Greentraveller's Guide to Zagori & the Epirus Coast, Greece
Words by James Stewart, videography by Hannah Gurney.
Artwork for Greentraveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards
Foreword by Christina Kalogera, Director Greece National Tourism Organisation, UK & Ireland
Greece has been a sea and sun destination favourite for British holidaymakers for decades with the Greek islands and their many obvious attractions often grabbing the limelight. But Greece has much more to offer. Many of the mainland destinations still remain undiscovered despite the fact that they are just as welcoming, just as beautiful and have as many cultural and historic attractions.
Zagori within the region of Epirus has one of the most dramatic terrains in Greece and is one of the most sought after destinations for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Pack your rafting gear and head for Voidomatis River and explore the stunning Vikos Gorge. Visitors can walk through the cobbled streets of the 46 stone-built Zagori villages and go mushroom picking in nearby oak and fir tree forests, while culture lovers can travel through time at the Dodoni and Nekromanteion archaeological sites.
The combination of the pretty Epirus coastline with its mesmerising white sand beaches along the Ionian Sea with the rugged, lush mountainous landscape of the Zagori creates a striking backdrop for holidaymakers looking for something completely different.
This Greentraveller’s Guide to Zagori and the Epirus Coast gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase another mainland gem of our country.
What our writer discovered in Zagori & The Epirus Coast
Zagori is a little-known gem of a place in north west Greece. While many visitors to Greece fixate on the islands, it’s this wild, wooded region in the Pindos mountains that many Greeks treasure. It's spectacularly beautiful, with scenery in the Vikos-Aoös National Park like a lost world and many traditional stone villages. At the heart is the awesome Vikos Gorge, carved by the Voidomatis river over a half a million years. After the scenery, it’s the tranquility you notice: only 3,700 people live in Zagori’s 385 square-mile area. Escapism is guaranteed: mornings are soundtracked by birdsong and sheep bells; brown bears and chamois roam in the alpine meadows.
James Stewart discovers some of Zagori's finest ingredients – from crumbly feta to mountain lamb – and the passionate producers behind them, and forages for wild mushrooms
James Stewart treks through Greece's Pindos mountains – a walker's paradise in little-known Zagori – home to the dramatic Vikos Gorge and the elusive chamois goat
Stay, Eat, See & Do
Our pick of places across Zagori and The Epirus Coast
Written by James Stewart
Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay
Blue = Places to eat
Yellow = Attractions
Purple = Activities
Click on the square brackets top right of map to reveal expanded map
- Zagori boasts the deepest gorge in the world
- Drakolimni (Dragon Lake) is the name of several alpine lakes that according to local folktales used to be inhabited by dragons
- Voidomatis River is considered to be one of Europe's cleanest rivers
- Zagori is considered a mushroom heaven, with 86 species of mushroom recorded in the area
- The shrine of Dodona is consideredd the oldest oracle in Greece, possibly dating back to the second millennium BCE according to Herodotus
- The name Epirus is derived from the Greek word Ḗpeiros meaning "mainland"
- The Castle of Parga was built in the 11th century to protect residents from pirates and the Turks
- There are more than 300 walking trails to choose from in the area
Map of Zagori & The Epirus Coast
Getting to Zagori and The Epirus Coast
Getting to Zagori
Ioannina, in southwest Zagori, is the main transport hub serving the Zagori area and there are buses to the town from most major towns and cities in the country, whether direct or indirect. There are various onward bus routes to the various Zagori villages.
KTEL buses operate regular services from Athens to Ioannina every 90 minutes or so at 6.30, 8.30, 11.00. 13.00, 15.30, 17.00, and 22.30. There are fewer services on Saturday and Sunday. The journey time is approximately 7 hours.
If you're travelling from Thessaloniki, KTEL run fairly regular services buses to Ioannina leaving every few hours between 8am and 20.30, with a journey time of about 3.5hrs.
Onward travel to Zagori
If you are planning explore Zagori and its 45 traditional villages, there are buses that run from Ioannina into the heart of the region. This is, however, a very mountainous region with limited public transport but with a little planning it should be possible to travel to your destination without a car.
Getting to Greece from the UK
By plane: there are direct flights from the UK to Athens and Thessaloniki year round, and flights to Aktion near Preveza during the summer months.
It is possible to travel to Greece from the UK by train via Bari in Italy, then by ferry to either Patras or Igoumenitsa on mainland Greece, see: seat61.com/greece
Book your travel from the UK to Greece by train and ferry
Getting to the Epirus Coast
The busy town of Preveza, to the south of the region, is the largest town in the area. There are various bus and train options from both Athens and Thessaloniki, depending on how long you've got and whether you want to break the journey up.
By train and bus: the twice-daily train will get you as far as Patras (3hrs), about 250km west of the capital; from there you can pick up a bus to continue on to Preveza (2hrs 40mins). By bus: KTEL run direct services to Preveza every four hours from Athens, with a journey time of around 6hrs.
KTEL run direct buses to Preveza twice a day (5hrs). By train and bus: take the hourly train as far as Larissa (1.5hrs), then change at Arta to continue on to Preveza (4hrs).
Onward travel to the Epirus Coast
There are buses from Preveza to various points along the Epirus Coast, as well as further inland, although services are limited and infrequent.