Provocolate Greek Culture, Travel, and Lifestyle Fri, 20 Nov 2020 17:45:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Provocolate 32 32 Great Greek Drinks – Tsipouro, Ouzo, Tsikoudia, Raki Fri, 25 Sep 2020 20:29:51 +0000 Greece’s drinking culture is as refined as it is ancient. The indigenous Greek drinks – tsipouro, ouzo, and tsicoudia – have special status in Greek culture, with customs and social rituals attached. Two of the traditional Greek drinks – tsipouro and tsikoudia (“raki”) – thrive in small-scale production, bringing people closer to the land and […]

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Greece’s drinking culture is as refined as it is ancient. The indigenous Greek drinks – tsipouro, ouzo, and tsicoudia – have special status in Greek culture, with customs and social rituals attached.

Two of the traditional Greek drinks – tsipouro and tsikoudia (“raki”) – thrive in small-scale production, bringing people closer to the land and to their neighbors with the ritual distilling parties – “Kazani” in the case of tsipouro, and “Kazanemata” in the case of Crete’s raki.

Traditional Greek alcoholic drinks are never consumed alone. First, they’re enjoyed with meze – small dishes and piquant bites meant to temper the effects of the alcohol and, more importantly, keep people at the table together longer. That brings us to the second, and much more central, point – Greeks always drink with good company and conversation.

Greeks drink with such enviable Mediterranean style and finesse – elevate your lifestyle by emulating the refined drinking practices of Greece.


Octopus drying on a line, Skala Eresos, Lesvos
Octopus drying on a line, Skala Eresos, Lesvos

Ouzo is the very distillate of the romance of a Greek summer, synonymous with tavernas by the seaside, octopus hanging from a line to dry. It’s not a lie. Ouzo really is a beloved drink throughout Greece, and especially in the islands of the Aegean. And indeed, especially in the summer – served chilled, almost always diluted with water, and very often served with ice, it’s light and refreshing.

Ouzo, though so well known abroad, is often misunderstood. Many people often try it for the first time as a straight shot. The combination of the alcohol content and the aroma is overwhelming, and an unfortunate introduction. Ouzo is in fact a very subtle drink, full of delicacy and finesse. In Greece, you’ll sometimes hear it called “ouzaki” – the affectionate diminutive that captures the spirit’s special place in the collective Greek soul.

Related Post: How to Drink Ouzo, and Why

What is Ouzo?

Ouzo is a neutral spirit that has been distilled with aromatics – primarily anise, its signature note. Other aromatics – such as cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, and masticha – add nuance and complexity. The formulas of each distillery are, of course, a secret.

Its alcohol content can range from 37.5 percent to occasionally as much as 50 percent. But it goes down smoothly, especially when properly blended with water.

Greek Ouzo

All ouzo is Greek ouzo. This most famous of the Greek drinks has a protected designation of origin: in order to carry the name ouzo it must be distilled in Greece. The other requirements for the PDO are that the ouzo must be distilled in a copper still, and that the alcohol be of agricultural origin – such as from grain or from sugar beets. The alcohol can be from grapes, but it isn’t necessary. In fact, if the alcohol used for the distillation of ouzo is from grapes, it will be so well distilled as to have a neutral character, so as not to interfere with the delicate interplay of aromatics. Grape distillates, as we’ll see below, are full of delicious personality. Some ouzo distilleries avoid grape alcohol for this very reason.

What makes ouzo, ouzo? Here’s more, from the island of Greece’s finest ouzos: The Ouzo of Lesvos – Essentials

The Best Ouzo in Greece

How to enjoy Greek Drinks - An Afternoon Ouzo with Friends, Asomatos, Lesvos
An Afternoon Ouzo with Friends, Asomatos, Lesvos

Although ouzo is produced in many regions in Greece, two islands stand out. Lesvos and Chios in the North Aegean both have strong ouzo cultures, and produce many of Greece’s favorite brands. Distilleries are largely family operations, handed down through generations. One of the reasons these islands are particularly famous for their ouzo is the exceptional quality of the local anise – on Lesvos, for example, has a famously aromatic anise from Lisvori.

Some Commonly Asked Questions about Ouzo:

What is the best Greek Ouzo? – This is a question of personal preference. Every ouzo is different, some lighter, some heavier, some more complex, and some more delicate. Some popular ouzo brands include Eva, Mini, Barbayianni, and Plomari – all from Lesvos. From Chios, you can try the delicate Apalarina (“Apalo” means gentle). Is Ouzo Good for your Stomach? – Yes. Or at least many people think so. Anise – the dominant aromatic – is considered a fine digestive.

How Strong is Ouzo? – The minimum alcohol content of Ouzo is 37.5%, and it can go as high as 50%. Some brands – like Barbayiannis – offer different levels of alcohol.

How Are You Supposed to Drink Ouzo? – This is a question that has a lot of answers, depending on who you ask. A few connoisseurs may claim it’s best sipped neat, but the aroma is intense. Most people prefer ouzo with water and over ice. However, in Lesvos, the locals never use ice – the opt instead for chilled water.

Greek drinks - always with food. Here, a table full of ouzo meze, Skala Kalonis, Lesvos
A table full of ouzo meze, Skala Kalonis, Lesvos

What is Good With Ouzo? – Ouzo is an intense drink that provides an excellent balance to bold flavors. The sweetness of the anise is a particularly good companion to salty flavors – cured and smoked fish and other sea foods especially.


Great Greek Drinks - Tsipouro flowing fresh from the "Kazani"
Tsipouro flowing fresh from the “Kazani”

Tsipouro, the second of the three great Greek drinks, has some things in common with ouzo, and some things in common with tsikoudia. Like ouzo, it is flavored with anise – but only sometimes. Tsipouro is a drink for a variety of occasions and a variety of tastes. The main types of Tsipouro are simply “με” (“me” with a short ‘e’) and “χορίς”. These mean, respectively, “with” and “without,” and they indicate whether you want your tsipouro brewed with aromatics – primarily anise – or without, letting the taste of the grape shine.

But is tsipouro with anise the same as ouzo? Decidedly not. Although there is that dominant and refreshing note of anise, and the fact that tsipouro with anise, too, will turn cloudy white over ice, these are not the same drinks. The major difference is that much ouzo is distilled with a neutral-tasting alcohol in order to give the distiller a neutral palate. Tsipouro is always distilled from grapes, with all of their personality intact. The notes of grape interplay with the aromatics for a more complex drink with more intense flavors overall, aromatics included.

And it’s also often the strongest of the Greek drinks. Tsipouro is a high-octane alternative to Ouzo. It’s usually around 42% alcohol, and can get stronger from there.

Which one to drink? If you like grappa, then you’ll enjoy tsipouro with no added aromatics. The full personality of the grape shines through – it is truly a “spirit” – the very essence of the grape. You can see this particularly well in some of the premium single grape variety tsipouros – a refined drinking experience that reveals the grape fully.

How to Drink Tsipouro

If the tsipouro is without anise, it’s often drunk straight, but it’s also fine over ice – in fact it’s a good idea, especially if you are new to the drink. Tsipouro with anise and other aromatics is like Ouzo, very often diluted with chilled water and enjoyed with ice.

Like all the great Greek drinks, tsipouro is social. And it’s always enjoyed with food. In fact, the charming port city of Volos has raised the drinking of tsipouro at a specialty “Tsipouradiko” to a cultural ritual – one of the world’s most enjoyable authentic food and drink experiences.

Related Post: In Volos, Drinking Tsipouro is an Art Form

Tsikoudia or Raki – The Drink of Crete

Great Greek drinks -a shot of tsicoudia with a plate of raw artichoke slices
Tsikoudia with fresh raw artichoke slices, a favorite spring meze on Crete

The Cretan grape distillate tsikoudia (also called raki) is pure and delicate. Although in some circles – especially the uninitiated – raki is legendary for its strength, it’s actually on the lighter end of the distillates spectrum. Why isn’t tsikoudia the exact same thing as tsipouro without anise? It’s generally lighter – perhaps 36 percent alcohol vs. an average of 42% for tsipouro. This makes it both lighter on the system, and lighter on the palate. This is the smoothest of the Greek drinks.

How is one distillate stronger than the other? To know the answer to that, you need to ask a distiller. Fortunately, distillers are easy to meet in Greece. These two Greek drinks are often small-batch productions, just for family and friends. The alcohol content at the beginning of the distilling process is extremely high. This portion – the “proto-raki” (first raki) as it’s called in Crete – is collected and set aside for a number of medicinal uses. But it’s certainly not for drinking. The alcohol content drops as the distilling process continues. Therefore, it’s easy for the distiller to control the strenth of the distillate. Cretans like it a little softer and smoother.

And it’s a good thing they do, because tsikoudia is an intrinsic part of the Cretan experience, sipped at nearly any occasion, casual or formal. Raki or Tsicoudia is offered at any time of the day, in most any setting. In fact, we had tsikoudia in plastic cups while visiting a Ladies’ cookie-baking cooperative, at 11 am.

Raki vs. Tsikoudia – What’s the Difference?

The word “Tsicoudia” comes from the word “Tscoudi” – the word for the skins and seeds and pulp leftover from wine making from which the spirit is distilled. Raki is related to the same Turkish word. But Cretan Raki and Turkish Raki are two completely different things. Turkish Raki is similar to Tsipouro with anise – a grape distillate with aroamtics.

Cretan Raki, on the other hand, is never flavored with added aromatic. The only fragrance coming off of a shot of Raki in Crete is the essence of the grape. Cretan Raki has a pronounced terroir – a rich essence that even contains notes of soil and hay and Cretan breezes.

How Do You Drink Raki or Tsicoudia in Crete?

Very carefully – a pure raki is one of the finest Greek drinks, so smooth and delicate you may not realize how string it is until you rise from your chair. Raki or Tsikoudia are never diluted.small shot glasses are filled from a small glass carafe of either 100 or 200 ml. Enjoy 100 ml per person in good conscience, as long as you drink plenty of water in between. And always, always have something to eat. As you will; Greeks never drink without eating, and especially not in Crete. At the very least there will be some peanuts salted in the shell, or some barley rusks (“paximadia”) and tiny olives with lemon (“tsakistes”), maybe a little graviera cheese. Proceed carefully, and you may find a night of tsikoudia has no consequences at all.

