Myself and my colleague Megan, also part of the reservations team, had the wonderful opportunity to join our Olympiada last month.
Olympiada is a beautiful little seaside town tucked away on Halkidiki's east coast but just 90 minutes from Thessaloniki. This is one of our highest rated holidays for the cuisine and here you’re sure to indulge on delicious breakfasts on offer from the relaxing boutique hotel Liotopi and incredible regional dishes from our trusty local taverna, Akroyiali.
A true family affair, our hotel is run and owned by Loulou and each day she handmakes a wonderful breakfast including pastries, omelettes and tasty regional favourites. You’re sure to never leave hungry for your walk! After you’ve walked off your breakfast, you’ll be just about ready for dinner at Akroyiali, owned by Loulou’s brother, each evening you have a different selection of authentic Greek starters and your main dish (which you choose the night before) - the taverna offers lots of options to choose from and there is something for everyone! Plus, they have my favourite aspect of the taverna, the friendly resident ‘stray’ dog that the servers affectionately named ‘Little Nick’!
Halkidiki is a great area for walking opportunities and its envious position allows for tonnes of different landscapes to discover on foot. On our first day of walking we walked over to Ancient Stagira, the ruins of Aristotle's birthplace, just a ten-minute walk from the hotel’s doors. We were joined on the walk by a local guide to teach us all about the native plants and flowers in the region, and the health benefits of each. Back at the hotel in the afternoon we were fortunate enough to be able to swim in the warm Aegean waters – very welcome after a day’s walk!
On our third day we headed off to a local nature reserve, after a hearty homemade breakfast. Today’s walk followed a scenic coastal path, all the way to a secluded beach where we took a picnic lunch and some of us enjoyed a quick swim, before carrying on along the trail to pick up our transfer back to the hotel for some much-appreciated R&R.
Mid way through our week and we were ready to slow the pace down a little. Travelling over to the nearby town of Ouranopoli for a walk to the top of town for an amazing view of the town and ocean below. In the afternoon we joined the optional boat trip to Mount Athos. This cost just 15 euros and lasted around 3 hours. Along the way we enjoyed incredible views of the stunning coastline with its beautiful ornate, colourful monasteries built into the mountainside and the larger monasteries nearer to Mount Athos with interesting commentary about each.
On our 5th day we had a visit to Aristotle’s Theme Park, admittedly when Megan and I saw this in the HI before the trip we were a little confused to say the least, but this is a really interesting stop if you’re in the area. A field with games and displays in homage to all his different inventions and discoveries. This is a real fun part of the trip; you can even set a fire (safely of course)! We then continued on our walk from there onto meet the transport and head back to the hotel with enough time to relax and change before meeting up for dinner.
As this is a sightseeing holiday, day six was a full sightseeing day. We had transport take us to an open-air market, full of traditional Greek delicacies, we managed to sneak in a visit to a little bakery around the corner which sold some of the best and fresh pastries and sandwiches to pick up some lunch. We also visited a couple museums to see ruins and artefacts found in the area including the Lion of Amphipolis which was found in pieces and painstakingly put back together. Back at the hotel we enjoyed a demonstration from a local bee keeper who explained how bees make their honey and the different processes the bees go through. The group also walked over to the tiny church that is just across from the hotel, it’s a wonderful small Greek church, only opened a few times a year with beautiful paintings depicting different biblical stories.
Disappointingly our week was coming to a end, our final day of walking was a visit to two charming waterfalls. Both waterfalls were spectacular and really a highlight of the entire holiday. We finished the walk on the beach and walked all the way back to our hotel ready for our cooking demonstration with Loulou, she let us watch her entire process, using lots of fresh local produce, and we even got to sample some of her creations!
At this point I thought the excitement was coming to a close and I was preparing to head back to reality, but I was wrong! Unbeknownst to me, Megan had been keeping a secret all week long. The leader asked to take a photo of the two of us to commemorate our trip. We both got all dressed up and walked over to the little church across from the hotel where another of our colleagues, James (who just so happens to be my boyfriend – yes, we did meet at work!), came out of nowhere to surprise me and propose! Unsurprisingly, it became the talk of the rest of the trip!