You can find a wide variety of tours, special-interest trips, classes, and workshops available when you travel to Greece, focusing on everything from antiquities to wine tasting. In addition, there are a number of organized possibilities for volunteerism, whether on excavations or on farms. Here are some suggestions.
Educational Trips & Language Classes
Want to arrive in Greece knowing how to say more than "Sorry, I don't speak Greek"? Check out the Dartmouth College Rassias Center (www.rassias.dartmouth.edu) language program in modern Greek. This very popular 10-day total-immersion session should have you arriving ready to amaze and delight Greeks with your command of their glorious and tricky language. If you can't go to the Rassias Center but find yourself staying on in Greece and wanting to learn the language, the Athens Center, 48 Archimidou, Mets., 11636 Athens (www.athenscenter.gr), has been around since 1969 and offers modern Greek classes year-round.
Many colleges and universities offer tours of Greece, led by scholars at the institution sponsoring the tour. Most of these tours are serious, but very comfortable -- and not cheap. Some of these tours are open only to graduates of the institution, others welcome all comers, so you'll probably want to check out a few university and college websites to find what interests you.
Archaeological Tours, 271 Madison Ave., Suite 904, New York, NY 10016 (tel. 866/740-5130; www.archaeologicaltrs.com), offers tours led by expert guides; typical tours might be to classical Greek sites or to Cyprus, Crete, and Santorini. FreeGate Tourism, 585 Stewart Ave., Suite 310, Garden City, NY 11530 (tel. 888/373-3428; www.freegatetours.com), also specializes in guided trips in Greece. The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts (www.aegeancenter.org), based on the island of Paros, offers courses in painting, photography, music, creative writing, and modern Greek. Most of the students are college-age Americans; the instructors are Greek, American, and international.
The American-run Island Center for the Arts conducts classes in painting, photography, and Greek culture on the island of Skopelos between June and September (tel. 617/623-6538; www.islandcenter.org). As it is affiliated with the Massachusetts College of Art, some educational institutions grant credits for its courses.
The popular Road Scholar program (formerly Elderhostel; tel. 800/454-5768; www.roadscholar.org) is a learning experience for adults (with some intergenerational programs) that offers a couple dozen trips to Greece and the surrounding area each year, ranging from cruises on smaller ships that explore the history and culture of the Aegean Islands, to overland road trips where participants explore the art, architecture, and archeology of the region.
Adventure & Wellness Trips
Trekking Hellas (www.trekking.gr) offers white-water rafting excursions in the Peloponnese and northern Greece. Although plenty of beginners (including many macho Greek guys) go on these trips, most foreign participants have had some rafting experience. Trekking Hellas also organizes hiking tours.
The Ashtanga Yoga Retreat (www.yogapractice.net/mani) in the remote, austere, and beautiful Mani peninsula, offers 1-week retreats in the summer.
Eumelia (www.eumelia.com), in the Peloponnese south of Sparta, has five rental houses, a staff of three, and never more than 25 guests on its organic farm outside the hamlet of Gouves. Eumelia (the name means "melody") focuses on agrotourism and the manufacture and sale of organic produce (olive oil, herbs, and so on). There are frequent workshops and seminars (in 2011 workshops included a "raw vegan cooking seminar" and a tango workshop); Eumelia aims for "100% self-sufficiency" and all its buildings are built with great attention to environmental issues -- and have TV and Internet access. Prices are reasonable: 120€ per night for two people sharing a two-bedroom cottage in 2011.
Limnisa (Creative Holidays by the Sea; www.limnisa.com) offers silent retreats, writing retreats, and workshops by the sea near Methana, in the east Peloponnese, near the island of Poros.
Skyros Center (www.skyros.com) offers yoga and holistic holidays (as well as writing holidays and singles holidays) on the island of Skyros. This British operation has a year-round office on the Isle of Wight.
Food & Wine Trips
If you're heading for Santorini and want to learn about Greek cuisine, the island's best restaurant, Selene (www.selene.gr), offers cooking classes with the most varied and fresh local ingredients each summer. Diane Kochilas (www.dianekochilas.com), a Greek-American expert on Greek foods, offers a variety of activities, including cooking classes in Athens and on Ikaria, and culinary tours in Athens or throughout Greece. Aglaia Kremezi (www.aglaiakremezi.com), an American-educated Greek authority on Greek food, and her husband, Costas Moraitis, run a cooking school on the island of Kea. And Nikki Rose (www.cookingincrete.com), a Cretan-American professional chef, operates seminars on Crete that combine some travel with cooking lessons and investigations of Crete's diet.
Want to mix seeing where the Olympic games began with some cooking, creative writing, or painting? Check out the website of the Hotel Pelops (www.hotelpelops.gr), where co-owner Susanna Spiliopoulou offers 3- and 4-day workshops a short walk from the pine groves of ancient Olympia.
Volunteer & Working Opportunities
Many Greek Orthodox churches in the United States and in Great Britain can offer suggestions for volunteer work in Greece, although many opportunities assume a fluency in Greek. GoGreeceabout.com lists many volunteer possibilities in Greece, including chances to help sea turtles on Zakynthos or donkeys on Corfu. www.nmp-zak.org, the website of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, also accepts volunteers. Other possibilities include The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization (www.wwoof.org), which offers listings for volunteers in several locations in Greece, including Mount Pelion.
On Chios, Masticulture and Ecotourism Adtivities (www.masticulture.com) has a range of tours and activities letting visitors participate in the mastic and wine harvests and learn about local pottery, cooking, and customs.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.