Mediterranean incentives: The best of the Med

Abigail Wills explores the varied attractions of the Mediterranean. From wine-making and boat-building to clubbing and rallying, there's a feast of activities in an array of locations.

SOUTH OF FRANCE

- James Bond rally in 2CV cars

With stages based on classic Bond movies such as Thunderball and Goldeneye, DMC Menno Meyer Associates believes a James Bond-style rally is the perfect way to explore the French Riviera. The race against the clock features speedboats and casinos, and groups of up to 45 people can take part, with three delegates per car. Prices start at £6,850.

- Orienteering in La Napoule

Energetic groups of up to 40 delegates can take a trip through the forest to the top of La Napoule, with spectacular views of the Riviera. Packages can be put together by DMC Menno Meyer Associates that include coach hire, refreshments and a bilingual host for the day. Prices start at £795.

- Canyoning in the Gorges du Loup

The Loup river, which leads to the Mediterranean, is ideal for swimming and tobogganing. Delegates experience the thrill of the descent in pure mountain water, but at a pace that allows participants to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

- Video challenge

Taking its inspiration from the Cannes film festival, DMC LSO International can arrange for delegates to take on the roles of director, cameraman and actor to produce a short film, which is screened at a dinner the same evening. The best film is awarded the "Palm d'Or". Suitable for groups of up to 100.

- Potholing

Groups visiting the South of France between April and October can learn about the structure, properties and history of the caves in Mons. It is suitable for smaller groups and was incorporated into a programme LSO International ran for IBM. Prices start at £480, which also includes rafting.

- Boat trip to Lerins Islands

To entertain a group of more than 200 delegates, LSO International charters 25 boats to sail across to the Lerins Islands, south of Cannes. Groups can also sail from Monaco to Nice or to St Tropez, with lunch on board, at a beach restaurant or as a picnic. Prices start at £12,330 for 220 delegates.

- Nice flower market

DMC Sunazur International suggests groups take a leisurely morning to explore Nice flower market. The traditional Provencal market offers a lively, colourful opportunity for groups to interact with locals. For a more hands-on event, a treasure hunt can be set up around the town.

- Perfume factory

Grasse, a small village half an hour from Cannes, is an important hub within the perfume industry. Groups can learn about the skills used to extract the fragrances from various flowers and try their hand at creating their own scent.

- Skiing

In winter, the region is just a short coach ride away from ski resorts. "Groups enjoy the contrast of skiing during the day and being back on the beach for dinner the same evening," says DMC Sunazur International director Nadine Barthelemy.

- Provencal evening

The perfect end to a programme in the south of France is a traditional Provencal evening. Hosted at restaurant Chez Simon, delegates drink a local aperitif while playing petanque. They can also try their hand at traditional crafts, such as pottery and jam-making.

READER'S VIEW - DAVID BALL, SENIOR EVENT MANAGER, INDEPROD

"One of the most exhilarating activities for small groups on the Cote d'Azur is driving F3 racing cars at Circuit du Var. Participants get to drive real racing cars around the circuit and are constantly assessed and trained as the day progresses. The transfer time from Cannes is just an hour and a half by road or 12 minutes by helicopter, setting down directly on the circuit."

GREECE

- Volcano and hot springs, Santorini

Vista Events recommends taking a boat tour to the volcanic shores of Santorini. Delegates can walk to the top of the volcano which, when it last erupted, completely destroyed the island. As the Caique enters the narrows of the two lava islets, Palea and Nea Kameni, the water changes from dark blue to sulphurous green.

- Boat trip to Delos

Delos, a small island west of Mykonos, can be reached in half an hour by boat and can be included in a programme as a half-day tour, says Christina Anastasopoulou, director of DMC Alvia. Although uninhabited, it is of great archeological importance and is the legendary birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

- Wine tasting in Crete

As part of a tour taking in the sights of the Palace of Knossos and the museum of Heraklion, delegates can be introduced to Cretan wine at the vineyards of Peza and Archanes, which are situated among the olive orchards south of Heraklion. Groups can also visit Vathypetro, one of the oldest farmhouses in Crete, which dates back to the 16th century.

