Epirus and Thessaly

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  • 1. Averoff Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    This fascinating museum of regional paintings and sculptures showcases the outstanding art collection amassed by politician and intellectual...

    This fascinating museum of regional paintings and sculptures showcases the outstanding art collection amassed by politician and intellectual Evangelos Averoff (1910–90), whose effect on Metsovo is still lauded today. The 19th- and 20th-century paintings depict historical scenes, local landscapes, and daily activities. Most major Greek artists, such as Nikos Ghikas and Alekos Fassianos, are represented. One painting known to all Greeks is Nikiforos Litras's Burning of the Turkish Flagship by Kanaris, a scene from a decisive battle in Chios. Look on the second floor for Pericles Pantazis's Street Urchin Eating Watermelon, a captivating portrait of a young boy. Paris Prekas's The Mosque of Aslan Pasha in Ioannina depicts what Ioannina looked like in the Turkish period. There is also a children's art room where fidgety youngsters can create masterpieces set for the kitchen fridge.

    Main Sq., Metsovo, Epirus, 44200, Greece
    26560-41210

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Tues.
  • 2. Dodona

    Ruins

    Vestiges of two of ancient Greece's important cosmological and cultural institutions, divining and drama, are here—you can see the space of...

    Vestiges of two of ancient Greece's important cosmological and cultural institutions, divining and drama, are here—you can see the space of the ancient oracle and the superbly preserved and impressive theater. As you enter the archaeological site, you pass the stadium on your right, built for the Naïa games and completely overshadowed by the theater on your left. One of the largest and best preserved on the Greek mainland, the theater once seated 17,000; it is used for summer presentations of ancient Greek drama. Its building in the early 3rd century BC was overseen by King Pyrrhus of Epirus. The theater was destroyed, rebuilt under Philip V of Macedon in the late 3rd century, and then converted by the Romans into an arena for gladiatorial games. Its retaining wall, reinforced by bastions, is still standing. East of the theater are the foundations of the bouleuterion (headquarters and council house) of the Epirote League, built by Pyrrhus, and a small rectangular temple dedicated to Aphrodite. The remains of the acropolis behind the theater include house foundations and a cistern that supplied water in times of siege. The remains of the sanctuary of Zeus Naios include temples to Zeus, Dione (goddess of abundance), and Heracles; until the 4th century BC there was no temple. The Sacred Oak was here, surrounded by abutting cauldrons on bronze tripods. When struck, they reverberated for a long time, and the sound was interpreted by soothsayers.

    On main Ioaninon–Dodonis road, signposted off E951, Dodoni, Epirus, 45500, Greece
    26510-82287

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8, including visits to Archaeological Museum of Ioannina and Byzantine Museum of Ioannina
  • 3. Kastro

    Castle/Palace

    One of Ioannina's main attractions is the Kastro, with massive, fairly intact stone fortress walls that once dropped into the lake on three...

    One of Ioannina's main attractions is the Kastro, with massive, fairly intact stone fortress walls that once dropped into the lake on three sides; Ali Pasha completely rebuilt them in 1815. The city's once-large Romaniote Jewish population, said to date from the time of Alexander the Great, lived within the walls, alongside Turks and Christians. The Jews were deported by the Nazis during World War II, to meet their deaths at extermination camps; the population of 4,000-plus around the turn of the 20th century is now fewer than 100. The area inside the walls is now a quaint residential area with a few hotels, cafés, restaurants, and stores. Outside the citadel walls, near the lake, a monument at Karamanli and Soutsou streets commemorates the slaughter of the Jewish community.

    Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece
  • 4. Megalo Meteoro

    Meteora

    Superlatives can be trotted out to describe Megalo Meteoro—the loftiest, richest, biggest, and most popular of the monasteries. Founded by St. Athanasios, the monk from...

