8 Unscripted Moments from Greece

Homer once said: “The Journey is the thing.” These are wise words to heed.

Travel is about exploration. It is these unscripted and unexpected moments that I always cherish and remember the most. It’s rarely about the destination, instead, it’s about what happens in the spaces in between.

I chose to tour with Club Adventures because of their commitment to build itineraries with balance. They encourage unplanned adventures and make space for them to happen. Participants are not bound to a full-day itinerary, nor are they herded like sheep on and off buses, rushed through museums, and required to attend precisely timed meals. 

On a 9 day journey through Greece, such flexibility gave our group inspired moments that will last a lifetime. Here are 8 of mine.

Watching a Sunset

It’s my belief that the majority of world problems could be solved by gathering at sunset. There’s something magical about the palette of a sundown; it draws people together to watch the sky explode with color as the sun disappears below the horizon. 

I felt this deeply atop Lycabettus Hill in Athens. With a free night worked into our first day of the itinerary, I climbed the 277-metre hill to enable views of the expansive city below, and joined a few other hundred people. I arrived with a half hour to spare, took a couple of photos, and lowered my camera with the intent to enjoy the crowd. I pulled out a can of beer that I had brought along, and cheers’ed a couple of others that had the same idea. I made some new friends and we all chatted about what our plans were in Athens and in Greece. Even after the sun was gone we stuck around for the magical moment when Athens and its limestone ruins were suddenly illuminated in golden light.


Sharing Dinner

What I love most about meals in Greece is the atmosphere produced by the shared experience. Meze are selections of small appetizers brought to the table for everyone to indulge. Meats, vegetables, salads, cheeses, tzatziki, bread – the combinations are endless, as can be the evening. When you sit down at a table for dinner in Greece, that table is yours for the night.

At our first evening group dinner together, the meze was brought to the table and everyone rushed to fill their plates. None of us realized at the time that there would be more plates to come, and then more plates, and then more plates. Most of our party were full after ten minutes.

We all learned to pace ourselves as the tour went on after spending our hunger so quickly on that first night. But the memories of those first bites of meze, however rapidly they passed by me at the time, are etched on my palate forever.

Simple But Not

It was late afternoon on the island of Naxos and we needed to find lunch. There were six of us who ventured on our own into town and dined at one of the seaside restaurants. After our meal, the owner of the restaurant brought over dessert: a dish of Greek yogurt topped with candied carrots.

“Please, this is complimentary for our guests,” he said generously.

The balance of the sweet candied carrots combined with the sour tanginess of the yogurt made for a perfect combination. I turned to the owner and commented how delicious and yet how simple the dessert seemed. He laughed and said: “Simple? No, not so simple.”

I learned that the dessert actually takes over a day to prepare. The shredded carrots are slowly reduced for hours in a mixture of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and water.

Thankfully, he knew I meant no disrespect with my comment, and we both burst out laughing as I eagerly finished every last bite.

Give it Thyme

In Naxos, the island is known to be blessed with rich, high-nutrient soil. It’s also unique to the other islands with the amount of rain it receives due to its mountains and micro-climates. And with rich soil comes quality food. I had already sampled some of their finest cheeses and meats on our trip.

What I wasn’t expecting was their exemplary honey.

As we waited in the small town of Halki to go into a museum, our guide suggested we stop into a local shop and sample some. It was a small shop and had it not been for our guide, I probably would not have stopped in. But thankfully, we did. 

In Greece, not only is honey used for food, but it’s also used for medicinal purposes like curing wounds and treating burns. Needless to say, they take their honey seriously. I was solely there to eat it, and THAT, I did.

The shop specializes in unique honey that I had never heard of. First was the honey that is made from the Heather flower; the scent is extraordinary and the taste has a resemblance to a sweet caramel. The second honey I didn’t expect as it was made with wild thyme. It was intensely aromatic and had a salty, tropical flavor. It would pair perfectly with some fresh yogurt and almonds.

This unexpected stop turned into me walking out with two jars of honey that I would bring home to remind myself of the small shop in Halki on the island of Naxos.

Let’s Dance

Above the main town in Naxos lies a church and monastery are built into the mountainside. Our group suggested to our tour leader that we change the plans for the evening and hike up there before dinner. I could tell by her smile that she was excited at the idea.

“I’ve never been up there, so I’m really happy to find a way to go up!” she exclaimed.