Related Post: Cretan Food Specialties – Staka, Raki, Snails, and More

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Tiropita with Honey- A Simple Greek Cheese Pie Wed, 05 Aug 2020 14:06:09 +0000 Tiropita (ti-ró-pi-ta) is “cheese pie” in Greek (tirí – cheese, pita – pie). It’s extremely popular, and there are many Greek tiropita recipes – regional specialties, family favorites. Some of them are complex. But not this easy tiropita. We love recipes with very few ingredients. This one has just five – phyllo (filo), butter, feta […]

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Tiropita (ti-ró-pi-ta) is “cheese pie” in Greek (tirí – cheese, pita – pie). It’s extremely popular, and there are many Greek tiropita recipes – regional specialties, family favorites. Some of them are complex. But not this easy tiropita.

We love recipes with very few ingredients. This one has just five – phyllo (filo), butter, feta cheese, yogurt, and mint. Six if you count the honey you want to pour over the top.

A Very Easy Tiropita Recipe

This is one of the easiest Greek tiropita recipes we know. Besides having few ingredients, it uses ready-made packaged phyllo, an ingredient for instant success. This is the quickest of many recipes using phyllo pastry sheets. Phyllo (filo) is usually frozen. Let it thaw according to the package directions, then unwrap and keep covered with a kitchen towel. They dry out quickly. However, if they break, it doesn’t matter. And if a couple of them stick together, it also doesn’t matter.

Tiropitakia – Elegant Meze

Tiropitakia means “little cheese pies”. You can make tiropita as individual phyllo triangles as a nice meze or cocktail party snack. But we like the rustic large pie best. It’s also the easiest and quickest to put together.

Greek Cheese Pie with Honey

Cheese and honey is a classic sweet-savory Greek combination. Fried feta with sesame and honey, for instance, is a popular meze. Cheese pies with honey – like kalitsounia and sfakianopites “pies from Sfakia”) are particularly popular in Crete, which has it own distinctive and delicious cuisine – here’s more on the food specialties of Crete.

The most indulgent plate I’ve ever set eyes on in all Greece was at a taverna in Therisos, Crete. ,That’s a gorge five minutes west of Chania, known for great meat – glistening mahogany, succulent, tinged with smoky char. An absolutely ancient man, elegant in traditional Cretan dress of tall boots, black shirt, and a black crocheted mandili, was sitting on a rustic wooden chair outside the kitchen. He had a large plate heavy with long pointed wedges of Graviera- a local aged semi-hard cheese – under a thick blanket of thyme honey. No bread, no fork. He looked a little bit naughty, what with all that honey. Drunk with grilled goat chops and a little tipsy on wine, I gazed at it. He gave me the barest wry smile of satisfaction before raising a dripping wedge to his mouth.

This is probably the best way to enjoy cheese and honey. But our crisp and hot pie is also not too bad – certainly worth the 15 minutes to throw together.

Our easy Greek cheese pie makes a nice savory tiropita recipe on its own. But pouring honey over the top of the hot pie makes a completely different sweet-savory dish.

This cheese pie with honey is equally suited to meze or dessert, or just a stand-alone treat to shine golden on its own.

Yield: 8 generous servings

Tiropita - Greek Cheese Pie with Honey

tiropita - cheese pie with honey

This crisp, melting, sweet, savory, tangy, minty, gooey Greek cheese pie is the perfect meze, dessert, or star of your next wine evening. It's elegant and beautiful, simple with just 6 ingredients, and a snap to make.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • I 450 gram / 1 lb package phyllo dough
  • 200 grams / about 7 oz. butter
  • 250 grams / about 8 oz. feta cheese
  • 200 g / scant 1 cup thick strained Greek yogurt
  • About 20 fresh mint leaves, or 1 tsp. of dried mint (plus more to taste)
  • Honey - Thyme honey is particularly good


  1. Preheat your oven to 180° C / 375°F.
  2. Melt the butter.
  3. Crumble the feta into a bowl and mix with the strained yogurt and the chopped mint leaves.
  4. Butter a shallow round baking dish - we used a fluted quiche dish.
  5. Lay a sheet of phyllo into the dish, crimping it a little. You should have gathers in the bottom of the dish, and a little overhang around the sides.
  6. Butter the phyllo generously, and repeat with another sheet.
  7. Repeat 6 or 7 times.
  8. Spread your feta mixture evenly over the buttered layers of phyllo.
  9. Drape the overhanging leaves back over the cheese mixture, buttering some of them in between.
  10. Continue to build up layers of phyllo, this time pinching them and crimping them to stay within the rim of the dish. If you aim for a crinkled, rustic effect it will look great. Another 7 or 8 layers should do it.
  11. Bake in the middle of the oven until it's a deep rich golden color (definitely not light brown).
  12. Serve hot, with honey on each individual piece.


  • The tiropita is puffy and beautiful when it comes out of the oven - try to serve it right away.
  • Your cheese pie can sit around for an hour or so before baking, so it's easy to get the timing just right.
  • If the air in your kitchen is really dry, your phyllo may get very brittle. Just moisten your hands and proceed. This pie looks great messy and rustic.
  • The mint is really sensational with the cheese and the honey. But if you don't care for mint, it's also delicious without it.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake – A Healthy Summer Favorite Mon, 03 Aug 2020 16:48:56 +0000 This Chocolate Zucchini Cake has been a summer standby in our family for years. In a Greek summer, it’s sometimes so hot it’s hard to eat much at all, so you need things that are tempting, and nutritious. And at least in our house it’s also really nice if some of those things are also […]

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This Chocolate Zucchini Cake has been a summer standby in our family for years. In a Greek summer, it’s sometimes so hot it’s hard to eat much at all, so you need things that are tempting, and nutritious. And at least in our house it’s also really nice if some of those things are also sweet.

I’m dedicating this recipe to my friend Celeste of Family Experiences in Greece and her two wonderful girls- it packs in some quality sustenance for them to keep enjoying their busy Greek summer, which so far is a very hot one. Our chocolate zucchini cake is filled with eggs, extra-virgin olive oil, whole grains, unsweetened cocoa powder, and – not least – lots of zucchini. It offers a lot, but still tastes like a treat.

A Chocolate Zucchini Cake for Summer

Whatever we do, we always seem to have leftover zucchini in the house. And much as we try to not use the oven very much in the summer, this cake doesn’t need much time – it’s out in 30 minutes. We make it early in the morning before the heat sets in. It’s also large enough to last two or three days.

Here’s another simple recipe we can’t do without in summer: Cretan Boureki – a dish of zucchini, potatoes, fresh goat cheese, and mint. We often throw one in the oven as soon as the cake comes out.

A Very Kid-Friendly Recipe

All the steps involved in making this chocolate zucchini cake are really easy. There’s nothing to melt. You don’t separate the eggs. If you don’t measure extra carefully, nothing will happen. If you under-bake it or over-bake it a little, nothing will happen.

Younger kids may need just a little supervision. You grate the zucchini on a box grater – but they’re soft and very easy to grate. If you use chocolate piece, you’ll need to cut them up. On a hot summer day, this is also very simple.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Needs No Special Equipment

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe ingredients
Simple, wholesome ingredients you can even mix with your hands

In the recipe below, we use two bowls. But we’ve also made this in a poorly-stocked beach apartment in a single plastic bin, and no mixing spoons. The only thing you really need is a cheap cheese grater – even a flat one. No measuring spoons or measuring cups? We guessed, and it worked out fine – just always use the same cup for everything.

Yield: 24 large pieces

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Dark, rich and tender - chocolate zucchini cake tastes like indulgence. But this quick and simple cake is packed with real food - eggs, extra virgin olive oil, cocoa powder, whole grain flour, and of course lots of fresh zucchini. We have one in the house all through our summer holidays.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 3 C/ 400 grams grated zucchini
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C / 360 ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 1/2 C/500 grams sugar - we use raw sugar, but white is fine.
  • 1 C/ 85 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 C / 180 grams white flour 
  • 1 C/ 120 grams soft whole wheat flour (whole wheat cake flour)
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp table salt
  • Lemon zest to taste
  • Optional - 200 g coarsely chopped chocolate - dark, milk, or mixed
  • Optional - 1 C / 125 grams coarsely chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat your oven to 170° C/ 350° F, and line a large pan - 35 cm x 40 cm - with baking paper. The pan that fits directly in a European oven is perfect.
  2. Wash and grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater and set aside.
  3. Blend the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Set aside 3-4 T of the sugar.
  5. In a separate large bowl, rub the lemon zest into the remaining sugar.
  6. Add the oil, eggs, and zucchini and blend thoroughly.
  7. Fold in the dry ingredients and keep folding until thoroughly combined.
  8. Add the optional chocolate or walnuts or both.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, urging it into the corners with a spoon.
  10. Sprinkle the top with the reserved sugar - it will make a nice crust.
  11. Bake in the middle rack for about 30 minutes.
  12. Test - a toothpick should come out moist but clean, with no crumbs sticking to it (make sure you test an area without a piece of melted chocolate).


  • The optional chocolate pieces push this easy cake firmly into the treat category. However, you can also effortlessly up the nutrition content by substituting some wheat germ or oat bran - or both - for some of the white flour. To keep the same texture, try doing this by weight (wheat germ in particular is very light weight)
  • The lemon zest makes the cake shine - delicious and bright with chocolate
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    Baked Fish in Salt Crust Tue, 28 Jul 2020 13:02:05 +0000 Salt baked fish is one of the simplest of all fish preparations. It’s also definitely one of the most festive and dramatic. This salt baked fish recipe is delicious and foolproof, and needs very few ingredients. Which Fish to Buy for Baked Fish in Salt Crust? Most any fish takes well to baking in a […]

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    Salt baked fish is one of the simplest of all fish preparations. It’s also definitely one of the most festive and dramatic. This salt baked fish recipe is delicious and foolproof, and needs very few ingredients.

    Which Fish to Buy for Baked Fish in Salt Crust?

    Most any fish takes well to baking in a salt crust, as long as it’s large, and has scales. For this salt baked fish recipe, you’ll want to choose a large fish. Tσιπουρα – Sea Bream, λαβρακι -Sea Bass, and φαγκρι – Red Porgy are all good examples. Trout, which has no scales, may pick up a little more of the salt flavor. Salt baked sea bass is an excellent choice.

