In Epirus the people seem to blend in with the land. You’ll meet a different Greece at this crossroads of civilisations and landscapes in Western Greece, between the Pindos mountain range and the Ionian Sea. Mountain peaks, gorges, rare plants and animals, lakes, rivers and indented sandy beaches complement the ancient ruins of Dodoni and dozens of mediaeval castles, monasteries, arched bridges and stone-built traditional villages.
The destinations are many and varied, creating a wide range of options for holidays all year round. From picturesque Zagorohoria, Metsovo and the Tzoumerka, to beautiful Ioannina and the summer resorts of Parga and Syvota, Epirus will welcome you at any time of year and deliver on its promise of an unforgettable experience.
Small bays and hidden beaches
On the sandy shores of the endless Epirot coastline in Western Greece, from Preveza to Parga, you’ll find beach bars to serve you drinks and summer spirit. Around Parga and Syvota you’ll be itching to sail around the lacy bays and inlets to discover your own private beach. At Drepano near Igoumenitsa a glorious beach merges with a lagoon.
Mountains and gorges destined to be explored
High mountains and rushing rivers offer plenty of adrenaline-pumping excitement. You can kayak down the Aoos, top of the list in beauty and difficulty, raft the Voidomatis and the Arachthos rivers and hike the Acheron River in the summer. You can base jump from Profitis Ilias, walk the Vikos gorge, climb mountains and rocks or row in the Ioannina lake.
If you incline towards more sedate activities, and want to relax in nature, there’s bird-watching in the Amvracian Gulf, one of Europe’s most important wetlands. Whatever you decide, try to fit the following into your explorations: the Zagorohoria, the Aoos Lake, Tzoumerka, the drive between Igoumenitsa and Metsovo on the new Egnatia highway, over the Katara pass, the highest in Greece that remains open all winter despite heavy snow.
Immerse yourself in the local culture
The history of Epirus is unbelievably rich. You’ll seek it out at the magnificent archaeological site of Dodoni with its famous ancient theatre, at Roman Nikopolis and at the Oracle at Efyra, renowned in antiquity. You’ll meet it also in Ioannina with its castle, Byzantine museum of Its Kale, eight Byzantine and post-Byzantine monasteries on the Island in the Lake. Monasteries abound in the Zagorohoria, too, with Agios Ioannis Rangovos and Agia Paraskevi being the most noteworthy.
Throughout Epirus you’ll admire the traditional workmanship in crafts of all kinds, from stone masonry to the delicate art of the silversmith. Discover the wonderful unspoilt villages, which have been called ‘poetry in stone’ because of their exceptional architecture, like those in the Zagoria district, Metsovo, and Syrrako and Kalarrytes in the Tzoumerka range. And also in the arched stone bridges dotting the landscape: Kalogeriko at Kipi, Plaka, Konitsa and, the most famous of all, Arta. And, not least, in the silversmiths’ ateliers in Ioannina.
The culinary specialities of Epirus
The pastoral heritage of Epirus translates to a heavy preponderance of meat and dairy products. Epirot feta is rightly famous along with other dairy products, ranging from buttermilk to hard cheese. Also typical are various meat dishes, such as kleftiko and lamb with sorrel, while its pies made with homemade phyllo, stuffed with anything you can think of – zucchini, meat, chicken, cheese – are renowned throughout Greece. Every place is a culinary destination in its own right, with its own speciality: shrimp in the Amvracian Gulf; frogs’ legs and sweets, like milk pie, kataifi, baklava, bougatsa in Ioannina; cheeses, pasta, wine and rice pie in Metsovo. Zitsa is known for its sparkling wine and bottled water, which is sold under the names Vikos and Tzoumerka.
The most popular sights and attractions in Epirus
1. Zagorohoria: Stone structures in a beautiful and rugged mountain setting make this area a must-see. Visit Mikro and Megalo Papingo, Aristi and Monodendri are the best known.
2. Vikos-Aoos National Park: The rare natural phenomena here will present you with unforgettable experiences as you walk the Vikos Gorge and the Aoos Canyon and contemplate the sheer heights of Mt Tymfi.
3. Drakolimnes: Left over from the Ice Age, the Dragon Lakes are two kilometres above sea level. You’ll find the largest ones at Smolikas and at Gamila.
4. Konitsa Bridge: The Aoos and Voidomatis rivers meet at this famous bridge.
5. North of Konitsa: From the Mastorohoria (Pyrsogianni) to Sarantaporos, Bourazani and the Molyvoskepasti nunnery
6. Metsovo: This most famous Vlach village, at an altitude of 1,160m, framed by the impressive mountain scenery of the Pindos mountains, is a living museum of traditional handicrafts, dairy products and wine.
7. Ioannina: One of the prettiest cities in Greece. Here you’ll find Lake Pamvotis with its famous Island covered in Byzantine monasteries. The vibrant city has dozens of sights, many places to eat and drink, good hotels, an attractive old town and is a delight to visit in any season.
8. Syrrako & Kalarrytes: Two beautiful old stone villages face each other like mirror images – destinations of exceptional beauty in Epirus.
9. Tzoumerka Waterfall: Two liquid giants fall from 125m. Simply stunning.
10. Preveza: Take a stroll on the lively esplanade of this port-town in Epirus , at the mouth of the Amvracian Gulf.