    Superlatives can be trotted out to describe Megalo Meteoro—the loftiest, richest, biggest, and most popular of the monasteries. Founded by St. Athanasios, the monk from Athos, it was built of massive stones 1,361 feet above the valley floor and is reached by a stiff climb of more than 400 steps. As you walk toward the entrance, you see the chapel containing the cell where St. Athanasios once lived. This monastery, known as the Grand Meteoron, gained imperial prestige because it counted among Athanasios's disciples the Hermit-King Ioasaph of Serbia and John Cantacuzene, expelled by his joint emperor from the Byzantine throne. Dating from 1387–1388, the sanctuary of the present church was the chapel first built by St. Athanasios, later augmented by St. Ioasaph. The rest of the church was erected in 1552 with an unusual transept built on a cross-in-square plan with lateral apses topped by lofty domes, as in the Mt. Athos monasteries. To the right of the narthex are the tombs of Ioasaph and Athanasios; a fresco shows the austere saints holding a monastery in their hands. Also of interest are the gilded iconostasis, with plant and animal motifs of exceptional workmanship; the bishop's throne (1617), inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory; and the beautiful 15th-century icons in the sanctuary. In the narthex are frescoes of the Martyrdom of the Saints, gruesome scenes of persecution under the Romans. Note the kitchen, blackened by centuries of cooking, and the wine cellar, filled with massive wine barrels. The gift shop is noted for its icons and incense. From November to March the monastery may close early.

    Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
    24320-22278

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Tues. Apr.–Sept.; Tues.,Wed., Thurs. Oct.–Mar., Apr.–Sept., Wed.–Mon. 9–5; Oct.–Mar., Thurs.–Mon. 9–4
  • 5. Meteora

    Meteora | Historic District/Site

    The ancients believed the rock formations to be meteors hurled by an angry god. Ascending to 1,820 feet above sea level, these towers, in fact...

    The ancients believed the rock formations to be meteors hurled by an angry god. Ascending to 1,820 feet above sea level, these towers, in fact, owe their fantastic shapes to river erosion. But they owe their worldwide fame (and Hollywood moment of glory—remember the James Bond For Your Eyes Only climax?) to what perches atop six of them: the impregnable monasteries built here by pious hermits in the turbulent 14th century.

    Meteora, Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
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  • 6. Nissi Island

    Island

    Look back at the outline of the citadel and its mosques in a wash of green as you take the 10-minute ride from the shore toward small Nissi...

    Look back at the outline of the citadel and its mosques in a wash of green as you take the 10-minute ride from the shore toward small Nissi island. The whitewashed lakeside island village was founded in the late 16th century by refugees from the Mani (in the Peloponnese). No outside recreational vehicles are allowed, and without the din of motorcycles and cars, the picturesque village seems centuries away from Ioannina. Ali Pasha once kept deer here for hunting. With its neat houses and flower-trimmed courtyards, pine-edged paths, runaway chickens, and reed-filled backwater, it's the perfect place to relax, have lunch, visit some of the monasteries (dress appropriately and carry a small flashlight to make it easier to see the magnificent frescoes), and have a pleasant dinner. Frogs' legs, eel, trout, and carp (displayed live in large tanks) take center stage, although traditional fare is also served at most tavernas here. To cap off your visit, stop by quiet Aleion Square for a relaxed coffee and a leisurely game of backgammon.

    Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Ferry €2
  • 7. Tossizza Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    For generations the Tossizza family had been one of the most prominent in Metsovo, and to get a sense of how Metsovites lived (and endured the...

    For generations the Tossizza family had been one of the most prominent in Metsovo, and to get a sense of how Metsovites lived (and endured the arduous winters in style), visit their home, a restored late-Ottoman-period stone-and-timber building that is now the Tossizza Museum of popular art and local Epirote crafts. Built in 1661 and renovated in 1954, this typical Metsovo mansion has carved woodwork, sumptuous textiles in rich colors on a black background, and handcrafted Vlach furniture. In the stable you'll see the gold-embroidered saddle used for special holidays and, unique to this area, a fanlight in the fireplace, ensuring that the hearth would always be illuminated. The goatskin bag on the wall was used to store cheese, one of the area's most noted products. Wait for the guard to open the door prior to the tour. Guides usually speak some English.

