The epic locations and rustic restaurants that star in The Trip to Greece

Oliver Smith
·8 min read
The Trip to Greece follows culinary journeys through England, Italy and Spain
The Trip to Greece follows culinary journeys through England, Italy and Spain

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return for a fourth gastronomic adventure tonight, with the first episode of The Trip to Greece airing on Sky One at 10pm. After culinary sojourns in northern England, Italy and Spain, the series promises plenty of moussaka, kleftiko and feta – with a side helping of ancient ruins and stunning seascapes. Here’s a full breakdown of the locations, restaurants and hotels seen in the series so you can start planning your own trip. 

Episode one: Troy and Lesbos

The Trip to Greece actually starts with a brief stop in Turkey. Troy was smashed to pieces during the Trojan War, but the remnants can still be visited if you believe (as many archaeologists do) that its ruins are those at Hisarlik, near Canakkale in north-western Turkey. This is where episode one begins – and after visiting the ruins, Rob and Steve have lunch at the Adatepe Ida Blue Hotel, a one-hour drive to the south. 

They then head west along the coast to Assos. “The idyllic spot is actually three places in one,” says Terry Richardson in his guide to Turkey’s seaside highlights. “Ancient Assos, dominated by the impossibly romantic hilltop ruins of the temple of Athena [visited by Rob and Steve], has sublime sunset views. Beneath the temple is the quaint old stone-built village of Behramkale, where headscarved ladies sell hand-made olive oil soap and posies of dried herbs. Last up is the pretty harbour of Assos Liman, from where St Paul once set sail.” 

The pair finally travel by private boat to Sappho’s Lesbos, a Greek island that for several years has been on the front line of Syria’s refugee crisis. They visit the Moria refugee camp, designed to hold 2,800 people but now a rubbish-strewn home to nearly 20,000.

An overnight ferry takes them from Lesbos to Kavala, a bustling port on the Greek mainland in the region of Macedonia.

The ruins of Troy - getty
The ruins of Troy - getty

Episode two: Stagira, Halkidiki and the Pelion

After breakfast at the Imaret Hotel in Kavala, Rob and Steve arrive in ancient Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle (student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great), and once larger than Athens. Writing for Telegraph Travel, Jonathan Lorie described a visit: “It is a scatter of rubble on a headland over the sea. The water is pistachio green with perfect coves of yellow sand. Nightingales sing in the trees. We cross a huge defensive wall and enter a grand square dating from 650 BC, where a stone altar was used to sacrifice animals.”

The pair journey south for lunch at the swanky Danai Beach Resort in the heart of the Halkidiki region, considered by travel writer Mark Easton to be one of Greece’s best-kept secrets. “The landscapes are as dramatic as an Aeschylus play, rugged red mountains plunging down to sandy coves, heavy with the scent of pine and flowering gorse,” he writes. “The beaches are said to be the best on the Med. The Germans first laid their towels on them decades ago but have recently been jostling for the best spots with Russians and Ukrainians. The Brits, belatedly, are realising a direct flight to Thessaloniki can deliver you to this overlooked corner of Europe in the time it might take for a rush-hour train to judder from Dorking to Balham.”  

A monastery in Halkidiki - getty
A monastery in Halkidiki - getty

Episode two’s final stop is the Pelion, another underappreciated corner of the mainland, home to alpine treks and sandy beaches – but hardly any tourists. It was the realm of the mythical centaurs – half-man, half-horse – who were said to roam its forests. You can follow in Rob and Steve’s footsteps by enjoying a meal at the cafe on Damouchari beach (which also appears in Mamma Mia!) before booking a room at Sakali Mansion, in the hilltop village of Pinakates.

Damouchari beach - getty
Damouchari beach - getty

Episode three: Delphi and Athens

After breakfast at Sakali Mansion, the boys head to ancient Delphi, in the shadow of Mt Parnassus, one of Greece’s loftiest peaks and home to a vast national park and a popular ski resort. Visitors to the area might enjoy the views at Vasilikia Mountain Farm, a rustic hideaway 1,000 metres above sea level. “Log cabins, cottages, and an Airstream Land Yacht are scattered around the farm; pick your favourite or take over the whole place with a big gang of family and friends,” says Rachel Howard, Telegraph Travel’s Greece expert. “The snug interiors are a kooky combo of English country style and the Wild West: tartan blankets, cowhide rugs, tweed curtains, and rocking chairs with patchwork pillows.

“But it’s what’s outside that really draws the eye. Miles and miles of fir, oak, maple and plane trees, rippled with hiking and biking trails where the only sounds are rustling leaves, singing streams, and chattering birds.” 

