Aegean Flavors & Histories: Athens, Crete, Santorini Itinerary

A 10 day trip to Italy 
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Gastronomy intertwines with history on this leisurely ten-day vacation through Greece. Experience classical monuments and atmospheric food markets, traditional tavernas and Venetian facades and evocative temples and vineyards that are almost as old. Exploring Athens, Crete, and Santorini, you will use food as your lens to discover the full Aegean story from the Minoans to the welcoming kitchens of today. Get ready to indulge, on both the flavors and the histories.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Athens, Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, Parthenon, Theater of Dionysus, Plaka, Anafiotika, Monastiraki, Ancient Agora, Temple of Athena Nike, National Archeological Museum, Athinas Street, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Syntagma Square, Varvakios Central Market, Crete, Chania, Old Venetian Harbour, Lighthouse, Archaeological Museum of Chania, Santorini, Fira, Oia, White Beach, Red Beach, Ammoudi, Perissa, Imerovigli

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Athens – A Traditional Greek Tavern Dinner With Music and Dancing

Land in Athens and you will soon be amid the history. The capital city awakens each evening, and after some time to refresh, you will be whisked away by the atmosphere. Archaeological monuments are lit up as the sun fades, a glorious backdrop to the streets. The Acropolis appears like a shining beacon, a compass point to prevent you from getting lost in the historical neighborhood of Plaka. The shops stay open here, spilling their wares onto the cobbles. Local families relax on the small squares as the aroma of roasted meat slips past. You can hear the folk music and smell the food, but often it might be hard to know where it all comes from.

Plaka is a traditional 17th-century neighborhood. Although it’s very popular with tourists, it’s also where the locals come to dine. Many of the tavernas have preserved century-old recipes, with all the food being organic farm to table long before this term was popularized. Head into a small tavern and settle into a typical Greek dinner, starting with a Greek mezze of flavors.  Pickled vegetables, flatbread, stuffed grape leaves, meatballs with onion, and giant baked beans will provide a feast of flavors, and that’s just for starters. The second part of the meal is more meat focused, including the classic kokoretsi, or seasoned lamb. Food is complemented by folk-style singing and dancing, completing the feeling that you’ve stepped into a 17th-century eatery.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour

Day 2: Athens – Classical Monuments and Ancient Legacy

Start walking off all of yesterday’s calories as you approach the majestic beacon of the Acropolis. The columns shimmer white every morning, guiding you into a sanctified space that stands as the cradle of Western civilization. Pass through the Propylaea and wander past statues as the Attica basin extends far below. Explore the Parthenon, appreciating the scale of the columns and detailing to the sculptures. Walk into the Erechtheion and gaze out from the porch of the Caryatids. Most of your time at the Acropolis, you will be in awe at the scale – it’s remarkable how big this place is, and how high it rises – but in the New Acropolis Museum you get to discover some of the more minute details that have been saved.

For lunch, you will head down to the Agora and a small cafe terrace with views onto antiquity. Expect similar fare to last evening, just not on such an indulgent scale. Lunchtime is for a handful of fresh dishes, mostly wiping a flatbread in some fragrant, semi-soft concoctions. The meal will really slow your pace, which is good because you cannot explore the Agora at more than a crawl, as it is just too beautiful and busy to rush. From here, you will travel through Monastiraki and back into Plaka, where your hotel rooftop provides some quiet time after a full day with classical monuments. Tonight’s dinner is contemporary, a set menu at a restaurant that is taking organic traditions into a finer dining future.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Athens – Athens Culinary Tour and More Local Sights

From farm to table is the way, but there is a stop in between – the market. Varvakios Central Market is where bountiful harvests pile up on tiny stalls. Mounds of fresh tomatoes, great paprika collections, chickpeas, olives, grapes, dried fruits, nuts, cheese pies, so many colors and fragrances. With your local guide, you can smell and taste all of the local treats while learning how culinary tradition has shaped the country. You will taste some of the snacks locals buy for lunch, such as souvlaki and local cheeses. Deep within the market, you find local artisans who bring in ingredients from all over Greece, specialists who guide you through oils, spreads, soft cheeses and sweets to be savored.

The full culinary tour takes four hours spent in Varvakios and in a couple of spots nearby. The day comes with lots of tasting, a stop for Greek coffee, and a lunch that celebrated the Athenian food scene. All that food means you will probably drift off in the afternoon, but if you are up for it, there is a lot more to the city. Even if you fall asleep, there are other little neighborhoods to see later in the day. Your guide can help you plan this free afternoon and evening, potentially with dinner reservations at a stop that’s far from the tourist-focused central streets.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Chania (Crete) – Venetian History and Relaxing Into Crete

After a relaxed morning, you will take a direct flight to Chania on the island of Crete. After your transfer from the airport, the rest of the day is at your leisure. You can stroll the Venetian lanes, explore how the menus are different on this island, and enjoy the first of six island sunsets. Your hotel is along cobbled lanes in a converted 17th-century Venetian mansion that has been restored to its original splendor. Relax on its pebbled courtyard, take in the romantic ambiance, then head out and see what food you can find in Chania. You will soon realize how localized the Greek food scene can be.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Chania – Walking Tour of Crete’s Unique Flavors and Aromas

Chania’s culinary traditions are very different from those in Athens. This is a town shaped by invaders, one that has passed through the hands of many empires and republics. At the same time, it is a town that has always preserved what came before. Rather than destroy history, Chania has always just evolved. Old Jewish and Turkish quarters stand side by side, their aromas mingling with ease. Hellenist and Minoan tales can still be found, notably in some of the taverna recipes. Venice left its mark as well, not necessarily with the raw produce but with innovative means of cooking instead. The result is a warm, friendly town that can be understood through its food.

