Discover the 4 seasons of Kastoria (part 2): Winter

15 Dec

The second part of the post is meant to guide you around beautiful Kastoria during the season the city is mainly famous for: winter.

The hardest time of the year gives Kastoria a unique charm making it a very popular winter destination in Greece. The average temperature in the winter is +5ºC while it can be as low as -15ºC and so you will definitely need to pack your warmest clothes.

 The most famous phenomenon of the area is the frozen surface of Lake Orestiada (aka Kastoria Lake). In olden days the lake used to freeze almost every winter and the ice was so thick and hard that a large cart could easily traverse it.

Frozen Lake via vavelhaber.blogspot.com

Frozen Lake via vavelhaber.blogspot.com

If, however, during your stay in Kastoria you are not lucky enough to find the lake frozen, don’t worry; there is much more for you to do than just stand there and wait for the water to freeze! Here are my 3 best suggestions:

Koutouki

Choose one of the beautiful traditional “koutouki” taverns and try to get warm by drinking the local tsipouro spirit and tasting local meze. Tsipouro is a quite strong spirit, so it will help you stay warm during your stay in Kastoria (or keep you good company if you lack one!). For those that are not really fond of strong spirits, the area is also known for its red wine that makes a good match with local products like graviera cheese or the well-known Kastoria beans. My personal favourite tavernas are “Ouzo Therapy”, a modern, minimal restaurant with a wonderful view over the lake and “Tsipouradiko tou Thoma”, a traditional tavern whose menu can sometimes contain more than 120 different dishes!

2890__MG_3756

Ragoutzaria

If you are looking for an authentic festival to party the Kastorian way, then you need to visit Kastoria a few days after New Year’s.

Source pavlosdim.blogspot.com

Source pavlosdim.blogspot.com

From the 6th to the 8th of January the locals dress as Dionysus’ (the ancient Greek god of  winemaking and wine, ritual madness and ecstasy) followers or as members of the opposite sex, and celebrate “Ragoutzaria” in order to forget the hardship of life and especially of the year that just passed. Every group of people has its own band of brass instruments and live music is played loudly in every corner of the town from the morning until the evening that all groups meet in the town centre and celebrate together until dawn!

Σοθρψε live-avles.blogspot.com

Source live-avles.blogspot.com

Vitsi Ski Resort

Vitsi, just 22km from Kastoria, is one of the smallest ski resorts in Greece and although it is mainly used for training purposes, it is also open to the general public.

Source history-pages.blogspot.com

Source history-pages.blogspot.com

It is not well known (yet), so with a waiting time for the lifts of about 3-4 minutes you can enjoy skiing uninterrupted. So if you want to train for your favourite sport or play in the snow surrounded by a calm and majestic natural environment, then Vitsi is just the place for you! If the weather is nice you can also visit the nearby traditional village of Nymfaio (the road might sometimes be closed if the weather conditions are bad).

Labros Psomodotis

The best 10 places to discover the ancient Greece

8 Dec

1.The Parthenon
I guess the Parthenon needs no introduction; or guidance to get to! One of the most -if not the most- famous landmarks of Greece, the centre of the ancient and the modern city of Athens and probably the most visited site in Greece, offers the chance to be part of a majestic masterpiece of the ancient times and a place of great inspiration.

parthenon

2. Temple of Poseidon
The temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in ancient times, is located in cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of Attica, close to Athens. The remains of the temple stand on a cliff, surrounded on 3 sides by the sea and offering a breathtaking vista of the Aegean sea! Also a popular short excursion from Athens. Don’t miss the sun diving into the endless blue of the Aegean!

