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Valtos Beach - Parga - Click to enlarge

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To visit the Epirus picture gallery - click HERE

 

Video Presentation

Introduction

Epirus is a region of mainland Greece. It is bordered by Albania in the north, the Pindos mountains to the east and the Ionian sea to the west.

We visited in September 2004.

We have travelled on many flights to Greece where the flightpath tracks down the coast of Epirus. From the air it looked inviting and just waiting to be explored. This time we were descending as we passed over the coastline, able to spot many of the places we were later to visit.

Arrival

The main airport for the region is at Preveza (also known as Aktion). The majority of the people visiting this area head north to Parga and its surrounds or south to the island of Lefkas. The airport is quite spacious and the passage through baggage reclaim and onto the transfer coach was straightforward. Opposite the terminal building is a taverna. This can be used when departing as an alternative to waiting in the departure lounge.

Our destination was to be Parga. The journey from the airport takes just over 1 hour. The time has been significantly reduced in recent years by the opening of a road tunnel a few kilometers from the airport. This now takes traffic under the entrance to the Amvrakikos Gulf (an area of reed marshes and lagoons and one of the largest wetlands in Greece) and avoids the need for a ferry crossing.

The road up to Parga is a good one with wonderful scenery along the way. To the left the clear blue sea of the Ionian and to the right towering mountains.

The region of Epirus is one of the most mountainous in Greece, particularly in the northeast around Metsovo and Zagoria. In contrast the south is an important agricultural area.

It is a large region and difficult to cover in a limited time. Unfortunately there were quite a few places of interest that we were unable to visit (Arta, Nikopolis, Preveza, Zalongo and Ioannina to name but a few) preferring instead to laze around the pool. Well we were on holiday!

If you are feeling adventurous it may be worth considering an overnight stay in the north of the region. This would afford the opportunity of more easily visiting the areas around Zagoria (Vikos National Park) and Metsovo.Amstel

Amstel Cost of Living Index

Supermarket - 80 cents - 1€
Taverna – 2.50€
Many tavernas served wine from the barrel. This was usually very good and excellent value at just 2 – 3.50 € for half a litre.
Basic meal including house wine and a few beers – about 35€

Parga Town

Built around a horseshoe shaped bay, Parga is very picturesque. The town is cosmopolitan with plenty of Greek holidaymakers. Even in September it was bustling with people and this gave the town a lively atmosphere, particularly at night. Even so, the main nightly pastime was a good meal followed by a couple of drinks in one of the many cocktail bars.

Valtos Beach - Parga - Click to enlargeWhen it comes to places to eat and drink you really are spoilt for choice. International cuisine dominates many of the menus but there are also plenty of good traditional Greek tavernas. The town even has a Chinese restaurant.

Most tavernas and bars are located along the harbour front. Explore the back streets – many more bars and shops line the quaint cobbled streets. From the harbour area a stepped street leads up to the kastro. On the way up there are a number of café bars that offer excellent views back down to the harbour and across to the islet of Panagia. In the kastro area there is a further cluster of tavernas (all very good) this time with great views down to Valtos beach. Our particular favourites were both in this area. Filomila for excellent Italian food superbly presented. The service could be a little slow but the food was worth the wait. The Three Plane Trees was a more traditional Greek taverna, specializing in food cooked on a charcoal grill.

The Venetian Kastro is very impressive. Many of the walls remain largely intact and this added greatly to its overall visual impact. The views from the Kastro were worth the climb up from the harbour.

A ramped walkway from the kastro leads down to Valtos beach. Once passed the line of tavernas and up a steep section of the road the next turning to the left is the main road access to Valtos.

The town beach (Krioneri) gets very busy – even in September. There is also a smaller beach to the east known as Piso Krioneri.

Tickets for excursions to the river Styx (Necromanteion), Paxos, Antipaxos and even Corfu can be booked from the ticket office at the harbour. In 2004 the following excursions were available: -

Acheron River Styx - 10€
Paxos, Anti Paxos and the blue caves – 25€
Paxos and Anti Paxos – 20€
Paxos - 15€
Corfu – 35€ (2.5 hours – 5 hrs in Corfu)
Sivota – 20€

This is also where the water taxis leave at regular intervals for the local beaches of Valtos, Lichnos and Sarinkiniko etc.

Out and about

There are 2 main roads in the region:-

E55 – Preveza to Igoumenitsa

E951 – Arta to Ioannina

Both these roads can get very busy and are used by large freight lorries. All other roads that we used were easy to drive.

Maps – none of the tourist maps available seemed to agree entirely on the local road network but we did find that most of the main attractions were well signposted.

Here is a selection of the places that we visited. To view a map of the area click HERE

Anthousa

A small traditional village which nestles into the hillside some 3 kms north of Parga. Here you will find a couple of good tavernas plus good views down to the coastline.

Ali Pasha Kastro

Ali Pascha Kastro - Parga - Click to enlargeJust past the village of Anthousa, take the left turn signposted Trikorfo, this will lead you up to a car parking area. From here it is a short but steep walk to the kastro. There are commanding views of the area. It is also a popular spot to watch the sun set over the Ionian Sea. There is snack bar serving food and drink at very reasonable prices. If you don’t have your own transport there is an ‘imitation’ train that leaves from the town beach in Parga several times a day and travels up through Anthousa and onto the kastro allowing time for stops along the way.

