Epirus tour NW Greece. A week long private tour with 6 exceptional overnights
Day 1: Epirus tour departs from Athens (or other terminal - up request) via Lamia. We will stop at Thermopylae (where in 480 B.C. a battle between the ancient Greeks and Persians took place)to visit Leonidas Monument and then on via Trikala (Magnificent town, short stop). Visit Meteora, among striking scenery, perched on top of huge rocks which seem to be suspended in Mid - Air, stand ageless Monasteries, where you can see exquisite specimens of Byzantine Art. Of the 24 monasteries that grew up between the 13th and 16th centuries only six are still inhabited: The Great Meteoron, Agia Triad, Agios Nikolaos and Varlaam by monks: Agios Stephanos and Roussanou by nuns
Day 2: Epirus. Further sightseeing in Meteora rocks, depart for Epirus. Arrive in Metsovo( visit), which is admirably situated in a mountain comb just below the highest road pass in Greece (alt 1705m/5594ft) which marks the borders between Epirus (west) and Thessaly (east). Brown bears and wolves survive in the surrounding ancient forests of beech and pine trees. The traditional town is not only a summer resort offering the benefits of bracing mountain air but also a winter sports centre with skiing on the slopes of Mount Karakoli (ski lift). Metsovo is famous for its trout, its wine and its cheese as well as for its embroidered cloth and wood carvings.
Depart for Ioannina, a modern town except for the old district near the lake which dates from the Turkish occupation. Local craftsmanship produce embroidery and silverwork, there are shops in Odos Averoff, Gastronomic specialties include eels, frogs, trout and crayfish from the lake, cheese from Dodoni and sparkling white wine from the region of Zitsa. Ioannina, the capital of Epirus, 21 km.(13 miles) northeast of Dodone on Lake Pambotis, may have been in existence as early as the 6th century AD, but the city came into its own only with the occupation of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium by the Crusaders or Frank in 1204. Henceforth, Ioannina, or the city of St John, would be a centre of continued Greek resistance, an independent Byzantine state. The city and its island became a thriving Christian center, which held out against the Ottoman Turks until 1430.
Day 3: Visit the island in the middle of the lake, access by boat (15 min). Explore the island visit the House Museum of Ali Pashas. The Ottoman occupation of Ioannina lasted 482 years, during which time the city's famous guilds flourished, and Christians and Jews, respected by the Moslems as monotheistic "People of the Book", were organized according to profession or trade. Even now, Ioannina retains some of this atmosphere of a guild town. The main commercial street is still lined with silversmiths, for Ioannina was once famous for its filigree and niello work and the tradition persists. The capital and Epirus villages in the Pindus such as Syraco and Kalarites, became known for their master jewelers. On the little island in the lake Pambotis, restaurants now view for customers who are ferried over from Ioannina by motor launch. Live trout, eels crayfish and frogs swim in tanks from which visitors may select their dinners, then sit by the waters of the lake, feeding ducks and swans that glide in the tiny harbor full of working watercraft. Primitive boat-building works still operate on the island, lone masters bending plans over fires to temper the wood. The humble monastery of Aghios Panteleimonas, on the tiny island of Ioannina in lake Pambotis, seems an unlikely place for the mighty Ali Pasha to have met his death. Ali Pasha home, now a small ketch museum, guards are happy to show visitors the holes in the floorboards where bullets tore through, ending the life of Ali. It was in January of 1822, along with a dozen of his faithful followers, and Vassiliki," the coiner's daughter of Plichivitza" who became his Christian wife, retired to the island. They were fleeing Khurchid Pasha ,who was demanding Ali's unconditional surrender. The Sultan hoped that, with Ali's death, the Greek resistance movement would also die out, and the beleaguered ruler displayed Ali's head in Constantinople to prove without doubt that the Epirus insurrection was over.
Depart evening for Zachorohoria...Visit the Zagoria Country, "the land beyond the mountains" which follows the renowned trout stream, the River Voidomatis, as it flows north into Albania. It is a region of Forests (conifers, oaks chestnuts) and pasture, the traditional habitat has not been disturbed, there are many houses of beautiful grey stone, with projecting upper storey and wooden balconies, roofed with stone.
