Imagine a lesser-visited part of Greece, with tree-covered mountains and a unique cuisine. With historic cities and important archaeological sites. You’ll find all this, and more, when you visit Epirus, the “best kept secret in Greece”.
Why Visit Epirus?
I was on a press trip to discover the Cultural Route of the Ancient Theatres of Epirus, a touring route that has been developed around five classical theatres. The theatres and archaeological sites were fascinating, but I soon discovered that there is much more to Epirus than this. There is stunning countryside and towns brimming with history, and food to die for.
Situated in the far northwest corner of Greece, and bordering Albania, Epirus is very much the real Greece, an agricultural region where people live and work. Yet, with friendly locals, excellent hotels and numerous restaurants, tourists are always welcome. And it is a place for all seasons, with things to see and do all year round.
Ancient Theatres And Historic Sites
As the name suggests, the Cultural Route is based around the ancient theatres (four Greek and one Roman). But you will also find classical cities and the sites of ancient oracles. And there are museums where you can learn more about the region’s history. (Read more about the Ancient Theatres of the Epirus Cultural Route.)
Of course, there is lots of more recent history. The region of Epirus (the northern part of which is now in Albania) was historically occupied by Byzantium and then by the Ottoman Empire until the 19th century. Throughout the region you will find historic churches, castles and old stone bridges. The bridges, in particular, are likely to be the subject of some weird legends…
Coast And Countryside
Epirus is ideal for road trips and slow tourism. It has a long coastline with tall mountains, secluded beaches and panoramic views. The Ionian islands, particularly Corfu, are never far away.
Inland the hills are covered with lush vegetation, ensuring a colourful display in autumn. There are olive groves and citrus trees, lakes and rivers. Epirus is a hiker’s dream, with trails for all abilities. And the region is on a bird migration route, giving birdwatchers the opportunity to spot an incredible variety of mountain and coastal species.
Historic Towns Of Epirus
When you visit Epirus you’ll want to spend some time exploring the towns and cities with their historic buildings, bustling streets and lively bars and restaurants.
Set beside the beautiful Lake Pamvotida, Ioannina is the main town of the region. Close to the lake is the Kastro, a fortified area dating back to the Byzantine period. Within the Kastro you will find a castle and the 15th century Fethiye Mosque.
There is also a vibrant town centre and a number of museums to explore in Ioannina.
Arta also has a small medieval walled area, and some archaeological sites, including the Theatre of Amvrakia (the smallest known theatre of ancient Greece) and the remains of the Temple of Apollo. However the most impressive sights in Arta are probably the Byzantine churches of the Parigoritissa and of Agia Theodora, both of which are full of magnificent wall paintings.
And don’t miss the famous Bridge of Arta, built in the 17th century. Various versions of a legend attached to this bridge exist, but they all seem to involve the sacrifice (willing or otherwise) of the master mason’s wife!
Preveza is a small coastal town with a long waterfront and a yacht marina. It is best known for its alleys, a series of narrow streets jam-packed with bars, restaurants and buildings from the Ottoman period.
Food And Drink In Epirus
The region is characterised by its fresh food: fish and lamb, fruit, vegetables and olives. And – although tourist staples like moussaka and kebabs are available – you’ll also find authentic regional specialities. Read more about The Cuisine Of Epirus…
Practicalities For Your Visit To Epirus
- Epirus has an international airport at Aktion, near Preveza. There is also a domestic airport at Ioannina.
- Ferries run to Igoumenitsa from Corfu, Paxi and a number of Italian ports.
- The easiest way to get around is by hiring a car. There are two main motorways, making it easy to fit in visits to archaeological sites, beach and city all on the same day. Local roads are mostly good. You can also drive to the island of Lefkada via a long causeway.
- Epirus is a year round destination. Spring and autumn can be good times to avoid the summer heat. Be warned that it is sometimes wet in the autumn; however the rain did not spoil my trip!
- I stayed at the Byzantine Hotel in Arta and the Grand Serai Xenia Hotel in Ioannina. Both were excellent, luxurious and comfortable.
My visit to Epirus was sponsored by the Programme of Tourism Promotion of Epirus Region.