Alpine Greece Tour

Overview

This is a  tour of the beautiful mountain villages and towns of Epirus; the itinerary is one of the many possible trips and can be adjusted according to your desires. We’ll travel through the heart of alpine Greece, full of history and beautiful countryside as well as some important provincial cities. The culmination of the tour is Mt. Olympus, the house of the twelve gods of antiquity.

From our experience the ideal tour is the hub and spoke. This means that you stay at two or three places and do daylong activities, adjusted to your tempo, returning to the same hotel. This is an escorted tour, with a driver in a mini-bus.

Itinerary

Click on the day tabs of the accordion menu to find details for every travel day by clicking the “Details” button. 

DAY 1

Arrive at Athens Airport; after exiting customs look for me holding Custom Greece Tours sign. Van  will take you Wyndham Grand Hotel or equivalent lodging. Check in and rest.

Meet in the lobby at 5:00 pm for short stroll and dinner at Plaka or nearby.

Hotel in Athens
Athens Restaurant

DAY 2

After early breakfast in Athens hotel depart at 8:00 am for Ioannina.

A trip along the north side of the Peloponnese, across the Corinth canal and the  suspension bridge of Rio-Antirio to the Pindus region. 

Corinth canal
Rio-Antirio bridge

After crossing the suspension bridge of Rio-Antirio we briefly pass Missolonghi where Lord Byron died. The town is also famous with its lagoon. Driving north we’ll marvel at a couple lakes on our left. After passing Amhilochia bay, we’ll see Vonitsa castle on our way to lunch stop  in Preveza (Actium).

Missolonghi lagoon
Amphilochia cove
Vonitsa castle
Preveza promenade

Preveza is a beautiful seaside town, at the opening of the Amvrakikos bay to the Ioanian sea. It is also famous for the battle of Actium,  where Octavian (known as the emperor Augustus after 27 BC), had a decisive victory over Mark Antony and became the undisputed master of the Roman world. To commemorate his victory Augustus later built Nikopolis (Victorycity).

Driving north from Preveza, past Arta we’ll arrrive in Ioannina, the largest city in the Pindus range. This will be our base for Zagoria region, Tzoumerka , and Metsovo. Our next base will be Trikala for Meteora and Mt. Olympus.

Ioannina - Epirus Palace hotel
Ioannina - Epirus Palace Hotel room
Ioannina - famous for fillo pies
Ioannina - Stoa Louli restaurant

DAY 3

After breakfast at hotel visit Ioannina sites and the island on the Pamvotida lake.

Ioannina is one of the most enchanting cities in Greece – beautiful and brimming with history, built on the shores of Pamvotida Lake which features a gorgeous promenade running by the water’s edge and an island at its center, complete with historic monasteries.

  • (optional) Perama Cave is  made of  horizontal caverns with more than  1 km long paths open to visitors. The various formations of stalagmites-stalactites, the combination and richness of colors create an incredible natural beauty.
  • Visit the historic centre, shaped by Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences.

  • Visit the Archaeological Museum of Ioannina is a must-see, with a collection spanning from the early traces of human presence in Epirus to late Roman times. One of the best exhibits is artifacts from the sanctuary of Dodoni, located just 25 kilometers from Ioannina.

  • Enter the imposing castle of Ioannina which is divided into four sections: the outer walls, the northwestern citadel, dominated by Aslan Mosque, the southeastern citadel (Its-Kale) and finally the actual old castle town of Ioannina.

  • Visit the Municipal Ethnographic Museum located inside the castle in the 17th-century Aslan Pasha Mosque. The museum has a small collection of artefacts such as costumes, pottery, jewellery, photographs and documents from the former synagogue.
  • Visit the Byzantine museum is located inside the Castle of Ioannina, in the southeast acropolis, known as Citadel Kale. In the seven halls of the Byzantine Museum, are exposed important finds of excavations, dated from Early Christian to the post-Byzantine period.

  • We’ll take a short 15 minute boat ride to Ioannina island and watch the city melt away as we get a perfect view of the Aslan Pasha mosque.

  • On the island, home to about 250 people, admire the unique architecture of the homes. From fishermen square walk the cobbled central street that leads to  Ali Pasha museum and Saint Panteleimon monastery. There are seven more monasteries on the island.

  • Return to the hotel for rest. Before going to dinner stroll along the lake promenade, admiring the beauty of the Lake Pamvotida.

We’ll have dinner in town and return to hotel.