Delphi - getty
Delphi - getty

Lunch is taken at Varoulko Seaside, widely regarded as Greece’s top seafood restaurant, in Piraeus, the main port of Athens. Rob and Steve then drive to the city for a tour of the its ancient wonders before checking into the Hotel Grande Bretagne, the grande dame of the Greek capital’s accommodation options. For tips on visiting Athens, see our expert guide

Episode four: Epidaurus 

The fourth episode begins with a trip to Epidaurus, beyond the Isthmus of Corinth on the Peloponnese peninsula. “It is ancient Greece’s best surviving theatre,” says Harry Mount, writing for Telegraph Travel. “It was built in the fourth century BC to entertain visitors to the Asclepeion – named after Asclepius, healer son of Apollo. Thousands came here from across Greece in the hope of a cure from all sorts of raging ailments.”

Epidaurus - getty
Epidaurus - getty

The best base for a trip to the area is Nafplio, the first capital of modern Greece. Its narrow streets are perfect for an evening stroll, or climb to one of the two fortresses – Palamidi and Akronafplia – which stand guard over the city. 

From the port of Ermioni, to the east of Nafplio, Rob and Steve catch the ferry to the island of Hydra, eating at Omilos, a posh bistro with sea views, and staying at the Hydrae hotel. 

Rob and Steve enjoy one of many long lunches
Rob and Steve enjoy one of many long lunches

Episode five: Hydra and the Mani

Hydra is an obvious choice for Rob and Steve – it is a bohemian isle that has attracted artists and writers for decades. Fiona Duncan, Telegraph Travel’s hotel expert, wrote about it for Telegraph Travel earlier this year. “The island feels remote and set back in time, for there are no cars or motorbikes: donkeys and mules are the only form of transport, and birdsong, church bells and donkey bells the only sounds,” she said. “And it’s that simplicity, peace and timelessness that has drawn so many artists and writers to the island, especially back in the Sixties. That, and the special quality of the light. Hydra’s most famous resident Leonard Cohen, an itinerant poet at the time, revelled in it: ‘The sun’s all over my table as I write this… I can taste the molecules dancing in the mountains’.” 

Hydra - getty
Hydra - getty

After breakfast in Hydra, the TV show moves back to the mainland: the Mani Peninsula, to the south-west of the island, to be precise. It is another location that has lured creative types, with the writer Patrick Leigh-Fermor living there for half a century until his death in 2011, aged 96. Mountainous and relatively inaccessible, its rugged spine is dotted with little villages, like Vathia and Limeni, that are home to Byzantine churches and clusters of stone towers that served as refuges against invaders and local rivals. The boys eat lunch, and spend the night, at Pirgos Mavromichali – in Limeni – before visiting the wondrous Caves of Diros.

Episode six: Pylos, Kefalonia and Ithaca

The final episode of The Trip to Greece sees the duo drive from the Mani to Pilos, gateway to the Costa Navarino. “This splendid natural harbour has been a tactical hotspot for 3,000 years,” explains Harry Mount, writing for Telegraph Travel. “It was home to Nestor, the oldest Greek leader to fight the Trojans, he was said to be 110 years old when the war began. Nestor’s Palace at Pylos is the best surviving Mycenaean palace, dating from around 1300BC. There’s also a vast Turkish-Venetian fortress on the hillside above Pylos’s beach. While you swim, look across Navarino Bay – in the Battle of Navarino here in 1827, the British, French and Russians defeated the Ottoman Empire, easing the way to Greek independence. Pylos’s main square is the heart of town life, with a mixture of cafés and restaurants in the shade of the trees.”

Voidokilia - getty
Voidokilia - getty

Rob and Steve eat at Poseidonia, before visiting Nestor's Palace and beautiful Voidokilia Beach. After driving to Patras they pair catch a ferry to the island of Kefalonia, made famous by Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, before finishing their long voyage – like Odysseus – in Ithaca, where they stay at the Perantzada Hotel. Of Ithaca, the author and Telegraph Travel columnist Anthony Horowitz says: “It is just 18 miles from top to tail and although it offers various Odysseus-themed attractions – a cave, a spring, the ruins of a castle – there’s no point rushing to any of them. 

“If you come here, you come for the island itself and my first impression was that it was far more beautiful than anywhere I’d been in Greece. It rains a lot in winter, making it lush and verdant for the rest of the year, with trees that couldn’t grow anywhere else. The island is clean, with no sign of the three horrors that have blighted Greece: rubbish, half-built houses and graffiti. It has a purity, a peaceful quality, a sort of permanence. ‘This place I’ve reached, is it truly Ithaca?’ Odysseus asked. I felt the same sense of wonder.”

Journey's end: Ithaca - getty
Journey's end: Ithaca - getty