Where the heck is Epirus? I hear you asking. It’s in Greece and it’s definitely not an island. But it’s a fascinating region of the country, lying on its northwest, on the borders with Albania and with its west coast facing the magnificent Ionian Sea. I am not objective about this place, as I have grown up here. But many visitors compliment the region and say that it’s one of the must-sees regions of the country. It’s rugged, it’s mountainous, it has beautiful lakes, charming villages with cult characters you want to befriend and amazing beaches where you wish you could have a summerhouse.
Some of my favorite places to visit in this region are:
Ioannina, the old town: that’s my hometown and I have shamelessly ranked it at the top. The old town with its lively castle town is just the place to hang out, get lost with a photo camera at hand. Inside the castle, there are several museums, cosy yet tiny cafes where the owners quickly become friends and a perfect labyrinth to get lost – don’t even try to resist that, you will miss the fun. Eventually, you will find an exit that will lead either to the lake – the promenade all along the lake is just splendid- or to the surrounding old town with its typical two-storey colorful buildings.
Zagorochoria: this is a spectacular complex of villages, 46 in total. Their past glory is still obvious in the remarkable stone mansions built within a mountainous scenery. Most of them were completely abandoned in the latest years, due to the urbanization and the consequent lack of jobs. Fortunately, today they have revived mainly through tourism as most of the mansions have been restored to beautiful bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels. There are lots of outdoor activities as well. One of the top experiences is the hike up to Drakolimni (Dragon lake) and the crossing of Vikos gorge.
Many choose to visit Zagorochoria villages as a daily excursion from Ioannina but my suggestion is to stay at one of the villages for at least one night if you can.
Tzoumerka villages: less glamorous, more authentic, equally stunning: Tzoumerka villages have a more active community and permanent residents, allowing you to get a glimpse of the local everyday life. A mild tourism infrastructure is slowly attracting the travellers’ attention, hopefully, though sustainable tourism will be the one to prevail. Monasteries perched on the cliffs, villages lost into windy, mountainous roads and old stone bridges are all part of their charm. Rafting in the river Arachthos is a great way to experience a magnificent gorge and feel the soul of this place. Syrrako and Kalarrytes villages are currently my favorite ones to stay and explore the area. Read more about the area here.
Sivota: imagine turquoise waters and green inlets altering with olive oil and pine trees. Imagine limestone houses, all built in similar architectural style, interspersed in a green, calm oasis. Imagine a tiny harbor, 10 minutes lazy walk from one side to the other, colorful boats and fishermen gathering early in the morning to sell their fresh catch directly to you. Now imagine yourself there. Not bad, ha? Sivota was the hidden paradise of Epirus until Egnatia Odos, the highway, brought the crowds in a few years ago. Still, if you avoid the peak summer periods, mainly July and August, you can find a peaceful environment where to enjoy your summer vacation.
Amvrakikos Gulf: I have been visiting Preveza, which is adjusted to Amvrakikos Gulf since I was born. But I had never given attention to the gulf; instead, I chose to focus on the beaches facing the Ionian Sea directly. Until a few years ago when I boarded the Eco Cruising tour with my mom which took us around the gulf for a day, spotting dolphins, diving on a beach we had never before been to, taking a glimpse at “divari” an ancient mode of fishing still active today and just enjoying a new place which was in our backyard but had never paid attention to.
So now it’s your turn to tell me: have you visited Epirus? What’s your favorite place to visit in this region? What has been your favourite place to visit in Greece so far and with whom? Leave a comment down below!