minimal. However, it was still only John and I working from home in our spare (!) time.

Our success was sealed by an amalgamation with ISIS Education – a young, punchy School Travel Company with an ethos that matches ours and the necessary staff for implementation, development and support.

Hellene remains a specialist in Classical Archaeology and Culture. Our itineraries are tailor-made to suit the specific requirements of syllabus, budget and stamina – Web Site and Brochure offerings are merely suggestions. We are Teacher led.

With over 30 years experience of Teaching and Examining in a Senior position and coordinating and leading Overseas Tours, we can advise on the different requirements of Staff, pupils and parents …………we understand all too well the logistics of running a Tour from every perspective.

Our knowledge and flexibility enable us to meet the needs of those wishing to concentrate on specific subjects e.g. Drama, Art, Mathematics and Philosophy in addition to Examination Modules.

We ensure freedom for experienced Group Leaders but also specialise in ‘hand holding’ for those with less experience. I remember my first time as an Overseas Tour Leader – I insisted my Mum came too! I cared for the pupils but she put me back together at the end of each day. John later stepped into that role.

Our job is now Consultancy – we personally inspect Hotels, liaise with Agents, Coach Drivers and Hoteliers, seek out new destinations whilst still advising on Itineraries and timings.

We have forged excellent friendships over the years – both at home and abroad. Our overseas contacts really are friends, as are many teachers, and it is excellent to meet up in the UK for meals and Rugby Matches. We are now dealing with the offspring of the original coach drivers and hoteliers and so have been privileged to enjoy many Weddings and Christenings.

These close contacts make it far easier to rectify problems – and they do occur despite the best laid plans! If the problem is of our making or under our remit, even if it is outside our control, we assume responsibility and, if appropriate, are prepared to pay compensation.  Not for us a token bunch of flowers sent to the school with a comment about the recipient being particularly demanding and unreasonable as I remember receiving all those years ago!

We are still old fashioned enough to believe that:

  • the customer is (usually!) right
  • pupil needs come first
  • Classics is a hugely important part of the curriculum
  • organising and running a trip is both extremely time consuming and involves considerable responsibilities; if we can do anything to make your job easier, we will!


We have recently returned from a Hotel Risk Assessment research trip to Rome in preparation for those many trusty souls venturing forth.

Overseas Agents as well as our London Office Staff are all on watch.

Rome Hotels and Trattoria are all in good repair (despite some unwarranted on line reports!) and we have some new 3* Accommodation currently undergoing renovation in preparation for the New Year!

We think we soaked up the rain on your behalf………..

The Nautical Museum at Nemi was a welcome half day excursion for us – if you happen to be in the area on your own break, do try to visit – the Museum is positively stunning. It holds not only amazing naval exhibits but also an impressive display of votives from nearby sanctuaries ranging from Archaic Greek to Etruscan and Roman.

It would make a good stop off point en route to Naples or a half day excursion from Rome; perhaps in conjunction with Palestrina and/or Ostia.

The mountain villages provide a welcome respite – wonderful caldera lake views, winding mediaeval streets and a plethora of strawberries and porchetta!

We are now off to Crete and Mainland Greece – more Hotels, more Sites – I just hope we survive the 30 degree temperatures!

Whatever your plans this Half Term – School Trips or catching up with your life – good luck and enjoy!

Best Regards,
Sarah and John

Hellene Travel : : 0845 200 1531

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