I just returned from Rick Steves’ Athens and the Heart of Greece tour. I was kind of unsure how to approach a trip report for this trip, as the itinerary is listed on the website for anyone who is interested. So I decided to just talk about some categories of things and some of the things that weren’t covered in the itinerary. Hopefully this way people can skip to the parts they are interested in.
Overall impressions: I had been a little less enthusiastic about this trip (not to say that I wasn't interested) than others, as I tend to be more excited about renaissance art/architecture/history than ancient ruins. But nevertheless, my husband is really interested in ancient ruins and history, and I always felt it was someplace I should see, so we signed up. I was totally, completely blown away by how much I loved this tour. A lot of people have said this was their favorite tour, and I absolutely see why. The people, the food, the landscape, the culture - all of it was amazing and fascinating and wonderful. Perhaps I had such a great experience partially because I didn't have a lot of preconceived notions about how much I would love it. Absolutely spectacular trip.
Hotels: As with all of our previous tour hotels, the hotels were clean, comfortable and centrally located. We had a few that were really standouts. We were asked if we were willing to make a bit of a hike in Kardamyli where the group had to be separated into 2 hotels, and we were rewarded with rooms with spectacular views of the town and the sea. We enjoyed picnic dinners there just relaxing on our balcony watching the sunsets, and it ended up being my favorite town because of it. The hotel was called Hotel Vardia, for anyone interested. The hotel in Nafplio, Pension Marianna, stood out because it was owned by a family and all of them were so kind, generous and proud of their work. They had a wonderful terrace with lovely views over the town and sea, so it was another gorgeous place to relax. In Athens, Hotel Hera was a little fancier than many of the RS hotels we have stayed in, with an excellent location just steps away from restaurants and the entrance to the Acropolis hill and museum. We lucked out with a room with a view of the Acropolis. Many of the hotels had very small showers and hard beds, as is common in Europe, but almost all of the rooms were much larger than other European hotels we have stayed in. The breakfasts at each place were out of this world with tons of fresh fruit, veggies, spinach and cheese pies, pastries, breads, meat, cheese and the most important thing: fresh yogurt with honey. We loved all of our breakfasts in Greece.
Food: While I like Greek food in the States, nothing prepared me for just how wonderful the food in Greece would be. This tour had the best food of any, so far. There seemed to be a lot more group meals included than our other tours. All of the included meals had a main that you could choose from 3-5 options, with 2 exceptions for lunch places where we were served fresh fish. However, even if fish is not your favorite, meals always came with so many other things that no one would go hungry. Most meals were served with fresh bread. tzatziki sauce, Greek salads with huge slabs of feta cheese, and then sometimes other starters like soups, spanakopita, sausage, meatballs, and on and on. Every single meal we ate was incredible, and most of them better than any of the meals we have had on other tours (not to say that those were bad, as we have always thought the food was at least good). For wine drinkers, wine was only included on the first and last meals, but you could usually buy a carafe for 3 euros.