Ioannina - Panoramic view
Ioannina - Castle panoramic view
Ioannina - Perama caves
Ioannina - Castle gate
Ioannina - Island street

DAY 4

After breakfast at hotel, depart Ioannina for Zagorohoria (or Zagori), one of the most pristine and rustic region in mainland Greece. In the spring time you hear the sound of birdsong and  wherever you look you see mountain slopes covered in spring blooms. Zagori is well known for excellent local cuisine and products and, above all, the warm hospitality of the locals, who are deeply connected to the land.

You need several days to truly experience Zagori with the stunning stone house villages, gorges, mountain peaks, churches and monasteries; and let’s not forget the outdoor activities. We’ll do our best to give you the essence of Zagori in a day.

A short drive from the hotel we’ll take us to Central Zagori and to Dilofo village, with its beautiful square and the church of the Dormition.

After Dilofo a ten minute  drive to Kokkoros (or Noutsos) bridge with the stunning rock, hanging over the bridge. Then we make a U turn and drive to Monodendri; from there a short drive will take us to Oxia and the stunning view of Vikos gorge; for hikers there is a  3 km path to Oxia. 

An altenate viewpoint is Beloi; from Kokkoros bridge we continue to Vradeto village. From there an hour hike, will take us to the viewpoint.

Next after a short lunch, we drive through Aristi village and over the  Papigko bridge to reach two of the most famous stone-built villages, Megalo and Mikro Papigko. Located an altitude of 950m and 1,050m respectively, they combine incredible landscapes with high-quality stays at top hotels and guesthouses. Enjoy spectacular views of the rocky Astraka Towers and the north entrance to Vikos Gorge. 

About 500 meters from Mikro Papigo you will see the ovires, a delightful natural wonder created by the Rogovos tributary. Here the water has sculpted a small smooth-walled gorge with natural pools. If you’re feeling adventurous, dive in (just remember the water was ice and snow not too long ago)!

Optional:

From the village of Vikos  you can hike the Voidomatis Springs Trail or if you have all day set off for the hike through the Vikos gorge which takes about seven hours. As you walk through the pristine natural environment of one of the deepest gorges in the world, you’ll be hit with the fragrant scents of myriad herbs. Thyme, oregano and wild mint are just a few of the estimated 1,500 different species of plants that grow along the gorge.

Dinner in Zagoria. Return to hotel in Ioannina for rest.

Dilofo village
Kokkoros or Noutsos bridge
Aristi village
Voidomatis river
Papigo street
Papigo taverna
Astrakas "Towers"
Papigo ovires (pools)
Zagoria - Vikos Gorge
Konitsa bridge
Aoos gorge

DAY 5

After breakfast at hotel, depart for visit of Tzoumerka villages.

Tzoumerka peaks form a mountain range in western Greece at the lower tip of the greater Pindos range. A total of 47 villages – known as the Tzoumerkohoria, exist on the slopes of the mountains, split between the regions of Arta and Ioannina.  There are many villages and settlements that we do not have time to see  in just a one-day trip. The Tzoumerka mountains can be approached from Arta and also from Trikala; you’ll visit a couple of the villages from Ioannina side.

First leg:

Village of Kedros and Petrovouni, with Kazania gorge. Then Prosilio  and Syrrako.

Total 3 hrs with small walks.

Syrrako is the “twin” of Kalarites, two beautiful stone-built villages whose distinct architectural character is protected by law. While the two are relatively close to one another, less than 2 km,  as the crow flies, one needs to travel 24 kilometers by road and spend almost a hour. Alternatively there is a beautiful hiking path that connects the two; it takes 1½ hours to complete. We can meet you at the end of the path, with your guide.

Second leg:

From Syrrako to Kalarites village; pass by the unique Kipinas Monastery. Continue to Pramanta and Agnanta, on the way to Katarraktis (waterfall). Start our return to Ioannina stopping for dinner at Zapata tavern. Total 4 hrs with stops and short hikes.

After dinner return to hotel in less than an hour.

Kazania gorge

Leaving Ioannina we approach the villages of Kedros and Petrovouni. Between them  is the gorge of Kazania (see aerial view below from Google maps; you can see Petrovouni on the lower right side).

Tzoumerka - Prosilio
Tzoumerka - Aracthos river rafting
Syrrako village
Kryopigi waterfalls
Kararraktis village

Additional places; extra time required.

Acheron springs
Red church Vourgareli

DAY 6

After breakfast at  the hotel in Ioannina  depart to visit Metsovo.

Metsovo - Valley and surrounding mountains

Metsovo, a mountain village in the Pindos area, northwestern Greece is a model of development with robust wine and culture-based tourism. Even though the the year’s average temperature does not exceed 10° C, this charming destination remains lively all year round thanks to the devotion of its people and the generosity of benefactors, who have helped maintain the local culture and capitalize on the natural beauty.

