Do you want to wake up to the warm Mediterranean sun every day, and fall asleep to a gentle breeze in the olive groves every night?
Do you want to farm land as old as civilization itself, feel that ancient dirt under your fingernails?
Does the idea of being nowhere near a city—unless you count the seaside village a couple hours walk away, with one grocery store and zero English-speakers—make you feel alive?
You should definitely go WWOOFing in Greece.
There are over 100 Greek farms participating with the WWOOF organization. They are dotted around the mainland and islands, and I’m positive all of them have something special to offer.
While I can’t speak to each and every one personally, I know a little bit about WWOOFing in the magical island nation of Greece.
I spent two weeks on an olive farm on the island of Lesvos.
It was a beautiful time in a beautiful place. I’ll talk more about my personal experience at the end. But first, some basics about the process of finding and getting to a WWOOF farm in Greece!
Finding a Farm
Thankfully, it’s not a particularly complicated process to find a farm in Greece. Greek farms don’t seem to be as in demand as farms in say, Italy or France.
That said, WWOOFing is (happily) gaining popularity.
You should therefor contact your farm ASAP, pretty much as soon as you know you want to volunteer there! You can peruse the list of Greek WWOOF farms on WWOOF Greece’s website.
Want even more detail on the process of contacting farms and finding the best experience? I have a guide devoted solely to the process of finding a WWOOF farm you’ll love!
Once you’ve emailed the farmers and secured your spot on the farm, the easy work is over. I’d say it’s half the battle, but I’d be lying.
The fun stuff doesn’t start until you get there, but first you have to, well, get there.
Getting to Farms in Greece
Chances are, if you’re coming from abroad you’ll fly into Athens. As always, make sure you know the rules/visa requirements for your home country (if there are any). Greece is in the Schengen Area of European countries; you can find the visa info on their website.
Anyway, once you’re in Athens, there are two possibilities.
First, if your farm is on mainland Greece, congrats! You’ll just need to ask the farm owner for directions to the farm. If you’re super lucky, and close to the city, perhaps they’ll even come fetch you from the airport. Otherwise, you may be looking at hopping on a bus or two.
Public transportation in Greece is, I’ll admit, confusing but doable. The Athens airport has 24-hour direct bus transportation to pretty much anywhere you want to go. This includes the main Athens bus stations (Kifissos and Liossion), the main railway station (Larissis Station), if you’re heading on inland.
The airport also has 24-hour bus transportation to the Athens ferry port (Piraeus). This brings me to…
The second possibility is if your farm is on a Greek island. In that case, after landing in Athens you’ll get to take a ferry boat! I absolutely loved ferry travel between the Greek islands, and still miss it to this day. Taking the (often overnight) ferries was an iconic part of my Greek backpacking experience.
As I said above, the Athens airport has easy 24-hour bus transportation to the Piraeus, where you’ll board a boat which will take you to your WWOOF farm! I’d pack some snacks, a blanket, and maybe some Greek beer or wine to help you snooze (prices on the ferries are a lot for a WWOOFer’s budget)! I like Santorini Dave’s guide to buying Greek ferry tickets.
Because this is a post about WWOOFing and not the intricacies of Athens airport transportation, I’ll leave the rest of the directions up to your hosts.
I will say, make sure you clear up any questions you have with them before you’re actually on the road/sea! We ended up getting off on the wrong bus stop on a rural island where few people spoke English. It all turned out all right, but yikes, we were lucky. It was a silly miscommunication about directions with our WWOOF host.
What to Expect from a Greek WWOOF Farm
What makes Greece unlike other countries, and how does that affect the WWOOFing experience?
Well, every farm is different, a special green snowflake all its own, etc.
That said, every country has its own culture, economy, and history, and these factors manifest in fascinating ways. That’s why we love travel, right?!
Organic farming in Greece was the epitome of working hard and playing hard.
Greece isn’t a particularly wealthy nation, if you hadn’t heard. So, as a WWOOFer, you feel that extra drive to work hard and help the small farms succeed. The value of the food and lodging you receive in return for your work means that much more. And believe me, we worked our butts off.
I also can’t remember the last time I took that many naps while on the clock, nor the last time my “boss” had no problems with this.
There was no shame at all in relaxing like it was going out of style, assuming our work was satisfactory. I think perfecting the arts of hard work and relaxation go hand in hand in Greece. I’m not saying every host has this ethos, but I certainly noted and enjoyed it!
Besides all that wishy-washy subjective intangible stuff, there are some basic things you should expect from a Greek WWOOFing experience.
