Loukia Leonidou- Greek tour agent on Greek open-air sports, amazing food, and 33 years of leading business in a home-introducing way.
What would you consider the top attraction driving tourists to Greece?
Greece is so various and attracts many different types of travelers! It is not easy to spot one top attraction. I would sum up to this: diversity of mountains and sea interchanging, rich history and culture, great weather and finally the food.
Where would you personally recommend getting to?
Speaking about outdoor-active enthusiasts, my personal favorites are Zagori region in the north, unique gem and playground and the Greek islands where you can combine a lot of sports whilst discovering authentic unique places.
What is your favorite area to spend weekends at?
The Peloponnese due to its easy access from Athens and its diversity from great seas to amazing mountain peaks, like Mount Taygetus, and, of course, Arcadia region where we do rafting & hiking in Lousios gorge.
Which adventures will you call the most popular —is it hiking, kayaking, camping?
The Greek islands are for multisport, the Zagori mountains - hiking, the Menalo - trail hike, Mt.Olympus and Crete white mountains are the most popular tours.
Which type of sports activities are the most popular? Any extreme sports worth noting?
For Trekking Hellas, it is hiking, rafting and sea kayaking.
What are the specialties of local cuisines?
Definitely the Greek salad, Greek yoghurt, fresh oranges and fruits are the most tasty for me. We have of course great fresh fish and a lot of vegetarian dishes. Of course, in the north of Greece and Crete the goat meat is also unique.
Which dishes would you recommend travelling for?
Mousaka, souvlaki, fava and kalamari are on the list.
Any restaurants you consider worth a recommendation?
There are a lot of special places, but for me a simple family-run tavern a bit of the beaten track can offer an amazing dining experience and I feel this is what Greece is all about. Two of my favorite restaurants are in the Peloponnese, in Kardamyli named Elies, and in Zagori Megalo Papingo: Astra and Dias in Mikro Papingo.
When would you recommend to go travel? What are the seasonal activities of the region?
Top month for me is May - fresh weather and blossom of flowers. Of course, all seasons have their own character. For sea lovers June is great. The autumn months have also a very romantic atmosphere with mild weather, less crowds. Winter in Greece is also great and it’s a pity that very few people know that they can play with snow!
Could you tell us more about your favorite adventure?
I am a hiking enthusiast so for me those will be the Vikos Gorge and Dragon Lake in Zagori plus the coastal hiking in Crete will be my favorite areas. For the fun I love doing rafting, my favorite river is Arachtos in Tzoumerka.
What is your most notable experience you’ve ever planned?
A honeymoon motorboat cruise staying in remote beaches in beautiful islands is definitely a trip to be remembered.
How long have you been a travel agent for?
Trekking Hellas is operating for 33 years since 1986 and myself working for 22 years in the company.
Why are you different from other travel agency out there?
Our corporate culture. Our passion goes before money and all people working here are really enthusiastic about what they do, very hospitable and caring. It is a great mix of people who respect each other tremendously and we work all as a team. Our group has 12 bases all over the country thus you will be guided by locals who know their area very well. Trekking Hellas is a family for us.
What areas of travel does your agency specialize in? Why?
Trekking Hellas, is a group of companies with 12 operating bases http://www.trekking.gr/company/about-us .
What areas of the business are performing well at the moment and why?
The Peloponnese, Santorini, Rhodes, Mount Olympus and Zagori are the most popular areas. Of course, Athens are also very popular.
What do you think is that aspect of your business that contributed to your success?
Trekking Hellas introduced outdoor holidays in Greece thus we are the pioneers and this is due to its charismatic founders leaders. Since then they had the vision of expanding and incorporating people who shared the same passion and philosophy into the group and this is how the company grew and is still the number one adventure company in Greece. The network of the 12 bases is a big reason for the success and, as said earlier, its people.
What travel trends did you notice recently?
A lot of last minute, a tendency on more independence, for example, self guided tours. Definitely the food plays a very important role. Nature and action is becoming a need for the urban travelers thus adventure travel will keep growing.
What are the biggest challenges of working in an adventure travel field?
You need to adapt continuously and be ahead. I think, the biggest challenge is to feel what the market needs - before the others, of course.
What future do you think Greek travel agents will have, bearing in mind the growing popularity of online travel?
The Balkan countries are still unexplored and hide a lot of opportunities for adrenaline adventure seekers.
How are you going to keep growing business?
The market is huge, we have the experience and qualified staff to keep growing by establishing new bases and acquiring more customers.
Which popular blogs on adventure travel do you follow?
I follow the big adventure travel companies, and media like national geographic, successful platforms like muchbetteradventures etc.
Do you have any favorite quote on adventures we could share with our readers?
I would copy a great Greek poet who speaking of Ithaka on the journey of Ulysse to his home town, he says that “it is the journey and not the destination that matters”.
Who of us, when reading the Greek myths, would not dream to see the mountain awing the ancient Greeks? Even these days Mytikas’s (Mount Olympus’s modern name) peak can be rarely seen as it is almost always hidden behind the dense clouds. Due to this reason, the ancient people believed Mount Olympus to be the place of residence of Gods, unreachable and invisible to human. Mytikas means "nose" and takes the name from its shape reminding of a human’s nose. Every proud-hearted Greek should at least once ascend the mountain; it is almost a duty, an unwritten rule, so to say, and numerous Greeks, sometimes in big groups, often ascend the mountains without wearing any special shoes or helmets.