Real Greece, the flavors of Greece tour

This private journey features local experts, chefs, and vitners (plus the occasional know-it-all local villager), and will be escorted by Real Greece founders Carole & Basil Kezios.

Join us as we eat, cook, and sip our way across the Aegean Sea, sampling the flavors of the Greeks islands, soaking up the Greek sun, hanging with the islanders (and learning their culinary secrets), before heading to the Peloponese, Greece’s largest “island,” where the harvest will be in full swing, just in time for the “crush.” If we’re lucky, we’ll get there in time to participate in the mysterious art of making Tsipouro—Greece’s own special kind of grappa.

We’ll sail ’round an island and hike into a volcano, ride horses on the beach and bikes in the village, and of course, we’ll relax poolside in our modern adaptation of a Cycladic tower—or on the warm sandy beach below it. We’ll stay in a Venetian estate, a village guesthouse, an exclusive island villa and a hipster hotel on a hill. Variety, after all, is the true spice of life.

Won’t you join RealGreece’s founders, Carole & Basil on what promises to be an amazing escorted journey?

An exclusive Real Greece hosted journey
17 days/16 nights $4,850
Saturday September 15  to Monday October 1

Pre tour option Tuesday September 11 – Saturday September 15 (Athens, Hydra)
5 days, 4 nights

Post tour option Monday October 1 – Thursday October 4 (Delphi, Meteora)
4 days, 3 nights

Limited to 8 people

The Islands

The Mountains

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Tower Villa, Naxos

Villa Paradise’s Tower Villa is the seaside heaven you have been dreaming of. Located at the Plaka beach, it is the harmonious combination of the enchanting sea, the fertile land, the mysterious rock and the endless sky. The spaces, the images and the sublime beauty of the Naxian landscape make for the perfect place to begin our journey.

Thermes Villas, Santorini

Thermes Villas is a traditional Cycladic hotel where the rock, wood, whitewashed walls and blue colors dominate in its splendor. This outstanding property is simple yet chic, traditional yet luxurious with a sense of space, style and colorful ambience. Needless to say, along with the outstanding exteriors come some very stylish interiors.

All villas offer large terraces with wooden floors, giving you a sense of being on the deck of a deluxe cruise liner. Relax in the loungers or take a dive in the infinity pool and lose yourself in blue… Revel in one of the seven villas attached to the seven most important goddesses of ancient Greece who welcome you to a world of luxury and invite you to a journey of the senses…

Named after the hotel springs hidden just a few meters away, Thermes Villas is located in Megalochori, superbly overlooking Santorini’s famous caldera. The property provides a panoramic view of the island from Thira and Thirassia to Akrotiri and Oia, a stunning horizon that of course includes the volcano and the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Minimalistic and chic yet with all the services expected from a five-star deluxe hotel, this property will take your breath away just by sitting on the wooden deck verandas and soaking in the sun against the most amazing views.

Milos Breeze, Milos

In a privileged location, amidst the endless deep blue of the perennial Aegean sea that surrounds the Cyclades and the spectacular sunsets of Milos island, the 4-star Milos Breeze Boutique Hotel constitutes an idyllic summer haven for harbouring your most indelible holidays in Milos.

Blending traditional architecture with touches of authentic luxury, Milos Breeze invites you to experience unique holiday moments amidst the picturesque fishing village of Pollonia amply providing spectacular visuals, that become priceless memories of relaxation and well being with a calm and cool breeze to accompany your days and evenings.

Acropolis Sky Villa, Athens

Papanikola Guesthouse Hotel, Arcadia, Peloponnese

Kinsterna Hotel, Monemvassia, Peloponnese

 

 

What’s included?

Please visit individual trip pages to get details of what is covered. Each trip included all ground transportation (to and from), all domestic flights & ferries, local experts, licensed guides where available,  daily breakfast, lunches & dinners where noted, curated experiences, and local transportation for experiences listed in the individual itineraries.

Will I have time to myself?

Yes! On most days we have included down time.  Nothing is mandatory, but a lot will be included in the overall trip price.

An exclusive Real Greece hosted journey
17 days/16 nights $4,850
Saturday September 15  to Monday October 1

This private journey features local experts, chefs & vitners (and the occasional know it all local villager) and will be escorted by Real Greece founders Carole & Basil Kezios.

