After landing at the Athens International Airport, we will pick you up in a deluxe, air-conditioned minibus. We will drive to the Peloponnesus (one hour drive from the airport). On our way to the luxurious hotel, we will stop at the Corinth Canal, a fascinating engineering marvel. The canal crosses the Peloponnese Peninsula, connects the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf and shortens the trip from the Aegean Sea to the port city of Piraeus by 320 km (200 miles).
After arriving in the hotel and getting organized, you may relax on your room’s balcony, facing the charming scenery of the Gulf of Corinth, meander along the beach adjacent to the hotel, use the gym or spa, or take your ease in the lobby over a glass of ouzo or Greek wine.
In the evening, we will have dinner in a Greek Taverna near the hotel, also reviewing the vacation itinerary, and then retire for the night, pleased and excited about the next day.
(Note: The activity on the first day will be determined according to the group’s time of arrival).
After a rich breakfast, we will be given aprons and hats. We will then head out to one of Tallis Tavernas. We will meet our chef for the day, become acquainted with the kitchen where we will be spending the day. We will then be given safety instructions for working in the kitchen preparing a sumptuous Mediterranean lunch.
The next 4 hours will be spent in a fascinating, unifying group experience, among pots and pans, ovens and mixers, bottles of olive oil and beds of herbs that are adjacent to every self-respecting Taverna. Every participant will discover their “inner chef” when preparing the traditional lavish Greek afternoon meal, with 5-6 courses.
During the break we will relax around a table of cheese and wine.
After a lunch, completely prepared by you supplemented with fine Greek wines, we will return to the hotel.
The afternoon is yours to spend as you like; indulge at the luxurious spa in central Loutraki, take a stroll on the beach, visit the gym or spa in the hotel, or relax on the balcony of your room, reading the book that you had always been meaning to get to….
In the evening you can enjoy any of the hotel’s restaurants, or the many Tavernas in the city, the Greek pubs and bars, and those who wish can try their luck at the deluxe Loutraki Casino.
After the excellent breakfast, we will set out on a fascinating tour of the Peloponnesus, a huge peninsula, the cradle of Greek civilization.
We will tour Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Nafplio a magical tour called the “Argolis Classic Tour” after the Kingdom of Argolis, which dwelt in Peloponnesus thousands of years ago, passing through some of the main sites of Peloponnesus.
In Epidaurus we will visit the Old City and the huge 3,000-year-old amphitheater, which is an acoustic marvel and still to this day serves as a site for special music events, attracting music lovers from all over Greece.
From there we will go to Mycenae, the place of residence of the ancient royal dynasty of King Agamemnon, king of Argolis, and where Helen of Troy was kidnapped. After we tour the beautifully preserved Old City of Mycenae and the graves of the royal dynasty, we will travel to Nafplio. There we will finish the day exploring ancient castles, amazing museums, the narrow alleyways of the open-air market, and the beach restaurants of Nafplio.
We will return to the hotel in the early evening, just in time for you to watch the breathtaking sunset over the Gulf of Corinth from your hotel room balcony.
At 10:30 pm (22:30), we will set out for Athens, for a night in a Greek nightclub. Greeks love music and love to have fun late into the night. Spending the night in a nightclub, with live music in Athens is an extraordinary experience. A band, with a bouzouki or two, join the vocalists on stage, and they will not leave the stage until morning. The night is replete with continuous performances of singers who are constantly changing. The seating is at tables laden with alcoholic beverages and nuts, and the later it gets, the “warmer” the audience becomes, dancing in the aisles and on the tables, getting up to dance on the stage, hugging and kissing the singers and throwing them flowers as a sign of love and respect. The atmosphere is warm and compelling, and almost without being aware of it, the group will find themselves dancing on the tables and throwing flowers like any of the Athenians
Note – The law banning smoking in clubs is not enforced, so a visit there is not recommended to those who wish to avoid cigarette smoke.
Free morning (to allow you to recover from the night before…..)
After lunch, we will leave for a bakery, where we will meet the chefs, bakers, and cheese-makers. We will be given safety instructions for working in the bakery and we will begin to bake and to prepare cheese. We will bake special Greek breads, cookies with olive oil, grape sugar concentrate ….and ouzo. We will learn to make real Greek feta cheese, Greek yogurt, and additional cheeses the way the Greek villagers prepare them for their own use.