After a relaxed morning, you will go on a food lover’s tour that will combine little delicacies with the town’s essence. Meet and chat with chefs and shop owners, and go in search of the best loukoumades, like syrupy donuts, and bougatsa, a custard pie made from filo pastry. Find the finest local honey, rusks, olives, and herbs. Stop in colorful little eateries and take the guide’s recommendation of what to order. Stroll at a leisurely pace and stop at all the town’s major highlights before ending with Greek coffee on the promenade. You will not really have lunch per se, but you will keep on tasting from late-morning to mid-afternoon. The evening is at your leisure, and you will find some stunning sunset spots just outside the town.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Chania – Hands-On Cooking and More Island History

It is now your turn to cook with all of the beautiful organic produce. Meet a local chef and dive into a small marketplace, learning about what is and is not in season. The chef will help you choose produce based on appearance and smell, as well as getting you samples of more cheeses and olives. Heading into the hills, you can stop at a farm to buy a couple more Crete staples before your cooking lesson takes place in a 17th-century farmhouse kitchen. Here you will learn how to make a number of traditional Cretan dishes, with the menu partially dictated by the season. It will be fun and informal, and just how cooking in Crete should be.

Cooking has traditionally been a time for socializing as well as creating food. Like the island itself, cooking is a deliberately languid process. Slow food is a trend doing the rounds right now, but on the island of Crete, it has always been slow food. Perhaps lunch is ready by 2pm, probably even later. Who cares? Sit down with a view over the farm and indulge on what has been created. The rest of the day will then be a chance for some wider exploration on Crete. Your guide can tailor an itinerary based on your interests, taking you to ruins, beaches, chapels, and just about everything in between. You may just want to relax in Chania instead.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Fira (Santorini) – Sailing Around Santorini and Sunset Colors

Today is all about the water. It will be a very early start so that you can fly to Santorini via Athens. You will arrive on the island of Fira by 9:30am, while the ferry takes far longer as you must first transfer two hours to Heraklion, and the ferry is subject to delays. Early check-in has been arranged in Fira so you could sleep away the rest of the morning. Strolling around Fira is almost as restful as falling asleep though. The whitewashed village is enlivened by blue domes and window shutters and is completely devoid of vehicle traffic. You will hear the sea rather than any cars, and you’re never far from a glorious Aegean vista.

This afternoon you will go cruising, a small-group catamaran cruise that sets sail beneath the cliffs. A volcano provides the backdrop, its perfect dome often silhouetted against sun and sea. Cruising southwards you can circumnavigate the peninsula and stop at Red Beach. From here you sail to quiet lagoon-like water, where there’s plenty of time to swim, snorkel and sunbathe. Returning towards Fira, you can lounge on the upper deck, feeling the wind in your hair. To the right, you will admire whitewashed villages and rugged cliffs. To the left, there will be nothing but the Aegean while up ahead, you can enjoy one of the world’s most famous sunsets. After disembarking, you will have dinner reservations at a traditional Santorini tavern for a chance to taste how the island’s food is different to Athens and Crete.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Fira – Vineyards and Taverns of Santorini Private Tour

It is the vineyards that make Santorini a culinary destination, and they have been cultivating here since the middle ages when the wine garnered international acclaim thanks to the Venetians. The wine was so revered that even when the island came under Ottoman control, conservative Islamic rulers allowed its continued production and consumption. Setting off with your specialist guide, you can visit a small farm just outside Oia. Take a tour of the vines and inspect the different grapes, including the Athiri, Aidini, Assyrtiko, and Mandelaria. With the first tasting, you can appreciate an Italian influence, especially the citrus, mineral nuances.

At a second vineyard, you can try a vertical tasting, understanding how climatic differences mean vastly different flavors year on year. A farmyard lunch accompanies these wines, the acidic wines pairing well with many classic mezze dishes. Later today, you will be guided through Oia, the most postcard-perfect of the Santorini villages. It has preserved tradition better than any of the others as well, so where better for a taverna meal. The setting is otherworldly, a small whitewashed terrace with uninterrupted sunset views. And the food is just like they’ve been making here since the restaurant opened in the 1950s.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Fira – Free Day to Explore More of Santorini

This final day is deliberately left free. On Santorini, there is not that much need to plan, this being an escapist island where it’s easy to go with the flow. Today will probably be about pure relaxation, doing nothing but walk around the village or head to the beach. However, there is plenty to do if you have got the energy, such as climbing a volcano, another catamaran cruise, or a trip to the island’s excavated ruins. Of course, an extra day means an extra day of eating, from seafood restaurants overlooking sunset to little tavernas the guide told you about.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Fira – Departure

After a week of indulgent food and history, you will depart from Santorini’s international airport and connect with your flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.