    How Large a Fish?

    When we have large fish at home, I usually count on preparing about 500 g/1 lb per person. This is the weight of the uncleaned fish, with its head on. For a dramatic presentation, go for one large fish. But individual fish of about 500 g/ 1 lb each are also very festive. This would make an ideal social-distancing dinner party main course, as each person opens and cleans an individual fish.

    Salt Baked Fish Recipe

    • 1 large fish – count on 0.5 kilo / 1 lb per person
    • 1.5 – 2 kilos / 3 – 4 lbs. coarse salt or kosher salt (6-8 cups)
    • 4 – 6 egg whites
    • herbs of your choice – fresh fennel fronds, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves
    • lemon slices
    • whole peppercorns

    1. Preparing Your Fish in a Salt Crust

    All you need to do is clean your fish, removing the guts to the gills. Your fishmonger will probably do this for you. Otherwise, it’s a snap to do it yourself – see this easy one-minute clip. Then, you can season the fish to your taste. Fill the cavity with fresh herbs, lemon slices, perhaps some peppercorns. We used fresh rosemary, lemon, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Fresh fennel fronds and fresh thyme are also excellent.

    Now you make the salt crust mixture. Wearing thin rubber gloves to protect your skin from the salt, blend the coarse salt with egg whites. You want it to be the texture of wet sand. For our 2 kilo (4.4 lb.) salt baked sea bass, I used about 1.5 kilos (3.3 lb.) of coarse salt, and 5 egg whites. Have both extra salt and extra egg white on hand so you can adjust the consistency. You’re trying for something that can be neatly and firmly packed around your fish. Too loose and it slips off; too dry and it won’t pack well.

    Note: for three fish of 0.5 kilo/ 1 lb. each, I would need more mixture to cover the greater total surface area.

    2. Sealing and Garnishing your Salt Baked Fish

    1. Have your oven preheating to 200° C/ 400° F.
    2. Line your largest baking sheet with baking paper.
    3. Still wearing your rubber gloves, arrange a bed of salt for your fish on the baking paper. We made a diagonal salt bed so our large fish would fit, and we still had the tail ticking out, which was just fine.
    4. Place your prepared and seasoned fish on the salt bed, and pack the remaining salt mixture all around the fish, including the head. The fish should be completely sealed in a layer of salt that’s nearly 1 cm / .33 inches thick.
    5. Decorate the salt crust for a beautiful presentation. Kids are great at this. Next time, we’ll make scales out of lemon slices.

    3. Baking and Serving your Fish in Salt Crust

    Removing the Crust from Your Salt Baked Fish
    Removing the Crust from Your Salt Baked Fish
    1. Bake the fish in the middle of the oven, allowing about 15 minutes for every 0.5 kilo/ 1 lb of fish. If you have individual 0.5 kilo/ 1 lb. fish, give them 20 minutes. The crust on the finished fish will be golden around the edges.
    2. The fish will keep its temperature sealed in the crust for some time, giving you some flexibility
    3. Bring your fish to the table on the baking paper – you’ll need room for the salt crust.
    4. Now the dramatic presentation – the salt crust is really hard, so you’re going to need to whack it with some force. The aroma of the steam is wonderful.
    5. Remove the hunks of salt, which may take the fish skin with them.
    6. If the fish still as its skin, you’ll find it can be taken cleanly away from the fish
    7. Remove the bones from the edge of the fish, and serve the top half
    8. Remove the spine and any additional bones and serve the bottom half.

    What to Serve with Salt Baked Fish

    "Horta" - boiled wild greens - are always popular with fish.
    “Horta” – boiled wild greens – are always popular with fish.

    The salt baked fish is tender and moist, and good fish needs little adornment. Greek fish connoisseurs insist that lemon hides the flavor. They eat their higher quality fresh fish it plain, or with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. As the fish in salt crust is essentially steamed, it is also delicious with mayonnaise. We had lemons, salt, a pepper grinder, olive oil, and mayonnaise all on the table.

    Alongside the fish, a simple salad of seasonal vegetables is ideal. The fish takes up a lot of space so you want a contained, tidy salad. An underrated Greek salad that would be ideal is “michta vrasta” – mixed boiled seasonal vegetables. Alternatively, or in addition, you can also serve “Hotra” – boiled seasonal greens, served with olive oil, lemon, and salt.

    What Does Salt Baked Fish Taste Like?

    Surprisingly, baked fish in a salt crust is not very salty. The crust seals in all the moisture, but doesn’t contribute much to the flavor of the fish. This is partly because you bake salt crusted fish with the scales on. That’s one of the things that makes the recipe even easier than other fish preparations.

    The aromas have been sealed in. Your fish in salt crust will taste very much like itself, a delicate and sweet taste of the sea.

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    Tzoumerka – Mountains, Monasteries, Magnificent Villages Mon, 27 Jul 2020 13:01:22 +0000 Tzoumerka – or Athamanika – is one of Greece’s most exciting mountain regions. Its peak – Katafidi – is 2393 m high. In all of the surrounding mountains, there’s plenty to interest the traveler. Tzoumerka is dotted with picturesque towns, historic preserved villages, and extraordinary monasteries. The natural charms are the glorious mountains themselves, waterfalls […]

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    Tzoumerka – or Athamanika – is one of Greece’s most exciting mountain regions. Its peak – Katafidi – is 2393 m high. In all of the surrounding mountains, there’s plenty to interest the traveler. Tzoumerka is dotted with picturesque towns, historic preserved villages, and extraordinary monasteries. The natural charms are the glorious mountains themselves, waterfalls cascading and rivers rushing below, rich wildlife as well as herds of sheep, and even a well-known cave.

    To get the most out of Tzoumerka, you’ll want a sturdy vehicle to navigate the hairpin turns as the roads ascend staggering heights and reveal astonishing views. We had expert drivers acquainted with the region – Vasillis and Vasillis of Limo-Van (the best drivers in all of our travels ever). You’ll also need sturdy shoes. Many of the loveliest villages – built on steep slopes – are not accessible by car. You park outside at the edge of the village and hike in. Monasteries too require a commitment, rewarding you with a hike almost as glorious as the destination.

    The drives in Tzoumerka are reason enough to visit. For more beautiful road trips, you can read about the Most Beautiful Drives in Crete.

    The Villages of Tzoumerka

    It’s a unique sense of community up here in the mountains – together, and yet separate. Neighboring villages can be a mere kilometer or two apart, facing each other across a ravine. To get from one village to the next though, there’s a long and treacherous drive of sharp turns and thrilling vistas as you descend and climb the neighboring peaks. Or, you can do as the locals have for centuries, by using the network of “kalderimia.” These are stone paths designed for hoof traffic, linking villages and fields up and down the sides of mountains. Locals navigate them with ease, often wielding a hand-carved wooden cane for stability. Even the oldest residents of Tzoumerka are agile and light on their feet.

    The History of the Villages of Tzoumerka

    Only the boldest people could make such a beautiful life for themselves in this uncompromising terrain. The villages of Tzoumerka are famous for their beauty. They’re known for having skillful masons, constructing stone villages that shimmer silver from a distance. They’re also excellent shepherds; the meats and cheeses of Tzoumerka are peerless, and so are their traditional woolen crafts, which once were renowned throughout the Balkans and beyond.

    The Vlach Villages of Tzoumerka

    The kalderimi descending then ascending to Syrrako
    The kalderimi descending then ascending to Syrrako

    The Vlachs are Greeks with Aromanian heritage. They’re historically mountain people, principally shepherds. Prominent Greeks – such as the great revolutionary Rigos Feraios, the benefactors Evangelos Zappas and Konstantinos Zappas (cousins who were instrumental in the founding of the modern Olympic Games – you’ll know their name from the Zappeion in Athens), and the statesman Evangelos Averoff – have Vlach roots. Greece’s first constitutional Prime Minister, Ioannis Kolettis, was of Aromanian origin, and born in Syrrako. Ioannis Kolettis was the statesman credited with founding the “Megali Idea” – or “Great Idea” – which became the foundation for Greek foreign relations and domestic politics into the early 2oth century. The Great Idea aspired to unify all regions historically inhabited by Greeks from ancient times into the modern Greek state.

    The Vlach language descends from Latin, and popularly the Vlachs themselves are thought to be descended from Roman soldiers or of Latin speaking populations in Greece.

    There are five principal Vlach villages in Tzoumerka, two of which are famously beautiful and are protected under historic preservation laws to maintain their unique character.


    The idyllic shady square of Pramanta, Tzoumerka on a summer afternoon
    The idyllic shady square of Pramanta, Tzoumerka on a summer afternoon

    Pramanta is the main village of the Tzoumerka region. It’s accessible by car, spread out along a mountain ridge with stunning views. This was the village of the stone masons, who built the surrounding famously lovely villages.

    Pramanta itself has very few traditional buildings. They suffered a large earthquake in the 1970s. Still, this is one of the finest villages of the region, with a classic town square under the shade of a plane tree, a beautiful church, and tavernas with excellent grilled meats.

    It makes an ideal home base for exploring the Tzoumerka region. After a long day of exploring, it’s nice to have a glass of red wine around the plane tree and then drive right to your hotel rather than hike in.


    Syrrako comes into view through the mountains of Tzoumerka
    Syrrako comes into view through the mountains of Tzoumerka

    The first sight of Syrrako as you round the side of the mountain is stunning. The stone houses of this historically preserved village have traditional slate roofs that shimmer silver in the sunlight. Syrrako is arranged beautifully on a steep hillside, surrounded by tall mountains and lush ravines.

    To enter the village, you need to leave your car on lower ground outside and hike in. A stone bridge crosses a ravine with a babbling brook. Sweet water gushes constantly from a fountain. By the bridge is an old stone washery – the laundry mat of the past, where the thick and fluffy “flokati” carpets would be scrubbed white in the rushing water.

    Syrrako is historically one of the most prosperous of the villages of Tzoumerka. The traditional stone buildings are beautifully crafted and quite large, with many aristocratic homes among them. The village dates from the 15th century, but owes its prosperity to a later event. The Valide Sultan – the mother of the ruling Sultan in the Ottoman Empire – wielded great power. The first woman to hold the title was Hafsa Sultan, the mother of Suleiman the Magnificent. She showed her favor upon the village of Syrrako, because it was Syrrako that maintained and oversaw the all-important local network of kalderimia, those mountain paths essential for transit and trade throughout the empire.

