Discover Greece: Interview with Bearing True South

In 2014, childhood friends Panos Karkanias and Stavros Markis combined their passion for sustainable tourism, adventure travel, and their home country of Greece to create Bearing True South, a company that connects adventure travelers with authentic experiences. We sat down with Stavros to talk about Bearing True South, adventure tourism, and more.

What is your background in adventure travel and the outdoors?
My mum is an avid traveler and made sure we spent a ton of time exploring the great outdoors growing up. After exploring most of Europe and Northern Africa while studying, I got a job working with primates in Thailand and then spent a couple of years traveling around Asia as a documentary photographer. In between assignments I’d come back to Greece and explore the national parks or go sailing with friends and in time this led to the creation of Bearing True South.

How did Bearing True South get started?
Showing people around Greece is something I’ve always done. It truly brings joy to my life. When I’ve traveled, I’ve been lucky enough to have had people show me around and I’ve always felt like giving back the favor.

Bearing True South is the product of my childhood friend Panos’ academic research in sustainable tourism and my eagerness to be a part of something new. In a lot of ways we complement each other, so the whole project, from inception to realization, was pretty straightforward.

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced in starting your own company?
Finding the right people to work with was the greatest challenge we faced when we were starting out. It took us the better part of 3 years to personally vet every supplier we work with and run every itinerary we designed multiple times in order to get the proper feedback.

Why adventure tourism?
Most visitors to Greece tend to stay on the beaten track, which means areas affected by mass tourism. This isn’t a bad thing, but it makes having an immersive travel experience that much harder. Our philosophy is to steer our guests away from the crowds by getting them in touch with locals, showing them beautiful sights, and cooking them authentic food. That’s what adventure travel is all about for us.

What is the best way to experience Greece?
Sailing in the Cyclades archipelago is a great way to spend time away from home, and no matter how many times I’m out there it’s always special. The food, the people, the ever-changing landscapes, it doesn’t get much better than that.

You’re the co-founder of Bearing True South and still guide on a regular basis. What draws you to guiding?
It’s always been impossible for me to stay put, so I try to get out of the office as much as possible. Connecting with guests and ensuring they have a truly memorable trip is why I do it. Plus, the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and show them our culture, that’s why I do it.

What’s next for Bearing True South?
We’re in the process of adding a few new products on our website. At the moment they’re in the research and testing phase, but I can say that they involve landscape astrophotography. We’re working together with an accomplished photographer and astrophysicist, in order to create astrophotography workshops in the national parks of southern and northern Greece starting in the summer of 2018.

Lastly, what’s your dream adventure?
Hands down, exploring Alaska. I’ve been fascinated with the state since I was a kid. I hope I can make it there in the next couple years.

To take an adventure with Bearing True South, check out the Clymb Adventures page.