Ok, unless you’re a “heimerinos kolymvitis” or winter swimmer then forget all about the thousands of islands you can visit in Greece… for now! Here, we start a series of amazing Springtime locations you can visit and enjoy in full bloom, actually blossoming with the kind of beauty you would totally miss during summer.
The first in our series is the mainland region of Epirus, in northwestern Greece. Here, we focus on the most idyllic springtime spots where you can enjoy nature in full bloom as well as a wealth of history and culture.
With a rich, multicultural history and traditional culture, a lively university community (with over 15,000 students), scenic medieval architecture and pretty landscapes, Ioannina is Epirus’ capital. It’s constructed on the promontory of Lake Pamvotis, the beautiful promenade of which, especially during spring and summer is abuzz with residents and visitors.
At night you can admire the dreamily-lit island at it centre and imagine you are hearing the haunting cries of the jilted harem women legend has it were drowned there by the Ottoman despot Sinan Ali Pasha, whose tyrannical rule (in its zenith between 1788 – 1821), with several remnants such as mosques and minarets, and the rebuilt wall of the Kastro, of his occupation remaining today.
In Ioannina, amble along pedestrian streets and visit the Old Quarter to admire impressive folk residences, mansions, and the Old Bazaar and the Its Kale Citadel. See the Museum of Ali Pasha and Revolutionary Era where Ali Pasha’ decapitated corpse was discovered, and for Greek history go to the Byzantine Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Ioannina and Epirus’ first ever school, the monastery of Saint Nicholas Philanthropinon.
Also, make the best of its contemporary scene – the lines of cafe-bars, restaurants (try fried frog’s legs, the local specialty) and stores that range from kitschy to quirky. If there’s time take a 10-minute boat ride to Nissi Island, funded in the 16th C.
Tip: Just 4km from Epirus‘ capital you’ll find one of the most beautiful caves in the Balkans, called Perama. A walk through it will take 45 minutes, as you admire stalactites and stalagmites as old as 1.5 million years old!
This is a springliciously gorgeous place in Greece where respect to beautiful traditional (World Heritage-protected) architecture spans majestically through such a wide – and naturally magnificent – area.
Made up of 46 villages, the lovingly – and respectfully – maintained mountainous region can be ideal for an overnight – but equally a few weeks – stay during which to relish nature whilst staying at elegant or simply folksy accommodations. Mikro (small, at 950m altitude) and Megalo (large, at 1,050m latitude) Papingo are the most well-known amongst them, as are Konitsa, Kipi and Monodendri, as well as car-free Dilofo, where you can now find stylish and cozy B&Bs and boutique hotels with excellent services, gourmet food, and even spa services.
In each of the picturesque villages, surrounded by alpine views and ample springtime greenery, you’ll find local kafeneia (traditional coffee shops) where you can sip Greek roasted coffee or tsipouro with a bit of spoon-sweet on the side, admire the grey slate-roof and wall residences, old Ottoman structures, churches with bright frescos and welcoming locals.
Zagorochoria is also known for the old stone bridges you will find along the way.
And…. Action! Adventure sports lovers will find their paradise in Epirus. Donned in a protective body suit, even amateurs can have fun rafting down the just-melted-snow, crystal waters of Voidomatisriver, where water levels reach their highest during spring. If you’d rather live on the dry side, hike along the river and take in the crisp, fresh air of the bird-filled forests. Acheron River is another great natural spot for rafting, hiking or even just a family picnic.
And then there’s the stunning Vikos gorge, 20km-long and named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Deepest in the World, surrounded by the Pindos mountains, where during spring, your six-hour walk through it will involve not only an amazing bout of exercise and memorable views but also gusts of aromas such as oregano, wild thyme (with purple flowers) and other Greek herbs piercing your nostrils. In fact, there are over 1,500 plant-species to Instagram and inhale along the way. Just a googling-moment away are numerous options for trekking/hiking/rafting excursions to ve planned and enjoyed.