Patricia Hajifotiou of The Olive Odysseys leads trips to Greece. She’s pictured here on the island of Santorini.

Peter Balunek of Peter’s Safaris leads trips to Kenya including a visit to an elephant orphanage. Photograph courtesy of Peter Balunek.

By ANDREA C. TURNER

Could this be the year you take that bucket list trip? Maybe you’ll be a newlywed and are considering honeymoon options. If so, there are multiple local travel experts that offer opportunities of a lifetime to visit the destinations of your dreams.

Olive Odysseys
Patricia Hajifotiou and her husband Emmanuel (Manolis) Hajifotiou, a native of Athens, Greece, run The Olive Odysseys based in Chagrin Falls. They offer luxury guided small-group tours, customized private tours, and personalized trip planning.

Patricia, originally from Newbury Township, says the couple started by offering cycling tours in Greece 25 years ago. Now, they specialize in trips to not only Greece, but Italy, Croatia, Spain, Portugal and France. Their clients, who are strictly Americans, include retirees, honeymooners, and extended families who appreciate having them handle all the trip’s details.

The couple lives on Evia, the second largest island in Greece, most of the year, but spends winters in Chagrin Falls. Because they are intimately familiar with the country, they specialize in guiding tourists to locales they might not normally see. Guests can visit five UNESCO heritage sites with a private archaelogic guide and tickets that allow them to skip long lines. Visitors explore the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, Epidaurus outdoor amphitheater, the archaeological site of Mycenae, and the Sanctuary of Asklepios – the god of medicine – and the site of the ancient world’s first hospital devoted to healing.

The tours allow guests plenty of unique opportunities in a short time frame, but Hajifotiou asserts guests never feel rushed.

The Olive Odysseys currently offers a “Bucket List Greece” tour, both by land and sea, from May 6-16. The trip begins in Athens, and cost starts at $6,900 per person. Price includes accommodations, transportation, private drivers, meals, visits to wineries and more. Airfare is separate. Currently, there are 10 spots available for this tour, with a maximum of 16 travelers.

The trip focuses on wellness and encompasses the benefits of a Mediterranean diet as well as exercise options through yoga, meditation and hiking. Local chefs choose the freshest ingredients from food markets and prepare high quality Greek food paired with fine wines. Learn more at theoliveodysseys.com

Peter’s Safaris
For nearly a decade, Peter Balunek of Peter’s Safaris has hosted countless safaris, all with a socially conscious mindset learning about local wildlife and their habitats. Balunek considers himself a wildlife ambassador — making a real difference in the lives of the animals under threat of extinction by helping to educate safari-goers on conservation and best practices.

Peter’s Safaris offers guests a chance to learn about local culture and the economy of the people living in the area — all while offering a luxury experience. His trips focus on Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda – countries that have diverse wildlife, ranging from elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, gazelles, water buffalo, and rare birds.

This August, as just one aspect of a two-week safari, he offers an experience of visiting an orphaned elephant release center where guests spend two nights with these elephants during their feeding times. It’s a truly unique experience for his guests as they are the only visitors at the camp. There is availability for those who would like to join the tour. Learn more at peterssafaris.com

Italy Adagio
Professor Daniel Lesnick, founder and CEO of Italy Adagio, has been leading small-group cultural tours of Italy since 1983. Lesnick holds a Ph.D. in medieval and Italian Renaissance history, and has spent the bulk of his career teaching college courses in ancient, medieval, and Renaissance history. He’s spent more than 10 years living and working in Italy and is highly fluent in the Italian language.

Italy Adagio offers fresh experiences and insights into Italy’s rich history, its art and architecture masterpieces, delectable regional cooking and fine local wines, visiting off-the-beaten-path treasures, and meeting gracious locals.

Lesnick leads a trip to the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, and Pompeii from April 10-18. The trip has availability for four more guests at a cost of $4,590 per person. Make an immediate deposit to secure your place. Final payment must be made by March 10, a month before the tour begins. In addition, Italy Adagio has an add-on trip to Florence from April 18-21, and has four more slots open. The trip begins at $1,910 per person with a maximum of 12 guests per tour.

This fall, its “Wonders of Sicily” tour is planned for October 8-17, starting at $4,960 per person. Guests will see Greek and Roman archeological sites; Byzantine, Arabic, Norman, and Baroque art and architecture; and gorgeous landscapes and coastlines. Learn more at italyadagio.com