TAILOR-MADE LOCAL EXPERIENCES WITH ATHENS INSIDERS
ATHENS INSIDERS: THE COMPANY
Whilst researching authentic experiences for our visit to Athens, I came across Athens Insiders, who as the name suggests are based in Athens and provide tailor-made travel experiences in and around the city.
The company’s aim is to provide travellers with a unique experience of the city by sharing their ’insider’ knowledge in a wide variety of areas to discover the Greek culture by providing snippets of local knowledge.
I was keen to learn that Athens Insiders take the view that safety is paramount and conform to safety standards and guidelines to ensure their guests have a comfortable experience with them. This is something that resonates with me as it’s always something that’s at the forefront of my mind when choosing a company to work with.
All Athens Insiders travel guides are officially recognised and licensed by the Greek National Tourist Organisation and each tour can be customised and specifically designed to your specification. Experiences can be organised for small groups, large groups, families with children and also private tours, which Dr C and I had organised for a full day.
The personal experience started, when I visited Athens Insiders website and enquired via a online chat, where I was asked to suggest my interests. Well this was pretty easy as we were keen to visit the Acropolis and find out about the food culture. Additionally, I suggested a visit to some lesser touristy neighbourhoods to see the local way of life, together with some street art and alternative perspectives of the city.
We were keen to have a guided tour of the Acropolis because from past experiences, the specialised archaeological knowledge of the guides most definitely enhances the experience but additionally we wanted to explore the local foodie culture. It wasn’t long before a member of the team (huge thanks to Mariliza for her promptness and help) put together a two hour guided Acropolis walking tour followed swiftly by a five hour flavours of Athens walking tour.
THE ACROPOLIS GUIDED EXPERIENCE
On the day of our Athens experience, we were met in our hotel lobby by Chrisiis at 08:30 sharp and after a short introduction and appropriate clothing check (it was raining, but more on that later!) we made our way to Acropolis Hill. I just want to add that all tickets and entrance fees are included so you don’t really need to spend any more money except for on gratuities should you wish to at the end of the tour.
The delivery of information on the way up Acropolis hill by Chrisiis was just incredible. She had studied archaeology and her history and her knowledge on the area was just phenomenal. Her anecdotes were also pretty entertaining! This is exactly what we had hoped for. Again, I will reiterate that you cannot underestimate the value of having a local guide like Chrisiis with you as the whole experience is just so much more meaningful and memorable.
Both Dr C and I agreed that there was no way we would have enjoyed the tour as much if we just did it solo! I have to admit that considering the rainy weather and the gale that was blowing when we arrived at the Parthenon, Chrisiis ensured we remained in high spirits and did not let this ruin our experience. Even though the tour took a little longer due to the weather, things never felt rushed at any time and we felt we could ask as many questions that we wanted and were given enough time to look around the area and take photos. One thing that really impressed us about Chrisiis is that she had done her homework with regards to Dr C and myself and really tailored the tour to our interests, professions and she had even read my blog!
The personal touch and the passion of the guide most definitely heightened our time and were pretty sad to depart so soon after a lovely couple of hours getting to learn about the archaeological history of the Acropolis complex.
THE FLAVOURS OF ATHENS EXPERIENCE
Once we returned back down Acropolis Hill, we met our second guide of the day, Yorgos or George, who was our host for the flavours of Athens tour. Now this is where, Athens Insiders have got it so right, Yorgos is a trained chef and has previously worked as a private chef in Villas on the Greek islands. A food tour with a trained chef, oh yes please! Before long we were on our way, walking down the narrow back streets below the Acropolis.
I had expressed an interest at the time of booking to explore the more non-touristy places of Athens and it was Yorgos who introduced us to the pretty neighbourhood of Anafiotika. He had a similar passion for street art and graffiti so we explored areas where there were some quite unique techniques of art.
Yorgos introduced us to some fantastic places to grab local foods and where the locals would hang out. Places where the menu would be in Greek so you knew it was not a tourist trap! We tried Greek baklava made with Olive Oil, to traditional Greek coffee, Spinach Pie, Feta pie, Vine leaves filled with rice, Dr C got his meat fix, I had plenty of feta, there was an abundance of dishes such as eggplant in tomato sauce topped with feta, dishes with baked sardines, tzatziki, and lots of delicious bread to soak up those delicious sauces and dips.
Chef Yorgos even took us on a spice tour and his passion for his craft just simply shone throughout the day. One of the highlights was when he took us to the central market and took us around the sections, and explained where and what he would buy for his own ingredients and how to pick out for example the best fish and how you could cook it. Spices and nuts and lots of baklava and halwa. It was just a food lovers dream.
We experienced a unique side to Athens that I know that I could never have discovered if it wasn’t for this tour. You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun and I could barely believe it when Yorgos said it was time for him to leave us in Plaka!
I’m sure you agree the photos just speak for themselves. Unlike many other experiences I’ve previously done, the one that is truly uniquely created for Dr C and I, has exceeded all our expectations. We didn’t just feel as though we were on a tour, it felt a bit like we were with our best friends who were showing us around their city. Things felt relaxed, we were asked if we were happy at all times, the guides were considerate and made sure we were safe and enjoying ourselves at the same time but also not making this into a totally ‘guided’ experience. They were being guided by our interests and a good experience always leaves you sad when you have to say goodbye!
But even the goodbye is made bearable by Athens Insiders. We received a farewell gift of postcards, olive oil and dried Oregano in a pretty little brown bag. My final thoughts of the day were that if I ever have the opportunity to return to Athens, I would happily allow Athens Insiders to take care of the rest of my itenary as they got things absolutely spot on!
A tailor-made private experience for around seven hours such as our day would cost in the region of 250 Euros per person.
Disclaimer: The combination of the Acropolis and Flavours of Athens walking tours were offered at a press rate in return for this review. Please note that as always all views and opinions are my own and therefore a copyright of be-lavie.
Tell me, do you tend to book tours or do you prefer exploring city culture independently? Let me know what you thought of Athens Insiders private tours in the comments below and feel free to share any tour experiences of your own.