Backroads guest Olga Bitsakis recounts her experience on our Santorini & Crete Multi-Adventure Tour
Though I've been to Greece approximately 30 times, and I come from a Greek family, I can truly say that I never enjoyed this amazing country as I did this year. What changed? Backroads happened!
I had never vacationed solo before. Had a bit of anxiety about it.
I had never done any group vacations before. Had a bit of anxiety about this, too.
First time solo. First time Backroads. Best vacation of my life!
I want to share my experience here, because it was truly life-changing.
We were 19 strangers meeting for the first time at the airport in Heraklion, Crete. We all had a common passion for cycling, hiking, seeing the world, and eating great food. Our easily identifiable Backroads jerseys came in handy while we were waiting for each other's arrivals.
I knew this was going to be a great group right from the start. We each made our way throughout the group to introduce ourselves and chat a bit. By the time the full group assembled, I felt that we had all formed a bond. We were one group. We were not one couple from Texas, one group from Canada and one woman from Massachusetts. It was an inexplicable feeling that other friends who had done Backroads trips had told me about, and I finally felt it for myself. One group: Backroads Greece!
Our incredible guide, Alex Hamlet, met us and promptly whisked us away to our first destination for a feast of a lunch overlooking the Cretan mountainside. By the time we arrived, we were all friends, laughing, kidding, and joking with one another. It seemed we had known each other for years. I never felt like a solo traveler. We morphed into one big happy Backroads family. And it only got better from there.
The scenery in Crete and Santorini was stunning. The cycling and hiking were not over-the-top difficult, but were certainly challenging. If you chose to take a spa day and forgo a ride or hike, that was okay.
Our "family rule" for cycling was that no one cycles alone. We naturally ended up in three or four small groups, always within eyesight of a group or two ahead. Never riding alone unless you really wanted to. And the full group would meet at a photo op every few miles or so. And there were many photo ops in Greece!
The hiking was one big happy group. So many funny stories to tell.
The accommodations were spectacular. Although Backroads offers the option for solo travelers to share a room with another same-gender solo traveler, I opted for my own room. The hotels were pure heaven! I had my own room to relax in after activities and before dinner, and had a balcony and an infinity pool overlooking the crystal blue Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
The food? The most authentic Greek food from off-the-beaten path local taverns. Amazing. Most all meals were served family style. First, this is the normal Greek way to dine, and second, the casual atmosphere lends itself to "family/fun dining." So much fun, in fact, that we found ourselves playing musical chairs during dinner, and hopping around the tables to recap and replay our activities of the day. So much fun.
And last, but certainly not least: The Backroads leaders! First class, unsurpassed excellence. Their attention to detail was mind-boggling. They focused on logistics, and the guests' requests - large or small, and all the while making it appear seamless and effortless.
If you've ever considered a group vacation - either solo or as a couple or group of friends - I would highly recommend Backroads. You will experience a vacation like no other, and will come out of it with friends for life.
Can't wait for my next adventure in 2020. Backroads for life!