- Pentathlon

Thanks to Vista Events, delegates can participate in a team-building exercise while also taking in the sights, culture and history of Santorini. Groups of eight to ten delegates, accompanied by English-speaking escorts, set off to find five stations and along the route will be asked to work with local people to create items such as Komboloi (worry beads) or make a traditional Greek coffee.

- Beach Olympics

A visit to Greece would not be complete without an Olympics-themed event. Vista Events suggests incorporating serious sporting activities such as archery, long jump and swimming alongside tasks that rely on team work, such as the "spider net", which teams have to pass through without touching, and "funny skiing", which sees five people balance on a special set of skis.

- A trip to Voraikos gorge

Groups can take the Odontotos train, a cog railway, which goes up the Voraikos gorge to Kalavrita town in the Peloponese. On arrival, delegates can make a refreshment stop at the station's old cafeneion (coffee shop) and from there take a Jeep through Feneos forest and mountain villages.

- Bungee-jumping

For daredevil groups, the bridge of the Corinth Canal is one of the top five places in the world for bungee-jumping, suggests Angela Kipling, director of DMC Kipling Events. And if delegates are not too distracted by the 75-metre drop into the canal below they can take in the spectacular views.

- Learn to dive

The clear waters off the coast of Greece are great for scuba-diving in the summer and groups can take part in a one-day or half-day course with professional instructors, who will provide equipment. Guests sail out into the Aegean Sea on a Greek-style wooden fishing boat.

- Paragliding

Participants have a full briefing before taking off on tandem flights with an instructor. Launching from an altitude of 1,100 metres from the slopes of Mount Parnassos, delegates then land on the plains of Viotikos Kifisos river. The activity is available all year round.

- Spa day

If groups are looking to take things at a more leisurely pace, DMC Kipling Events director AngelaKipling recommends letting guests unwindat a spa. She picks out the Porto Elounda Resort's Six Senses Spa in Crete and the Apollon Palace Thalasso spa as two of the best that Greece has to offer.

READER'S VIEW - SUSAN SEXTON, SALES DIRECTOR, P&MM TRAVEL & EVENTS

'For me, Greece and its islands have always been the place to experience some of Europe's best sailing expeditions. The stunning coastal scenery, aquamarine waters and guaranteed good weather lend a supreme tranquility and feeling of wellbeing that is the magical element so vital to any business traveller's programme. And in the past few years, the craft available have become much more sophisticated and appropriate to the C&I market.'

CYPRUS

- Viking boat-building

Citibank, working with DMC Travelscope, chose to include boat-building in its programme on a recent trip. Groups of up to 200 can be split into teams and build the boats on the beach under the guidance of instructors. A DJ provides entertainment as they work. The day culminates in a race to see who has built the fastest craft.

- Jeep safari

When automotive parts distributor Blue Print visited Cyprus, DMC Travelscope put together a Jeep safari. Each team has the help of a specially designed road-book and GPS to find their way through the mountain roads of Cyprus. On the way to victory, guests must pass a "survival" test, which includes a treasure hunt, orienteering and a photo quiz.

- Catamaran boat trip

On an incentive trip, car firm Toyota arranged for delegates to be transported to the old port of Limassol to board a catamaran and sail along the Limassol coast. Stops were made along the way to enjoy swimming, sunbathing and snorkelling. Groups of up to 150 can be accommodated.

- Bacchus wine tour

OM Destination Management points out that the Cypriots have a long tradition of wine-making going back some 4,000 years, with the creation of the sweet dessert wine known as Commandaria. Delegates will be able to see the Cypriot wine making process on a tour of mountain village wine cellars and will have the opportunity to taste a variety of local wines.

- Traditional Cyprus

Delegates visit Kolossi castle and the ancient Amphitheatre at Curium. En route, they will pass through the island's biggest citrus groves and can stop to enjoy a drink of freshly squeezed orange juice. They can also see demonstrations by traditional craftsmen and try their hand at some of the crafts themselves.