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/137993176052772235/

3. Delphi
Once what was supposed to be the centre of earth, as the myth suggest, the site of Delphi is one of most important archaeological sites of Greece. Situated on the mount of Parnassos, offers an excellent opportunity for a trip not far from Athens which will also give you the chance to enjoy the breathtaking views from the site as well as explore the nearby area, full of pure nature as well as entertainment in the cosmopolitan village of Arachova, a few kilometres away!

delphi

4. Olympia

In Peloponnese you will find the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Among many individual sites of interest you will find the stadium where the games used to take place. This is also the place where the lightning of the Olympic flame takes place!

olympia

5. Epidavros
Epidavros, situated in Peloponnese, was a small city in the Saronic gulf. What Epidaurus is mostly famous for is the ancient theatre, built in 340 BC. It is probably the best preserved ancient theatre, with tremendous acoustics. It is still being used for live performances and plays; performing in Epidavros was and still is considered to be a great honour for actors and actresses!

Epidauros

6. Mycenae

Mycenae was a fortified city, situated in Peloponnese. Alongside with Tiryns, they were the 2 greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization. Don’t miss the chance to walk through the ruins and be part of this ancient city! You can also combine your visit there with an excursion to the nearby picturesque town of Nafplio!

mykeneu

7. Akrotiri
Akrotiri is an ancient settlement in the island of Santorini which  was buried in volcanic ash after the eruption of the volcano of Santorini, thousands of years ago. The volcanic ash helped the preservation of many artworks. The astonishing part of this ancient city is that many of the items discovered in the small houses were found in the exact position that they were the time of the eruption, something that helped the archaeologists collect important clues of the way the inhabitants used to live! There is also the belief that Plato’s story of the Atlantis was inspired by what happened to Akrotiri!

akrotiri

8. Knossos
Knossos is another major archaeological site of Greece, located in the island of Crete and it is considered to be the oldest city of Europe. Walking through the ancient ruins, which are still standing in excellent shape, you will be amazed by the lively colours that the walls are painted in. A unique experience that can be combined with some relaxing days in the amazing island of Crete!

knossos palace

knossos

9. Vergina

Vergina is a small town in the northern part of Greece which is home of a very important archaeological site: Aigai, the first capital of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. There you will find the burial site of the kings of Macedonia and the tomb of Philip, the father of Alexander the Great!

vergina

10. Dodoni

In the northern part of Greece, close to the town of Ioannina, you will find Dodoni, an archaeological site that was the birthplace of many Greek speaking tribes. Among other things you will find a theatre and a stadium. From this site you will find an astonishing view of the mount Tomaros!

dodoni

Stavros Tsoukatos

7 traditional villages you should visit when travelling in the Greek mainland

2 Dec

1. Nymfaio, Florina

Nimfaio Village via www.ethnos.gr

Nimfaio Village via http://www.ethnos.gr

Nymfaio has been often included in “The ten most beautiful villages of Europe” lists, and has claimed the UNESCO “Melina Mercouri International Prize” for the excellent management of the area’s cultural heritage and the surrounding natural environment.

Nimfaio via danezis.blogspot.com

Nimfaio via danezis.blogspot.com

Arcturos’s (NGO dedicated to the protection of brown bears and wolves) headquarters are situated just 1,5 km from Nymfaio and their sanctuary is open to visitors year round (depending on weather conditions).

Don’t miss the chance to visit the “Goldsmith, Folklore and History Museum”, with exhibits including authentic local furniture, traditional tools for jewellery making, and, of course, jewels. Before leaving the area dine at Thoma’s, a 5-star tavern in Amyntaio, a few kilometres away from Nymfaio.

2. Palaios Panteleimon, Pieria

Located at the foothills of the most famous and mysterious mountain of antiquity, Mount Olympus, the village of Palaios Panteleimon is renowned for its hospitable people. The village, also named “the balcony of Olympus” is an ideal destination for every season. Nature lovers and adrenaline enthusiasts will have the opportunity to choose between hiking, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding and off-road driving. After a day full of exhausting activities, relax in one of the traditional cafes (or kafenia in Greek!) on the main square and enjoy authentic Greek coffee prepared on the coals and served in a copper pot, always accompanied by a locally produced spoon sweet!