Arillas

Here you will find an excellent sandy beach. A large taverna is located right on the beach front. To the rear is a campsite with particularly good facilities.

Sivota

An important yachting anchorage. A pleasant waterfront lined with tavernas and café bars. It seemed very low key and the sort of place for a quiet and relaxing holiday. There were many places to hire small motor boats. The main town beach is to the north around the headland. In the immediate area there are many smaller beaches and coves with good road access, most with a taverna or snack bar.

Plataria

A long sandy beach with a small harbour with café bars and tavernas at the northern end. This was another popular destination for camper vans. On the road from here to Igoumenitsa, we could see many good beaches but found that access by road was limited. Numerous campsites had been established and the roads led directly to the campsites.

Igoumenitsa

A major seaport and gateway to Greece, particularly from Italy. From a distance it looks fine with a spectacular mountain backdrop. However we decided not to go into the town.

Lichnos

A popular beach just a few kms to the south of Parga. Many people use the water taxi service from Parga. We visited by car and found it quite difficult park. Having found ourselves parked at the rear of a beach taverna we decided to have a meal rather than seek out a sunbed.

Ammoudia

A long and wide beach backed by a nondescript collection of small hotels and rooms. Lacked appeal.

Kerentsa

This was one of our favourite beaches. From the E55 turn right and follow the signs for Valanidorachi. The road then runs through an interesting area of agricultural land before reaching the beach at Kerentsa. The sheltered bay is almost enclosed by land and is backed by an excellent sandy beach.

Amoni and Alonaki

These beaches can be found a short distance to the south of Kerentsa. The majority of beaches in this area were easily accessible and a popular destination for the many camper vans that tour the region.

Ligia, Vrahos and Loutsa

Leaving the E55 at Riza the road descends to the coastline. Here you can discover many beaches such as Akrogiali (backed by a campsite) and Ligia until eventually arriving at Vrahos. A vast stretch of beach extends several kms all the way to Loutsa. Most of the facilities can be found at the Vrahos end.

The road down to Preveza stays quite close to the coastline and from Kastrosikia onwards is virtually one long beach.

Necromanteion of Ephyra (Oracle of the Dead)Necromanteion - Click to enlarge

Once believed to be one of the entrances to the world of Hades – the gateway to the underworld. If you travel by car, park in the village of Mesopotamos and then walk up to the site entrance. The crypt, an underground chamber carved in the rock is reached via a narrow and steep stairway – this could easily be missed. The site is quite small and without the services of a guide much of its significance remains a mystery. A good guide would help make the place come ‘alive’.

Acheron Springs

This was our favourite place in the Epirus region and we would recommend you visit if you get the chance.

If you want to walk up the river (also known as the Styx) to the springs you will need to wear appropriate shoes i.e. trainers or sandels that you don’t mind getting wet. We noticed that some people wore plastic ‘swimming’ shoes but the soles of these were too thin and the pebbles in the riverbed hurt their feet.

At the village of Gliki there is a wooden bridge over the river. On the left side there is a taverna with tables on the riverbank. You can park here and walk up the left bank or like us take the road on the other side of the bridge. After about a kilometre the road opens out onto a large wooded area which doubles as a car park. Here you will find another taverna with tables and chairs set out right down to the waters edge.

Acheron Springs - Click to enlargeThe most spectacular section of the river is from this point on. The footpath continues for another 100 metres or so and then you have to get your feet wet – the only way forward is to walk up the river. The current can be very strong and the water is icy cold. Our feet soon become numb. The gorge narrows and the cliffs tower high above on either side. Then there is a section that is too deep to walk through. So if you want to explore further you will need to swim about 10 metres. With my camera equipment this was not an option. Those people that did swim got very cold on the walk back down stream. So if you want to go all the way, we recommend that you take a towel and a spare T-Shirt and leave them on the rocks before the deep part of the river.

On leaving the springs, an interesting detour is to continue through Gliki and then take a right turn signposted to Soulli kastro. This road winds its way up through the mountains giving excellent views back over the Acheron delta and down to the springs. We then followed what appeared to be a brand new road (signposted Soulli). Unfortunately this came to an abrupt halt in a very picturesque river valley. After disturbing the afternoon peace of a couple of campers we did a quick u-turn and returned back up the mountainside. We failed to find the kastro.

Roman Aqueduct at Aghios Georgious

This is a lovely spot on the E951 about 10km north of Filliapiada.

Dodoni

Dodoni - Click to enlargeDodoni is spectacularly located and is dominated by the twin peaks of mount Tomaros, which give added drama to the landscape. The main attraction is the amphitheatre, which seated over 15,000 people and is apparently the largest one outside of Rome. It is also one of the best preserved. On our visit we were fortunate that there were more archeologists than visitors. This gave us plenty of space to roam around and just sit and wonder at the sights before us.

Springs of Louros

Located just off the E951. Pass through the village and up the hill – the lake is on the right. The bubbles from the springs can clearly be seen, as can the many frogs, which live in the reeds and vegetation around the edge of the lake. It was very tranquil.

Summary

Parga is the main resort of the region and is an excellent choice for a holiday. It is a good base from which to see the region. Car hire is a must as it gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Outside of Parga, tourism is very low key and It is easy to get off the beaten track – ideal for the more adventurous.

To visit the Epirus picture gallery - click HERE

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