- Rally

OM Destination Management can arrange for high-spec Mitsubishi Evolution cars to be available for an adrenalin-fuelled day of rallying. Delegates ride in the co-pilot seats and read the pace notes to instruct the professional drivers on the best and fastest way to complete the circuit.

- Village feast

Cyprus' top DMCs will help arrange a traditional feast in a local village, where caterers will serve local meze and wine. Entertainment can include folklore dance shows, Greek music and a village fair known as a Panayiri.

- Gala dinner at the Sculpture Gardens

DMC Vista Events Cyprus suggests hosting a private dinner in the gardens of a property owned by Cypriot sculptor Philippos Yiapanis. His picturesque garden in the village of Fassoula, not far from Limassol, also houses a studio and small open air theatre. Other suggested dinner venues include the Carob Mill complex and Paphos Fort.

- The Hidden Gold of Aphrodite

DMC Neon Travel suggests a good way to incorporate some of the island's history into a programme is to develop an interactive event. Based on the story that the last priest of the Temple of Aphrodite has hidden gold around the island, groups are tasked with solving puzzles and finding clues that are hidden in places made famous by Greek legend.

- Spa and golf day

The Aphrodite Hills resort combines the five-star Intercontinental hotel with a world-class golf course and spa with 24 treatment rooms. Companies such as Pricewaterhousecoopers and Glaxosmithkline have previously hosted events at the resort. Le Meridien Limassol also boasts extensive spa facilities.

READER'S VIEW - AMY LYUS, ACCOUNT DIRECTOR, WORLDSPAN GROUP

'We recently used Cyprus as an incentive destination for one of our clients. We found it a great location, offering good flight access, quality accommodation, cost-effectiveness and great programme possibilities. Programme highlights can include a jeep safari in the Troodos Mountains with an traditional lunch hosted by a Cypriot family, a catamaran cruise and snorkelling along the Limassol coastline and a gala awards dinner in a Cypriot amphitheatre.'

ITALY

- Quad biking

DMC FA Travel suggests exploring Sardinia by quad bike. Setting out from the Ranch Is Morus, the group will follow the coastline to the village of Nora, an ancient Carthaginian town. If quad biking isn't for your group, mountain-biking or horse-riding can also be arranged.

- Sightseeing and shopping in Cagliari

Groups can choose between a leisurely stroll along the promenade and shopping or taking in the sights of Cagliari. The historical area of the town boasts the Tower of St Pancrazio and the Bastion of Saint Remy. A traditional Sardinian lunch will be served at either Su Cumbidu or Su Procciu restaurants.

- Climbing in Cala Mosca

Cala Mosca and Cala Fighera are two bays on the Sardinian coast that are perfect for climbing. Previously a restricted army area, its climbing routes are well established and instructors will be on hand.

- Sardinian cultural experience

Groups can try their hand at pottery, basket weaving, milking sheep, making ricotta cheese and making knife handles from bone. Marta Caboni from FA Travel says that, while a little unusual, they offer a taste of the past and are a lot of fun.

- Vintage car rally

Verbano Events, which lists Sony, Panasonic and Unilever among its clients, can organise a vintage car rally around Lake Maggiore. Perfect for smaller groups, delegates are driven around in vehicles including Rolls Royce Shadows and Cadillacs. Prices start at £410 per car.

- Helicopter tour

In June, a European car hire firm enlisted Verbano Events to organise a helicopter tour of the Italian Lakes and Italian and Swiss Alps, including Monte Rosa. Groups of 40 can hire two aircraft, each capable of carrying four passengers, at a cost of £115 per person.

- Gondola ride

DMC Allied Italy recommends treating groups to a relaxing gondola ride along Venice's Grand Canal. The gondoliers sport the traditional sailor suits and straw hats and will guide delegates through the city in lamp-lit gondolas, while musicians and singers serenade them.