3. Palaios Agios Athanasios, Pella

Situated within short distance from the border between Greece and FYROM, Palaios Agios Athanasios has become a trending destination in the last couple of years due to its proximity to the ski centre of Kaimaktsalan. For travellers seeking relaxation, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Palaios Agios Athanasios during the winter season, but if you are in pursuit of cosmopolitan ski holidays rush to book one of the charming guest houses; from traditional cafes and taverns to luxury restaurants and nightclubs, you will find everything you need in this small village.

4. Zagorochoria, Ioannina

I would need more than 20 pages if I wanted to fully describe this corner of Greece. Zagorochoria is a set of 46 villages that meet the needs of every kind of traveller. Here you can find cosmopolitan villages, quiet villages, or even secluded villages, only accessible on foot! Either on the peaks of Pindos mountain range or hidden in the woods, each and every one of them will take you back to older times.

The hiking trail of Vikos gorge, part of the E4 European path, and Drakolimni (or “Dragon Lake”) are two places of incomparable natural beauty totally worth your time.

Beautiful spot in Vikos gorge via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186829084515616237/

Beautiful spot in Vikos gorge via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186829084515616237/

The local cuisine is amazing, its cornerstones being the pies (or “pita” in Greek), several traditional recipes with meat and spoon sweets. Pair your meal with a nice red wine made in the area, and spend your evenings drinking tsipouro, a strong spirit made by local producers.

5. Pelion

There are 24 villages on Mount Pelion, some of them hidden in forests of beech and chestnut trees and other on the coastline. During your visit in Portaria village, which is probably the most picturesque one, and after you walk its cobbled alleys, follow the “trail of the Centaurs”, a circular path of 2,7 km (approximately 1 hour), to get inspired by the ancient Greek mythology.

Portaria via pilionterra, Flickr

Portaria via pilionterra, Flickr

Before leaving Portaria, have some coffee and cake at the Cafe “Aeriko” while enjoying the magnificent vista over Pagassitikos bay. The cosmopolitan village of Makrynitsa, known also as the “balcony of Pelion” is located just 4km away from Portaria. Once you get tired by strolling through its picturesque streets with the small shops, head to the restaurant “Gefsokratoras” to treat your sense of taste with a delicious meal.

Makrynitsa; the balcony of Pelion via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/336995984586522246/

Makrynitsa; the balcony of Pelion via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/336995984586522246/

What is more, from horse riding in the woods and skiing to scuba diving in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, the area of Pelion can offer you numerous dreaming experiences!

6. Monemvasia

Perched on a rock thrown in the sea, Monemvasia gives the impression that the rock and the settlement were created together at once. Surrounded by walls and almost cut off from the mainland, the scenery will make you think that you just discovered a time travel machine! The entire old town looks like a museum, with narrow alleys and small squares while some buildings still retain their marble coats of arms, remnants of an era of wealth and glory.

At sunset, relax on the balcony of your hotel room, empty your mind and lose yourself among shades of red you’ve never imagined.

7. Vatheia, Laconia

Resembling an open-air museum of architecture in the heart of Mani, Vatheia remains untouched by time. A settlement positioned on a hilltop, Vatheia looks like an abandoned village since the permanent habitants are no more than a few dozen, living in tower-like mansions. The fairytale 2-3 -floor chateaus made of stone have very small windows, once used as ramparts during the war against the Turks or pirate invasions.

Many mansions have been renovated and are now charming guest houses. Don’t miss the chance to swim in the turquoise waters at the nearby beaches of Kapi and Exo Kapi.

Labros Psomodotis

6 tips for a perfect weekend in Orini Nafpaktia

28 Nov

My tips for Orini Nafpaktia here Continue reading

6 Holywood-class filming locations in Greece

25 Nov

We love Greece! You love Greece as well! Now, you may be thinking, “How can I like something that I don’t know?!”. Well, think again because it is highly likely that you have seen Greece in a movie!

1. Mamma mia

Mamma mia was filmed in 3 different locations in Greece; in Skopelos and Skiathos, 2 islands in the complex of Sporades, and in Pelion, a mountainous traditional area in Greece’s mainland. Highlight of the movie (and one of Greece’s as well!) the monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos in Skopelos, where the wedding takes place!

