Rugged mountains, hidden bays, traditional villages, natural beauty and exhilarating activities: meet the myriad faces of Epirus
In Epirus, the people seem to blend in with the land. You’ll meet a different Greece at this crossroads of civilisations and landscapes in the west of the country, between the Pindos Mountains and the Ionian Sea. Peaks, gorges, rare plants and animals, lakes, rivers and an indented coastline of sandy beaches complement the ancient ruins of Dodoni and dozens of medieval castles, monasteries, arched bridges and traditional stone-built villages.
The destinations are many and varied. From the picturesque Zagorohoria villages, Metsovo and Tzoumerka, to atmospheric Ioannina and the summer resorts of Parga and Syvota, Epirus will welcome you at any time of year and deliver on all its promises.
Epirus was first inhabited in the Paleolithic times. The settlers of that era were mainly involved in hunting while others were pastors who brought with them the Greek language and built tombs to bury their leaders. Many settlements and ancient findings from the Mycenaean times were also found in Epirus.
After the Mycenaean civilization declined, Epirus was regarded as the right location for the Dorian invasions (1100 -1000 BC) in Greece. The original inhabitants were driven southwards of the Dorians and since then, three Greek-speaking tribes emerged, the Thesproti, the Molossi, and the Chaones. During antiquity, these tribes who became the locals of Epirus lived in small villages, in contrast to other areas like Athens, Sparta, and Corinth.
Epirus was located at the north end of the Greek land and that brought many invasions from the north, but due to the existence of the sanctuary of Dodoni, the area was very important for the Ancient Greek world. The historical writings of Thucydides and Strabo describe Epirotes as barbarians but for others like Pausanias, they are just Greeks. In the 3rd century BC, Epirus was a Confederate state with its own representatives. However, during the war between the Macedonians and Rome, Epirus kept a neutral course but, in the 3rd, Macedonian War (171-168 BC) the Moloseoi fought with the Macedonians, while Chaones and Thesprotoi took the side of the Romans.
In 370 BC, the efforts of Aeacidaes to expand the Mollosian state gained impetus from the marriage of Philip II of Macedon to their princess, Olympias. In 334, while Alexander the Great, son of Philip and Olympias, crossed into Asia, his uncle, the Molossian ruler Alexander, invaded south Italy, where he was eventually checked by Rome and killed in battle in 331. Upon the death of Alexander the Molossian, the Epirote tribes formed a coalition on an equal basis but with the Molossian king in command of their military forces.
The greatest Molossian king of this coalition was Pyrrhus (319-272). He and his son Alexander II ruled as far south as Acarnania and to central Albania in the north. The military adventures of Pyrrhus overstrained his state's military resources, but they also brought great prosperity to Epirus. He built a magnificent stone theatre at Dodona and a new suburb at Ambracia (now Arta), which he made his capital. This was the most important and prosperous period in the history of Epirus.
According to the history of Epirus, with the Roman conquest, Epirus was no longer independent. In 146 BC, it became a Roman province with the name Palea Epirus (Old Epirus). The littoral zone became an important trading center and the construction of road network enhanced the economy of the area. Epirus was part of the Byzantine Empire and after the fall of Constantinople from the Crusades in 1204, Michael Komninos took over Epirus and founded the independent state of Epirus, with Arta as its capital. In 1318, Serbs and Albanians overran the area. In 1359, the independent state was under the Byzantine rule but not for long.
During the Turkish occupation, Epirus suffered from deforestation forcing its inhabitants to abandon their houses and move in other areas in search of a better life. However, some towns were still under Venetian rule until the end of the 15th century when the Ottoman occupation ended in Epirus. Epirus became the launching area for many outbreaks. From the 17th century and on many traders from Ioannina, Metsovo and Zagoria contributed to the cultural development of the area with the rising of many school buildings and libraries. In fact, Epirus has been one of the places greatly associated with the Neoclassical Enlightenment.
In 1821, with the burst of the Greek revolution, Epirotes had an active role in the battles, inside as well as outside the borders of Epirus. By the end of the Greek revolution in 1913, Epirus was officially united with the new Greek state leaving minorities on both sides of the Greek-Albanian borders. The history of Epirus travels through many phases from the birth of the Greek world to modern times.
