On our summertime adventure in the Ionian Sea, we’ll explore the grand island of Kefalonia, one of Greece’s most beloved destinations marked by sandy coves and idyllic seaside towns while we participate in important marine conservation work.
We partner with a wildlife organization dedicated to protecting the sea turtle species that frequent this area’s beaches. These turtles are at risk of extinction due to a variety of factors, including human activities. Our goal will be to monitor the turtles that nest on Lourdas and Ammes beaches and assist with a strategy for future conservation efforts. Some of your volunteer duties will include evening patrols to look for nesting turtles, tagging turtles for monitoring, observing and collecting data about sea turtle interactions, and conducting health and safety talks in the community. We will also help with beach cleanup!
Outside of our valuable service efforts, we’ll visit some of Greece’s most popular destinations, swim through turquoise blue waters, relax on three island paradises, indulge in local cuisine, and explore the ancient culture that is at the heart of Western Civilization with plenty of opportunities to interact with the hospitable Greek locals who are so passionate about their beloved country.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 30 hours of service working in marine conservation and research
- Participate in sea turtle environmental education workshops in the community
- Splash in the surf on Petani, renowned for its crystal blue waters and white sand beaches
- Patrol sea turtle nesting beaches and take part in scientific research
- Kayak, snorkel, and scuba dive* in the Ionian Sea
- Explore Ithaca, Greece’s most mythical island and home of Odysseus
- Visit the mysterious archeological site of Delphi, considered in ancient times to be the center of the universe
- Eat like a Greek with plump tomatoes, local feta, and fresh calamari served by the sea
- Climb the Acropolis for a close-up look at the Parthenon, one of the most spectacular ancient ruins of the world
*This is an optional excursion
Don’t want the fun to stop? Check out our Greece & Italy: Ultimate Service Adventure program to combine with this trip for more service hours and a truly thrilling summer experience!
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2-6: KEFALONIA SEA TURTLE SERVICE PROJECT
Kefalonia, Greece’s grand island of the Ionian Sea is our home for the first part of our trip, and where we will conduct our important service work protecting the local sea turtle population. Kefalonia’s rugged coastline is marked by dramatic limestone cliffs, colorful seaside towns, and white sandy beaches. This is the perfect place to learn from local Grecians and to experience their classical culture—away from the crowds and the typical tourist path!
As soon as we arrive, we’ll receive an introduction to sea turtle conservation, health and safety from local experts and researchers. Over the next four days, we’ll participate in evening patrols and be ready to spring into action if there is any nesting or hatching activity that happens during the night or early morning. You’ll help collect nest and behavior data, and tag turtles so scientists can track how well they’re doing as they travel. As turtles are wild animals, there is no guarantee of what each day may look like, but that is part of what makes this program so exciting!
Our service work will also include plenty of fun activities! Bike ride through idyllic coastal towns, indulge in authentic cuisine and kayak around the island. We’ll take an afternoon excursion to Petani Beach, a local swimming hole secret. Here, the beautiful contrast of the sea’s turquoise blue waters and white pebble beaches is a view you’ll never forget as you splash and swim in the surf and relax under the Mediterranean sun.
DAY 7: ITHACA
Ithaca is the famous home of Odysseus and symbolizes discovery and fulfillment. We’ll take a private boat to Greece’s most mythical island and spend a whole day swimming in its emerald green waters, exploring its lush greenery and enjoying the laid-back character of this tiny, wild island. Wander down the seafront promenade, discover secluded coves, and hike along trekking trails! Imagine your own classical journey as you encounter the magic of Ithaca’s picturesque villages. These coastal towns boast the freshest seafood and an abundance of history. Despite this location’s popularity for holidays, Ithaca has maintained its traditional identity and culture so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to experience authentic Greek life.
DAY 8: KEFALONIA
For our final day on the island of Kefalonia, we’ll do one last morning harbor survey with Wildlife Sense Kefalonia, our marine conservation partner to wrap up our service component. Then, we’ll spend the afternoon exploring the island’s charming capital city. Wander the lively main square and down its iconic flagstone streets. Discover architectural wonders that date back to the 15th century, take an authentic Greek cooking lesson and savor the delicious dinner you will craft by hand. Kefalonia’s residents are known to be the friendliest and wittiest of Grecians. Enjoy this last day interacting with locals who are always ready with a smile, a helping hand and even a joke!