Agios Ioannis Prodromos church in Skopelos

Agios Ioannis Prodromos church in Skopelos

Skopelos Island

Skopelos Island 

2. Before midnight

Before midnight, probably the latest movie that has many scenes filmed in Greece, was shot in the region of Messinia, in Peloponnese. It includes scenes from the castle in Methoni, a extremely picturesque and well preserved area and also from Costa Navarino, one of the most luxurious hotels in Greece.

Methoni castle, Peloponnese

Methoni castle, Peloponnese

3. Captain Corelli’s mandolin

Captain Corelli’s mandolin was shot in Kefallonia island in the Ionian sea. You will enjoy the amazing beauty of Kefallonia and its traditional villages and at the same time the unique blue green colours of the beaches and the seas of the island.

Assos village in Kefalonia

Assos village in Kefalonia

Agnantia Boutique Hotel in Kefalonia via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/404690716486058911/

Agnantia Boutique Hotel in Kefalonia via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/404690716486058911/

4. Zorba the greek

Zorba the Greek (a name probably related with dance in your mind!), is a classic movie, shot back in the 1960s in the island of Crete and more specifically in the region of Chania with scenes in Apokoronas region and Akrotiri Peninsula. The famous scene with Anthony Quinn dancing on a beach at the rhythms of syrtaki, was shot in the beach of Stavros village!

Stavros beach in Chania, Crete

Stavros beach in Chania, Crete

Acrotiri peninsula in Chania, Crete

Acrotiri peninsula in Chania, Crete

5. The Big blue

Big blue was shot in the island of Amorgos, in Cyclades; showing some breathtaking images of the Mediterranean sea and the island.In the movie you will also see the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa clinging to the cliffs, over the Aegean. There were also some scenes in Manganari beach which is located in the island of Ios.

Agios Pavlos Beach in Amorgos, Cyclades

Agios Pavlos Beach in Amorgos, Cyclades

Panagia Hozoviotisa in Amorgos, Cyclades

Panagia Hozoviotisa in Amorgos, Cyclades

6. For your eyes only

In this James Bond film you will find a couple of scenes shot in Greece; you will have the chance to enjoy the island of Corfu in the Ionian sea and also, the magnificent scenery of Meteora, where monasteries are built on the top of rocks standing hundreds of meters in the air!

Loggas Beach in Corfu Island

Loggas Beach in Corfu Island

Monasteries in Meteora

Monasteries in Meteora

Stavros Tsoukatos

5 islands – winter destinations you haven’t thought of

17 Nov

The Greek islands are not “closed” during winter time, time does not stop there! Although some of you might think they disappear shortly after September, they still stand over the blue waters all year round. Apart from those with very small population even during summer, all the rest enjoy a relaxed rhythm of life and a mild winter, with a bit more wind but little rain.

For some, the off season period is perhaps the best period to visit a Greek island because:

  • Many cafes and restaurants might be closed but the ones that remain open usually offer services of quality above the average since they serve fewer people than in the summer and mostly locals.

  • Prices for all services could be lower.

  • Museums and archaeological sites are working properly and without the hundreds of visitors one can enjoy them better.

  • It is easier to meet the authentic culture of each island which is probably the most enchanting experience one could live.

  • Joining locals in their gatherings is almost certain to happen and true friendships are more than possible to happen!

1. Crete

Rethimno during Winter via www.pinterest.com , Barbie

Rethimno during Winter via http://www.pinterest.com , Barbie

The largest island of Greece is waiting for you to visit throughout the whole year. The vibrant atmosphere in the 4 major towns guarantees that you will live a full experience even during the coldest times of winter. Head to Heraklion and pay a visit to the two archaeological sites located nearby: Knossos and Phaistos are the remaining of one of the oldest civilizations in Europe, the Minoan.

Explore the White Mountains (the greek name is Lefka Ori or Madares) near the town of Chania, stay in a mountain refuge, play with the snow and taste the authentic Cretan cuisine in front of the fireplace.