Limited to 8 people

INCLUDED:

  • 16 nights accommodations
  • All breakfasts, most lunches and dinners as specified
  • All activities (boat trips, cooking classes, wine tastings, bike rides)
  • Admission to all archeological sites
  • Wines as mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Services of English-speaking, professional licensed guides (or experts where noted)
  • Private, air-conditioned vehicle with wi-fi hotspot and professional driver
  • All domestic airfare as specified
  • All ferry transportation as specified
  • All land transportation as specified
  • Gratuities at restaurants where included in the itinerary

EXCLUDED:

  • International air
  • Gratuities for your private guides
  • Meals and alcoholic beverages not specified in the itinerary
  • Optional horsebackriding tour
  • Any items for personal use
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Travel insurance (recommended and can be arranged)
  • Any pre- or post-journey plans

We’ll meet at the Athens International Airport and hop on a short flight to Naxos.

You are here at a glorious time of the year. The bustling crowds are gone, the days are long, the sea is warm and the weather is ideal.

The flight over the Aegean is your first glimpse of the deep blue Greek sea. The view from above is spectacular. Take out your camera. Be grateful it’s all digital now, otherwise you would be out of film before we land in Naxos.

Naxos comes into view as just a spot of white in the turquoise waters of the Aegean, a unique blend of ancient ruins, less ancient Venetian castles, and modern beach culture. The largest of the Cycladic Islands, Naxos is the childhood home of none other than Zeus, king of the gods.

We arrive at the Tower Villa in time to freshen up and enjoy the sunset and a welcome drink around our private pool. The sun will be setting over the Orkas Bay and Plaka beach.

Then you’ll have your first sunset in Greece. There will be many. Take notes. We will ask you to compare them.

This is going to be our home for the next three days.

Over dinner we will have our first introduction to the flavors of Greece, specifically those of the Aegean islands we are about to explore.

There is a movement here in the Cyclades. It is the Aegean Cuisine. It isn’t a style, more like a culinary agreement, a challenge amongst the chefs that are practicing their craft: to take the simple ingredients that are produced in this arid land and make masterpieces. And we are here to experience them.

The Aegean islands are made of rock, light and wind. As you will soon find out.

On this day, we’ll have a chance to explore the island, exploring its inner villages and those Venetian castle and beautiful beaches.

This evening we’ll have our first cooking lesson, the first opportunity to savor some of the culinary delights of Naxos—paired, of course, with some of the local wine.

The days in Naxos may be a blur between the sea, the sun, the brightness and light … it happens in the Cyclades.

Those of us who want to participate will have the option for a horseback ride on the beach.

Together we’ll explore the island’s villages, by bike or by mini-bus. We’ll see Hora, along with the multitude of ancient, medieval and venetian sites and castles.

Our Tower Villa has a BBQ grill that we use to make lamb chops – Greek style – and relax over another sunset before dinner – will Basil be cooking?

We hop on the boat to Santorini. Let your hair down and let the sea breeze flow through it.

Welcome to Santorini. It is on everyone’s bucket list. Today, we get to fulfill this promise.

As we approach the caldera, Santorini rises to its majestic size. The jagged cliffs dwarf the ship as we enter the horseshoe bay, the legendary volcanic ridge rising before us.

Just imagine—this entire body of water was a mountain that blew out like a cork. Luckily, it left behind this geological marvel that everyone comes to see.

We are picked up at the port right on time for an all day tailor-made exploration of the whole island. A little sight seeing, a little archeology, a little wine tasting at sunset overlooking the caldera (remember, take notes!).

Our homes on Santorini are the quintessential white Cycladic villas, away from the hustle and bustle of Oia, but still with that million dollar view across the great caldera. We’ll have the chance to relax and enjoy dinner and drink at a local taverna. Our villa complex has a spa, so if you want to book a massage, just let us know.

You’ll spend the morning and early afternoon at your leisure. Enjoy a dip in the pool or a massage at the spa. Curl up with a book.  Visit the art galleries up the road. We can arrange to have you picked up for further explorations in the local towns, Fira and Oia. You will have a chance to shop, take photos and get an amazing view with a walk on the rim of the caldera.

This afternoon we head to the top of Pyrgos. Pyrgos is Greek for “tower,” so fittingly, it’s the highest point on the island, providing spectacular 360° degree vistas. We will stroll down to our favorite restaurant, Selene, where the Aegean Cuisine cooking movement got its start.

We will have a cooking class and learn about the local produce, cheeses, and wines that make this movement special. Finally we will enjoy our creations, all while overlooking the island and the sunset. Did I mention there would be many great sunsets?

This is our last night in Santorini.

After breakfast this morning we’ll head to the port to board the high speed ferry to our next destination: Greece’s lesser known volcano, the island of Milos.

Never heard of Milos?

Do you remember the Venus de Milo from high school art class?

Before the French gave her a room of her own at the Louvre, she lived here.

Milos is another volcanic island of incredible beauty, moon-like landscapes and one-of-a-kind food and wine.

Perhaps we’ll take a tour in a creamery, and visit a goat farm to learn how they make the spicy cheese you can only find in the Cyclades.

