Live Fun Travel – The Best Places to Visit in Epirus, the Mysterious Corner of Greece. Most people have Greece on their bucket lists. With beautiful islands and historic cities, Greece is one of the most popular summer tourist destinations in Europe and the world. This mountainous country in the south of the Balkan Peninsula is well-known for its ancient heritage, rich culture, and breathtaking natural beauty. Greece has over 6,000 islands, the great majority of which are located in the Aegean Sea which lies between Greece and Turkey.
When we think of Greece, we usually picture the famous acropolis of Athens, the ancient ruins of the Peloponnese, crystal blue waters, and long sandy beaches. A seasoned traveler or even a regular tourist might be tempted to think that there’s not much left to discover in Greece. But nothing is further from the truth.
Join us as we take you to Epirus, a region in western Greece with a long history, and many places yet to be discovered.
The Land of Mountains, Ancient Kings, and Charming Seaside Towns
Epirus is a traditional geographic region and a modern administrative unit of Greece. It borders the Greeks regions of Western Macedonia and Thessaly in the east, Western Greece in the south, the Ionian Sea in the west, and Albania in the north. The Pindus Mountain range dominates much of Epirus, stretching from the Albanian border in the north to the Gulf of Corinth in the south. The mountains separate Epirus from the rest of mainland Greece. The capital and largest city of Epirus is Ioannina, approximately 410 km northwest of Athens.
During antiquity, Epirus was a rather remote place, dominated by pastoral peoples who inhabited the mountainous area. It became known when Pyrrhus became the King of Epirus and crossed the Ionian Sea to Italy to fight the Romans. A few centuries later, Epirus and Southern Greece came under the dominion of the Romans. The Turks and the Venetians also left their mark on the history of Epirus.
Welcome to Syvota, an Unforgettable Town on the Ionian Coast
Syvota is a small town with less than 3,000 inhabitants, on the coast of the Ionian Sea, about 25 km south of the port city of Igoumenitsa. The town became a popular destination for yachting, owing to its position on the indented coastline that features numerous small islands, inlets, and bays.
As soon as you arrive in Syvota, you will succumb to the charm of this photogenic little town. The architecture of Ionian Greece differs from what can be seen in other parts of the country, mostly due to strong Italian cultural influence. Unlike many other towns and cities in Greece, Syvota hasn’t yet been opened to mass tourism, so crowds won’t be an issue. The sunset over the Ionian is spectacular when viewed from the town waterfront.
Did we mention that Syvota has no less than 16 beaches in its vicinity? The most scenic of these is Bella Vraka, but we recommend you go and visit the more remote beaches like Megali and Mikri Ammos. You can hike, take a bus, or rent a car if you want to reach the beaches like Karavostasi, located further south down the coast.
Meet Parga: The Haughty Mistress of Epirus
Less than 30 km to the south of Syvota, lies Parga, the biggest town on the coast of Epirus. No visit to Epirus is complete without coming to Parga. At first, you’ll have the impression you found yourself somewhere in Italy. The town’s colored facades, buzzing narrow alleys, and numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants are a treat for the senses. There’s something to see and experience on every corner. Parga rose to prominence under the rule of the Venetians, who made it into an important outpost. The Castle of Parga built on a rocky outcrop jutting out into the blue waters of the Ionian was extensively rebuilt by the Venetians and can be visited today. Parga also became known for being the birthplace of Ibrahim Pasha, the famous Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Right across from the town’s waterfront is the small islet of Panagia. You can take a taxi boat to visit it or swim there from the nearby beach. A small Orthodox church can be found on the islet, safely hidden between pines and other foliage.
Immediately to the west of the town, on the other side of the hill is the famous Valtos Beach, where you can spend a perfect day at the beach or enjoy watersports. It takes only a couple of minutes to reach it by taxi boat but if you’re in the mood for a climb and don’t mind finding your way through winding alleys, you can also get there on foot. Parga is surrounded by olive groves and pines and enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. The weather stays warm until October but our recommendation is that you visit in September, when there are fewer crowds. Be sure to book your accommodation in advance as it’s not always easy to find a hotel room or an apartment on the spot, especially during the height of the summer season.
Go on a Boat Ride and Visit the Islands of Paxi and Antipaxi
You can buy a ticket to the nearby islands of Paxos and Antipaxos at any tourist agency in Parga. The boat ride takes about an hour. Most tours include lunch and let you go on a swim in some of the sea caves along the way. The more adventurous among you will love the thrill of jumping from the rocky cliffs towering over the azure waters of the Ionian. The beaches of Antipaxos and Paxos rank among the most scenic in the Mediterranean.
As you arrive at the small town of Gaios, on the western shore of Paxos, take some time to steep yourself into Greek mythology. According to an ancient Greek myth, the two islands came to be when Poseidon stroke the much larger island of Corfu with his trident, so that he and his wife can have some rest, far from everyone.
Pay a Visit to Preveza: The Southern Gate of Epirus
Preveza is perched on the southern end of a peninsula bordered by the Ionian Sea to the west and the Ambracian Gulf to the east. The town and the country surrounding it have a history that dates back to Antiquity. Right across the narrow strait connecting the Ionian Sea with the Ambracian Gulf is the village of Aktio, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated by the armies of Octavian. Today, there’s little to see that bears testimony to the great naval battle fought in the waters of the gulf but just to the north of Preveza you can visit the ruins of the Roman city of Nicopolis.
Much like Parga, Preveza’s architecture was heavily influenced by the Venetians. As elsewhere in Greece, you will experience characteristic Greek charm and enjoy the culture of hospitality that makes Greece such a great place to visit. The local cuisine will satisfy the tastes of even the biggest gourmands among you. Wine connoisseurs will be happy to try the local Debina wine made from white grapes native to Epirus.
Preveza is served by an international airport, making it the ideal location to start and/or conclude your visit to Epirus.
Our Final Word
Greece is an incredible destination, but get off the beaten path and explore the mysterious corners. You will not be disappointed and have a much better time.