After class, we will sit down to eat the cheese and breads we prepared, and add traditional Greek dishes to the repast to round out the menu.
We will return to the hotel in the evening, and everyone will be free to spend the evening as they choos
After breakfast, we set out for a tour of Athens, the capital of Greece and one of the oldest cities in the world. We will visit the Acropolis (“upper city”), where we will visit the remains of the ancient city whose age is estimated to be about 5,000 years old, the Parthenon, which was preserved almost intact, and the new museum, which opened a few years ago. We will climb Mount Lycabettus for a view of the entire city and then descend to the foot of the Acropolis, to the ancient “Plaka” quarter, which is a bustling tourist district today. We will visit the Syntagma Metro Station, which has become a “museum” after significant archaeological relics were found during excavations. We will also visit Syntagma Square, the site of the Greek Parliament (if we get there at the right time, we can also see the changing of the guards). If the time will allow, we will tour the national parks of Athens, and additional sites.
Optional: Professional Seminar –
Instead of the trip to Athens, we can have a full-day seminar on professional topics, or, alternatively, we can combine a half-day trip to Athens with a half-day seminar.
After breakfast, we will leave for the Nemea region, the “wine country” of Peloponnesus, where we will visit the centuries-old vineyards. We will visit the finest wineries and taste the superb wines of Nemea, produced with 4,000 years of experience.
In the afternoon we will come to the “Sophos” Tavern, where we will have a light lunch, and, together with Maria and Irini, we will cook an amazing Mediterranean dinner consisting of 5 – 6 traditional dishes (of course after we receive safety instructions for working in the kitchen that will keep us safe and sound.)
A dinner, which is completely prepared by the group, will celebrate the end of the vacation. We’ll eat Greek foods, drink wines from the Nemea region, we will dance the traditional Sirtaki to the sounds of the bouzouki and accordion, and we will feel special and united as never before.
Back to the hotel in the wee hours.
We will leave the hotel and set out for a visit to the Serapim family’s pasta factory near Loutraki.
The prevalent notion is that pasta originated in Italy, but apparently that is not the case. Pasta was actually born in ancient Greece and migrated also to Italy.
In the traditional Greek pasta class, we will prepare traditional Greek pasta in a small, old-fashioned factory, employing the production methods used in Greece 50 years ago. We will also visit a modern, mechanized factory that manufactures many types of traditional Greek pasta.
We will conclude our visit with a meal of soup and traditional Greek pasta, and a visit to the shop of the Serafim family, where you will find many types of Greece’s traditional distinctive pastas, such as pasta based on tomatoes and pasta based on olives.
We will continue to the airport, for our flight home, all prepared to cook a proper Greek dinner for our loved ones.
(Note – the activity of the last day will be determined based on the flight time of the group).
Corinth Canal – 1 hour
The Corinth Canal, a man-made wonder, is a waterway across the Isthmus of Corinth, connecting the Gulf of Corinth in the northwest, with the Saronic Gulf in the southeast. Before the existence of the canal, ships were forced to make the long journey around the Peloponnese Peninsula, an area of more than 8,000 square miles.
In around 600 BC, Periander, founder of the Cypselid Dynasty of Corinth, had the brilliant idea of taking ships out of the water and pulling them overland, to avoid this tiresome trip around the Peloponnese Peninsula. He built a sort of railroad track on which ships were hauled on wheeled wagons across the Isthmus, from one end to the other. Parts of the track are still visible today. This practice was used until about the ninth century, when ships had become too large for this system.
In 1882 work began on digging out, mostly by hand, the Corinth Canal, which opened in 1893. The canal walls are more than 80 meters high, it has an in-water depth of 8 meters and is just over 6 kilometers long. The width at the bottom starts at 21 meters, widening to 25 meters at the water’s surface.
The Corinth Canal is a popular tourist attraction; large ships being pulled through the canal by small tug boats is a sight worth seeing. Not for the faint-hearted is bungee jumping from a location just under the bridge that runs across the canal. Many nerve-wracking events have taken place here, like Robbie Maddison jumping across the canal on a motorbike and many others have walked a tightrope across it. Small planes have also daringly flown its length, actually in the canal, just above the water level.