We’ll explore the island’s hidden coves, where pirates hid their ships while on the lookout for merchants. We can swim in the crystal clear waters, surrounded by the stunningly white volcanic rocks of Sarakiniko beach. In the afternoon, we’ll have to decide between lounging at our hotel pool with a book or a cocktail, and taking a trip to the thermal springs. It’s a win-win. And lest you forget, we’ll still have our share of breathtaking Greek sunsets!

This morning is leisure time: breakfast by the pool or on your balcony—you choose. Early afternoon we’ll head to the mines, and find out why Milos is becoming the culinary capital of the Aegean.

The catacombs carved into the rock are over two thousand years old. Some caves were used by the Germans during World War II as a bomb shelter, but it’s now an underground art gallery.

Did I mention sunset?

Tonight we’ll be watching the sunset from the charming cobblestone streets of Plaka. We’lll have dinner in the village, sampling some of the island’s wild greens (remember the domatokeftedes we enjoyed in Santorini, Milos has their own version).

This morning after breakfast we’ll head out in 4x4s for the western part of the island. We’ll hike to the roadless rocky coast, into the giant bolders toward the sea. We’re heading to the crystal blue coves of Kleftiko, where pirates once hid, unseen by residents and unseen by the boats traveling along the shore and between the various islands. We’ll enjoy a BBQ lunch on the rocks before our own boat will be waiting in the cove to wisk us around to the other side of the island and back home.

Back to Athens: Capital of Greece, cradle of Democracy. Where ideas like philosophy and public debate were made commonplace. Where theater was brought to a new level that some might say has yet to be matched.

We will be picked up from the airport and take a tour around eastern Attica. We’ll make the scenic drive to visit the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion and watch… wait for it… the sunset.

Next we will visit Kalyvia, an entire town dedicated to lamb chops. This is where the Athenians themselves come to to relax and have great food, something we will be doing plenty of.

This is where we arrive at our accommodations for the next two nights.

It is our home away from home—there are few things better than relaxing on our rooftop lounge, overlooking the Acropolis.

We will start our visit in Athens with a walk through our favorite neighborhood. You’ll taste some of the local food we love, walk by the Old Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus, the Gate of Athens and head to the Acropolis Museum where we will meet up with our expert licensed guide who will explain, revive, and make history come alive.

Some people come to Greece just to see the Parthenon and other sites atop the Acropolis.  You’ll see why when you have ascended the ancient stairs.  You are now walking in the steps of Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and all the others that have walked, worshiped, conquered, lived on and around this sacred rock for the last 3000 years.

Finally, we will reconvene to head back home to relax, freshen up, and have a drink on our rooftop garden.

It’s been a while. Did I mention the sunset?

The sun sets right over the Parthenon. Be patient and you will be rewarded with some incredible photo opportunities. When the sun is low on the horizon and the sky is just barely pink, the lights go on on the Parthenon. Slowly they warm up. There is a sweet moment where magic is made in the union between the colorful, darkening sky and the gentle amber lights of that ancient temple.

Armed with the knowledge you’ve gained today you can now have your own philosophical conversations over food and wine at our favorite, hidden little culinary gem, where we may learn the art of stuffing sardines, among other treats.

Heading out of Athens to the south, we will visit the Corinth Canal, a marvel of modern engineering. A little further on, and we head to the top of Ancient Corinth, the Acrocorinth, the once-great citadel that controlled the entrance to the Peloponnese for millenia.

We go further south through the mountains toward the middle of Arcadia, birthplace of Pan, god of nature and of Zeus (or at least, so claim the Naxians, but then again, who wouldn’t want to claim Zeus as one of their own).

We skirt past Tripolis and start climbing the pine-covered mountains through the ski resort of Vytina and decent to Piana, hopefully by sunset.

What was that about a sunset? You’re in luck: tonight, we have a double header.

The sunset is around 7:10 PM, and at 7:30, the full moon begins its ascent into the night sky. And we planned it this way just for you!

You will have a chance to freshen up before a dinner of local dishes, much different than the Aegean Cuisine, but equally tasty. The simplicity of the ingredients and the freshness make this meal another experience not to forget.

The morning is magical.

Even if you are not an early riser, set your alarm early and get up to see the sunrise. The balcony overlooks the valley below, and you might mistake it for a lake made of the early morning fog. The air above is crisp and clear. The only sounds are those of the birds and the clanging bells of grazing sheep, with the occasional bark of a distant dog.

There is an inherent danger at Papanikola.

Many people don’t leave the balcony for their entire stay. We have had clients miss the next night’s hotel reservations just because they did not want to leave the balcony.

