Interview with Filippos Kanakaris

As many happy tour members will tell you, leading tours comes naturally to Filippos. An Athens native, he first started leading tours (in French) while working as an actor in London, and he soon found himself guiding groups all over Europe. As a guide on the Athens & the Heart of Greece tour, Filippos loves showing tour members the history, culture, and beauty of his homeland.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Athens. My parents are not Athenians though: They both come from the region of the Peloponnese, the southernmost part of continental Greece.

My background is a bit of a mixed bag. I have a degree in political science, another degree in acting, and two master's degrees, one in history and philosophy and one in theater directing. The latter I obtained in London, a city that became my home for seven years. On a professional level, I have worked in theater, tourism, and in several other professions, to the point where you could easily call me a jack-of-all-trades.

How did you get into guiding?

It all started by accident when I was living in London. At a certain point I was left without work, due to an unexpected cancellation of a theater show I had booked as an actor. This cancellation meant that I needed to find a job as soon as possible, since London is a very expensive city. A good friend of mine, who knew I spoke French, introduced me to a woman who owned a small tourist agency, which was looking for French-speaking people interested in doing transfers of French groups from the London airports to their hotels in central London. One thing led to the other, and pretty soon I started leading tours in London and the rest of the UK in French and gradually in English. After a while, I was leading tours all over the European continent, including in my home country, Greece. And the rest, as they say, is history….

What do you like about leading Rick Steves tours?

The fact that an emphasis is placed on two very important things: providing our travelers with knowledge about the past and present of the places we visit, and at the same time encouraging them to develop their own independent travel skills by providing them with the necessary "tools" to do so. At the end of every tour, our travelers leave knowing that they had a more profound and personal experience and have gained a deep understanding of the place they visited.

Do you have a favorite stop on the Athens & the Heart of Greece tour?

That is a very difficult question…all the places we visit are among my favorite in Greece.

Not only because I find it fascinating to visit world-famous archaeological sites, explore beautiful seaside villages, and offer our travelers unforgettable moments of the stunning natural beauty drenched of the blue Aegean Sea, but also because I have many memories going back to my childhood associated with all these stops.

If pressed to decide, I would narrow it down to three places which, I believe, best represent this tour. First, riding the cogwheel train through the gorge of Vouraikos, a place that combines the beauty of the mountains, the magic of the rivers with their crystal-clear waters, and the man-made tunnels carved into the rocks. Then the site of Olympia, where visitors can run on the same ground that the first Olympic athletes did almost 2,500 years ago. And finally, the island of Hydra, with its picturesque town, winding streets where no motorized vehicles are allowed, and its beautiful beaches, where visitors can swim in the clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea or relax under the Greek sun with a long refreshing drink in hand — pure bliss.

What do you do when you're not leading tours?

I have a theater company based in Athens, and every year during the tourism off-season, I direct plays. I mostly direct classical plays, such as ancient Greek tragedies and Shakespeare. The goal is to discover why these plays have stood the test of time and how the topics they deal with have managed to remain relevant through all these centuries.

Does your work as a theater director influence your work as a tour guide?

In my opinion, the work of a theater director is to inspire the rest of the members of the company to work together toward a certain artistic goal by pointing them in the right direction while at the same time allowing them to feel free and safe enough to share their own artistic expression. The role of a tour guide is quite similar in the sense that a guide inspires and educates his travelers about the places they are visiting, while at the same encouraging them to go out on their own and discover the things that are important to them.

Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.

I am an avid collector of vinyl records. So far, I have purchased 5,000 LPs, and my goal is to continue expanding my collection, since music has always been my greatest passion.


Here's what Filippos won't tell you…but his tour members will:

"Filippos will go down as one of my favorite guides. He was the full package: Engaged, organized, charming, and clearly loved sharing all he knew of his country will all of us. His pride in all things Greek and his tremendous knowledge of Greek history and contemporary politics added so much to our enjoyment on the tour. We are thankful we were able to have him as our guide."

— Robert in New York, NY