DAYS 9-10: LEFKADA
Leaving Kefalonia, we will travel the way the Greeks do to Lefkada—cruising by ferry over the turquoise Mediterranean waters. Our next island is one of Greece’s hidden treasures.
We will have a private boat tour of the hidden side of Lefkada. Out on the water we will visit gorgeous beaches, swim in the inviting water, and admire the towns along the seaside. Our evenings in Lefkada will be spent enjoying the vibrant island sunsets, feasting on delicious dinners at local restaurants and shopping and strolling the white washed streets. Next, visit the mystical Delphi, home to the Oracle that initiated the story of Oedipus. This mysterious and spiritual place will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on you.
DAYS 11-12: DELPHI > ATHENS
Then it’s off to the big city – we’ll journey towards Athens with a stop along the way at the infamous Delphi, home to the Oracle that initiated the story of Oedipus. This mysterious and spiritual place will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits.
Once in Athens we’ll go back in time almost 4,000 years to where western civilization was born and new ideas about philosophy, government, and democracy thrived. We’ll stroll through some of the best neighborhoods in Athens, and end our first evening with an incredible Greek feast in the heart of the historical center with live music and an authentic Greek atmosphere. The next day will be filled with culture and history. Stand atop the magnificent Acropolis and imagine ancient Greek life as it was thousands of years ago as you marvel at the architectural wonder of the Parthenon. Return to the modern part of the city and wander amongst the lively markets full of fresh food and authentic handmade goods. Go off the beaten path to the charming Plaka neighborhood, beautifully lit up at night and lined with quaint cafes and restaurants. We’ll celebrate our final night together with a special dinner on a rooftop terrace overlooking the city of Athens lit up at night.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do. Eat, stay, and travel like a local.
Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we are consistently awarded “Top Youth Travel Organization” year after year.
"Choosing to travel with TFT has been the best decision I have ever made. I have been able to visit France, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and all over Greece! These trips have never failed to disappoint with all of the wonderful people and exciting things they have planned! I never expected to be feeding sloths in Costa Rica or going on a private boat trip around the famous Greek islands. I have made new friends from all over the world that I still talk to today. One of the best things about every trip is the counselors! They are always very knowledgeable about every location, and are there to keep you safe and informed as well as to have fun in general. These trips are the best way to meet new people and enjoy brand new experiences that you will cherish forever."
"I went on Greece: Athens and the Islands this past summer and had a BLAST! The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was beautiful, the activities were super fun, and everyone on the trip was so nice. I would 101% recommend this trip to anyone!"
"It was a wonderful trip for us and most importantly for our girls. They learned and explored and opened their minds and hearts to new experiences and a different way of life. The time spent traveling was invaluable. I am very grateful to you for the wonderful trip you planned for us and for the beautiful way you gave these new experiences to the girls."
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Kefalonia we will stay in a local, beachside accommodation, allowing for easy access to our sea turtle patrolling shifts! In Lefkada, we stay in the capital of Vasiliki in a hotel steps away from the center of town and the water. In Athens we stay at a great hotel only a five minute walk in the center of Athens near Syntagma.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love that they are able to have a hands-on experience helping protect the endangered sea turtles. Combining these meaningful service projects with adventure and exploration provides for a well-rounded experience.
Teens also love that they are able to discover the culture and history of Greece while exploring Athens and contrast their experiences in the city with the charm of the Greek islands.
What is unique about this program?
We have strong local connections in Greece and offer exclusive activities like a traditional cooking lesson in the culinary heart of Athens. Our Greece program is completely unique from anything you would find anywhere else!
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
In Greece, we will enjoy class Greek cuisine, including the original Greek salad with mouth-watering tomatoes and locally made feta, famous grilled meats and fresh seafood, and world-renowned baklava. The secret to Greek food is the fresh, simple ingredients, and you’ll begin to understand why this is the secret to one of the best diets in the world: the Mediterranean diet! We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor. For Specific questions pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters Europe is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!