Nonetheless, if you can pull yourself away, we have a great tour scheduled for today. It’s a long one, but rewarding: we are going to visit Ancient Olympia along with the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Afaia. Along the way, take in the vistas from the majestic Lousios Gorge, see gravity-defying monasteries hanging off the cliffs, followed by the water mill museum in Andritsaina, and finally, back to Papanikola for a well deserved drink.

Back home our chef’s been cooking all day long, awaiting our return.

The lighted church of St. George chiming every half hour is the only thing that brings us back to reality.

If you leave your doors ajar at night, you might just hear the nightingales singing.

It my favorite way to fall asleep.

Day at leisure, or not.

Take your breakfast out to the veranda, and lean back and absorb the view.  You can make your way up to the cafe at the square. You can ask for the keys to the church of St.George or the Cultural Museum and you can visit either one or both.
You can trek to Pan’s cave. It is a short moderate walk on well marked trails. On your way back we’ll learn the art of identifying and picking some of the local herbs and teas that fill the hillside and grow wild around the village.
Today we’ll also learn the art of “opening filo” for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Lunch of local flavors only helps open up the appetite. You will learn how to play kolitsina, xeri, cards and backgammon.
Relax the evening away under the almost full moon

 

Sadly, today we’ll have to leave our peaceful mountain retreat, but our journey south takes us back to the coast, and to the sea.

Along the way, if time allows, we’ll stop to visit the Byzantine city of Mystras, just outside of Sparta.

Arriving at Monemvassia, we’ll go back in time as we check into our home for the next three nights, a Byzantine estate called Kinsterna.

This is a magical place, set on a hill overlooking the Aegean and Monemvasia, Greece’s “Gibraltar of the East.” It’s history is sordid; if the walls could tell stories, they’d have much to say of its life under Ottoman and Venetian rule. Luckily for us, the estate has been lovingly restored by its current Greek owners,  blending the old with the new. Each room is a unique reflection of the time from which the estate was in its prime, with the bonus of all of the modern comforts of a 5 star luxury mansion.

The rooms whisper of history, with stone fireplaces and atmospheric balconies where residents of the age-old village once crushed grapes into wine.

Kinsterna is also  spa. You’ll have the option of booking a massage, relaxing by the pool or taking a break in the hammam.

Today, we’ll get to one of the reasons to visit Kinsterna in the autumn:  We’ll tour the vineyards, learn about the local varietal, the Malvasia grape, a product of designated orgin only to this area and only by a handful of producers in the area.

By now you’ve noticed the vineyards. Kinsterna is known for its wine making, and perhaps we will be able to get our hands—or better yet, feet—a little dirty in the winemaking process. If we’re late for the grape harvest we won’t be late for the afterparty – that’s when the tsipouro making starts!

Tsipouro is the Greek equivalent of Grappa. Kinsterna is well known for its Tsipouro, and you get to be a part of making it! At least, you get to be the Quality Control department by making sure that all the Tsipouro made during your shift tastes great. Not a bad outcome either way.

Tonight,  dinner al fresco overlooking the cistern is what every meal in our lives should be. Relaxing, innovative, imaginative, made with the products that are all around us. Yes, all those herb and vegetable gardens surrounding Kinsterna are used in their everyday cooking.

One more time—did I mention the sunset?

After a lazy breakfast and perhaps a dip in the pool, today we set off to explore the ancient fortress and castle called Monemvasia. We’ve been overlooking the rocky island from our exclusive spot on the hill, but nothing can prepare you for the town you will find when we cross the footpath from the mainland, and pass through the city gates.Those who feel adventuresome will traverse the cobblestone paths where cars may not go, eventually reaching the top of the castle. There, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing vista along with tales of the town’s colorful past, from Byzantine to Venetian to Ottoman, and finally to modern Greek.

If you’ve had enough history, explore the little shops built into cave houses in the rocks. Here, we can enjoy a little lunch and leisure time.

Tonight, dinner will be back up the hill, past our hotel to the little village of Foutia, which has a special place in our hearts: it’s the birthplace of our wonderful Greek mountain mutt, Foutaki … who we lovingly call Aki.

One more breakfast,  savoring the autumn harvest, much of which comes from the gardens surrounding us.

Today we head back to Athens. We shared a final meal, a final sunset, we’ve checked an item or two off our bucket lists, yes, but we’ve touched a part of Greece that can’t be qualfied as an item on a checklist. We’ve tasted the gifts of this magical land.  Opened some filo.  Made friends with the locals. Crushed some grapes. Swam in the warm crystal blue waters of the Aegean. Learned a new skill (in the kitchen or at the Kafenieo!).

Final departure arrangements made individually. We’ll be back in Athens for afternoon flight departures or we can arrange for one last night in Athens and transfer to the airport for your morning flight.

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