At the north-western corner of mainland Greece lies the region of Epirus. Epirus is an ideal destination for both summer and winter holidays, and even though the area is one of distinctive beauty, it has yet to become a popular, touristic destination. If you are a traveller with an appreciation of unspoiled landscapes, and activities that reconnect you with nature, Epirus is without a doubt the place to be!
Rent a car with Simplybook and drive to Ioannina city and the stone-built villages of Zagoria. Go for a hike and enjoy the natural beauty and calmness of the Vikos-Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark. If holidays for you mean spending time on the beach under the Greek sun, drive west towards the coast of the Ionian Sea, or hop on a boat for a trip to Paxi or Corfu islands!
The city of Ioannina and the Zagoria villages
Ioannina city, at the coast of lake Pamvotida
419 km northwest of Athens and 261 km southwest of Thessaloniki is the city of Ioannina, the capital of Epirus. Built at the western side of the lake Pamvotida, Ioannina is a beautiful, lively city and a popular winter destination for Greeks. The multicultural background of Ioannina is still evident in the architecture, especially that of the churches, the mosques and the synagogue. Park your car at the public parking area and take a relaxing walk around the lake. Don’t miss the chance to take the boat to the small island in the centre of the lake that is the home of seven different monasteries!
Treat yourself with a tsipouro and baklava by the waterfront. Blend in with the locals at the restaurants of Louli arcade, which used to be the commercial centre of the wider area. Visit the imposing Its Kale castle, overlooking the lake, the Victory Mosque, the Tomb of Ali Pasha and the Byzantine museum.
Drive 4 km to the northern edge of the lake where you will find the famous cave of Perama. The cave was discovered by the locals, while they were searching for shelter during the Italian bombardments of 1940. Park your car here and take the 1.5 km tour through this natural work of art with the impressive stalagmites and stalactites.
The traditional villages of Zagoria, built on the mountains northeast of Ioannina, are a favourite destination for all Greeks and hikers! The road to Zagoria involves driving on winding roads of lushly vegetated slopes, next to running water and beautiful landscapes coloured in all possible shades of green. Make sure you allow enough time for plenty of stops to take in this unique beauty. You can spend a few days to explore all 46 villages of Zagoria, however, if you don’t have the time, make sure you drive to:
Monodendri, 39 km north of Ioannina
39 km north of Ioannina is Monodendri, one of the most popular villages of the area. At 1060 m. altitude, above the gorge of Vikos, one of the deepest gorges worldwide, Monodendri combines the natural beauty with the traditional architecture. Park your car here, take a walk in the village and follow the stone steps to Vitsa, the nearby settlement.
Skamneli, at the foot of Mount Tymfi, 52 km north of Ioannina
52 km north of Ioannina at the foot of Mount Tymfi, with an altitude of 1200 m, is the village of Skamneli. Park your car close to the village square with the old plane tree and take a stroll to admire the traditional old mansions of Epirus and the five stone bridges. There are accommodation and restaurant options available in the village. From here you can drive to the open-air museum of Gyftokampos with exhibits of wooden and straw huts.
Traditional settlements of Papigo, at the foot of mount Tymphi, 60 km north of Ioannina
Around 60 km north of Ioannina at the foot of Astraka on mount Tymphi, built at an altitude of 980 m, are the settlements of Small and Big Papigo. The traditional architecture of Zagoria, the stone-built alleys and churches, have led to the declaration of Papigo as a national historical monument. The natural beauty of the surrounding area neighbouring National Park of Vikos – Aoos attracts hikers and other visitors who appreciate the beauty and the calmness of the scenery. There are a few accommodation and dining options in the area, blending in with the traditional character of the villages.