    This meant that, in addition to their shepherding activities, the people of Syrrako also freely engaged in trade. They excelled. Much of the population were shepherds; they had great flocks and excellent wool. The merchants exported their quality wool and woven goods, bringing them by mule down the kalderimia to the port of Preveza, and overseeing their export abroad.

    The church has many lovely icons from the Ionian Islands. This is because some of the successful merchants of Syrrako eventually took up residence in the Ionian Islands, maintaining close ties with the village. Many became great benefactors of Syrrako.


    A view over the mountains of Tzoumerka from Kalarytes
    A view over the mountains of Tzoumerka from Kalarytes

    At an elevation of 1200 meters, lovely Kalarytes is sometimes called the ‘Eagles’ Nest’ of Epirus

    Ascending the kalderimi into Kalarytes, Tzoumerka
    Ascending the kalderimi into the classic stone Vlach village of Kalarytes, Tzoumerka

    A Kalderimi connects Syrrako with Kalaryrites, another of the Vlach villages of Tzoumerka. Like Syrrako, Kalarytes too is a protected village because of its traditional stone architecture. Also like Syrrako, Kalarytes was very prosperous. But rather than specializing in stock breeding and in woolens, the people of Kalarytes were creative in a diversity of fields. They were also known for painting and hagiography (icon painting), for tailoring, for transporting goods, and – perhaps chiefly – for gold and silversmithing. The gold and silver were brought from Italy. The craftstmen of Kalarytes, particularly in the 18th century, created elaborate designs for both ecclesiastic and secular objects. Their fame was widespread throughout the west – as far north as Vienna and as far west as Marseilles, the silversmiths of Kalarytes were known for quality craftsmanship.

    Of these families, one is very well-known – Voulgaris. The accomplished silversmith Sotirios Voulgaris moved from Kalarytes to Rome in the 1880s and opened a store that would become the famous brand Bulgari.

    Napoleon Zaglis on the steps at his classic Pantopoleion in Kalarytes, Tzoumerka
    Napoleon Zaglis at his classic Pantopoleion

    Now, the most famous resident of Kalarytes is undoubtedly Napoleon Zaglis. In addition to a rustic inn, this dynamic man runs the local “Pantopoleio” – literally, a shop that sells everything. In a small village like this, the pantopoleio is the heart of the community, where you can stop in for anything from shampoo to chocolate bars to the latest news of the village. Most of all, people come for a chat with Napoleon, the fifth generation to run the pantopoleio (open since the 19th century), and a keeper of traditions and song. Napoleon’s panotpoleio is an informal restaurant with excellent home cooking.

    Natural Wonders in Tzoumerka

    All of Tzoumerka is gloriously beautiful, a landscape of peaks and deep ravines. This is a hikers’ wonderland, with a network mountain paths and kalderimia for exploring. Waterfalls cascade into gorges. There’s water everywhere – sweet and icy waters gush from springs in every village.

    The National Park of Tzoumerka

    The National Park of Tzoumerka covers an area of over 800 square meters. This magnificent nature preserve protects endemic species and ecosystems. In the National Park of Tzoumerka, you can encounter otters, brown bears, wild goats, and deer. Many species of birds make their homes here, as well as amphibians, reptiles, and rare butterflies.

    Anemontrypa Cave, Tzoumerka

    A miniature "Pamukkale" in the Anemotrypa Cave
    A miniature “Pamukkale” in the Anemotrypa Cave

    With so much beauty outside, you wouldn’t think to look inwards. However, just outside of Pramanta, signs lead us to a wonderful cave. It was only discovered in 1960, noticed because wind was flowing from an opening in the rock. There’s more water here, too – you can hear the underground waterfall and a river flowing. In addition to the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites we see in most caves, there is another beautiful formation – lacy white mineral pools, like a miniature Pamukkale.

    The Monasteries of Tzoumerka

    The divine scenery and uncompromising landscape of Tzoumerka are made for isolation and contemplation. We saw two beautiful monasteries during our visit.

    Monastery of Viliza

    The loggia and courtyard of the Viliza Monastery
    The loggia and courtyard of the Viliza Monastery

    Near the village of Matsouki, a paved stone path rises to scale the side of a mountain. The 2 km hike rises and falls, but mostly rises, with plenty of stairs. Ascending to a monastery is part of the experience, a meditative preparation. The vistas are themselves evidence of a divine hand.

    On arriving, glowing from the hike, the priest welcomed us with glasses of cold water, “loukoumia” (sweet soft confections) and tsipouro (a distilled spirit of grape marc) – traditional hospitality at a monastery. We sat together under the loggia in the stone courtyard and he told us about the long history of the monastery. We then visited the chapel. Richly colored 11th-century frescoes cover its walls. There is an additional smaller chapel, dedicated to St. John. One enters through a very low door, to greet the altar in a pose of humility. The wall painting here, also of the 11th century, are extraordinary in their refinement. The faces express individual character and nuanced emotion. On the floor, formed of stone, is an early symbol of Christianity, indicating that everyone around the circle belongs to the community of Christians.

    The precious icons of the church are seen here in replica, with the original icons kept safely in a museum in the neighboring village of Matsouki.

    Kipinas Monastery

    The dramatic Kipinas Monastery in a cliff face, Tzoumerka
    The dramatic Kipinas Monastery

    On the road to Kalarytes, you have a gorge to your right, and a steep cliff to your left. Hidden high within this cliff is the Kipinas Monastery. A short path ascends to the monastery, which has been constructed in a natural cave. There are monks’s cells, no longer inhabited, and a small chapel from the 18th century. The chapel is built off of the side of a cave, and at the cave’s edge is the mouth of a treacherous cave path that leads to the other side of the mountain. Entering is dangerous not advised. The Kipinas Monastery is often locked – one gets the keys from a keeper in the village just before the monastery.

    The Famous Bridge of Plaka


    Greece was liberated in three stages from the Ottoman Empire. The Modern Greek state was founded after the first phase, which was the Revolution of 1821. Macedonia, Thrace, and many islands joined Modern Greece in 1912. And there was also an intermediary phase in 1881. During this time, the Arachthos River was the border. The major crossing was the Plaka Bridge. By the bridge you’ll see the former customs house.

    One of the wonders of Epirus are its great stone bridges. The bridge building masons of Epirus – called “kioproulides” – were famous for them. This high single arched bridge was rare among the many excellent examples of bridge building – a wonder of engineering. The Plaka Bridge collapsed in a flood in 2015, and has only just reopened. The bridge was rebuilt with traditional methods by teams of masons – including teams from Albania who are famous for their stone work. The work was overseen by a local master mason.

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    Restaurants in Tolo, Greece – The Best Places to Eat Thu, 16 Jul 2020 20:13:03 +0000 The best restaurants in Tolo, Greece offer a perfect mix of tradition and sophistication. Tolo is an idyllic seaside village in Argolida, on its own bay. Restaurants in Tolo feature top quality fresh fish and sea food from the bay, and serve it is some of Greece’s loveliest locations. We loved discovering Tolo, an ideal […]

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    The best restaurants in Tolo, Greece offer a perfect mix of tradition and sophistication. Tolo is an idyllic seaside village in Argolida, on its own bay. Restaurants in Tolo feature top quality fresh fish and sea food from the bay, and serve it is some of Greece’s loveliest locations. We loved discovering Tolo, an ideal location for exploring the Argolid – the perfect combination of beach holiday and cultural travel.

    Restaurants in Tolo, Greece – On the Beach

    We enjoyed lingering around the table on a warm night while the children splashed in a calm sea in the moonlight. At these restaurants in Tolo you hear the waves lap the shore and dine with your toes in the sand.


    When you love what you do, it shows. Anna Pliatsika had been coming to Tolo since childhood, and her husband Vangelis Kyriakos loves to cook. They took over a dreamy spot right on the beach and started the cafe-ouzerie Ormos in 2016. Vangelis’ excellent meze were a hit. Now he has a full menu of delicious and inventive dishes inspired by the freshest catch, seasonal produce, and traditional roots. The Octopus Stifado – simmered in a gently sweet sauce aromatic with spices – is rich and nuanced. Shrimp with Orzo was outstanding. The huge fresh salads and many small plates are delightful. Wonderful and warm service – this is a great place to spend an evening.

    Beach Chairs in the Water at Ormos
    Beach Chairs in the Water at Ormos

    Ormos is also an all-day cafe and snack bar. They have chairs you can bring right into the shallow clean water, which is a great way to enjoy a club sandwich.

    Ormos, Aktis 8, Tolo, Argolida (+30) 27520 99619. Open everyday from 9 am until late.


    Charming Akrogiali, one of the best restaurants in Tolo,is right on the beach
    Charming Akrogiali is right on the beach.

    Also right at the water’s edge, charming Akrogiali is one of the most established restaurants in Tolo with a long tradition. The Moutzouris family has been serving up classic Greek dishes, superb seafood, and excellent meze since 1955. From the crisp sesame crusted hot feta to hand-rolled dolmadakia, the starters are a meal in themselves. But save room for cuttlefish in wine sauce, mussels bathed in tangy sauce, and the fresh catch of the day hot from the grill. There are also plenty of savory meats.

    Akrogiali, Aktis 10, Tolo, Argolida. (+30) 27520 59789

    Restaurants in Tolo, Greece with a View

    Golden Beach Hotel Restaurant

    Pristine Seafood at Golden Beach Restaurant in Tolo
    Pristine Seafood at Golden Beach Restaurant

    The Golden Beach Hotel is directly across from the Bay of Tolo and Koronis Island. It’s a fantastic dining destination. We sat in the shade on a large and breezy veranda on warm afternoon, sipping on cold Toliani beer (a tasty local pilsner) and enjoying one fresh plate after another. The Calamari were crisp and tender, the shrimp juicy and fat with a hint of smoke from the grill. Beautiful fresh salads, delicious spreads, and friendly service.