Six of us made the trek at dusk in hopes that we’d catch the sunset. The church’s setting was incredible and the boulders lining up to the church had been painted white to give the illusion that it was one with the mountain.

We spent a fair bit of time at the top of the church, and didn’t have enough time to go and see the monastery. Instead we turned back towards town, giving up on the hopes of a sunset due to the clouds which had rolled in. But we were in high spirits on the way down and Sylvia broke out into a song. We all recognized the tune she was singing, as we had heard it the night before at a live music performance. 

“Do you know why this song is so famous in Greece?” she asked. None of us could respond.

“It’s for the Syrtaki dance, and it’s a dance based on bonding and togetherness, in essence for pride in Greece.” As we continued our walk down she found the song on her mobile and said emphatically: “Let’s dance.” 

Here we were, in a surreal moment on Naxos island, walking down from a mountain and learning the Syrtaki dance. What looked like simple footwork of crossovers and kicks turned out to be quite difficult and confusing for most of us. From wrong steps to wrong kicks it was a funny sight to behold. But we laughed, we sang, and we continued dancing.

Find Your Own Beach

If you’ve seen pictures of Greece, the deep blue and turquoise waters against crystal white beaches will be familiar. On the island of Ios, there are lots of these little paradises. Without a sailboat to cruise along the coast and pick one to visit, I knew I’d have to find a way to hike to one.

With an afternoon to myself, I scanned a map and found a beach that was a few miles from our hotel. From what I could tell it would take me a couple of hours to get to and It would be up and over several steep hills. And so I set off in high hopes I would find my paradise.


There were no people along the path I took, only a few goats that looked shocked to see me. And when I first set eyes on my destination from above I knew I’d be rewarded. I quickened my step and within half an hour I was on the shoreline letting the waves hit my feet. And the best part, I had the whole beach to myself. I settled in for the afternoon and relished the opportunity to find my own beach. What had been known as Sapounochoma Beach was now Pete’s beach. At least for the day.

The Rush of Three Thousand Year Old Wind

The wind rushed up the hillside past the white painted city of Fira and hit me square in the face. It had enough power to briefly take my breath away. I was facing the caldera of the volcano on the island of Santorini and in complete awe. Nearly three thousand years ago, an eruption occurred shaping what Santorini now is. As I stood on the edge of the cliff looking down, I wondered if this powerful act of nature could happen again in my lifetime. 

The wind followed me that day as I joined several from our tour group to walk from the town of Fira along the cliff’s edge towards the town of Ia. We were told that this year there had been an abnormal amount of rain on the island and it seemed as if the entire path was in bloom. This hike took us past incredible views of the sea cliffs, through the white painted towns, and ultimately down into the town of Ia. But as popular as we were told that this hike is, we saw very few people actually doing it. I was shocked by this, as this excursion presented the Santorini that I was going to remember.


Sipping Protected Wine

As we drove from the port of Santorini to our hotel in Fira we could see odd bushes in the vineyards which lined the highway.

“These are the way that they grow grapes here in Santorini,” our guide explained to us.

We were eager to learn more so Sylvia rearranged our schedule and planned for us a visit to a vineyard to learn about how the people from Santorini challenge this harsh climate to produce award winning wine.

Who would have thought that grapes could grow out of volcanic rock? And how do they survive the challenge of such strong winds?

On Santorini, they’ve found a way. First, despite the volcanic rocky ground, it is incredibly fertile due to the immense density of minerals. To battle the winds, the Assyrtiko vines are trimmed and intertwined at ground level into a basket. The basket naturally shields the grapes from not only the harsh winds but from the extreme summer heat.

The Santorinians have been doing this technique for quite a while, but it was not until recently that the world is starting to take notice of the unique taste of Assyrtiko. The sweet wine only gets better with age, but shockingly, the wine is only aged for two months before being bottled and ready to drink. It’s sharp, citrusy and refreshing. With a few years of age, we were told that the wine truly rounds out.

Santorini itself is the secret to this wine. Others have tried to duplicate the grape in other environments with little success. And hence, the grape and wine have earned a ‘Protected Destination of Origin’ status from the European Union. There may be Assyrtiko wines, but it’s something special to have a bottle of Santorini Assyrtiko. That’s reason enough to bring a few bottles home with me.

Pete Heck is the Chief Pretty Photo Maker of Hecktic Travels and is also the guy who fixes everything Dalene breaks on this website. Pete was an accountant in his former life but now enjoys snapping photos, cooking, sampling the weirdest of foods, and discussing conspiracy theories.