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Epirus

In our trilogy of trips we introduce you to some of the lesser known destinations in Greece, yet stunning in beauty. One of them is Epirus, the most mountainous region in Greece but still a secret from the world. Here you can find the rustic charm of some of Europe’s finest destinations: soaring terrain that conjures images of Scottish moors, tiny mountain villages reminiscent of Provence and the unspoiled coastline of the most remote Greek islands. Among the locals, Epirus is renowned for its dense forests, rugged mountain views, fairytale villages atop its hills, crystal-clear lakes and rivers and low-key seaside resorts; all in all, a destination for the elite few who cherish its serene peacefulness.

From the ancient years, the spiritual appeal of Epirus was deeply felt by the Greek world. The Oracle of Dodona, devoted to Zeus, was second only to Delphi in terms of reverence among the Greeks. As the priestesses of Zeus slowly bowed over the sacred oak to interpret the rustling of its leaves, the representatives of the most powerful cities of the past stood in awe anticipating the word of the gods. Later with the coming of Christianity, this spirituality and reverence found a fertile ground upon which to bloom. Hundreds of churches are scattered throughout Epirus following traditional architectural lines and humbly built of the materials at hand – stone and wood.

One of the reasons Epirus remains largely untouched by tourism is its rough landscape. The locals or Epirotes have obstinately defied the obstacles of nature and devised intricate solutions to the puzzles it presents; their centuries-old hanging bridges appear to defy the laws of gravity and are evidence of the locals’ extraordinary craftsmanship. Underneath, flow rivers that are born on the mountain range of Pindos, the rocky backbone of Greece. Lazy in the summer and turbulent in the winter, their waters are a haven for the lovers of water sports like kayaking while hikers from around the world choose to explore the nearby forest trails.

Water has always lured the Epirotes. Epirus’ capital and largest city, Ioannina, is built on the shores of a lake – Lake Pamvotis. Built by a Byzantine Emperor and later occupied by the Ottomans, Ioannina was the seat of powerful Ali Pasha who turned against the Sultan himself. The town is a melting pot of Byzantine splendor and traditional charm complete with a castle and a tiny islet in the middle of the lake open to visitors. Due to the town’s wet climate, the lake is often shrouded in a romantic fog adding to the air of mystery that has inspired many Greek artists.

As we leave the capital and climb higher, we meet the picturesque towns of Metsovo, famous for its local cheese and wine varieties as well as a popular winter and ski destination. Konitsa is used as a base of exploration, by travelers in the know, for the nearby Vikos- Aoos National Park where they can visit the world’s deepest gorge. The chasm drop runs for more than 1,000ft. The view from above is awe-inspiring. If you fight your vertigo and peer down you will see the deep canyon ending in a dry riverbed winding like a rocky ribbon across a valley floor carpeted in pine trees. Suddenly you feel humbled by the grandeur and natural beauty of the spot and the lack of visitors enhances the illusion that you are alone in the world.

This illusion continues nearby as you visit the sparsely populated 46 villages that make up the community of Zagori, better known as Zagorohoria. Built in the traditional style of Epirus, their rare uniformity gives them character, as do the village squares, lined with ancient plane trees, stone paths and chaotic vegetation around them. You will enjoy this setting as herds of sheep and cows graze freely around you. In Zagorohoria, the rhythm of life is dictated by nature, and man follows. There are also many Monasteries here, the isolated setting drawing people who want to withdraw from the world. The most dramatic is the Monastery of Agia Paraskevi, one of the oldest in Epirus, hanging on the edge of a steep cliff. Step inside the church to admire the frescoes and then step outside where the views of the Vikos Gorge transport you to a spiritual place.

Just a hundred kilometers away lies an entirely different world. On the coast of Epirus towards the Ionian Sea are the boutique resort towns of Preveza and Parga that attract sophisticated travelers from all over the world. Parga is amphitheatrically built on a small peninsula opposite the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos right on the turquoise waters of the Ionian sea. Narrow alleys cobbling around preserved houses, a Venetian castle and sandy beaches compose an image of effortless beauty that vows to captivate even the most demanding of visitors. The nearby city of Preveza, equally picturesque, resides on the spot where the river Acheron meets the sea as well as the lake of Ziros. These are just a few of the spots of immense natural beauty which you can visit while staying in one of the lovely boutique hotels on the coast of Preveza.

Ever versatile, multifaceted and fascinating, Epirus is a hidden paradise on the west coast of Greece. Explore Epirus like a local and travel with us for the really authentic experience. Contact us here for more information