The Greek Islands evoke a sense of seafaring adventure and postcard perfect landscapes. They’re the stuff of travel legend—the talcum beaches and ancient ruins adorn the covers of many dog-eared travel guides. But you already know that.
So, I’m not here to tell you about the water (yes, it looks like glass), and how each of the Greek Islands is unique or the otherworldly landscapes that are only accessible by small yacht. Nope—you’ve likely heard all that before.
Instead, what I’d like to share with you is how the islands made us feel—and how we ate! Oh, how we ate.
We—a few close friends and I—along with our fellow G Adventures travellers, were absolutely blown away by every meal, and more so by every encounter we had with the people of the islands. When preparing for this trip I thought to myself: “Well I suppose the food should be good. I do like Greek food; it’s not my favorite but I’m sure we’ll like it.” So it wasn’t exactly with a fevered anticipation for a culinary adventure that I set off for Greece. I was so woefully underprepared for what I discovered!
Step 1: Start with the salad
It all started on Mykonos. I wasn’t expecting to see 'Greek Salad' on the menu here (we were, after all, in Greece). Wouldn’t that make it simply a ‘salad’? However, it was on every menu—and I’m pretty sure I didn’t let a day go by without ordering it. You can thank the fresh feta.
Step 2: Grandmothers know best
One day on Naxos Island (after a hike up to Mt Zeus and a climb down hundreds of steps into a tiny village we never would have found on our own), we were treated to a lunch made by—I kid you not—a group of ladies that looked like a gaggle of grandmothers whose singular goal in life was to make people smile. There was no menu here—just dish upon dish of family-style, fresh deliciousness. The grilled eggplant melted at each bite. Lamb? I wasn't a fan before—but, simply, “wow". Greek Salad? There was a whole block of soft, creamy feta adorning each plate. Too delicious. And the tzatziki. Oh man, the tzatziki! We had it at every meal—we couldn’t get enough! Surrounded by the sweetest, oliv-iest olive oil you’ve ever tasted. I’m sorry—I'm not given to hyperbole (generally).
Step 3: Eating honey is a very good thing to do
Have I mentioned the honey? I like trying different kinds of honey at home—especially raw. Well even the honey in Greece tasted better. When bees have access to large areas of one kind of plant—they produce honey with a flavor and color typical of that particular region. And here the flowers had a taste all their own. It was generously drizzled over the thickest, freshest, yogurt you’ve ever had. It just doesn’t get better.
Step 4: Find Anna and George
But every meal did keep getting better. Our most memorable night was at Anna & George’s Restaurant on Paros—one of the Small Cyclades Islands. It’s a bit out of the way—you have to ask a local where to find it and walk about 20 minutes from where your yacht is moored at the marina. But it was worth every step. Anna cooks and George serves. Here, they make everything from scratch and from ingredients from their nearby farm. There were even olives on the table from their own orchard. Here, the food was just unreal. Including feta grilled in a balsamic glaze and honey, and lamb that was impossibly soft and flavourful
Anna and George were not your typical restaurant owners. After we were finished, George offered to drive us—all six of us, mind you—back to the marina in his car. We piled in and then later after he and his wife had closed up, they joined us at the bar into the wee hours! They even had a hand in introducing one of our friends to a local woman; they claimed she was a good catch: “Her family has an olive orchard!”
None of us had experienced hospitality like this before. After every meal we were served a round of Raki—the local liquor. Similar to ouzo and grappa, the non-sweet, aniseed-flavoured drink is made (I soon learned) from a variety of fruits and makes an especially good complement to fish, feta and cold hors d'oeuvres.
Step 5: Raki it up!
Raki certainly made every meal a celebration. People were always quick to share their frustrations with the government and how they were contending with the economy—and it seemed to make them more welcoming and appreciative of their guests, as there was no shortage of generosity showed to us wherever we went.
You’ll never forget that feeling!
Of course we reveled in the gorgeous beaches and scenery, and had a blast during our sailing time from island to island. There’s truly no better way to see the islands. Sailing combines the convenience of a cruise (unpack once) but keeps it small enough to allow you to such places as Koufonissia (which was an absolute paradise). Our friends loved that island so much they named their new dog “Nissi” after it!
So, if you’re thinking of going to the Greek Islands, don’t hesitate. Memories of talcum beaches and ancient ruins might fade but you’ll never forget how they made you feel. And the answer is full! And never happier!
Inspired to turn the pages of your wall calendar into a reality? Look no further. G Adventures sails around the Greek Islands with the choice of 8, 10 or 15 day itineraries. So, what are you waiting for?