    Maria’s Restaurant

    Succulent Marinated Fresh Anchovies at Maria's, one of the best Restaurants in Tolo
    Succulent Marinated Fresh Anchovies at Maria’s Restaurant

    Maria’s Restaurant has an unbeatable view. It’s perched directly above the bay, in a romantic outdoor room open to the sky. Delicious, high-style preparations focus on top quality ingredients. The salads are inventive and well-balanced, and the sea foods shine, highlighted with Mediterranean finesse. Spaghetti with fresh clams was a knock-out, and so were the fat mussels in a fragrant broth. Wonderful service. We were a large group and had a great evening. But this would also be a top pick for a romantic evening.

    Maria’s Restaurant, Bouboulinas 48, Tolo, Greece. (+30) 2752 059198. Open daily, 10 am – 11:45 pm

    Planning a Visit to Tolo – Where to Stay in Tolo

    We loved our stay at the John and George Hotel, a quality 4 star family hotel overlooking the entire bay. Besides the pool with a view and elegant deck with poolside service, we appreciated the large and modern rooms, excellent breakfast, and above all the warm and professional service. The hotel maintains the highest standards of hygiene and safety, for a safe and comfortable stay.

    To stay directly on the beach, you might also try the Dolphin Hotel, from the same family and with the same high standards.

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    Tolo, Greece – Discover Argolida Wed, 15 Jul 2020 15:31:59 +0000 Tolo, Greece is at the heart of one of the most storied provinces of Greece. On a recent trip to beautiful Tolo, we explored some of the most exciting sights in Greece. The landscape and the food of the northern Peloponnese are also spectacular. Tolo, Greece Tolo (Tolon) is that idyllic beach town you’ve been […]

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    Tolo, Greece is at the heart of one of the most storied provinces of Greece. On a recent trip to beautiful Tolo, we explored some of the most exciting sights in Greece. The landscape and the food of the northern Peloponnese are also spectacular.

    Tolo, Greece

    Tolo (Tolon) is that idyllic beach town you’ve been dreaming about. It’s on its own dreamy gulf, at the heart of a culturally rich region of Greece, full of archaeological and natural treasures.

    How to Get to Tolo, Argolida

    The Argolid begins after crossing the Canal of Corinth, en route to Tolo
    The Deep, Narrow Canal of Corinth

    Tolo is in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese, on the Argolic Gulf. It’s an easy distance from Athens. On a drive of less than two hours, you’ll see some lovely sights. The road hugs the shores of the Saronic gulf for the first half of the ride. You then reach the Isthmus of Corinth and the Corinth Canal (captured here by Tzina of Love for Travel), dividing the Peloponnese from the Attica peninsula.

    There are many KTEL public buses every day that connect Athens with Tolo. You can see schedules here.

    The Isthmus of Corinth and the Corinth Canal

    The isthmus of Corinth is a narrow neck of land dividing the Peloponnese from the Attica peninsula. It was also a landmark in the ancient world. An ancient stele marked the division. The 2nd century AD philosopher and biographer Plutarch attributed the stele to Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens, who placed there on his journey to Athens.

    The ancient Greeks had long thought of a canal to avoid the long trip around the Peloponnese, but were never successful. Near the present day canal is an ancient stone pathway – the Diolkos. This was used for dragging ships overland from the Saronic Gulf to the Gulf of Corinth. The Canal of Corinth was finally dug at the end of the 19th century (1893). The Corinth Canal is a dramatic sight. It’s 6.4 kilometers long, and extremely deep and narrow (just 21 meters wide).

    Stopping at the Corinth Canal is an interesting stop on the journey to Tolo from Athens. Huge ships cannot pass, but you will usually see pleasure vessels and smaller craft making the crossing far below the narrow bridge that crosses it.

    The Bay of Tolo (Tolon)

    The Bay of Tolo, Greece, at dawn
    A Homeric rosy-fingered dawn touches the Bay of Tolo.

    The Bay of Tolo, Greece is part of the Argolic Gulf. The bay is enclosed, with calm waters. There are views of the close small island of Romvi and the even closer enchanting Koronisi, with its chapel. It’s lit up at night beautifully.

    The Bay of Tolo has shallow calm seas, and a very long and narrow sand beach. Many small boats are anchored just offshore and fill the bay with charm.

    The shore is dotted with charming traditional fish tavernas, with their tables right in the sand at the water’s edge.

    Where to Stay in Tolo

    The Bay of Tolo, Argolida
    A Fine View of the Bay of Tolo from the John and George Hotel

    There are many excellent family hotels in Tolo. The John and George Hotel is the finest among them, with very high guest ratings. We loved the sweeping views of the Bay of Tolo from our elegant room, and the spacious pool deck below, along with poolside breakfast. The service was exceptional.

    Our visit was one of the first after the lockdown. We stayed here with great peace of mind – all safety and hygiene standards were strictly maintained. There was sanitizer all over, plexiglass at the check-in, and all servers were wearing masks. We had masks and sanitizing wipes in our rooms. At breakfast, we had service at the buffet from waitresses with face shields, and everyone always maintained a careful distance.

    Where to Dine in Tolo

    In Tolo, Argolida, there is excellent seafood - grilled shrimp and crisp fried calamari
    Tolo has excellent seafood – here we are at the excellent Golden Beach Hotel Restaurant.

    Tolo has excellent dining. Here on the shores of the clean Bay of Tolo, there is no want of excellent fish and seafood. We had elegant and creative dishes as we overlooked the gulf, classic crisp fried fish and salads as we sat with our feet in the sand, and delicious grilled meats in the countryside. There are high-quality family-style tavernas on the shore – our favorites were Ormos and Akrogiali. On the main street of the town overlooking the bay is Maria’s, and by the beach the excellent restaurant at the Golden Beach Hotel. The food everywhere was superb, including classic favorites and beautifully inventive dishes that were nonetheless true to their traditional roots. Here is a guide to the best restaurants in Tolo – we loved them all.

    Things to Do in Tolo, Greece

    So close to Athens, but with all the charm of a quiet beach side town far from the cares of the world, Tolo is close to many significant cultural destinations, and itself offers plenty of things to do.

    Have a Great Swim at Tolo Beach

    The beach of Tolo is long, clean, and shallow. Because it is in an enclosed bay, the waters are often calm. Tolo beach is a terrific family swimming beach, a three-minute walk from many hotels. Since it’s a town beach, you’ll be able to find anything you need within easy reach, from sunscreen to fried Calamari. There are a few quiet beach side cafes with sun loungers and umbrellas. But there were no loud beach bars to disturb the lazy tranquility of an ideal beach afternoon.

    Take a Cruise to Daskaleio Island by Romvi

    A Sailing Cruise around the Bay of Tolo, Argolida with Tolo Sailing
    A Sailing Cruise with Tolo Sailing

    You know that fantasy of jumping off of a sailboat into deep jade-green sea in a secluded cove? The tiny island of Daskaleio, by Romvi, is the place where you can do that. This is one of the uninhabited islands in the snug Bay of Tolo. We reached it on a cruise with Tolo Sailing, while others of our group came with Intro Dive – like it sounds, they also give great first-time diving experiences. While on Romvi, we swam, hiked up to a beautiful and silent church, swam some more, and had an excellent barbecue. Our hosts at the John and George Hotel arranged the experience for us. They regularly arrange such excursions for their guests. At a cost of €25 – €30, including a fabulous lunch, it’s definitely one of the best things to do while you’re staying in Tolo.

    Visit Ancient Asini

    The Ruins of Ancient Asini at Tolo, Greece
    The Ruins of Ancient Asini at Tolo, Argolida

    At the edge of Tolo, Greece is Ancient Assini. This beautiful spot in the Argolid with fortifications high above the sea was the port of Mycenae. Homer refers to the Asinians in The Iliad, for their part in the war with Troy. The sight captured the imagination of King Gustav of Sweden, inspired by Heinrich Schliemann. He began excavations in 1922.

    Asini has reached immortality both in history and in literature, in the poem “The King of Assini” by the Nobel Prize winning poet Giorgos Seferis.

    From Tolo, Greece, Visit the Athens/Epidaurus Festival or the Festival of Nafplion

    Two major cultural festivals in Argolida host world-class performances music and theater. Seeing a production at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is a transformative cultural experience. See the program here. The program for the festival of Nafplion, taking place at the end of July and early August, is here.

    Learn About Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Learning about quality extra virgin olive oil at Melas, Argolida
    Quality extra virgin olive oil can be s interesting, and as complex, as wine.

    Greece is one of the largest producers of Extra Virgin Olive Oil – EVOO – in the world. Greek EVOO is famous for its excellent quality. Among the Greek oils, the EVOO of the Peloponnese is particularly famous. On a visit to the Melas family EVOO factory, you can learn everything about the cultivation and extraction of oil, an interesting process.

    Taste Ouzo near Tolo, Greece

    The Copper Still at the Karonis Distillery near Tolo, Greece
    The Copper Still at the Karonis Distillery

    Ouzo, Greece’s iconic drink, is fragrant and refreshing. Enjoying it in style is an essential Greek experience – here’s more about How – and Why – to Drink Ouzo. The distillery of the Karonis family has been producing some of the best since 1869. We learned about the drink, its complexity, and how to tell a high-quality ouzo from an average one on our tour and tasting. Karonis also makes the classic liqueurs, masticha, and tsipouro.

    Stroll around Nafplion

    The Old City Gate of Nafplion, with the Palamidi Fortress
    The Old City Gate of Nafplion, with the Palamidi Fortress Rising in the Background

    Tolo is just 10 km from Nafplio. This lovely city was the first capital of Modern Greece, Nafplio has an island fortress – Bourtzi – a beautiful town square, the high Palamidi fortress, and an old town awash in color with bougainvillea in bloom.

    Visit the Monastery of the Panagia/Zoodochou Pigis

    The Fountain of Hera, Tolo,Argolida
    The water of the Fountain of Hera flows cool and sweet.

    A lovely monastery is just outside of Tolo, set on a hill of Cypress trees and wildflowers, overlooking the bay. Just below the monastery is a sacred spring, used – according to Mythology – by Hera, after her romantic trysts

    Historic Sights around Tolo, Greece

    The Acropolis of Ancient Mycenae
    The Acropolis of Ancient Mycenae

    Argolida is rich in history and archaeology. Tolo is near some of the most fascinating sights of both Ancient Greece and – even earlier – Mycenaen Greece. This is the Greece of our collective imagination – the Greece of Homer, of Agamemnon, and of ships bound for Troy. It’s also the home of one of the greatest theaters of Classical Greece, where the works of Aeschylus and Aristophanes still play, and of one of the most famous healing centers of the Ancient World.

