Greece has a lot more to offer than sandy beaches. Take a look in the produce aisle of a supermarket and you’ll see the proof; plump stone fruit, oranges, sweet watermelon, grapes and tomatoes are just some of the many products grown in the country’s farms. Most of them are small and family-run; some feature guesthouses or restaurants and happen to be the perfect places to visit for alternative, agritourism vacations. By stepping into the role of a farmer for a day or a week, you get to know the locals and their traditions, while also reconnecting with nature.
You’ll find agritourism enterprises surrounded by olive groves and vineyards on the islands and in the Peloponnese, or in the mushroom-filled forests in the mountains of the mainland. You’ll even find a few just outside Athens. Staying in their guesthouses, you’re invited to join in the daily work, which, depending on the season, could be anything from planting vegetables to pruning trees, herding sheep or harvesting olives. Sharing meals and learning from the people who have worked the land their whole lives, you’ll soon feel like a local.
Foodies will find it especially rewarding. It’s the ultimate farm-to-table experience; before each meal, you’ll visit the vegetable patch, the orchard and the chicken coop, and gather the freshest ingredients you’ll ever taste. You’ll learn that Greek cuisine is different in every part of the country, shaped by the local terroir, and by recognizing what grows nearby, you’ll gain an understanding of the local cuisine (a farmhouse in the forest-clad mountains of Pindus will use ingredients such as fruit and mushrooms, whereas one on the island of Crete will be stocked with bread rusks, olives and raki).
You’ll also sample organic niche products such as natural wine, truffles in central Greece and acorn flour cookies on Kea. Traditional cooking classes and tastings are available on demand, and every meal, cooked with only seasonal local products, is authentic, rustic and delicious.
Situated in an ancient olive grove near the village of Gouves, in the Peloponnese, Frangiskos Karelas’ organic farm produces mainly olive oil and wine. In the autumn, guests are welcome to help with the harvest. You can also take part in an olive oil tasting or learn how to make olive oil soap. But there is more to be discovered here as well.
Knowing the risks of monocultures, Karelas planted grape vines and almond, pine and cypress trees in the olive grove. During your stay, you‘ll learn all about why this is the best way to approach organic farming. You can also help feed the animals (Greek black pigs, goats, sheep and poultry), plant vegetables, and do much more. When you need a break from farm work, you can take a cooking class or request a tasting of natural Greek wines led by sommelier Marilena Karadima.
The five guesthouses (each with room for 4-5 people, €160/night for couples and families and €30 for each additional adult guest) feature modern interior design, yet they blend in perfectly to their surroundings. Decorated with wood and natural stucco, they’re named for the trees and plants that grow in the area.
Tel. (+30) 694.715.1400,
For those who want to experience farm life up close and also enjoy a relaxing and luxurious setting on vacation, the Dalabelos Estate, near the village of Angeliana on Crete, offers the best of both worlds. The 12 beautiful stone villas and studios (from €110/night) and two shared swimming pools are surrounded by the estate’s olive trees, a vineyard, vegetable gardens and a fruit orchard, which is home to various free-range poultry. In the natural shade in the restaurant courtyard, you’ll enjoy food inspired by the famously healthy Cretan diet, made with ingredients from the estate. If you love the food, you can join the cooking classes held every Saturday, where you’ll learn to bake country-style bread and cook two seasonal dishes, with ingredients you’ve gathered from the estate (€30/person).
Groups of 4-15 people who don’t want to stay the night can take a tour of the estate (€15/person), which includes tastings of the farm’s products. The tour ends with an open discussion about organic farming.
Angeliana, Rethymno, Crete,
Tel. (+30) 28340.221.55,
You don’t need to spend days on a farm to get a glimpse of what they’re all about. In Kalyvia, just about 40 km from Athens, the beautiful Margi Farm presents a unique dining experience, inviting guests to pick their own vegetables and cook their own meals.
Their “Farm to Fork” package (€500/couple, €175 per additional person), which needs to be booked in advance, starts with a guided tour through the chicken coop and organic garden, where guests collect fresh eggs and vegetables. Then, you’ll be presented with more local delicacies such as cold-pressed olive oil, rosé wine from the region, traditional tsipouro (a distilled spirit), fresh cheese made from goat’s milk, wild asparagus from the surrounding hills, and herbs and seasonal fruit from around their two- hectare farm. After that, you’ll prepare your meal in the outdoor kitchen. You can choose to do it completely on your own or with the help of a chef.
