Most of you have associated my own country, Greece, with sunshine and summer holidays in the beautiful Greek islands. However, what most of you may not realize is that the country’s beauty goes far beyond its islands. Greece is a country of diverse landscape, hospitable people, mouth watering food, and an all year round mild climate. There are many less known, but equally beautiful, winter destinations which are ideal for family holidays and worth traveling to.
Tzoumerka is located in the northwest part of Greece’s mainland and more specifically between the cities of Arta and Giannena. The area might not be considered as one of the most cosmopolitan winter resorts, unlike Arahova, but it does definitely not does fall short in natural beauty.
Pramada is the largest village in the area and is very picturesque with stone houses. Interestingly, the love of its residents has kept the village alive. There is a mini market, a pharmacy and a medical centre – facilities that are really important when travelling with children. There are also a few tavernas offering traditional grilled delicacies, mainly using meat. Try ‘Mpoutzas’ while you are there.
Locals are talkative and will proudly explain the history of square with the spring where Turks used to collect the taxes from the Greeks during the Ottoman Years.
Only a few miles away from Pramada you will find Tsopela village and Anavasi Mountain Resort, a wonderful place to spend your winter holidays. The hotel is located on the snowy slopes covered with pine trees and its tasteful decor creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The forest view from the windows gives an unconstrained feeling of relaxation. Furthermore, the owners of the resort go above and beyond their call of duty as their mission is to make all their guests feel at home. Yiorgos carries the wood for the fireplace in the living room – which is undoubtedly the most cozy spot in the hotel. Yiorgos is always ready with his treasure of expert local knowledge and advice on places to visit in the area. Konstantina bakes the best traditional pies for breakfast.
The area is ideal for full or half day excursions. You will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the country side. Small waterfalls spring out of the mountains and tall trees fill the landscape with vivid colours of the winter. Along the way the river Arachthos rages with its full force along its course.
One of the prettiest places to visit in the area is Plaka Bridge, the widest stone-made bridge in Epirus and probably of all of Greece. It is 61 metres long and stands 20 metres above river Arachthos. Even today, it generates feelings of admiration as its construction dates back to 1866 when it was built with bare hands. Walk over the bridge and absorb this overwhelmingly beautiful landscape.
The twin waterfalls are also close by. Although the water falls throughout the year, May is the best time to visit. At other times, the water is less but the path that leads to the falls is rewarding all the same, and after all, you don’t get to see virgin waterfalls every day. There is a canteen right next to the path that leads to the waterfalls where you can a take a break and have a little snack, and truly feel you have found paradise.
Greece is full of monasteries that are built on mountain tops, caves and crevices. While everyone knows about Meteora, Kipina’s Monastery is another beautiful site if you are an intrepid traveler. Couple of miles before you reach the monastery, you will come across a traditional cafe in the middle of nowhere. Stop there and ask for the key to the monastery. Once you reach the monastery, you’ll be amazed by its location as it is literally built inside the mountain. The wild, imposing surroundings makes the monastery incredibly unique.
You will see a wooden bridge by the entrance of the monastery and there you will notice a lever that was used by monks to lift the bridge which offered protection from invaders during the Turkish occupation. The interiors of the monastery are really special. At the end of an oblong and dark corridor with faded drawings you will find a staircase which leads to the monks’ cells. The cells are abandoned but still neatly organised. The scenery undoubtedly creates a spiritual atmosphere and intense emotions. Before you leave, don’t forget to blow out the candles and, of course, return the key to the cafe.
Only a few miles away from Anavasi Mountain Resort, there is a mountain shelter which is hidden in the snow. Access is easy and it is not usually crowded as it is only known to locals. In fact, it is a family house which has been rearranged in such way so as to welcome visitors who are more into snowball fighting rather than skiing.
If you happen to be in the Tzoumerka Mountains, make a point of going to Giannena which is less than 60kms away and a relatively easy drive. Approximately one hour away from Giannena you will come to Zagorochoria, one of the most beautiful areas of traditional villages in all of Greece.
If you have been to this part of Greece, we would love to hear your experience in the comments below. If not, what are you waiting for?
Note: This article is written in partnership with our friends. Kids Love Greece.