The Real Deal: Seven nights' accommodations, the services of guides, ground transportation by van, most meals, kayaking equipment, and entry fees, for $1,995 per person — including taxes and fees.
When: Sept. 12, 2008.
The fine print: All taxes are included. Based on double occupancy; single supplement starts at $275. The services of local guides, most breakfasts and dinners, hotel taxes, equipment, round-trip transfers, and ground transportation by air-conditioned van are included. Airfare not included. Group size is typically 8 to 12 people. U.S. citizens will need a valid passport for travel; a visa is not required. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Northwest Passage, 800/732-7328, nwpassage.com.
Why it's a deal: First, consider that the package price breaks down to $285 per person per night. Northwest Passage is coordinating all the elements of the experience — kayak rentals, a van for road travel, most meals, and accommodations at small inns — for you, so you're saving the time of booking all these elements yourself. Plus, you'll have the invaluable experience of a kayaking guide to show you the best spots along the way.
Trip details: The Inn-to-Inn Sea Kayaking trip begins and ends on the island of Mílos. We suggest flying into Athens and taking the ferry to Mílos (see the Getting There section below for details). A Northwest Passage representative will meet you at the ferry dock.
You'll meet your other group members at the Chronis Hotel in Adamas, your base for two nights. The hotel has a breakfast buffet that includes Mílos specialties like smoked salmon and fresh local cheeses. The air-conditioned rooms have either a balcony or a terrace that overlooks the garden.
Your guides will spend an instructional day helping you get used to your included kayak (a one- or two-person kayak, depending on your comfort level) and other equipment (life jacket, spray skirt, and paddles). Then you'll take off on your four-night exploration of Mílos and neighboring Kímolos by kayak, with stays in small inns along the coast.
Lunch is not included; you can bring provisions from local groceries (try the locally grown tomatoes). And if you tire of paddling, there is always an air-conditioned van at your service to pick you up and take you to the next location.
Expect to rack up about 75 total paddling miles as you circumnavigate Mílos and Kímolos. The westernmost of the Cyclades islands, Mílos is about 100 miles from Athens. The northern part has a large harbor, making Mílos look something like a horseshoe from above. Because of its volcanic origins, the island has beautiful coastlines with unusual caves and cliffs; depending on the sea level, you'll be able to paddle inside them. The pebbles here are eye-popping — lots of agate, quartz, bloodstone, and others you'll be tempted to collect.
Fun fact: Mílos is where the famous statue of Venus (now in the Louvre museum in Paris) was discovered in 1820. Mílos is sometimes referred to as the "island of colors" because the bright blue water contrasts with the white and pink of the rocks.
After your kayaking experience, you'll spend a last night in the Chronis Hotel and then be transferred to the ferry port to make your way home.
September is the beginning of the off-season for Greece and perhaps the ideal time to visit — it's less crowded, but the weather will still be nice and dry, with average temperatures between 68 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more tips on what to do, visit Greece's official tourism site or the U.S. State Department's travel fact sheet for the country. And for more one-of-a-kind experiences and trips to far-flung destinations, check the 40 Best Deals from Budget Travel’s September issue, devoted to the best places you've never heard of.
Getting there: The trip begins and ends in Mílos. There is an airport in Mílos, but as of press time, we could not find direct flights from the U.S. (using Kayak, Orbitz, or Priceline). You can fly into Athens and take a ferry to Mílos. It's about a three-to-four-hour trip that'll cost between € 30 and € 50 ($44-$73), depending on which type of ferry and which class you book. Kayak yielded these round-trip fares to Athens in mid-September: $977 from New York City (Olympic Airlines), $1,020 from D.C. (U.S. Airways), $1,154 from Atlanta (U.S. Airways), $1,163 from St. Louis (Delta), $1,212 from L.A. (Air One), and $1,252 from Seattle.