About Greece Self Drive 1 - Enticing Epirus
Uncover traditional villages, hilltop monasteries and the incredible natural beauty of the Zagori region.
Activity code: GRFDEP01
Duration: 9 Days
This superb holiday is a full tour of the lesser-explored centre and northwest of mainland Greece, focusing on the beautiful region of Epirus. It includes some iconic locations such as Delphi and Meteora and simply stunning scenery. You'll visit a remote and less travelled part of Greece from Athens and to make the journey there and back more interesting we have included the world-famous site of Delphi and the monasteries of Meteora.
This recommended and very popular route is a tried and trusted itinerary which allows plenty of time to enjoy the countryside as you travel; however if you are looking for a modification of any kind then we can also offer a completely tailor made itinerary.
All our fly-drive customers receive a welcome pack on arrival in Athens which contains maps, hotel vouchers and a detailed programme with hotel information and confirmation of emergency contact details.
If you would like to visit these wonderful places without driving then we can supply a private driver for the duration of the tour.
Please contact us if you would like a completely tailor made fly drive itinerary. All we would need to know are approximate dates of travel, what standard of hotel you would prefer, and if there are any particular areas or classical sites which you would like us to include (or to exclude!) in your itinerary . Your fly drive can be as active or leisurely as you please. Staying one night at each stop allows the maximum amount of sightseeing; two or more nights will allow you to do side trips, whilst staying in one place will give you the opportunity to relax and explore the local area.
Why not extend your stay with a relaxing few days (or longer) on one or more of Greece's beautiful islands - please ask us for further information or suggestions!
Arrive at Athens Airport and collect your rental car; drive to your hotel in Athens.
In the morning leave Athens for Delphi. Drive across the fertile plain of Boeotia past the towns of Thebes, Levadia and the charming mountain village of Arachova, famous for its colourful carpets and rugs. Continue on to Delphi, the centre of the Ancient World, to visit the site and the impressive archaeological museum, containing the famous 'Aurige' (Charioteer) in bronze.
In the morning drive to Kalambaka through the villages of Thessalia. Today you have the chance to visit Meteora. The monasteries at Meteora rise dramatically out of the Thessalian Plain above the Pinios River as it emerges from the Pindus canyons. These gigantic rocks have been etched by time into a variety of shapes; grey stalagmites rising towards the sky, they appear as nature's gift to the pious who, driven by faith, opted for solitude and a life of worship. The monasteries with their wooden galleries crown the summits of these formidable pinnacles. Precariously hanging over the sinister abyss, with the Pindus range at their back and the vast plain and woods below, these hermitages form one of the most truly breathtaking sights on earth. These monasteries have offered security and solitude to the faithful during times of persecution. This was particularly true at the end of the Byzantine period and the start of Ottoman rule over Greece. The history of Meteora dates from the 11th century and the first monasteries were established in the 14th century. The most important of these is the Great Meteora. Of the 24 monasteries built in the 15th and 16th centuries only five are still inhabited today. All contain priceless historical and religious treasures.
A beautiful drive up into the mountains to visit Metsovo, one of the most picturesque mountain villages in Greece, built like an amphitheatre on one of the highest peaks in the Pindus range at an altitude of 1160m. Its 4000 inhabitants are sturdy highlanders, many of whom still wear traditional costume and proudly preserve their local heritage. Tradition is kept alive in the distinctive woodcarvings, hand woven fabrics and folk art. Also particularly impressive are the smoked cheeses and robust red wine. The village has many small Byzantine churches, well worth a visit. Above Metsovo spreads the magnificent 'Politses' plateau with Alpine scenery, forests of beech, fir and pine and the man-made lake Aoos.
A morning drive down to Ioannina, capital of Epirus, built on the shores of Pamvoti Lake. Ioannina is a fascinating city with history everywhere you look; a boat trip to the island is a must. Drive on to Zagorochoria, 46 traditional settlements bounded by Mounts Mitsikeli, Gamila and the Aoos River which form a distinct geographical and cultural region. This region is one of the country's richest in animal and plant life - many rare species are found in this area, including bear, deer, wild goat and jackal. Authentic stone architecture stands out in many villages, the houses having been built exclusively in local grey stone. In Eastern Zagori the most beautiful villages are Tristen, Grevenitsa and Frambouni. In Central Zagori the following villages stand out: Vista, Monodendri (the starting point for hikers wishing to walk the Vikos Gorge as far as the Voidomatis Springs), Tsepelovo and Skamneli. In the west are Mikro/Megalo Papingo, best known for their authentic stone architecture.
Spend the day enjoying the scenery in the Vikos Gorge National Park, the deepest and longest canyon in Europe. At the feet of the left wall of the canyon (1350m) is the source of the Voidomatis River where you can swim and you may also like to walk to the beautiful Spiliotissa Monastery. If time permits take a detour up to the village of Konitsa, just 12 km from the border with Albania.
In the morning leave this magical area behind and drive down to Karpenissi in the Evritania region (Central Greece), passing by small villages. This equally spectacular countryside with forested slopes and countless streams provides a very enjoyable and scenic drive. Karpenissi, the district capital is built on the foothills of Mount Timfristos (960m). Among the plane, fir and chestnut trees this town is an ideal starting point for excursions to nearby traditional villages like Korischades, with its excellently preserved stone houses, Mikro and Megalo Horio, Proussos, Domnitsa and Agrafa (its surroundings offer many secluded paths for those who like to walk).
Make your way back to Athens passing the towns of Lamia and Kamena Vourla.
Leisure time depending on flight departure time.
Drive to Athens Airport and drop off your rental car.
"I've been meaning to write since we got back from our trip to thank you for helping us to organise the 8 day self drive part of our longer trip to Greece. We had a fantastic three and a half weeks away, with all the different parts fitting together really well. Northern Greece was a revelation to us, absolutely stunning. All the accommodation was good, with really friendly and helpful staff.The directions you sent were excellent, although, as the Greeks don't seem to go much for road signs, we did have problems getting in and out of town (having stopped in town) onto the right road around Ioanina. Luckily my husband had a portable GPS that he uses for geocaching which proved very helpful. Apart from that it was fine!"
P Thomson, August 2016
"We just wanted to thank you both very much indeed for organising a truly fantastic walking holiday in Greece for us. Our self-guided walking holiday in Zagori National Park & Mt. Olympus was absolutely superb in every respect. The organisation, accommodation, food, walking & our local guide Alex were all excellent. I seem to remember asking when we first made contact if you could organise some walking for us in remote areas of Greece, away from the normal tourist haunts & having the “wow” factor. Well you certainly achieved those aims for us. The small hotels/guest houses you organised for us were all excellent & the food & welcome we received was second to none. I would thoroughly recommend the holiday as a brilliant means of seeing spectacular parts of Greece & staying in marvellous small hotels . The food was exceptional everywhere. The local people very friendly & welcoming. Thanks again for all your efforts to ensure that we both had a wonderful walking holiday & witnessed magnificent parts of Greece that we didn’t know existed."
R Tookey, Sept 2016