- Tour of Imperial Rome

Starting at the Trevi Fountain, groups can tour the heart of the old Roman Empire. Sights include the Senate House and the Colosseum, which was the largest amphitheatre in the ancient world. The tour will then take in the Arch of Constantine and Circus Maximum, before finishing at the Piazza Venezia.

- Vatican museums

Allied Italy can arrange a private tour in the world's smallest sovereign state - Vatican City. Groups can view the collections of Popes through the ages in the Candelabra Gallery, Tapestry Gallery and Geographical Map Gallery. Delegates can also visit the Sistine Chapel to admire the work of Michelangelo.

- Horse-drawn carriage tour of Rome

Eleonora Auciello, programme manager at DMC Allied Europe, believes a horse-drawn carriage ride is a great way to discover the capital. The trip can take in the Renaissance Palazzo Farnese and the hustle and bustle of Rome's oldest outdoor market - Campo dei Fiori - before heading to the Piazza Navona, with its spectacular churches and fountains.

READER'S VIEW - RHIAN JOLLEY, ACCOUNT MANAGER, EVENTS PLANNING, GRASS ROOTS GROUP

'We took a group of 20 from T-Mobile to Rome in March this year and one of the highlights was the cookery lesson by the chef at well-known restaurant Alfredo's. The group learned to cook its famous fettuccine while sipping cocktails, before sitting down to enjoy the results. It got everyone interacting and it was very inexpensive for what it was.'

SPAIN

- Clubbing in Marbella

DMC Creatur, which now has an office in Marbella, suggest groups let their hair down at one of the resort's most popular nightclubs. Club Olivia Valere is inspired by the Alhambra and was designed by Buddha Bar designer Miguel Cancio. It offers a fashionable venue for a reception for up to 1,000 guests.

- Driving experience at Ascari

Ascari Race Resort opened in 2000 and is situated just north of Marbella. It claims to be the world's first venue of its kind and its in-house events team is on hand to devise team-building, product launch or pure incentive events, both on and off the circuit. An on-site hotel is also planned.

- Wine tasting

Malaga Wine Museum was formerly a distillery, before being taken over by the tourist board and opened as a museum in 1997. Visitors can sample sweet and dry wine from 14 of the vineyards from the region. Sherry and brandy tastings can also be arranged.

- Sailing in Valencia

As the host of this summer's America's Cup competition, and the starting line for the 2008 round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, Valencia has a top pedigree as a sailing destination. Be it a competition or a more leisurely day's sailing, groups can make the most of the one of the best regatta fields in Europe, before dining at a fish restaurant on the Paseo Maritimo promenade.

- Team building on the Isle of Tarbarca

The Isle of Tarbarca, which can be reached from anumber of ports on the Costa Blanca, was once apirate hideout and Alicante-based operator Global DMC, which has worked with clients such as L'Oreal, Orange and British American Tobacco, suggests using it as the settingfor team-building challenges.

- Tai chi and laughter therapy

Global DMC suggests teaching groups the art of taichi, which is suitable for participants of all ages and can be organised for large groups. It also suggests arranging a laughter-therapy session as a great way to relieve stress and allow delegates to unwind at the start of their trip.

- Living in a Spanish town

When confectionery brand Ferrero took 400 delegates to Spain it wanted to avoid luxury hotels and resorts in favour of giving delegates a real taste of Spanish life. Working with DMC Espana Incoming and Incentives, it arranged for residents in the small town of Antequera to accommodate and entertain the delegates. The trip culminated in a fiesta for delegates and locals in the bullring.

- Winter and summer Olympics

The Costa del Sol is just 150 miles from the Sierra Nevada mountains, so Alberto Roja, sales and marketing manager at Espana Incoming and Incentives, suggests taking groups to the ski resort in Granada for a winter Olympics before transferring them back to the coast of Malaga for a beach version.

- Painting a market square

The market square in the town of Carmena requires repainting every couple of years and DMC Espana Incoming and Incentives has recruited willing participants from several clients over the years, including Deutsche Bank. The team-building programme allows groups to contribute to the local community and participate in a number of activities with the local people.