The weather conditions of Epirus vary depending on the region while it takes up a huge area from the mountains of Pindus to the coastal areas of Arta and Preveza. The mountainous regions of Epirus are characterized by real heavy winters with a lot of snow and rain which lead to low temperatures (even -11°C) in many regions of Zagoria. The summer in these regions is cool and rain often occurs.
The coastal hand plain areas of Epirus are characterized by a milder climate where temperatures are rarely below zero. The summer months are hot and the weather is the typical Mediterranean with not so much rain but lots of sunlight. During the rainy days, Epirus reveals some strong aromas coming from nature.
Stone-built villages in a beautiful and rugged mountain setting make this area a must-see. • Mikro and Megalo Papingo, • Aristi and Monodendri are among the best known. • “Kataraktes” Waterfalls • Voidomatis River and the Aristi Bridge • “Kolimbithres” • The Kalogeraki Bridge
The rare natural phenomena here will accompany you as you walk • the Vikos Gorge and the Aoos Canyon and contemplate the sheer heights of Mt Tymfi.
VIKOS-AOOS NATIONAL PARK
Left over from the Ice Age: • the Dragon Lakes are two kilometres above sea level. You’ll find the largest ones at Smolikas and Gamila.
• The Aoos and Voidomatis rivers meet at this famous bridge. •North Konitsa, from the M astorohoria (Pyrsogianni) to Sarantaporos, Bourazani and the Molyvoskepasti nunnery.
This most famous Vlach village, at an altitude of 1,160m and framed by the impressive mountain scenery of the Pindos Mountains, is a living museum of • Traditional handicrafts, • Dairy products and wine.
A vibrant city, with dozens of sights, places to eat and drink, good hotels and an attractive old town that is a delight to visit in any season. You must definitely visit • Lake Pamvotis, Ioannina’s famous island, full of Byzantine monasteries.
Two beautiful old stone villages that face each other like mirror images
SYRRAKO & KALARRYTES
Two liquid giants falling from a height of 125m! • The Waterfalls of Theodorianon – “Souda” • Plaka Bridge • Horseback Riding along the Arachthos River • Rema Marks • The Glistra Cable Bridge • The Kipinas Monastery
Take a stroll on the lively esplanade of this port-town in Epirus, at the mouth of the Amvracian Gulf. • Beautiful beaches
Local cuisine mainly uses ingredients found on the mountain and depends mostly on:
Stock farming products: milk, yogurt, cheese, goat and sheep meat. Milk is the basic ingredient in the Epirus cuisine. It is used for the production of butter and buttermilk, yogurt and the famous local cheeses. Butter is another essential ingredient in the region’s cookery as olive trees do not thrive on this land.
The great variety of local cheeses is owed to the area’s fresh goat and sheep milk and it is the result of a long tradition in cheese-making. Local feta cheese is really top quality; it is produced within a short distance from the ancient Delphi Oracle and the Dodoni amphitheatre and it ranks high among the top fetas in Greece. Other types of cheese include the smoked metsovone cheese, anthotyros (an almost salt-free cheese) or the spicier vasilotyri. You can also try galotyri, an incredibly creamy strong-tasting cheese. The hard and spicy kefalotyri is made from sheep and goat milk, and it is usually eaten grated on food. The salt-free Manouri is made from sheep milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk.
LOCAL FETA CHEESE
Pies hold a central place in the region’s gastronomy and they are prepared either as a weekday meal or as a special dish on feast days. n Epirus, practically everything can be made a pie: meat, fish, macaroni, greens, vegetables etc.
There are green pies, cheese pies, milk pies, leek pies, cabbage pies, minced meat pies, mushroom pies, macaroni pies and a host of other tasty culinary creations made from simple and inexpensive raw materials. “Spoon sweets”
Small bays and hidden beaches
Rugged mountains and gorges destined to be explored
The culinary specialities of Epirus
Ancient Theatres and Historic Sites (The ancient city of Nicopolis etc.)
The mythical gate to Hades’ empire
Suitable for all tastes (as a family, a couple, a group of friends or solo)
One of Europe’s last remaining populations of wild brown bears
For mountaintop monasteries and monolithic mosques
It’s one of the cheesiest places in Greece (literally)
You can get to the Greek islands – and even Italy – with ease
A break that won’t break the bank