Nafpaktos - Parga - Ioannina - Meteora
Crossing from the Peloponnese to Mainland Greece can be done either over the new Rio- Antirrion bridge (toll: 12.90 Euros) or with the small ferry boats which are slower but cheaper – 11 Euros for a campervan and 2 people. Your first stop should be at historical Nafpaktos - 11 Kms from Antirrion. You can, of course, stay in Nafpaktos overnight but if you cannot find a place in the western corner of the beach road, you can park up near the castle. Have dinner looking out over the lights of the town and harbour.
The beautiful town of Nafpaktos is a charming destination located near the Gulf of Corinth. It is set on an exuberant vegetable slope, creating the perfect combination between mountain and sea landscapes. It is an ideal place for those seeking alternative tourism and it can be visited all year round. Over the last years, Nafpaktos has become more and more popular, attracting a big number of visitors in Winter. One of the reasons of this tendency, apart from the attractive city sights, is that at only 30 km lies one of the most beautiful mountainous regions of the Western Greece. There are a lot of places to visit in this nice city. Its long history and tradition is evident in its narrow cobbled streets and the castle, which is unique in Europe. In 1571 Nafpaktos became famous for one of the most important battles in Naval history, the Battle of Lepanto, when the Ottoman Empire’s fleet was destroyed by allied European powers, cutting off the threat to Europe.
The Castle that sits on the top of a hill dominates the landscape and is a popular attraction for tourists. It was built in 1407. This is an excellent opportunity to take a walk up to the castle, admire the panoramic views to the sea and enjoy beautiful sunsets. There is also the historic center of the city and the Botsaris mansion which are also nice places to visit. Visiting the fort of the city is a fascinating experience. You will be able to see how people from different eras built on top of preexisting structures. In ancient times the walls were just large stones. In the period of the Crusaders, on the top of the ancient walls, people built new fortifications and added a harbor inside the walls. Time passed by and the Ottoman Empire occupied the place. The Turks built on top of the Norman walls. These changes continued along time; a walk around the harbor is an enjoyable way to see the rests of this fort and end the day at one of the picturesque cafes of the area. Nafpaktos has many beaches both in the town and the surrounding areas and offers a variety of places where to have a nice time in the evening. The port of Nafpaktos divides the beachfront into two beaches; the beach of Psani in the Western area and the beach of Gribovo in the eastern. Both of them are organized, very clean and offer many convenient facilities, facts that have awarded them the Blue Flag.
From Nafpaktos follow the path Messonghi - Agrinio - Amfilochia - Vonitsa - Aktion - Preveza. When you reach Preveza follow the signs for Igoumenitsa where you see the sign for Parga. The lovely little town of Parga, definitely one of the most beautiful towns in Greece, is situated in a secluded bay of the Ionian Sea, in the Epirus region of Greece. The position of Parga, with its houses built amphitheatrically from the coast up to the top of a mountain, gives this small town its picturesque quality. Visitors will be charmed by Parga which, although located on the mainland, has an island-like ambiance to it. One of the most remarkable sites of Parga is the Medieval Castle built in 14th century with the help of the Normans when the locals asked for protection against the Ottoman Turks. The castle is situated at the north side of the port and it offers a wonderful view. A small green island with a white chapel stands at the entrance of the port and a religious festival takes place every August to honor this chapel. The beaches around Parga are a pole of attraction for the thousands of visitors coming every year. Valtos, Kryoneri, Lihnos and Sarakiniko are some of the most beautiful in the region. A lovely beach can also be found in a walking distance from the city centre. Among others, there are several secluded beaches with natural beauty and a couple of caves that can be reached by boat. Don’t miss the change to visit the small fishing village of Sivota 20 kilometers from Parga. Sivota is such a beautiful place, it is quite conceivable you may wish to come back and stay forever.
From Parga you can drive via Paramithia and the new motorway “Egnatia Odos” to your next stop Ioannina. Ioannina is the largest city of Epirus and capital of the prefecture. Built on the northwest side of lake Pamvotida, Ioannina is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece, with an important course in the nation’s history. The modern buildings and shopping centers coexist with the well preserved buildings of the beautiful old city (around Kastro), the imposing monuments, the picturesque neighborhoods, the popular-art workshops, the pedestrian walkways and the large squares. Ioannina has a large and thriving academic community which brings a lively and creative dynamism to the city. Daily life in the city is full of intellectual and artistic events. There are also important sports events, mainly held at lake Pamvotida. The city which is fortified by Byzantine walls was one of the most important cities of the Despotate or Principality of Epirus. During Ottoman rule, Ioannina enjoyed many benefits, as the city reached its peak and played a leading role in the intellectual resurrection of the nation. A particularly important but enigmatic figure was the Turk-Albanian ruler, Ali Pasha, who left his indelible mark on the city in the late years of Ottoman rule. Ioannina was liberated from Turkish rule on February 21st 1913, during the 1st Balkan War. It is located 450 km NW of Athens (via Rio-Antirio) and 370 km SW of Thessaloniki (via Kozani). In the city of Ioánnina enjoy a long afternoon promenade around the Lake Pamvótis.Visit the city's fortress "Kastro" and wander around the Its-Kale Acropolis to find the Fetihé Mosque built by Ali Pashá during the Turkish occupation. Tour the Archaeological and the Epirus Folklore Art museums, or attend art exhibitions in the city’s galleries.Relish a delicious meal in exquisite dining spots near the lake. Find gifts of fine antique jewelry at the old town, where century-old houses and jewelry shops create a wonderful cityscape. If you are interested in old monasteries, or even exceptional traditional cuisine, take a small boat and visit the isle of Ioannina, in the northeastern part of the city’s lake.
Take the chance for a day tour to Zagoria, a famous Greek mountainous area to the north west side of Greece, in the prefecture of Ioannina. In the 46 villages of Zagoria you will be stunned by the traditional architecture of the stone-built houses, the cultural wealth and the extensive natural beauty of Epirus. The combination of the picturesque scenery and the historical sites have made the area one of the most famous holiday destinations in Greece.Stroll around the narrow alleyways, explore.The old Byzantine churches of the villages and the deep Vikos Gorge and have an exciting experience you will definetely remember of.
It would be a shame to return to Athens without taking in the magic image of the six monasteries clinging to the cliffs at Meteora, near Kalambaka. It’s only 217 Kms to Meteora on the road through Amfissa, Lamia, Karditsa and Trikala. The part from Lamia to Domokos is winding and mountainous but from there on in to Kalambaka it is a quick run without tolls. There are many campsites at Meteora, all around the town of Kalambaka. Camping Vrakos Kastraki (Tel: 24320 22293); Rizos International (Tel: 24320 22954; Kalambak (Tel: 24320 22309; Meteora Garden (Tel: 24320 22727) and Filoxenia (Tel: 24320 24466). However, the one I would recommend is the Arsenis campsite (Tel: 24320 23500 and 24320 24250 . This site is at the base of the mountains and within sight of Aghias Triados Monastery. It is a friendly site and the owner, Kostas Arsenis, offers free parking to caravans and campervans, with a splendid view of Meteora and the town of Kalambaka. There is free internet access and very reasonable food at his traditional taverna. In a few words, you can stay overnight here, eat, and fill up the water all for approximately 22 Euros! You do pay for the traditional rose wine produced by Kostas but of course that depends how much you drink!