Elena Papanicolaou, founder of bespoke travel designer Fly Me To The Moon is a long-time advocate of slow travel. Born in Athens but rooted in the Dodecanese, she is a passionate explorer of her homeland, and has dedicated herself to delivering the authenticity, intimacy and exclusivity that off-the-peg, mass tourism in unable to provide.
“Until travel became an industry, it was an activity that took place between humanity and nature, defined by sensation and mutually-rewarding relationships, and at its best, it could be transcendent,” says Elena. “This is the feeling I want my guests to experience here in the most beautiful, most welcoming destination on earth.”
“This year we’re all looking for the more remote, underdeveloped, authentic and sustainable destinations – the Greece you knew existed but could never find. “Fly Me To The Moon can arrange helicopters, yachts and ultra-stylish accommodation - but simple mountain refuges and remote farmhouse kitchens could also feature, if that’s what it takes to make your holiday truly magical.
“I would perhaps take you to Kasos – an island most Greeks have never found,” says Elena. “You’d stay in an exquisite 18th century mansion – an old sea captain’s home right on the harbour. I’d take you on tour around the capital Fri, population 357, and let the locals pull you into their houses to show you their treasures brought from across the sea, whilst you taste the kolokithopoulia – stuffed courgette flowers – the delicate filo moschopoungia and our tiny, exquisite dolmadakia.
We’d go in August for the Panigiri festival, we’d buy sitaka cheese and then ask my fisherman friend Giorgos to take us in his boat to the islet of Armathia for a picnic on Marmara beach – arguably the most beautiful beach in the Mediterranean - and maybe fishing for our supper on the rocks around Makra islet.”
For those curious to explore one of Europe’s last secret hinterlands, Elena suggests a slow week travelling around the mountain villages of the dramatic Vikos-Aoos National Park in the Zagori region of Epirus and the remote mountains of the Pindus National Park - also known as Valia Kalda, or “the warm valley” in Aromanian.
Here, the sparkling waters of the Voldomatis River, the dizzying cliffs of the Vikos Gorge and the towering pines of the Vikos-Aoos forest, home to Eurasian Brown Bears, are a playground for the adventurous; a haven for those seeking understated luxury in harmony with its environment; and a secret foodie paradise epitomised by foraged ingredients, traditional phyllo pies and shots of tsipouro spirit.
With a close network of local contacts and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Greek history and culture, Fly Me To The Moon offers much more than soulful, life-enhancing luxury on unspoiled islands. It aims to deliver a holiday experience that caters to friends, family and multi-generational visitors to connect those who share a common thread - a passion for Greece.
Furthermore, the company also organizes innovative “surprise me” trips based on each client profile. Customers wishes and needs are fulfilled without giving away the full itinerary in advance, making this a truly unique and exciting experience.