Due to its strategic position, Metsovo served as a crucial military corridor during Ottoman times, offering its forces safe passage from Epirus to the regions of Thessaly, Macedonia, Constantinople and vice versa. This strategic position lured Ottoman support, generating early economic growth and social prosperity.

A storage facility for woven fabrics, silverware and gold was developed in the early 18th century, establishing Metsovo as a prominent manufacturing and trading center. Trade flourished and reputable stores were opened at major commercial centers of the period – Venice, Naples, Trieste, Marseille, Vienna, Moscow, Odessa and Constantinople.

Metsovo Averoff Gallery
Metsovo Ag. Paraskevi church

Agia Paraskevi Cathedral

The church of Agia Paraskevi, apart from its spiritual and cultural character, is also a wonderful architectural monument, with a beautiful wood curved temple that impresses visitors.

Tsanaka Folklore Museum and Averoff-Tositsa Folk Art Museum

The Folk Museum of the Tsanakas and Venetis families is housed in a centuries-old upper-class mansion in Metsovo. The house itself is a prime example of Vlach architecture and beautiful to see.

Within the Museum you will have the chance to witness more than 300 years of Metsovo’s history, from kitchen utensils to traditional clothing to legal and other official documents in full display. You will also enjoy a beautiful collection of 19th century woven Metsovo art, a unique photo archive documenting daily life in Metsovo in various eras, and a tour through the house to give you a feel of how it was to live in Metsovo in the past centuries.

The Averoff-Tositsa Museum of Folk Art is housed in a 17th century, three-story, traditional stone mansion. Walking inside, you step into a time capsule of how life was in Metsovo for the privileged classes.

Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art (the Art Gallery)

The Averoff Art Gallery in Metsovo houses the works of some of the most important fine artists of Greece.

Its permanent collection boasts works by all the major Greek painters of the 19th and 20th century, such as Gyzis, Lytras, Volanakis, and Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, and is considered one of the most complete collections of Greek art from these two centuries.

There are also works by major Greek sculptors and printmakers which you can enjoy, as well as other temporary collections and exhibitions of art from other major museums of fine art and even private collections.

Katogi Averoff Winery

Metsovo is famous for the production of Katogi Averoff, a deep red Cabernet Sauvignon wine first brought to the area in the 50s by Averoff, who wanted “French wine in the slopes of Greece” to become a staple- and it did.

Visit the beautiful winery and go on a tour to see the great hall with more than 1200 wine barrels, learn of the winemaking process, and top it off by tasting the wine.

Church of St. George

You will find the Church of St. George on the northeast side of Metsovo, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountain ridge and walk in its garden with the giant trees.

The church itself is a beautiful example of a neo-byzantine basilica, with a wood-carved iconostasis and icons dating as far back as 1709.

Averoff Gardens

Stretching across an impressive 10-acre expanse, the Averoff Gardens near the Church of St. George are certainly not to be missed. In it, you will find a huge array of all the flora of the Pindos area, represented in an overflowing, painstakingly arranged composition for everyone to enjoy.

You will be surrounded by a miniature of the entire Pindos mountain ridge, with all its huge trees, all the way to the delicate flowers and bushes, while your children can play in the special area prepared for them.

Metsovo - Panoramic view
Metsovo - Village square
Metsovo stone architecture
Metsovo street

Continue from Metsovo  for Trikala taking the scenic route through Pertouli.

Pertouli is famous for its verdant meadows in the spring with activities such as horse riding, archery,  and mountain biking . In the winter the mountains are covered with snow; at more than 1,200 meters altitude, Pertouli becomes a ski center with slopes for children and adults, chalets for hot drinks and snowmobiles. Next we’ll visit the church “Dormition of Theotokos”, whose iconostasis dates back to 1822 and was painted by Epirot wood sculptors.  In the local market you can buy rare types of herbs, mountain tea, oregano, homemade liqueurs, spoon sweets, traditional pasta.

Then we will visit Elati, one of the picturesque villages of Pindos, built on the southwest side of Koziaka, where we will have the opportunity to take a walk in the village.

A short distance diversion we’ll takes us to the arch bridge and waterfalls of Paleokaria. Final stop before Trikala is  Pyli, famous for its  12th century Byzantine church of Porta Panagia, with the icon of the Virgin Mary “Desokratoussa”. Then we head for the stone-built bridge of Porta built in 1514 by Metropolitan Vissarionas, the second largest monolithic bridge of Thessaly.

Malakasi village
Kefalovryso village
View from Elati village
Kozakias mountain
Pertouli winter sunset
Pertouli meadows
Pertouli - Panagia church
Mouzaki - Panoramic view

After Pyli we arrive at Trikala and rest overnight.