    The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus

    Near Tolo, Greece - The steps of the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, Argolida
    Audiences ascended these steps in the world of Ancient Greece to see the works of the great dramatists of the day to cleanse and nourish the soul.

    The Theater of Epidaurus is one of the world’s most famous theaters as well as one of the most significant archaeological sights in Greece. This vast theater – with a capacity of about 13,000 viewers – is famous for its acoustics. Even from the lofty top rows, the words on center stage resonate.

    For the best experience, visit the Archaeological sight by day to wonder at its construction and beauty. Then come again to see an ancient drama or comedy performed here.

    The Theater of Epidaurus was part of the healing center – the Asklepion. The performances here were not conceived of as entertainment but as an integral part of the patients’ well-being, spiritual and psychological health.

    The Asklepion of Epidaurus

    Asklepius, son of Apollo, was the Ancient Greek god of healing. His staff, entwined with a snake, remains to day a universal symbol of healing.

    In the world of Ancient Greece, healing centers took his name – Asklepion. There were many, and the one at Epidaurus was the most famous of them all. This was the mythological birthplace of Asklepius. The Asklepion at Epidaurus was one of the most significant cult sites of Ancient Greece. This vast archaeological complex includes the ruins of the great Doric temple to Aesclepius, the Tholon – dedicated to his cult, the Abaton – or Enkymmytron – where patients slept for Asklepius to come to them in their dreams, a stadium for athletic competition, the hestiatorion, library, baths, and many other structures. 

    The Museum at Ancient Epidaurus

    Ancient Medical Instruments Found in the Excavation of the Asklepion, Argolida, near Tolo, Greece
    Ancient Medical Instruments Found in the Excavation of the Asklepion

    A visit to the on-site museum at Ancient Epidaurus will give added insight into this tremendous ancient healing center. The museum displays fascinating findings from the site. Among these are medical instruments and surgical tools, evidence of the extraordinarily advanced care patient could receive at the Asklepion of Epidaurus.

    Ancient Mycenae

    The Treasury of Atreus from within - Ancient Mycenae, Argolida
    The Treasury of Atreus from within – Ancient Mycenae

    Ancient Mycenae has been capturing the imagination of scholars, travels, and poets for centuries. The amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was famously convinced that in the Homeric epics there was history and truth, and he found it. At Mycenae, Archaeology and Myth collide, as Schliemann’s findings confirmed a synergy with Homer’s tale. At any rate, standing in the Treasury of Atreus, the famous beehive tomb, it is easy too believe you are in the resting place of Agamemnon. The tomb of Clytemestra is also here, as well as the Lions Gate, the great acropolis, shaft graves, and astonishing Cyclopean walls all aound.

    The Museum at Ancient Mycenae

    A Replica of the "Mask of Agamemnon" at the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Mycenae, near Tolo, Greece
    A Replica of the “Mask of Agamemnon” at the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Mycenae

    The Museum of Ancient Mycenae displays wonderful findings from the excavation. The objects are arranged in such a way as to support an understandable narrative, leading to a deeper understanding of Mycenaen culture. Highlights include figurines of religious idols, including Gaia the earth goddess, a magnificent fresco of two Mycenaen women and a Minoan woman, and elaborate jewelry. A highlight, of course, is a replica of what is famously called the “Mask of Agamemnon.” The original is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

    Visiting Tolo, Greece

    We found Tolo to be an ideal home base for exploring the Argolid, one of the most fascinating and beautiful provinces of Greece.

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    10 Greek Islands for Your Next Vacation Thu, 28 May 2020 12:37:57 +0000 The Greek Islands are at the top of many vacation wish-lists. And for good reason – or rather many good reasons. Greece has 6,000 islands. Of these, over 200 are inhabited, and each of them unique. There is not one Greek Island experience, but many. Try one – or several – of these 10 Greek […]

    The post 10 Greek Islands for Your Next Vacation appeared first on Provocolate.

    The Greek Islands are at the top of many vacation wish-lists. And for good reason – or rather many good reasons. Greece has 6,000 islands. Of these, over 200 are inhabited, and each of them unique. There is not one Greek Island experience, but many. Try one – or several – of these 10 Greek Islands for your next vacation. A travel designer can help you create your own perfect Greek Islands vacation.

    Santorini – For Drama and Sheer Beauty

     Honeymoon in Greece - Greek Islands vacation
    The dreamy view of the caldera, Fira, Santorini

    Yes, it’s an obvious start, because this is probably Greece’s most popular island. But with good reason. Santorini is entirely unique. It’s not just an island, but a volcano. An eruption over 3,000 years ago created from an intact island this dramatic crescent. Cliffs rise nearly 400 from the Caldera – the bay that form in the eruption. The volcano – still active – is in the center of the Caldera. It’s otherworldly.

    Besides the legendary sunsets, Santorini boats unique beaches – including a red beach and a black beach. There are wonderful volcanic formations.The traditional villages of the island have classic cycladic architecture, whose purity only enhances the experience. This is one of the very sophisticated Greek Islands. You’ll find lots of art, creative dining, and boutique wineries on Santorini for a cultured Greek vacation.

    Mykonos – For Sophisticated Indulgence

    Things to do in Mykonos - Luxury vacation in Greece- Greek Islands vacation
    Mykonos Town is lively from Sunset until the early hours

    Another obvious choice, but again for good reason. For decades now, Mykonos has been synonymous with absolutely shameless glamour. And you’ll get plenty of it – celebrities and paparazzi, designer luxury shopping at midnight, famous international chefs – the whole nine yards.

    But there is also another Mykonos. This island has a proud traditional culture, with dancing and music and delicious local cuisine. And that is what makes Mykonos truly special. This spectacular island unites authenticity with luxury, making it high on the list of the top 10 Greek islands for your vacation.

    Mykonos also has glorious beaches, and of every style. Some are premium locations for water sports – thanks to the glorious “Meltemi” winds that stir the seas. Other beaches are peaceful and family friendly. But perhaps the most classic Mykonos beach experience is the full-service deluxe beach, with your own private cabana, and someone to bring you chilled champagne. If you don’t have the right beachwear, don’t worry – there are even luxury boutiques on the beach. Whatever you wear though, you’ll look great. Mykonos seems to have its own magical filter, making everything and everyone look like a dreamy Instagram feed.

    Syros – Neoclassical Elegance

    Ten Best Greek Islands for your Next Vacation
    A Sunset over the Aegean from Syros

    Now for something completely different. Syros, whose elegant capital Ermoulpolis serves as the capital of all the Cycladic islands, trades the pristine blue and white of classic Cycladic architecture for neoclassical grandeur. The mansions of shipping captains and the glorious buildings are bathed in delicious pastel shades. It also trades international DJ’s for classical music – at a yearly festival held in the Apollo theater – the grand opera house of Syros that is like a small “La Scala.”

    And with a large Catholic population joining the Greek Orthodox population, there is no lack of splendid churches. Come at Easter to enjoy it at its very best, when both communities come together in celebration.

    Patmos – Divine Spirituality

    The 10 Best Greek Islands for your Vacation
    Patmos has a serene and profound spirituality.

    Glorious Patmos, in the Dodecanese, is both a vacation destination and a significant site of pilgrimage. Patmos generally is a miraculous sort of place. The island announces its sacred identity from afar. The glorious Monastery of Saint John towers above the Chora. It was established by Agios Christodoulos in 1088. The monastery is a magnificent Byzantine fotress, with ramparts and towers, and a lovely courtyard.

    The imposing terrain of high cliffs made Patmos an ideal place of refuge for St. John. This is where he is said to have written the Book of Revelation, in the Cave of the Apocalypse. The cave is still here, and is a moving sight for pilgrims – a place that radiates divine energy.

    Chora, the delightful white-washed capital of Patmos, is a charming village overlooking the Aegean. Of course, Patmos also has some lovely beaches with pristine seas. The island also has many old footpaths, connecting small chapels, tiny villages, secluded beaches, and hilltops with stunning views.

    Rhodes – Culture and Beaches

    10 Best Greek Islands for your next Vacation - Rhodes
    The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes

    One of the first islands in Greece to welcome international tourism on a large scale, Rhodes has much to offer. This is an exotic island, for it has spectacular monuments from various eras. The Colossus of Rhodes – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world is long gone. But there are spectacular monuments from ancient Greece, such as the acropolis of Lindos. The Palace of the Grand master – a medieval castle from the era of the Knights of St. John (the Knights Hospitaller) – sets a romantic tone, as does the whole of the old town of Rhodes. The Ottomans also left monuments, including the Suleimaniye Mosque and the Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library, a UNESCO World Heritage site

    Of course, most visitors come to Rhodes for the beaches. There are spectacular beaches to explore here, for both excellent swimming and for water sports.

    Corfu – The Emerald of the Ionian

    10 best Greek Islands for your next Vacation
    Corfu is an emerald island in a turquoise sea.

    The Ionian Islands are glorious. Known for being green and lush, they are surrounded with pure waters that glisten like jewels in hues of turquoise and deep blue. Glamorous Corfu is like Greece with an Italian accent – you’ll even taste it in the delicious local cuisine. This is a sophisticated island, and also an unbelievably romantic one. Corfu town has a magnificent Venetian fortress, a palace – which is now the Museum of Asian Art, and the famous palatial villa Mon Repos, now open to the public and housing Ionian treasures. The center of social activity is the elegant Liston, a promenade that feels like Paris’ Rue du Rivoli and in fact its design was based on it.

    But of course, you have not come to the Greek Islands for your vacation to stay in town only. Corfu’s coastline is absolutely magical. The norther coast in particular offers one magnificent beach after another. The island is also famous for its many hidden coves. Explore by boat and you are sure to find a secret paradise.

    Lesvos – Beauty and Character

     Greek Islands Vacation
    Ouzo is a ritual in Lesvos, and like most things, even nicer by the sea.