Epidaurus – Mycenae – Nafplio – Full day (8-9 hours)
This fascinating tour called the “Argolis Classic Tour” after the Kingdom of Argolis, which dwelt in Peloponnese thousands of years ago, passes through some of the main sites of Peloponnese.
In Epidaurus we will visit the Old City and the huge 3,000-year-old amphitheater, which is an acoustic marvel, one of the most well preserved ancient theatres in the world and still to this day serves as a site for special music events, attracting music lovers from all over Greece.
When visiting Epidaurus, you must try out the magnificent acoustics: stand in the center of the circular orchestra (marked by a square of marble) and speak as quietly as you can. You won’t believe how your voice returns to you, and how people in the very back of the theatre can hear you perfectly well.
From there we will go to Mycenae, the Capital of Ancient Mycenaean Civilization, dating from the 1600 – 1800 BC, the place of residence of the ancient royal dynasty of King Agamemnon, king of Argolis.
As the landscape is rather rocky and most of the ruins are at the top of a hill, a bit of climbing is involved; do wear sturdy and comfortable shoes. The tour begins at the “Lion Gates” (The earliest monumental sculpture in Europe), taking you inside the Acropolis, followed by a climb up to the Palace. The Palace is where King Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Klytemnistra and her lover, Aegisthus, after returning, victorious, from the Trojan war (1200 BC), a war sparked by the beautiful Helen of Troy. Helen, “The face that launched a thousand ships”, ran away with Paris of Troy, leaving behind her husband Menelaus, brother of King Agamemnon.
Mycenae was inhabited by royalty, and some of them are buried here. “The Grave Circle” (containing six royal graves of the Royal dynasty), and “The Treasury of Atreus”, (the Tomb of Agamemnon), situated on a hill opposite the palace, are spectacular. The entire astounding place was surrounded by the famous Cyclopean Walls, built to protect the royal families of Mycenae.
After we tour the beautifully preserved Old City of Mycenae, we will travel to Nafplio, the first capital of the First Hellenic Republic and the Kingdom of Greece, and now the capital of the Argolis region.
Nafplio is set at the foot of a hill, topped by the Venetian fortress of Palamidi, which was built by the Venetians between 1711 and 1714. If you feel that you can handle it, climb the 999 steps leading up. (Do not despair though; it can be reached by car…..). The views when you reach the top are breath taking, looking over the blue sea and down onto the old town of Nafplio. The oldest part of Nafplio is the fortress of Akronafplia, (“The Inner Castle”), and until the 13th century it was a town on its own. Across from the harbor, sitting alone on a tiny island, is The Bourtzi, a small fortress, built by the Venetians, which can be visited by small boats.
Nafplio is one of the prettiest towns in Greece. The bustling streets are lined with small shops, selling a delightful range of arts, crafts, curiosities, up-market clothes and jewelry. Visit the unique Komboloi and Begleri Museum (Greek worry beads, a string of beads manipulated with the hands and used to pass time in Greek culture), the Archaeological Museum (the oldest exhibits here are from thirty two thousand BC), or sit at one of the popular coffee shops, serving the most irresistible cakes and pastries.
Around the harbor, a handful of sea food restaurants can be found, serving freshly caught local sea food, while higher up in the town numerous Tavernas offer the most delectable traditional Greek dishes. Nafplio is certainly a place that you will long to come back to.
Athens – full day (8-9 hours)
Athens is the capital of Greece and one of the oldest cities in the world. We will visit the Acropolis (“upper city”), where are located the remains of the ancient city whose age is estimated to be about 5,000 years old, the huge Parthenon, which was preserved almost intact, and the new museum, which opened a few years ago.
We will climb Mount Lycabettus to look over the entire city and then descend to the foot of the Acropolis to the ancient “Plaka” quarter, which is a bustling tourist district today. We will visit the Syntagma Metro Station, which has become a sort of museum after significant archaeological relics were found during excavations, Syntagma Square where Parliament is (if we get there at the right time we can also see the changing of the guard). If time will allow, we will tour the national parks of Athens, and additional sites