When suggesting ideas for great incentive travel destinations to clients, there is no substitute for first-hand knowledge, and so when we were invited to Greece to see and experience what was on offer from an events and incentive point of view, we couldn’t say no!
During our whistle stop visit we stayed in both Athens and Crete. As you would expect, these two destinations are totally different with Athens being a busy capital city and Crete being a picturesque Greek island with clear blue seas and beautiful mountain ranges. It was excellent to see both destinations ‘in the flesh’ and we have come back to the office with plenty of great ideas that will make any incentive or event a truly memorable one.
Flight time from the UK: 3 hours 30 minutes (Athens), 4 hours (Crete)
Time difference: + 2 hours
Best times to visit: April – June or September – October
After a spacious and relaxing flight courtesy of Aegean Airlines we touched down in Athens for the start of our four-day programme. For the first night, we were hosted by the Hilton Athens hotel which is located right in the heart of the city and just 30 minutes from the airport.
We arrived at the hotel around 6pm and so headed straight to our rooms to freshen up before meeting up again in the stunning Galaxy Bar situated on the hotels rooftop. The Galaxy Bar has been voted as one of the best rooftop bars in the world and it’s easy to see why. With incredible views over Athens and the Acropolis, superb hospitality from the Hilton team, and a sophisticated but relaxed atmosphere, this was a fantastic way to start the evening. For dinner, we moved through in to the Galaxy Restaurant which was again first class and provided a brilliant selection of traditional Greek dishes, all to a very high standard.
The next day we were up bright and early and following breakfast had an opportunity to look around the hotel and see some of the many event spaces on offer. There are some superb conference and meeting rooms available at the Hilton Athens hotel and with capacity for up to 1,100 delegates, space isn’t an issue. For smaller events, their Galaxy suite located on the roof is a superb choice and boasts its own private terrace as well as stunning views of Athens.
Once we had finished our site inspection at the hotel it was time to explore what Athens had to offer and learn some more about its rich history. With so much to see and so little time, an experienced guide was a welcome addition to the group. As we made our way around Athens she was quick to point out all the major landmarks and provided a fascinating insight into the origins of this city.
After a morning exploring the various sights on offer in Athens, we headed to Plaka which is the historical ‘old town’ built on the slopes of the Acropolis. Here you can find an abundance of traditional Greek restaurants and bars all serving locally produced specialties. Some of the restaurants can be hired exclusively for large groups or can even be used for a ‘dine around’ style evening where the starter, main, and dessert are all served in a different restaurant and setting.
After refueling with some traditional spinach pie (which was amazing) and possibly THE sweetest smoothie I have ever tasted, it was back on the coach as we headed to the ‘Athens Riviera’. Here we looked at two venues, both of which are situated right on the beach and provided a completely different feel to the hustle and bustle of the city centre, despite being just 15 minutes away.
The first venue was a beach club available for exclusive hire and would make the ideal location for a gala dinner or party. The second was another beach club but with a much more relaxed feel and was designed to feel like ‘home away from home’. The relaxed atmosphere and comfortable surroundings (combined with the beach front location) made this a special venue ideal for smaller groups.
Our time in Athens was certainly short but it’s clear that this is a superb incentive travel destination, particularly taking into consideration the short flight time from the UK. There are a variety of activities and sightseeing opportunities available and no shortage of superb restaurants to choose from.
The Island of Crete is less than 1 hour flight time from Athens and is also serviced by direct flights from London Gatwick.
We arrived in Crete on Friday and were transferred to the stunning Amirandes Resort which would be our home for the next two nights. The Amirandes Resort ‘WOWS’ from the very moment you arrive and are greeted by their friendly team. As you walk through the large wooden doors guests are welcomed by an incredible view of the Aegean Sea that draws you in and allows you to relax instantly.
The resort offers a choice of restaurants from traditional Cretan to Italian and Asian to name just a few. We had the opportunity to experience the Asian restaurant on the first evening and the food was exquisite.
Saturday was our only full day in Crete and following breakfast we boarded the fleet of waiting Land Rovers for a Cretan safari during which we would get to see some of the incredible scenery this island has to offer. In addition, we also visited a local goat shepherd who showed us how they make cheese from their herd, a traditional Cretan village where we could try some local delicacies (including Raki – beware)! The safari continued as we explored Crete and visited the cave where, according to legend, Zeus was born.
The Land Rover Safari was an excellent way to explore the island and allowed us access to places not accessible by other vehicles. The guides/drivers we had were excellent and well versed in managing corporate groups. The pace and content of the safari can of course be tailored to specific objectives and is suitable for group sizes of between 5 and 200 people.
After another great day exploring and even more food, it was time to see what was on offer in terms of nightlife. I’m pleased to say that Crete didn’t let us down and has a variety of lively bars and clubs should your group want to continue enjoying the Greek hospitality in to the early hours.
On our final day (and with a few sore heads) we made our way to a purpose built, traditional Cretan village where we could experience a few of the crafts. As well as making some traditional Greek bread and Tzatziki (which was served later as part of our lunch) we also tried our hand at weaving, Greek dancing, and komboloi making which was all great fun and a good insight into the traditional Greek way of life.
Crete proved to be another excellent destination and certainly one that we would have no hesitation in recommending for future programmes, particularly to clients looking for incentive travel destinations within easy reach of the UK. With a great choice of activities on offer as well as beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and outstanding hotels, Crete has something for everyone.