Tel. (+30) 210.967.0924,
Rokka is more than a guesthouse; it’s a family home. Lena, Lakis, Kostas and Katina are sheep farmers and the hosts, welcoming guests to experience life on their farm (situated 4km from the guesthouse), surrounded by nature in the Pindus mountains. Each of the five guestrooms (from €50/night) in the stone-built house from 1875 is decorated in traditional village style and features large fireplaces to keep you warm.
The day begins with a hearty breakfast, made by Lena, but you’re welcome to lend a hand. Everything, from the bread to the butter, cheese and jam, is homemade. All dairy products are based on the milk from the family’s 400 sheep. The rest of the day’s program is up to you. Join Kostas in feeding and herding the sheep, help Lakis sow or harvest grain, learn how to make yarn using wool and natural dye with Lena, or how to cook local dishes with Katina. Truffle and mushroom hunting can also be organized on request.
Elafatopos, Central Zagori, Ioannina,
Tel. (+30) 26530.715.80,
Recognized time and again for its environmental practices, and a recipient of, among other accolades, Europe’s Responsible Tourism Award 2017 at the 24th annual World Travel Awards, Costa Navarino places Messinia’s natural attractions and agri-food traditions at the center of its guests’ experiences.
During the olive harvest (September to December), you can experience firsthand all the steps in the process, from picking the fruit to the production of extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil tastings under the guidance of local experts take place throughout the year. During the wine harvest (August to October), you can join in the stomping of grapes and discover one of Greece’s best terroirs, with a guided tour of Costa Navarino’s vineyards in Mouzaki (guided tours and wine tasting evenings take place throughout the year).
Tours, led by a plant expert, of the herbal and vegetable gardens are available, and if you’re looking for an illuminating farm-to-table experience, you can visit the vegetable garden, collect seasonal produce and enjoy a delicious outdoor meal surrounded by nature. Kids between the ages of four and eleven can join in the Young Gardeners activities, where they’ll learn to plant seeds and pick the fruit that’s in season.
Tel. (+30) 27230.970.00,
RED TRACTOR FARM
Greece isn’t all about olive oil and yogurt; at the pretty, stone-built Red Tractor Farm and guesthouse on the island of Kea, Kostis Maroulis has four stone houses, featuring seven studio units, some with fireplaces and all with bright-white interiors and private outdoor spaces (from €80/night, open year-round).
Also at RTF, Marcie Mayer specializes in the production of acorn flour. Every autumn, she harvests the acorns in the ancient oak forest of Kea, inviting volunteers to join her. The flour, which is gluten-free and rich in fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6, is used to bake bread and cookies. The farm also produces wine, jams and spatholado (literally “sword oil”) ointment from St John’s Wort, a product used to heal sword injuries in ancient times and other wounds today. You can purchase all these products in the Red Tractor shop.
TO PERIVOLI STI VARI (THE ORCHARD IN VARI)
Another option close to Athens, this permaculture farm is situated only 20km from the center of the city, but arriving here feels as though you’re suddenly in a different world. You’ll find fun activities such as gardening classes for both kids and adults, available in English on request (€10/person). If you visit from October to January, you can also observe the production of olive oil in the Orchard’s mill.
The main reason to come here, however, is for the food. Cooked using the farm’s own herbs, eggs and vegetables, grass-fed meat and local products, it contains no additives. The menu is different every day, depending on what the earth has to offer. Olive oil, honey and wine tastings are also available on request.
15 Kyrineias (formerly Kyrgion), Vari,
Tel. (+30) 210.896.3000,
open Wed-Sun, 10:00-21:00
A beautiful, four-hectare estate near Rethymno on Crete, Agreco Farms is a labor of love of Grecotel, a Cretan hospitality chain – and Greece’s largest hospitality enterprise – that has sought, since its founding, to promote the virtues of the land and deliver its guests authentic Cretan experiences. Celebrating the abundance of the Cretan soil, this traditional farm invites you to take part in an authentic farming experience which combines centuries-old local traditions, heartwarming hospitality and insights into the organic production of the island’s simple, healthy food.
Guided tours of the farm are offered every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and are followed by a Cretan feast featuring local dances. On Sundays, depending on the season, you can watch or take part in different tasks. In June, for example, you can experience the full cycle of bread-making, and in July, you can take part in the grape harvest and sample fresh grape must before it’s turned into raki. On Wednesdays, children get to be farmers for a day by joining in supervised, fun-filled farm activities such as making farmhouse bread and baking it in a wood-fired oven; picking vegetables from the organic gardens; milking the goats to make cheese; and helping shear the sheep.
The farm’s organic products can be purchased online or at Hellenic Duty Free Shops at airports in Greece, but are best enjoyed at the estate’s Agreco Taverna which, in 2009, was declared the best organic restaurant in the world by the prestigious Vanity Fair magazine.