Looking for something different? The Ranch in Corinthia has something for everyone — summer camp and an all-year destination with a Western-themed recreational park set in nature.
By: Alexia Amvrazi
‘The Ranch’: a valley of horses and ponies, charming wooden cabins and saloons
Sprawled across 400 acres of land, in a Peloponnesian valley embraced by rich vegetation, The Ranch is one of those places that makes you a little dizzy from how unusual it is when you first arrive. Songs like “Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,” start playing in my mind as I take in unending greenery under an open sky, with the only buildings in sight being like the set of a film starring John Wayne.
The unusual getaway has multiple functions, with accommodations, restaurants and bars for recreation, and sports facilities such as horseback riding, water polo and tennis. It even features an educational ‘village’ that showcases traditional workshops like a weaving mill, cheese factory and barber shop and oil press. Then there is the impressive array of sports facilities – two swimming pools (35m and a 25m) and a kid’s pool, football, basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts, and spaces for hosting activities such as archery, painting, climbing, and ping pong.
Family-run business has good family fun
A family-run business that opened in 2000, The Ranch has slowly but surely evolved into a truly unique destination for people of all ages. Visiting for a weekend during Carnival with our 3 year-old son and friends with kids, it could fairly be said a great time was had by all. Our days at The Ranch were action-packed, but relaxing. There were long walks in the fresh country air with plenty of natural as well as less ordinary sights enjoy – from an area where goats, peacocks, and rabbits live and another area of eight tiny huts where Shetland ponies live to an antique abandoned steam engine and a scattering of old horse carriages that look like they’ve been plucked right out of a desert landscape in 1940s Arizona.
The impressive collection of western-themed paraphernalia in all varieties was made by the founder, Kyriakos Skouras, who was an avid collector of vintage items and furniture, including miniature saloon pianos, giant wheels, barrels, tables, and lots more). His children, Annie and Dimitris, who run the place nowadays, do a great job of keeping everything in tip top condition.
We enjoyed BBQ lunches in the restaurant with its long wooden benches and evening drinks (wine for the moms) in the garden area as the kids ran free in a safe, green environment. There were also plenty of organized activities to engage the little ones – from creative classes and games in an art cottage to free recreation in a large play room by the saloon, where adults can enjoy drinks and snacks.
The basic but spacious accommodation cottages themselves — which double up as summer camp accommodations for kids and teenagers from June to August — were exciting enough to our toddler, who enjoyed jumping on all of the five beds in the room. As somewhat of an agoraphobic however, what I sincerely appreciated was that despite being a huge place that was booked to its full capacity, it didn’t feel crowded or overwhelming at any point.
Greek education in the ‘Wild, Wild West’
In 16 years of operation, as a member of the Hellenic Union of Summer Camps for Kids (PELK) and the International Camping Fellowship (ICF), The Ranch has hosted 4000 kids per summer season from around Greece, attending mainly on state education programs. Annually, The Ranch participates in the American Camp Association, and as of this year they will collaborate with the educational program, Aute Energo, to welcome kids from the US, Australia, and Europe in programs centered on Greek culture. Annie Skouras described the camp.
“The idea of a culture camp has been on our mind for over five years and with the crisis it has become more urgent for us to spread and strengthen knowledge of Greek culture and language. In a few words, it will offer kids a hands-on experience of the Greek culture and language and the opportunity to develop their own individual perception of and relationship with their heritage.”
History, starting from antiquity, the Greek language – its origins and practice — exciting Greek mythology and culture, will make up the core of a curriculum taught in 2-week courses for children and teens alike. The program is aimed especially at kids who are eager to discover Greece from these perspectives, whether it be Greek children of the Diaspora or kids whose parents wish for the Greek experience to be more than just visiting beaches and a handful of monuments. Highly experienced in guiding children of varying ages, The Ranch will weave educational theory and practice with outdoor excursions to historical/cultural areas and sites, sports using their facilities, creative activities, and pure fun.
“Our goal is for Greek language and history to come alive for the kids. We have a vast experience in catering to individuals from around the world and with the help of our International Programs Manager, Sarah Yu, a Canadian who’s passionate about Greece, we’re eager to welcome youth from North America and Australia to learn about Greece. The teaching, sports and administrative staff on the Culture Camp are all fluent in English, and will thus be facilitating kids who don’t speak any Greek. Our greatest aspiration is to create a ‘cultural bridge’ between the children of Greece — the ones born and raised in Greece together with those born and raised abroad. By the end of their experience with us want them to have uplifting stories to remember for the rest of their lives!”
And after the summer ends…
When the summer ends and the breezes start to blow strongly enough to roll giant haystacks across the dusty land — but not so strongly that I can’t stop to stare out into the sunset — I definitely intend to visit The Ranch again with family and friends. Check it out for a great experience beyond the beach, and some good family fun.
Alexia Amvrazi is a Greek-American who was born and raised in Rome and lives in Athens. She has worked as a writer and editor for English language publications and websites in Greece and abroad for over 20 years, hosting her own daily live radio interview show for a decade at the municipal Athens International Radio and travelling far and wide around Greece and its islands for travel guides such as Fodor’s and her own pleasure. Her favorite assignments involve travel, gastronomy, holistic wellness, culture and lifestyle, and she is always in search of the next big thing. In her personal time she enjoys cooking, creative writing, photography and video-making, songwriting and studying holistic practices. Connect with Alexia on Twitter.