Drive to the coast of Epirus
Port of Igoumenitsa, 78 km east of Ioannina
78 km east of Ioannina, across the island of Corfu, is the city and port of Igoumenitsa. The port, which is the second-largest in the country after Piraeus, connects the Greek mainland with the Ionian islands and Italy, crossing the Adriatic Sea. Igoumenitsa is at 480 km northwest of Athens and 470 km southwest of Thessaloniki (through the Egnatia Odos). The surrounded by mountains area makes it perfect for trekking. The nearby sandy beaches of Drepanos and Makrigyali -only three km away from Igoumenitsa- are frequented by the locals and visitors who want to enjoy some relaxing time by the sea.
Harbor of Syvota, 98 northwest of Ioannina
98 northwest of Ioannina and 25 km south of Igoumenitsa, at the coast of the Ionian Sea, is the cosmopolitan Syvota. Syvota is famous for the variety of nearby sandy beaches. Zavia, with the cold underground springs waters, Molos, Zeri and Stavento are some of the beaches where you can enjoy your day with an iced coffee and lunch by the sea! Make sure to visit the seacoast of Bella Vraka on Mourtemeno island. You can reach the island on foot by taking a path of shallow waters. If you want to explore the area by boat, we recommend renting some of the small boats available at the town’s marina.
Acherontas river, 46 km north of Preveza
The mythical entrance of the underworld, Acherontas river is a place of exceptional natural beauty. Starting its journey from the mountains of Epirus, it ends up in the Ionian Sea, creating an estuary visited by migratory birds that you can easily see. Drive to the village of Ammoudia at the mouth of Acherontas, 46 km north of Preveza, and look for the local information kiosk. Here you can get information about the area’s ecosystem and suggestions for activities. Whether you prefer to hike or to take a relaxing boat ride, the more you discover Archerontas, the more you will fall in love with it.
Parga harbour, 99 km southwest of Ioannina
99 km southwest of Ioannina is the small coastal town of Parga. Built amphitheatrically overlooking the islet at the port entrance, this picturesque town with the traditional architecture and the Venetian castle attracts many visitors who come to enjoy the natural beauty and nearby beaches. During the summer, Parga is connected by boat with the islands of Paxos and Corfu. At the organized beach opposite the islet of Panagia you will find accommodation, places to eat and cafes by the crystal waters of the Ionian sea.
Valtos Beach, Parga
At the west side of Parga, behind the Venetian castle, is the 3 km long sandy beach of Valtos. This beach can be busy during the summer months -especially in August- however, it is much quieter during spring and autumn. There are plenty of restaurants by the sea to enjoy cold drinks during the day.
Lichnos beach, 4 km south of Parga
Drive 4 km south of Parga to Lichnos, one of the most beautiful beaches of Epirus. Surrounded by a green bay, this beach combines golden sand and blue, deep, clear waters, making it very popular among Greeks and visitors from all over the world. Apart from a variety of rooms and hotels, here you can find a campsite as an alternative form of accommodation. Water sport facilities, sunbeds with umbrellas, tavernas and cafes, in Lichnos you can find everything you need for a comfortable stay.
Port of Preveza, Amvrakikos Gulf, 104 km south of Ioannina
104 km south of Ioannina, built at the entrance of the Gulf of Amvrakikos, Preveza is the administrative and commercial centre of the area. Take a walk at the seaside promenade to meet travellers sailing to the Ionian islands and nature lovers who have come to observe the dolphins and the birds at the wetlands of Amvrakikos.
The wider area is also of archaeological interest with the ruins of the Roman city of Nikopoli, 7 km north of Preveza. This ancient city was founded by Octavius Augustus, in honour of his victory in the battle against Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Aktio. Today you can still see standing the Roman fortifications, the Odeon, Augustus monument and the Theater, along with the collections of architectural decorations and sculptures at the local museum.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Ziros lake and other nearby locations by choosing one of the many outdoor adventures offered by the Into the wild team. Learn more about Eleni’s experience kayaking in Ziros lake in Preveza.
Useful phone numbers in Epirus.
Featured photo by Shogun, licensed.
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