    Metsovo, Epirus, 44200, Greece
    26560-41084

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Thurs.
  • 8. Agia Paraskevi

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The freely accessible 18th-century church of Agia Paraskevi has a flamboyantly decorated altar screen that's worth a peek. Note that July 26...

    The freely accessible 18th-century church of Agia Paraskevi has a flamboyantly decorated altar screen that's worth a peek. Note that July 26 is its saint's day, entailing a big celebration in which the church's silver icon is carried around the town in a morning procession, followed by feasting and dancing.

    Main square, Metsovo, Epirus, 44200, Greece
  • 9. Agios Nikolaos ton Filanthropinon

    Museum/Gallery

    Of Nissi's several monasteries, Agios Nikolaos ton Filanthropinon has the best frescoes. The monastery was built in the 13th century by an important...

    Of Nissi's several monasteries, Agios Nikolaos ton Filanthropinon has the best frescoes. The monastery was built in the 13th century by an important Byzantine family, the Filanthropinos, and a fresco in the northern exonarthex (the outer narthex) depicts five of them kneeling before St. Nikolaos (1542). Many of the frescoes are by the Kontaris brothers, who later decorated the mighty Varlaam in Meteora. Note the similarities in the bold coloring, expressiveness, realism, and Italian influence—especially in the bloody scenes of martyrdom. Folk tradition says the corner crypts in the south chapel were the meeting places of the secret school of Hellenic culture during the Ottoman occupation. A most unusual fresco here of seven sages of antiquity, including Solon, Aristotle, and Plutarch, gives credence to this story. It is not really feasible, however, that the school would have been kept a secret from the Ottoman governors for long; more likely, the reigning Turkish pasha was one who allowed religious and cultural freedom (as long as the taxes were paid).

    Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Donations accepted
  • 10. Ali Pasha Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    The main attraction on Nissi is the 16th-century Ayios Pandelimonos Monastery, now the Ali Pasha Museum. Ali Pasha was killed here in the monks...

    The main attraction on Nissi is the 16th-century Ayios Pandelimonos Monastery, now the Ali Pasha Museum. Ali Pasha was killed here in the monks' cells on January 17, 1822, after holding out for almost two years. In the final battle, Ali ran into an upstairs cell, but the soldiers shot him through its floorboards from below. (The several "bullet" holes in the floor were drilled there when the original floor had to be replaced.) A wax version of the assassination can be seen at the Pavlos Vrellis Museum of Greek History in Bizani, south of Ioannina. A happier (and significantly less dead) Ali Pasha, asleep on the lap of his wife, Vasiliki, can be seen in the museum's famous portrait. The Ali Pasha Museum also houses the crypt where Vasiliki hid, some evocative etchings and paintings of that era, an edict signed by Ali Pasha with his ring seal (he couldn't write), and his magnificent narghile water pipe standing on the fireplace. The community-run museum is generally open as long as boats are running; if the doors are shut, ask around to be let in. The local ticket taker will give a brief tour of the museum (supplemented by an English-language printed guide). A tour is free, but do leave a tip.

    Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece
    26510-81791

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3
  • 11. Archaeological Museum of Ioannina

    Museum/Gallery

    Located in the center of town, this museum is the best in the area. It houses exhibits from the greater Epirus, such as Paleolithic tools,...

    Located in the center of town, this museum is the best in the area. It houses exhibits from the greater Epirus, such as Paleolithic tools, inscriptions, statues, headstones, and a collection of coins, all presented in a contemporary exhibition space with multimedia facilities.

    25th Martiou Sq., Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece
    26510-01050

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4, €8 ticket valid for: Archaeological Museum of Ioannina, Byzantine Museum of Ioannina, Dodona
  • 12. Ayia Barbara

    Meteora | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    On the lowest rock—thought an appropriate tribute to male superiority by the early monks (who first refused to have women in the Meteora)—the...

