The region of Epirus, occupying the northwest corner of the Greek mainland, has its own special beauty and cultural identity. It extends from the peaks of the Pindus mountains to the shores of the Ionian Sea. The Pindus range forms its natural north-eastern border, while dozens of other mountains, big and small, are scattered throughout the area, separated by only a few valleys.
Amidst these superb mountains and forests live the last of the Greek bears, wolves, mountain lions, wild boars and otters. Wild goats and deer still browse on its precipitous cliffs, where eagles and vultures nest. To the west stretches the Ionian Sea, a coast of a diverse blend of modern resorts, lagoons and river deltas, of which the latter two form an important system of wetlands.
Life in Epirus had its origins well before the dawn of history and the region witnessed all the ups and downs of Ancient Greece, Rome, Byzantium and the modern era, gaining a uniquely individual sense of history and culture.
Ioannina is the capital and largest town of Epirus, standing on the western shore of Lake Pamvotis, which is the site of a tranquil island. The city became a major commercial and intellectual centre during Ottoman rule. The old town within the city walls has picturesque narrow lanes flanked by traditional Turkish building and two mosques. Ioannina is a good place to arrange and organised trek in the fascinating Vikos gorge, as well as to many more remote areas of Epirus, such as the Pindus mountains. Attractions in Ioannina include the very important ancient site of Dodoni, with its colossal 3rd-century BC theatre, the acropolis, and the Sanctuary of Zeus. The theatre has been restored and hosts an annual Festival of Ancient Drama in July and August. The Zagorohoria, comprising 44 villages, lie north of Ioannina in an area offering some breathtaking views. An outstanding feature of the villages is the architecture, as the houses are built entirely of slate from the surrounding mountains, a perfect blending of nature and architecture.
Epirus, also known as the “land of many bridges”, is made up of the prefectures of Arta, Thesprotia, Ioannina and Preveza and occupies the northwestern part of the Greek mainland. A unique area, suffused with contrasting yet unrivalled beauty, which can be experienced in all seasons throughout the year, from winter to summer. An ancient land, which echoes the footsteps of the history that has passed over it. A vast open-air folklore museum replete with magnificent stone bridges, traditional settlements, works created throughout the ages by the hands of man which blend harmoniously with those created by nature itself: majestic landscapes, craggy mountains and gorges, the meeting place of three important rivers, breathtaking coastlines looking out onto the horizon.
The diversity in its climate, in combination with the significant differences in altitude from area to area and the soil’s variability, all come together to create the perfect conditions for the development of a rich, indeed often rare, local flora and fauna. This affords the visitor the opportunity to see uncommon native plants such as the buttonball, the crocus and the beautiful red lily, as well as to admire unique animal species including the brown bear, otter, wolf, wild goat, deer and wild cat. The legendary valley of Valia Kalda, Arkoudorema, Lyngos, Mavrovouni and the historical Tzoumerka, are all ideal for incomparable walks, while along the way one can admire raging torrents, gorges and sheer cliffs giving way to valleys and verdant forests, luxuriant plant life with red pine and beech trees, poplars, local grape varieties, oak and boxwood trees.
Everything in Epirus invites you to experience new and exciting challenges. Its crystal – clear rivers, at times calm and at other times raging, become the ideal place for endless rafting and kayaking, while its frozen peaks beckon the visitor to ski and hang-glide, with a panoramic view of the natural beauties below. Cycling, horseback riding and hiking, with nature as your guide and the rich vegetation as a backdrop, as well as waterskiing, diving and sailing in the vast turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea, rejuvenate every visitor and open up new sports and entertainment horizons for all.
No matter where you turn your gaze in Epirus, you’ll see monuments and important works: the magnificent ancient theatre of Dodoni, the famed Neromanteio (oracle of the Dead) full of myths and legends from the depths of time, the Venetian Fortresses, Nicopolis, large and imposing Byzantine and post – Byzantine churches, countless picturesque monasteries, which have become beacons of faith and orthodoxy for an entire people.
Gastronomy and Shopping
While in Epirus a visitor will have the chance to enjoy the local cuisine. The Eripotic pies are famous throughout Greece, prepared with artistry and traditional recipes by experienced cooks. We cannot omit the mastery of Epirots in baking various shorts of bread, in preparing roast and skewered meat, their local cheeses and of course the wines, which all fascinate the visitors.
Epirots have a long established reputation of being masters in all forms of arts and crafts. Many villages have grown into noteworthy artistic centres with brisk activity in the establishments of goldsmiths and silversmiths, in gold embroidery, woven fabrics, woodcarving, etc. These traditional arts and crafts have carried through to the present day, especially at Ioannina and Metsovo, where several notable master craftsmen are to be seen in their workshops. Special purchases here may include gold and silver jewellery, metalwork, knitwear, and the famous “flokati” rugs.
Nightlife and Entertainment
This is centered in main towns and resorts with several bars and discotheques. Nightclubs featuring Greek music are extremely popular with both locals and the tourists. Bars, music clubs and cinemas at Ioannina and Arta are very busy with young people all year round, because of the large student communities that reside there. The atmosphere here is relaxed and the spirits are high. Trendy bars and clubs that carry on until early in the morning, offering a great variety of styles and music preferences, can be found also in Parga, Preveza and other smaller town and villages.
The Vikos – Aoos National Park north of Ioannina is of great ecological value, containing a huge variety of ecosystems. Amidst these superb mountains and forests live the last of the Greek bears, wolves, mountain lions, wild boars and otters. Wild goats and deer still browse on its precipitous cliffs, where eagles and vultures nest.
To the west stretches the Ionian Sea, a coast of a diverse blend of modern resorts, lagoons and river deltas, of which the latter two form an important system of wetlands. The so called double delta of the Louros and Arahthos rivers in the Amvrakian Gulf provides the conditions for the formation of a rare ecosystem of water -and salt- loving vegetation as well as a great diversity of birds and animals (herons, dolphins, sea turtles etc.), many of which are endangered. The area is protected under the RAMSAR international convention.
The Epirus region is pleasant alternative for conference organizers, especially if the focus is on holding meetings on a creativity-inspiring environment away from busy crowded tourist areas. The natural beauty of Epirus and its surroundings, along with the traditional architectural style of the towns and villages in the area is certainly a refreshing change.
The technical infrastructure for conference holding is at its best here and it is being continuously modernised and upgraded, as Epirus is establishing itself at its natural position as a cultural bridge, connecting the European Community with the Balkans and the Orient.