Yiasou! Welcome to Athens, the capital of Greece. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, be sure to explore some of the ancient sites for which the city is famous, including the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Greece is home to a culinary culture that is thought to be more than 4000 years old. While wheat, olives and wine are considered seminal, Greek food is equally renowned for vibrant Mediterranean vegetables, liberal use of herbs such as dill and mint, succulent lamb, locally caught seafood, and syrup-soaked sweets. Greece is credited with spreading ancient culinary traditions well beyond its borders and, in turn, its cuisine reflects Ottoman influences through Arabic, Persian and Turkish-tinged flavours. While many dishes require patience and time to prepare, Greek food celebrates a rustic simplicity, and it is most likely this quality which has made it one of the world's best-loved cuisines. After your meeting, celebrate the start of your foodie odyssey with a plant-based mezze feast – an array of small plates typically accompanied by a glass of wine or ouzo, in a rustic taverna. Zucchini balls, vegan moussaka, salads, tomato balls, fresh beans with zucchini, fava beans and stuffed vegetables are just a few of the flavoursome dishes that may be on offer tonight.
This morning, take the city train to Piraeus port and travel by ferry to the island of Aegina, your first stop in the Saronic Gulf. The ferry ride takes approximately 40 minutes. After checking in at your hotel, strap on your helmet and take a charming bike ride to visit a pistachio farm. It’s thought that pistachio trees were first planted on the island in the 19th century, brought to Aegina via Syria, and the Greek island of Chios. Enjoy a sample from the farm and be sure to seek out fistikato or fistiki Aeginis glyko, specialty pistachio sweets of Aegina. The late afternoon and evening are free for your own exploration. Your leader will have some excellent local suggestions come dinnertime.
After breakfast, stroll down and check out the catch of the day at the open fish markets by the port. Perhaps also stop past the island's most famous pastry shop to pick up some pistachio goodies to take with you. Next, board another ferry bound for Poros, a small Greek island renowned for lamb, olive groves and charming white houses with terracotta roofs. Take part in a cooking class with a local chef and learn to prepare some classic regional dishes, then feast on your creations over lunch. Enjoy a free afternoon by your accommodation’s pool and be sure to ask your leader for recommendations for dinner tonight.
Take a day trip to Hydra Island, a quintessential Greek getaway. Hydra is truly the gem of the Saronic Gulf and stands alone among Greek islands as the one free of wheeled vehicles – no cars, no scooters – just tiny marble-cobbled lanes, donkeys, rocks and sea. There are no land vehicles here, not even pushbikes, so put your walking shs on and get acquainted with the locals with a spot of people watching and enjoy this one of a kind, Greek Island. Enjoy a delicious lunch of spit-roast lamb then relax with a stroll along the marina, before returning to Poros in the evening.
Take a private vehicle from Poros to Nafplio. Your first stop will be at a small, family-run apiary. Visit their honey museum to learn how their bees make honey, before sampling their products with aromatic Greek tea, homemade bread and cheese. Travel onwards to the ancient site of Epidaurus. Named after Epidauro, the son of Apollo, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Epidaurus comprises the remains of the Sanctuary of Asklepios (the ancient god of medicine) as well as one of the best-preserved theatres of ancient Greece. Your final stop today is at a family-owned ouzo distillery for a taste of their iconic Greek aperitif. Traditionally distilled in copper pots, ouzo acquires its distinct flavour from the addition of anise. Star anise, fennel, mastic, cardamom, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon may also be added, and recipes are often closely guarded family secrets. Arrive in Nafplio in the late afternoon, a charming seaside town, considered one of the most beautiful in the eastern Peloponnese, it reflects the legacy of Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors in its culture and architecture.
Start your day with a visit to Mycenae to visit the Treasury of Atreus, also called Tomb of Agamemnon – believed to have been erected in the period between 1350 to 1250 BC, this is one of nine intriguing beehive structures unearthed in this area. Next up is a visit to a family-owned boutique winery to sample their finest drops, accompanied by a selection of delicious snacks. Take a walk in the vines to stretch your legs before heading back to Nafplio for an incredible tasting of local cheeses, salamis and yoghurt. The rest of the day is free to explore. In summer, boats are also available to the Venetian fortress of Bourtzi, one of the most photographed sites of Nafplio.
Continue to the seaside town of Kardamyli by private vehicle (approximately 4 hours), stopping en route to visit an olive oil mill. Walk through the olive groves and visit their mill, seeing the oil production process from start to finish. Enjoy a farmer’s snack and olive oil tasting before getting back on the road. Stop in Kalamata for a short walking tour and market visit with food tasting and free time for lunch. Arrive in Kardamyli by early afternoon. Located in the rugged coastal region of the Mani Peninsula, south of Kalamata, this stunning village is set against a beautiful backdrop of the open ocean, cypress trees, wild olive groves, and distant snow-capped mountains. The afternoon is free for you to explore. Pack some hiking shs and walk one of the town's seaside trails or venture out to the nearby Diros caves (approximately 1 hour from Kardamyli). In the evening, settle back into your accommodation and enjoy a glass of retsina while watching the sun set over the Messenian Gulf.
This morning you may like to do an optional sea kayaking activity, exploring the coastline and caves of the Mani Peninsula. In the afternoon, be welcomed at a local farm and learn how to make lalagia – a delicious Greek doughnut that can be served sweet or savoury. Afterwards, enjoy one final Greek feast with your new friends. Home-cooked moussaka, stuffed vegetables, rice, salad and ice cream await!
Your Real Food Adventure concludes on arrival at Monastiraki Square in the centre of Athens at approximately 1pm. We recommend that onward flights be booked no earlier than 5:30pm. Your leader can advise on the best way to reach your next destination. If you wish to extend your Greek adventure, why not enjoy a spot of island-hopping from Athens to the idyllic Santorini. Check out our Athens to Santorini (ZMSE) trip for more details.