Trikala - Aeton Melathron Hotel
Trikala - Aeton Melathron Hotel room
Trikala castle inside
Trikala during Christmas
Trikala - Katogi restaurant
Trikala - Rokario restaurant

DAY 7

After breakfast depart Trikala  to visit Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.

Meteora - Panoramic view

Rising from the Plain of Thessaly in mainland Greece, Metéora is a mesmerizing group of vertical sandstone  rocks, reaching up to 300 meters high, which time has carved into unique and beautiful formations. And perched atop these rocks are the monasteries of Metéora, which appear to hang in the air above the rocks, and are some of the most fairy-tale, magical attractions in all of Greece.

Built from 1356 AD onwards by monks from Mt. Athos, at their peak in the sixteenth century there were 24 monasteries. Today there are six still open and are now accessible by staircases and pathways cut into the rock formations.

Of the six functioning monasteries, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen and the Holy Monastery of Roussanou are inhabited by nuns while the remainder are inhabited by monks. The total monastic population of the Meteora monasteries in 2015 was 56, comprising 15 monks in four monasteries and 41 nuns in two monasteries.

From Monday to Friday one or two monasteries remain closed, depending whether it’s  the summer season (April to October) or winter season (November to March). During the weekend all 6 active monasteries are open to visitors from morning until late afternoon. 

For a one day trip to Meteora we can  visit 2 or 3 monasteries, whether in the morning or in the afternoon hours. Have in mind that in order reach the monasteries  you’ll have to climb steep footpaths and staircases, with approximately 150 to 300 steps! The monastery with the easiest access is the monastery of St. Stephen  that has no stairs at all, a perfect choice for people with mobility limitations.

Meteora
Meteora sunset

Return to hotel in Trikala  for rest, free time to stroll around the town and dinner.

Trikala -Kursum mosque
Trikala - Pineios river

DAY 8

After departing Trikala our first stop is Platamon Castle. Built near Tempe valley, on the old route connecting Thessaly to Macedonia, this once-imposing castle appears to date back originally to ancient times, but it acquired its present form  during the Byzantine period.

Next  stop and gateway to Mt. Olympus is the village of Litohoro, located at the end of the Enipeas gorge, with its fountain in the square and the Church of Aghios Nikolaos. After a day of climbing, we can join the town’s residents at the cafés and meze joints in the area known as Lakkos. Before heading up the mountain, we’ll stop by the Olympus National Park Information Center and use the center’s 3-D imaging system, touchscreens and comprehensive exhibition to learn about  idea of the mountain’s history, natural treasures, trails and peaks.

For a  first time visiting Mt. Olympus, this is a great trekking route to try, as it encompasses many elements, such as a breathtaking waterfall, a small hut in the mountains and a monastery dating back to the year 1542 where a single monk now resides. From the Prionia parking lot head down to the E4 trail that leads down to Litochoro. Along the way you’ll cross a wooden bridge with breathtaking, panoramic views of the mountain. At some point you’ll take a left to follow the path leading down to the Enipea waterfall. After your visit to the waterfall head back to the E4 for another 20 minutes before  coming across Agio Spilaio where Saint Dionysios lived as an ascetic. From here you can visit the Agios Dionysios Monastery, which is open from April to October. To return back to Prionia follow the E4 trail otherwise continue the trail down to Litochoro. 

Mt. Olympus

DAY 9

After “late” breakfast at Trikala hotel, depart for Athens. On the way we visit Volos and one of the near Pilion villages.

View from Makrinitsa
Portaria village

Accommodations

All accomodations will be at four or five star hotels/lodgings, vetted by us. They are very well appointed with comfortable beds is spacious rooms and with all amenities. You will know exactly what are getting, with all details written in the itinerary advice.

Click for info on “Hotel Star System in EU”

Transportation

7 person + driver van
Mercedes V class safety

The Mercedes V-class can provide very comfortable ride and safety for its passengers; add €70/day/group.

Prices

Price per person: €3,600 for 4 or 5-star accommodations; lower prices available for 3-star.

3,600 EUR equals 3,697 USD or 4,726 CAD or 3,053 GBP*

Click for info on “Hotel Star System in EU”

Price includes:

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • All transportation during trip
  • Accommodation at 4/5 star hotels/lodgings
  • Total of 9 overnight hotel stays
  • Breakfast and dinner; light alcohol included
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • Gratuities & tips

Price doesn’t include:

  • Airfare to and from home country to Athens; we can offer assistance
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas when applicable

 

*Currency conversion updated every day. Payments accepted in Euros, US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, and British Pounds; prices are fixed at the exchange rate on the date of each payment. Prices will be higher during peak season, i.e. July-August, Christmas-new Year week, and Greek Easter week.

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