Prepare to farm in a sunny, often straight-up hot Mediterranean climate.
Along with said Mediterranean climate, come Mediterranean creatures. I saw the biggest spider of my f*cking life in the bedroom my friend and I shared. Yes, in our bedroom. It was the size of a small plate.
It’s always a good idea to ask your host if there are any weird bugs or other creepy crawlies you should worry about. Another excellent example: we went swimming on a beach near the farm a few times before our host remembered to mention the nasty sea urchins all over the place there! It was obvious to her, but not to a couple of Midwestern girls.
Finally, expect to love food you didn’t think you’d love. Maybe that will be seafood (so much seafood in Greece). Maybe it will be feta cheese (if you go to Greece and don’t eat the feta cheese, just get out of here right now). For me, it was olives. I hated olives until the farm, and now I love them!
My Greek Olive Farm WWOOFing Experience
All WWOOFing experiences may vary, but if you happen to find yourself on the Tragakis olive farm on Lesvos, perchance yours will look a little like this.
I decided on the farm because I knew I wouldn’t go to Lesvos otherwise, the farm looked beautiful, and the hosts seemed very nice.
Getting to the farm was a confusing, rural, non-English-speaking hot mess (in true WWOOF fashion). Our emailed instructions from the farm host, Dimitris, were… a little rough. Try as we might to follow them, the overnight ferry from Athens to Lesvos didn’t exactly provide the best night’s rest, and things got confusing once we docked in Mytilene, Lesvos’ main port city.
That’s something you learn traveling around Greece, names of port cities.
Anywway, once in Mytilene we fumbled our way to the bus ticket sales, somehow managed to buy two tickets to where we were pretty sure we wanted to be, and got on a bus. Gotta love those moments when traveling, just getting on a bus and hoping for the best.
Jesus Hercules, take the wheel.
The tickets did not have a recognizable letter or number on them to speak of, so at this point we were going off the gestures from the old Greek woman selling bus tickets.
Gestures–another theme in Greece!
After getting off at the totally wrong stop and hailing a ride across the island from a nice couple at dock (can safely say that’s the only time I’ve ever sea-hitchhiked), we made it! Woo!
Dimitris was waiting at the (correct) stop, a little confused about what took us so long, but otherwise basically exactly how you would imagine an adorable old Greek fisherman/farmer.
Dimitris drove his rusty once-white pick-up a little less than an hour, slowly ascending up pitted roads surrounded by olive groves.
The farm, it turned out, was ridiculously charming.
We slept and cooked in a picturesque Greek building—white with blue shutters. We ate our meals outside, on a small wooden table overlooking the Aegean sea far below.
We spent most of the following two weeks in the olive groves under the burly, gruff supervision of the hired farm hand/Spartan warrior, Mihalis. He would chainsaw some olive branches, grunt and point, and we would carry the branches to wherever he’d just grunted and pointed at. It was hard, hot work, but Mihalis took a lot of smoke breaks. My. Arms. Got. Ripped.
Some of my personal WWOOFing in Greece highlights?
For starters, the bajillion adorable farm cats living with us. Or the night a gigantic white stallion wreaked havoc on the farm until we herded him back into his pen. This might not count as a highlight, but seeing the largest spider of my damn life in our bedroom was definitely… interesting. It turned out to be a huntsman spider, which sounds very scary but is actually harmless.
All in all, though hauling olive branches in the sun was hard work, taking dips in the beautiful Aegean sea every evening made it worth it. The two-hour walk to the nearest village for delicious Greek yogurt and cheap jugs of wine was also worth it. I’d go back to the Tragakis farm in a heartbeat!
Final Tips for WWOOFing in Greece
- Have an open mind! I found fewer English speakers in the rural areas of the island than anywhere else on the trip, which made getting around and figuring out work difficult at times. Sometimes you just gotta communicate with yours hands and grunts!
- Book a farm well in advance. Several of the farms we contacted a couple months in advance were already full.
- Get as detailed transportation information as you possibly can. Getting ourselves to the farm was the hardest part!
- BRING SUNSCREEN. ‘Nuff said. This is probably true no matter where you WWOOF, but if I was awake I was basically always in the sun in Greece.
Let me know what you thought of this Greek WWOOFing guide!
Is there some information you would’ve liked to have seen? Did you follow any/all of the advice here, and with what result? Did you ALSO have a fantastic time eating olives in the sunshine for two weeks?! I wanna hear about it!
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