    The North Aegean is spectacular. Lesvos is one of the most interesting and diverse Greek Islands for your vacation. Mytilene, the glamorous capital, is filled with Belle Epoque mansions from international merchants, each in their nation’s individual style. The great cathedral – Agios Therapon – crowns the skyline in the center. The Gatalusi Fortress – one of the best preserved Byzantine fortresses of the whole Mediterranean – looks over from above. From here, you have a vast island to explore. Overlooking the sea Molyvos is famously enchanting. Skala Kallonis is a central point, a harbor town nestled in the crescent of the island. Inland, there are glorious villages like Agiassos and Asomatos. Here, the quintessential picturesque Greece of decades past is thriving in style.

    History lovers will be in heaven here. This is where Aristotle basically invented biology with his friend the philosopher Theophrastus. The ancient Greek dramatist Menander lived here. And this is famously the birthplace of the poet Sappho – in Eresos.

    Lesvos of course has many excellent beaches to choose from, such as the beaches of Molyvos and Eresos. There are also more secret beaches, such as the tiny and exquisite Agios Hermogenes, lines with luscious pines.

    This is the perfect place to try Ouzo. There are many distilleries on the island. The heart of the culture of ouzo is on Lesvos, and it is a culture, with a certain etiquette and grace. You’ll be initiated quickly. The sweet fragrance of ouzo is a fantastic pairing with seafood.

    Hydra – A Center of Arts and Culture in the Saronic Gulf

    Greek Islands Vacation
    Sophisticated, cultured Hydra

    Hydra is a fascinating small island, very conveniently reached from Athens. This island is more about culture than it is beaches, although it does have some excellent swimming. Hydra is serene. In part, this is because there are no cars or motorcycles – this is as much of a boon for the vistas as it is for the noise levels. Hydra is also cultured. For decades this has been the retreat of artists, with novelists and poets visiting (notably Henry Miller with Giorgos Seferis). Also – famously – this was home to Leonard Cohen for decades.

    Hydra has just the one main town, curved around a lovely port. This was an island of ship captains and merchants, and they built in beautiful style. You’ll dine superbly, here in the romantic alleyways or port side. Or you can take stroll or take a water taxi to Kamini for more choices. For art, you can visit the slaughterhouse, where the Deste foundation has created a project space hosting exhibitions of international artists. Hydra is definitely one of the best Greek Islands for a cultured vacation.

    Crete – Bold, Adventurous, Beautiful

    Honeymoon on Crete, Greece. Luxury vacation in Greece, Greek Islands Vacation
    Chania’s Venetian Charm

    Magnificent Crete, largest of all the Greek islands, is a wonderful vacation destination. It’s almost like its own country. For starters, instead of the glory of ancient Greece, they have the glory of the much more ancient Minoans – an advanced Bronze Age Society you can get to know at Knossos, their glorious palace. Crete also has its own fantastic cuisine, the purest and most elemental of the Mediterranean. And the wine is glorious – Marouvas is aged and rich like a sherry. Cretan music is among the most famous in Greece. Go to a “Panigyri” – a feast day honoring a village’s patron saint – to hear it, and see some of Greece’s liveliest and most stirring folk dancing.

    Crete is home to some of Greece’s most famous beaches. Balos – where Prince Charles and Princess Diana are said to have stopped on their honeymoon, Elafonissi – a Natural 2000 biotope with pink sands and a dreamy lagoon, and Matala – the beach with a high cliff full of caves where the hippies lived. These are just a very few of the spectacular beaches. Besides this, there is the Samarian Gorge, a world-famous hike that will take you to the shores of the Libyan sea. This is one of countless gorges – Crete is a hiker’s paradise.

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    A Luxury Vacation in Greece – Athens and the Islands Sat, 23 May 2020 12:48:06 +0000 Greece is a generous destination, packed with attractions and activities, sights and flavors. It’s also a destination that defines luxury in a unique way. It’s not simply elegance and amenities that define luxury in Greece, but the uniqueness of the experience. Luxury accommodations will be rich in authentic local character. Gourmet restaurants showcase carefully sourced […]

    The post A Luxury Vacation in Greece – Athens and the Islands appeared first on Provocolate.

    Greece is a generous destination, packed with attractions and activities, sights and flavors. It’s also a destination that defines luxury in a unique way. It’s not simply elegance and amenities that define luxury in Greece, but the uniqueness of the experience. Luxury accommodations will be rich in authentic local character. Gourmet restaurants showcase carefully sourced Greek ingredients with pride. A luxury vacation in Greece means being able to experience it all, without the chaos of high season travel in one of the world’s most popular destinations.

    Luxury Destinations in Greece

    Greece is home to some world-famous destinations. Because of their unique qualities, they have become immensely popular with visitors from all over the world. In places like Santorini and Mykonos, luxury is more than refinement and convenience. A luxury vacation in Greece equates to access and exclusivity. On a luxury holiday in Greece, you will get to have a bespoke, private experience, away from the larger crowds. Local experts can ensure you have an unforgettable experience, and also make sure you don’t waste time getting around. And recharging in the comfort of a luxury air-conditioned car while a chauffeur brings you directly to the all the best sights saves not just time, but spares a lot of stress.

    Exclusive Experiences on a Luxury Vacation in Greece

    When most people come to Greece, the Archaeological sites are an essential part of their agenda. Your experience of the sites can be magical if go at the right time, and – importantly – with the right person. A skilled guide can bring ancient sights to life and give you valuable context. This makes the experience more meaningful and memorable.

    Luxury Hotels in Greece- Destination Accommodations

    Santorini - Luxury vacations in Greece
    The views from the edge of the cliff over the caldera

    The hospitality industry in Greece has been careful to preserve what is essential about a destination. Quality over quantity is the goal. Some of the most beautiful places on the globe maintain their integrity – and their beauty. The best destinations in Greece are not overrun with unsightly high rise hotels. Development is tasteful, elegant, and often site-specific. A luxury hotel in Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, or Crete – the most popular Greek destinations – provides much more that just a deluxe experience. The finest hotels offer you a truly unique experience of their destination, such as signature views, unparalleled architecture, and inventive, authentic dining experiences. They embody a sense of place.

    Tailored Experiences on a Luxury Vacation in Greece

    Family Vacations in Greece - Things to do in Mykonos, Luxury vacation in Greece
    Dinner by the sea in Greece

    When people fantasize about their ideal luxury holiday in Greece, they’ll have certain vignettes in mind. Maybe it’s dinner at a table at the very edge of the dock, with the only music the lapping of waves and the gentle murmur of conversation. Jumping straight into the jewel-like Aegean from your boat, in a hidden cove, is another image many hold. For others, there will be moments of authentic connection that they look forward to, moments that give insight into culture.

    Whatever your specialized interest, you can enjoy it on a bespoke luxury holiday in Greece. Oenophiles can visit boutique wineries, and have a unique experience. A tasting of Greek varietals or a special lesson in pairings, featuring ultra-local foods, is an experience you take home with you, in an enhanced knowledge and enjoyment of wine. Are you a diver, or would you like to learn? Then you would enjoy a private diving excursion, to the most exotic spots, with a personal dive master. Private lessons with a chef can introduce you to the foundations of local cuisines. You’ll learn about new ingredients and approaches to food and your Greek luxury vacation will enhance your life at home, at the table.

    Destinations for a Luxury Vacation in Greece

    There are over 200 inhabited islands in Greece. Yet, on a first trip to Greece, so many visitors choose from among just a handful of them. These are Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes. They are popular for a reason – they each offer truly unique experiences. These islands each have a distinctive and unique character. On a luxury vacation in Greece, you can have a privileged experience that reveals what makes each island extraordinary.

    Related Post: A Vacation in the Greek Islands – Best Greek Islands to Visit


    Family Vacations in Greece - Luxury Vacation in Greece
    The Acropolis aglow by nigh – one of the most romantic sites in Europe

    Greece’s capital is a wonder. This high-energy modern Mediterranean city has some of the most famous sights in all the world. But it also has an unexpected serenity. You’ll exerience this in the romantic alleys of Plaka and the steps of Anafiotika, where time has stood still. You can start your Athenian experience with private tour of the Temple of Poseidon at sunset. This is a sight so beautiful that visitors often greet it with a spontaneous round of applause in style. Then you can continue in style, by seeing an opera under the stars in the Herodes Atticus Theater, at the base of the Parthenon.

    Of course you’ll dine superbly, because Athens has much of Greece’s most inventive and authentic gourmet cuisine. The capital is full of fine restaurants, and the Guide Michelin agrees. Finally you’ll return to your world-class hotel. Enjoy being surrounded in luxury after your days of adventures and sightseeing.

    Santorini – One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

    Luxury vacation in Greece
    The Unforgettable view of the Caldera (Antelope Travel)

    This geological wonder owes its magnificent and unique topography to a volcano. From the views over the caldera, to the otherworldly colors of the beaches, to the flavors of the tomatoes and the wine, the volcano is the source of everything unique and sensational about Santorini. On a Greek luxury vacation of Santorini, you can have the ultimate Santorini experience. It can include a private sunset cruise in the caldera, and also a trip to the active volcano. Then you can enjoy private tastings of Santorini’s completely unique wines. Luxury accommodations in Santorini are like no other hotels in the world, because they harness the beauty of the island’s magnificent geology for a unique and unforgettable hotel experience. Because it is so breathtakingly romantic, Santorini is also one of the world’s premium honeymoon destinations.

    Related Post: Santorini – Best Beaches, Sights, and Experiences

    Mykonos – a Glamorous Luxury Island with Celebrity Appeal

    Honeymoon in Mykonos, Greece. Luxury vacation in Greece
    Mykonos Harbor by Evening (Antelope Travel)

    Flooded with international tourists, celebrities, and paparazi, Mykonos has an incredible energy. One of the most famous destinations in the world, it also has a unique beauty. You’ll see the iconic windmills, get lost in the romantic white-washed alleys of ‘Little Venice,’ go clubbing, and indulge in some designer boutique shopping – even at midnight. After all this high-octane activity, you’ll also be able to experience one of the most magnificent archaeological sites of the world – the sacred island of Delos. A private guide will introduce you to its fascinating history. it’s nice to experience the elite luxury of Mykonos – the beaches with private cabanas and beach-side service, the gourmet cuisine of internationally renowned chefs. Mykonos has some of the world’s finest hotels, offering an unparalleled serene, chic Mediterranean experience.