Day 4: In these wild mountains, where bears and wolves still roam, Greek troops defied the advancing Italian forces when they invaded from Albania in November 1940. Epirus is the cloud -covered crown of Greece, west of the Ionian sea, and the islands of Corfu, Paxi and tiny Antipaxi and east of the long, rocky spine of the towering Pindus mountain range, the region's natural frontier with Thessaly. To the north is Albania, inhospitable and inscrutable behind an uneasy border frequently violated by the region's hardy Vlach and Sarakatsan shepherds and their flocks. Going from Epirus to Mt Pelion, east of the Pindos, or to western Macedonia, but also traveling through the neighboring Balkan countries, one notices striking similarities in architectural style. The builders and stonemasons of Epirus were famous in the old days. Originating from the villages north of Aoos river, they traveled all over the area, undertaking constructions in distant places. They built private homes and public buildings, churches, monasteries and bridges. Epirus, along with northwestern Macedonia, has numerous beautiful, arched stone bridges, some of which are still in use. As there are lots of rivers and streams, there are bridges everywhere; most of them built during the Ottoman period.
Day 5: Vikos Gorge, the grey stone buildings of the Monastery of Agia Paraskevi cling to the rocks directly above a precipitous drop into the bottom of the gorge 1000m/3281ft below, which the river Voidomatis has created. A path starting from the monastery winds down the face of the cliff past some terraces once cultivated by the monks and some caves which provided shelter for Klephtes and Hermits, it reaches a platform overlooking the confluence of the Voidomatis and a neighboring mountain stream, the atmosphere is oppressive and wild. Zagorohoria. Epirus's traditional villages and the traditional way of life mirrored in the arrangement of their structures, the activities and beliefs of their inhabitants, are fast becoming the stuff of legend, the stock of museums. Fortunately, keeping pace with the demise of villages and village life, with the development of communities, is an acute awareness on the part of the Epirotes, scholars and lay people alike, of their tremendous cultural value. As the straight flute of floyera, becomes an anachronism it and its music, are being documented and preserved for prosperity. As villagers leave the Zagorohoria for the last time, descending to the warm lowlands that promise an easier life, the Greek government is going in and creating living museums out of the stone and hew-oak houses.
Day 6: Visit Dodoni. Ancient Dodoni grew out of a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus where a famous oracle flourished from the second millennium BC until the 4th C BC. this oracle made known its pronouncements through the whispering of the breeze, known as Helloi or Selloi. We'll visit the theatre one of the largest (130m/427ft broad by 22m/72ft high) and one of the best preserved of ancient Greece. It was originally constructed in the late 3rd C BC, destroyed in 219 BC and rebuilt in the reign of Phillip V of Macedon (221 - 179 BC). Under the Romans it was transformed into an arena for gladiatorial and animal combats, at this time the arena was separated from the public by a wall which is still in place.
Continue for Delphi through Arta, Agrinio, Nafpactos (This charming little city at the northwest end of the Gulf of Corinth was fortified by the Venetians in the 15C. Under its medieval name of Lepando it recalls the famous naval battle which took place in 1571 between the Christian fleet from Spain, Genoa, Naples, Malta and Venice with the Turkish fleet of Sultan Selim.- short stop. Continue for Galaxidi, is a small port situated on a natural double harbor surrounded by mountains. The deeper main harbour provides docking facilities for yachts and small fishing boats and is lined with restaurants, bars, and stores. The smaller harbor is Chirolaka.
Day 7: Last day, further visit of archaeological area of Delphi the center of the Ancient world - the "Ompfalos" Navel of the Earth - whose prestige extended far beyond the boundaries of the Hellenic world. On the slopes of Mount Parnassus (2450m), in a landscape of unparalleled beauty and majesty, lie the ruins of the Sanctuary of Apollo Pythios. Visit the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo and the Museum containing masterpieces of ancient Greek sculpture such as the bronze Charioteer and the famous athlete Aghias. Visit Castalia spring and the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaea. Return to Athens from the east side of Mount Parnassos, through small mountain villages, the ancient town Levadia (visit)
HIGHLIGHTS OF PRIVATE TOUR / Links for viewing our sites photos...
DEPARTURE - Daily: 8.00am. Return approx 18.00. on last day. Schedule depending weather condition and day light save hours in winter. Please read our Touring/Info*
Comment: See the main cultural, archaeological, historical and religious highlights of Greece. Visit most popular sites in Greece. Time is allowed for gentle walks, swimming and coastal relaxation. Most of the driving is on mountain and coastal roads, with majestic scenic views... Highly recommended.
Closed on Holidays: January 1st. March 25th, May 1st, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On Good Friday, the sites are open 12.00-17.00. Ps