    On the lowest rock—thought an appropriate tribute to male superiority by the early monks (who first refused to have women in the Meteora)—the compact monastery of Ayia Barbara was the only nunnery in the complex centuries ago. With its colorful gardens in and around red- and gray-stone walls, it is a favorite for picture-taking. Set on a large mesa-like rock, the squat building was abandoned in the early 1900s and stood empty until a new order of nuns moved in some years ago and restored it. The monastery is thought to have been founded in 1288 by the monks Nicodemus and Benedict. The main church has well-preserved frescoes dating from the mid-16th century. Most depict gory scenes of martyrdom, but one shows lions licking Daniel's feet during his imprisonment. The nunnery is accessible via steps and a new bridge.

    Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
    24320-22649

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Wed.
  • 13. Ayia Triada

    Meteora | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The most spectacularly sited of all the Meteora monasteries, Ayia Triada is shouldered high on a rock pinnacle isolated from surrounding cliffs...

    The most spectacularly sited of all the Meteora monasteries, Ayia Triada is shouldered high on a rock pinnacle isolated from surrounding cliffs; it is reached via rock tunnels and 130 stone-hewn steps. Primitive and remote, the monastery will also be strangely familiar: James Bond fans will recognize it from its starring role in the 1981 movie For Your Eyes Only (the famous winch is still in place, and you may be shown it in a tour by the one monk who lives here). According to local legend, the monk Dometius was the first to arrive in 1438; the main church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was built in 1476, and the narthex and frescoes were added more than 200 years later. Look for the fresco with St. Sisois gazing upon the skeleton of Alexander the Great, meant to remind the viewer that power is fleeting. The apse's pseudo-trefoil window and the sawtooth decoration around it lend a measure of grace to the structure. Ayia Triada is fabled for its vistas, with Ayios Stephanos and Kalambaka to the south and Varlaam and Megalo Meteoro to the west. Conveniently, a well-traveled footpath near the entrance (red arrows) descends to Kalambaka, about 3 km (2 miles) away.

    Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
    24320-22220

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Thurs.
  • 14. Ayios Nikolaos Monastery

    Meteora | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Even though Ayios Nikolaos Monastery is the first monastic complex you see and is accessed by a relatively unchallenging path, many travelers...

    Even though Ayios Nikolaos Monastery is the first monastic complex you see and is accessed by a relatively unchallenging path, many travelers hurry on to the large Megalo Meteoro, leaving this one relatively uncrowded. Its katholikon (church), built 1388, faces north rather than the usual east because of the rock's peculiar shape, and the rock's small area precluded the construction of a cloister, so the monks studied in the larger-than-usual narthex. Although the monastery dates from the end of the 15th century, its superb frescoes are from the 16th century and the work of Theophanis Strelitzas. Though conservative, his frescoes are lively and expressive: mountains are stylized, and plants and animals are portrayed geometrically. Especially striking are the treatments of the Temptation and the scourging of Christ.

    Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
    24320-22375

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Fri.
  • 15. Ayios Nikolaos Monastery

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Visit a restored 14th-century monastery, about a 30-minute walk (each way) into the valley. Two images of the Pantocrator (Godhead), one in...

    Visit a restored 14th-century monastery, about a 30-minute walk (each way) into the valley. Two images of the Pantocrator (Godhead), one in each dome—perhaps duplicated to give the segregated women their own view—stare down on the congregation. You can also see the monks' cells. The guided tour in English explains the 18th-century frescoes created in Epirote style.

    Metsovo, Epirus, 44200, Greece
    26560-41390

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Donations accepted
  • 16. Ayios Stephanos

    Meteora | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    At the far end of the eastern sector of the Meteora is Ayios Stephanos, the oldest monastery. According to an inscription that was once on the...

    At the far end of the eastern sector of the Meteora is Ayios Stephanos, the oldest monastery. According to an inscription that was once on the lintel, the rock was inhabited before 1200 and was the hermitage of Jeremiah. After the Byzantine emperor Andronicus Paleologos stayed here in 1333 on his way to conquer Thessaly, he made generous gifts to the monks, which funded the building of a church in 1350. Today Ayios Stephanos is an airy convent, where the nuns spend their time painting Byzantine icons, writing, or studying music; some are involved in the community as doctors and professors. The katholikon has no murals but contains a carved wooden baldachin and an iconostasis depicting the Last Supper. You can also visit the 15th-century frescoed church of Ayios Stephanos as well as a small icon museum. A permanent bridge has replaced the movable one that once connected the monastery with the hill opposite, making this perhaps the most easily accessible, with a tarmacked road passing not far below the entrance.

    Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
    24320-22279

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Mon.
  • 17. Byzantine Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    Within the larger citadel is the fortress, called Its Kale by the Turks, where Ali Pasha built his palace; these days the former palace serves...

    Within the larger citadel is the fortress, called Its Kale by the Turks, where Ali Pasha built his palace; these days the former palace serves the city as the Byzantine Museum. The museum's small collection of artworks, actually almost all post-Byzantine, includes intricate silver manuscript Bible covers, wall murals from mansions, and carved wooden benediction crosses covered in lacy silver, gathered from all over the countryside of Epirus. It's carefully arranged in the front half of the museum with good English translations. The second half of the museum houses an important collection of icons and remarkable iconostases, painted by local masters and salvaged from 16th- and 17th-century monasteries. The most interesting section is devoted to silver works from Ali Pasha's treasury from the seraglio. Within the fortress grounds is a very pleasant little café—why not enjoy some light snacks and desserts as you take in the views of the lush gardens around the Byzantine Museum and the impressive old ruins? Nearby is the Fethiye (Victory) Mosque, which purports to contain Ali Pasha's tomb.

    Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece
    26510-39580

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Tues.
  • 18. Dormition of the Virgin

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Burned by the Germans during World War II, Kalambaka has only one building of interest, the centuries-old cathedral church of the Dormition...

    Burned by the Germans during World War II, Kalambaka has only one building of interest, the centuries-old cathedral church of the Dormition of the Virgin. Patriarchal documents in the outer narthex indicate that it was built in the first half of the 12th century by Emperor Manuel Comnenos, but some believe it was founded as early as the 7th century, on the site of a temple of Apollo (classical drums and other fragments are incorporated into the walls, and mosaics can be glimpsed under the present floor). The latter theory explains the church's paleo-Christian features, including its center-aisle ambo (great marble pulpit), which would usually be located to the right of the sanctuary; its rare synthronon (four semicircular steps where the priest sat when not officiating) east of the altar; and its Roman-basilica style, originally adapted to Christian use and unusual for the 12th century. The church has vivid 16th-century frescoes, the work of the Cretan monk Neophytos, son of the famous hagiographer Theophanes. The marble baldachin in the sanctuary, decorated with crosses and stylized grapes, probably predates the 11th century.

    Kalambaka, Thessaly, 42200, Greece
    24320-22752

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €1.50
  • 19. Katogi-Averoff Winery

    Winery/Brewery/Distillery

    Enjoy a tour around this important winery, with 1,200 oak barrels, and discover the wine-making process, animated with video projections and...

    Enjoy a tour around this important winery, with 1,200 oak barrels, and discover the wine-making process, animated with video projections and sound and art installations. The journey ends in the wine-tasting area, so just try leaving without a few bottles of the exquisite, full-bodied, musky red Katogi-Averoff wine. For those who can't seem to tear themselves away, booking into the four-star Katogi-Averoff Hotel is a must (pardon the pun).

    Metsovo, Epirus, 44200, Greece
    26560-31490

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed weekends, last tour starts at 3 pm, Book at least one day in advance
  • 20. Kostas Frontzos Museum of Epirote Folk Art

    Museum/Gallery

    In a finely restored Ottoman house, this small museum has a collection of richly embroidered local costumes, rare woven textiles made by the...

    In a finely restored Ottoman house, this small museum has a collection of richly embroidered local costumes, rare woven textiles made by the nomadic tent-dwelling Sarakatsanis, ceramics, and cooking and farm implements.

    Michail Angelou 42, Ioannina, Epirus, 45221, Greece
    26510-23566

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2, Closed Sat. and Sun.

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