    Related Post: The Best Things to Do in Mykonos


    Honeymoon on Crete, Greece. Luxury vacation in Greece
    Chania’s Venetian Charm

    Crete, Greece’s largest island, is a culture unto itself. It’s almost like its own country. Including Crete in your itinerary of a Greek luxury vacation adds something truly special. First, there is the history. Crete trades the wonders of the Golden Age of Athens (5th century BC) for the Bronze Age civilization of the Minoans – millennia earlier (3000 BC to 1450 BC). This advanced society left art and myth that resonate deeply still. A private guide can introduce you to the mysteries of this lost exotic world on a luxury vacation in Greece.

    Then, there is the cuisine of Crete. It is entirely unique. Crete’s cuisine is the most bold and elemental of Mediterranean cuisines. Crete is famous for not just the sea, but also for its rugged mountains. This means you can also have an adventure-packed experience on Crete, with everything arranged to your wishes. It’s a large island, so it’s nice to have all the groundwork taken care of in advance. And Crete’s luxury accommodations are also extraordinary – stylish, exclusive, and with a strong sense of place.


    Honeymoon on Rhodes, Luxury vacations in Greece
    A crystal lagoon on Rhodes

    This is another extraordinary and unique island. What characterizes the Rhodes experience is the tremendous diversity. There is the exotic flavor of the east, after long Ottoman presence. It also has the romance of the Middle Ages – the great Palace of the Grand Master, of the Knights Hospitaller – also called the Knights of Malta and the Knights of Rhodes. And of course there are the antiquities, like the great Acropolis of Lindos. There would be enough to do even without the endless spectacular beaches and the wonders of nature inland. Rhodes’ cuisine has exotic influences and great refinement- on a luxury vacation in Greece you can experience it at its best. And Rhodes’ luxury hotels are also extraordinary, earning top marks from the worlds’ most discerning travelers.


    The Ionian islands have their own unique character. They are famously green and lush. And the waters of the Ionian sea are uncommonly clear, like jewels. Queen among the Ionian Islands is the supremely elegant Corfu. So this is an island made for a luxury vacation in Greece. For one thing, it has an outstanding pedigree. In fact, this is the birthplace of Prince Phillip of England – he was born in the palatial villa Mon Repos. There were over three centuries of Venetian presence. This ensures a certain Italianate elegance and romance in the architecture of Corfu.

    You’ll dine superbly. The best of Italian and Greek cuisines unite in the dishes of Corfu. And you’ll also have some of Greece’s most romantic swims. Corfu is full of hidden coves and beaches. On a Greek luxury vacation, you will reach them by private yacht. Corfu’s lush scenery and amazing views also make for some of Greece’s most magnificent luxury hotels. Because there is so much to discover on a private excursion, Corfu is a wonderful destination for a family vacation in Greece.

    Luxury Holidays in Greece

    Santorini, Luxury vacation in Greece
    A Winery on Santorini

    Greece is one of the most popular destinations in the world. On a luxury vacation in Greece, you can enjoy a privileged experience. With everything from transportation in luxury cars, staying in some of the world’s most exclusive hotels, and bookings for cultural events and tables at the hottest restaurants, you’ll enjoy the finest that Greece has to offer. Moreover, a bespoke luxury vacation in Greece will be tailored to your interests. You’ll have exclusive experiences – diving, yachting, wine-tasting, historic tours – that will leave you transformed. An experienced travel designer – such as Antelope Travel – can create your perfect bespoke luxury holiday in Greece.

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    Academia Time Out – Making Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon Thu, 21 May 2020 12:03:17 +0000 The rich and delicate Pastéis de Nata are the signature pastries of Lisbon. We loved making Pastéis de Nata at the Academia Time Out Workshop. Before your first trip to Lisbon, friends who have been there will rave about lots of things- the people, the Azulejos (Lisbon’s gorgeous tiles), the seafood, the fado, the bookstores, […]

    The post Academia Time Out – Making Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon appeared first on Provocolate.

    The rich and delicate Pastéis de Nata are the signature pastries of Lisbon. We loved making Pastéis de Nata at the Academia Time Out Workshop.

    Before your first trip to Lisbon, friends who have been there will rave about lots of things- the people, the Azulejos (Lisbon’s gorgeous tiles), the seafood, the fado, the bookstores, the wine (there is no bad wine in Lisbon) and pastéis de nata. These are custard tarts. They don’t sound like something to rave about. But pastéis de nata are incredible – rich, delicate, fragrant. They’re blistered nearly black on top, while the custard remains delicate and soft – like a crème brûlée in a flaky shell. We ate them in the morning and in the afternoon. We bought boxes of them to have in bed with wine from the mini bar.

    They’re always fresh from the oven – although the midnight snack ones were not bad. But this isn’t something you can stock up on to bring home. They are too delicate to travel well. The only solution was to learn how to make them. We were in luck, because at the Academia Time Out, they were offering a pastéis de nata class. So now we can have them whenever we like.

    Related Post: Experiencing the Time Out Market, Lisbon

    Where to Try Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon

    Making pastéis de nata in Lisbon- confeitaria Nacional
    Confeitaria Nacional
    Confeiteria Nacioanl - Making Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon
    The Confeitaria Nacional – Lisbon’s Oldest Patisserie

    We had pastéis de nata at every opportunity in our 3 days in Lisbon – they’re everywhere. So after a while knew what makes a good pastel de nata (‘pastel’ is the singular). There are many opportunities to enjoy a pastel de nata in Lisbon.

    Pastéis de Nata at the Confeiteria Nacional

    Confeitaria Nacional pastéis de nata
    Pastéis de Nata at Confeitaria Nacional

    Our first was at the Confeiteria Nacional, the oldest patisserie in Lisbon. The Confeiteria Nacional is a destination in itself – essential on your Lisbon itinerary. Since 1829, this opulent patisserie has been operating on the Praça da Figueira, serving hot, frothing café com leite and a range of traditional Portuguese pastries. It has been in hands of the family of the founder – Balthazar Castanheiro – for six generations.

    There is table service at the Confeiteria Nacional, and there is even an elegant prix fix lunch menu. But we enjoyed standing up. You order your coffee at the marble counter, and select your pastry. Then you bring them over to one of the pretty marble stands. This is the prettiest and liveliest part of the cafe, filled with chatter and the sound of the espresso machine. The ceiling is covered with mirrors and carved wood, and beautiful antique molds and baking tools are displayed in glass cases. All the cakes are in front of you, and the passers by at the Praça da Figueira are right outside. This is the most beautiful place in Lisbon to have pastéis de nata, and they’re excellent.

    Confeiteria Nacional, Praça da Figueira, Praça Dom Pedro IV 

    Pasteis de Nata at Manteigaria

    Making pastéis de nata in Lisbon
    Midnight Snack in the Hotel – Pastéis de Nata from Manteigaria

    We had heard that Manteigaria (“dairy”) makes some of the finest pastéis de nata. They have a main shop, but we had ours in the Time Out Market Lisboa. This was also a good sign, because this is a curated experience, with only the best shops getting a spot. Pastéis de nata are characterized by the contrast of the crisp and delicate pastry crust and the creaminess of the custard filling. By that measure, these were excellent. The crust was shattering crisp and buttery, and the filling only just barely help its shape.

    Pastéis de Nata at Pastéis de Belém

    Making Pastéis de Nata
    There’s often a line outside Pastéis de Belém

    Belém is the historic district in the west of Lisbon, on the banks of the Tagus. You’ll be coming out here to see the Torre de Belém, where the explorers embarked on their journeys. The grand 16th century Jerónimos Monastery is also out here. And as it turns out, the monks of the monastery were instrumental in inventing the Pastéis de Nata. Convents and monasteries closed in the liberal revolution of 1820, and the nuns and monks needed to earn a living. It turns out the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery were skilled bakers. Their pastries – called Pastéis de Belém – became popular with the many visitors who came to enjoy the sights of Belém. Pastéis de Belém preserves the original recipe of the monks, and makes them still. They’re delicious, and it’s fun to try them in this historic shop, which has been making them since 1837.

    Pastéis de Belém, Rua de Belém nº 84 to 92

    Making Pastéis de Nata at the Academia Time Out

    Academia Time Out - Making Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon
    Our Pastéis de Nata Workshop at the Academia Time Out

    So now, we knew what we wanted to achieve – a rich custard filling, barely set and blistered on top, wobbling gently in a crisp and flaky shell.

    Academia Time Out - Making pastéis de nata in Lisbon
    The Academia Time Out is in the festive main hall of the Time Out Market, Lisbon

    The Academia Time Out is in the main floor of the high-energy Time Out Market Lisboa. All around us were people drinking wine, eating, and snacking on warm pastéis de nata from Manteigaria – a good inspiration for us. Each pair had a gleaming work station, with all of our equipment and ingredients before us. They gave us natty aprons – large professional aprons with a pocket (I bought one afterwards). To hear our instructors, we had earpieces.

    First we started with the custard. The pastéis de nata we had eaten up to now were pure, but not plain – they had a full and delicate fragrance. We see now why. A cinnamon stick and some lemon peel steep in the milk we heat for the custard. Also, for body, we see that the custard is thickened not just with egg yolks, but also with some flour. It’s already a little thick and silky when it goes into the pastry shell for baking. That makes sense, because our instructor tells us these take a blisteringly hot oven – 400° F – for a brief amount of time.

    There is a large screen where we could watch what our instructor is doing via an overhead camera. As she worked, another instructor came by to see how we are all doing. We had all the information we needed, and time to get it right. I bake all the time, but my partner was a novice and she had no trouble at all.

    We used ready puff pastry, so there was no messy rolling and cutting. Shaping it into a roll, we sliced off disks, and pressed them with our thumbs into the forms. First we started with just four, so we could see how they turned out and make adjustments. The instructor came by to give us essential tips for success, like making a rim above the form, and not filling them too full.

    Making Pasteis de Nata at Home

    Academia Time Out - Making pastéis de nata at home
    Making Pastéis de Nata at Home

    We used the recipe given us at the Academia Time Out for the custard. It worked as perfectly at home as it did in Lisbon. We made our own puff pastry for the crust, and pressed it thin. Our home oven goes to 270° F, and as soon as they were black in spots, we took them out. The thin crust did not need much time to brown. It was a perfect success.

    A new skill is the perfect souvenir to take from your travels. See what’s going on at the Academia Time Out when you’re in Lisbon – they had a full program of workshops when we were there.

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