READER'S VIEW - JOHN LAWSON, DIRECTOR, AYMTM

'Spain is a city break destination that also offers a resort side. Golf is always good in Marbella, and we have a couple of clients who like to include a football element, so taking them to Barcelona or Real Madrid is a highlight. Ritz-Carlton is investing in the country with the opening of the Hotel Villa Padierna and I would also really like to use Starwood's Marques de Riscal property.'

MALTA

- Maltese evening at Ir-Razzett l-Abjad

Ir-Razzett l-Abjad (meaning the white farmhouse) is a traditional, 200 year-old Maltese farmhouse surrounded by vineyards. DMC Alpine Sterling director Warren Zahra recommends it as the setting for a relaxed barbeque dinner and wine tasting. A 12-piece village band will greet guests on arrival. Hiring the venue costs from £685, with menus starting at £39 per person.

- Gulet cruise and Jeep safari in Gozo

Groups can charter a gulet (a motor yacht) and sail across to Malta's sister island, Gozo. On arrival, a group is split into teams of four to take part in a Jeep safari to discover the history of the island and explore some of the most scenic spots. The rally ends at Ta'Frenc restaurant, where they can enjoy lunch before sailing back to Malta.

- Sightseeing in Valletta

For less than £10 a head, groups can take a guided tour by coach that stops off at Upper Barraka Gardens, which offers a great view of the Grand Harbour, Castille Place, St John's Cathedral and the Grandmaster's Palace. Refreshments can be served in the Castille Wine Vaults.

- Dinner at San Giuliano restaurant

Up to 80 people can be accommodated in this fish restaurant in Spinola Bay, St Julian's. The venue has floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a spectacular panorama of the harbour. A three-course meal with wine and coffee starts from £32 per person.

- Bedouin evening

DMC Alliance Malta drew on the country's Arabian influences to host a Bedouin evening for insurance firm Securian. Using the private beach of the Radisson SAS Golden Sands Resort, it laid on belly dancers, a shisha pipe area and henna tattoo painting. The 380-strong group was also entertained by a 35-strong choir and a firework display.

- Maltese cooking challenge

For just £58 per person, DMC EC Meetings will challenge teams of four to cook a typically Maltese dish. They have to source ingredients locally and find the perfect wine to accompany the meal, before heading to their work stations, which will be set up at restaurant Ir-Razzett L-Antik. Aprofessional chef will then judge their efforts.

- Lost

The hit TV series Lost has inspired EC Meetings to devise an activity of the same name that sees delegates "stranded" on a deserted beach and fending for themselves. Having been forced to abandon ship and swim ashore, the delegates will face a series of challenges, such as building a shelter. Suitable for groups of up to 300.

- Boat building

Groups of up to 400 can design and build a craft complete with a propulsion system and trailer. Once the boats are assembled, they should each be able to carry two people. Groups must also name their vessel and write a song to sing while cheering their team mates on during their maiden voyage.

- The fugitive

Devised by EC Meetings, delegates are asked to help round up five 'escaped convicts', relying on help and advice from local people and a team of extras planted on the island. The half-day activity also provides a fun way to explore two of Malta's most historic towns - Valletta and Mdina.

- Airport - the inside story

DMC Unconventional Malta took inspiration from aSecond World War Spitfire located at Malta airport for a programme in May for an automotive client. The group spent half a day taking part in activities, from flights in five-seat propeller planes to servicing aircraft with the Lufthansa team.

READER'S VIEW - ANGELA HART, CONFERENCE AND FLEET MANAGER, TRINITY-CHIESI PHARMACEUTICALS

'One highlight was a gala dinner we hosted at La Valetta Hall. It was dark when we arrived and the venue makes quite an impact. People in traditional dress welcomed us and fire-eaters and sword dancers provided entertainment. In between courses we had performances by traditional dancers. Some traditional evenings can be a bit twee, but this was very well done.'

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