Leuka Ori via forum.snowreport.gr

Leuka Ori via forum.snowreport.gr

Admire the Venetian architecture and the famous Fortezza fortress in the town of Rethymnon and then practice some winter sports in the ski resort of Psiloritis, located in the Nida plateau, 70 km away from Rethymnon.

Fortezza Rethimnon via Leuka Ori via forum.snowreport.gr

Fortezza Rethymnon via forum.snowreport.gr

Psiloreitis ski resort via forum.snowreport.gr

Psiloritis ski resort via forum.snowreport.gr

Finally, visit the town of St. Nikolas to enjoy stunning panoramic view of the lake and the sea from the town’s waterfront!

Agios Nikolaos, Crete via www.thomson.co.uk

Agios Nikolaos, Crete via http://www.thomson.co.uk

2. Evia

The second largest island of Greece is located just an hour away from Athens and you can reach it by crossing a bridge within seconds. The island offers you numerous experiences. In the north of the island you will find the village of Edipsos, with the most famous thermal spa in Greece, whose fame dates back to the ancient times.

Edipsos via travelphoto.gr

Edipsos via travelphoto.gr

Thermae Sylla Wellness & Spa Hotel, Edipsos via www.greece.com

Thermae Sylla Wellness & Spa Hotel, Edipsos via http://www.greece.com

Located also in the northern part of Evia, the beautiful village of Kimi offers an astonishing vista over the Aegean sea.The whole island is well known for its physical beauties turning it into an ideal destination for sports in the nature like hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Dimosari’s Canyon, Evia via www.anastasiahotel.com.gr

Dimosari’s Canyon, Evia via http://www.anastasiahotel.com.gr

Visit the town of Chalkida and observe the strange movement of the waters beneath the old bridge, result of a rare tidal phenomenon.

Chalkis bridge via www.flickr.com

Chalkis bridge via http://www.flickr.com

3. Corfu

Corfu, one of the most cosmopolitan islands of Greece, has an amazingly stylish town, great example of Venetian architecture. Walk to its famous alleys, visit the museum of Asian art to find wonderful exhibits and try the local cuisine.

Corfu via melissokomos.gr

Corfu via melissokomos.gr

Do not miss the chance to pay a visit to Achillion, once being the palace of Empress of Austria-Hungary Elisabeth of Bavaria, better known as Sisi. Achillion that has served as a casino in the past and now as a museum offers a beautiful vista over the Ionian Sea.

Achillion Palace via travel-around-greece.blogspot.com

Achillion Palace via travel-around-greece.blogspot.com

4. Syros

Being one of the most beautiful islands of the Aegean Sea, Syros is at the same time the commercial, administrative and cultural centre of the Cyclades islands. The Catholic and Orthodox elements that coexist harmonically on the island form its particular character. Ermoupoli, Syros’ largest town and capital of the Cyclades, is amphitheatrically built and stands out for its beauty with impressive neoclassical style mansions and magnificent churches.

Syros via www.cycladia.com

Ermoupoli, Syros via http://www.cycladia.com

Wander around the narrow streets of the upper part of the town and admire the unique Miaoulis Square with the impressive Town Hall designed by the German architect Ernst Ziller in the lower part. Visit the archaeological museum of the island where you can find exhibits dating back to 3,000 BC and attend a theatrical play or a concert at the Apollo Theatre, a miniature of La Scala in Milan.

Miaouli square via www.syroumelathron.gr

The Town Hall at Miaoulis square via http://www.syroumelathron.gr

5. Rhodes

Rhodes via https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=rhodes+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x14950ae9895f8bfd:0x586d9037b4e902ad,Rhodes&gl=uk&ei=aLKIUuDwMIiJ4gTapYHoDg&ved=0CCwQ8gEwAA

Rhodes via rhodesmarket.blogspot.com

 The capital of Dodecanese islands is a famous destination year round. Rhodes, often called as the emerald island or the island of the sun, will welcome you warmly even the coldest days of the winter. You can find places of great interest all over the island: medieval and ancient castles, the valley of the butterflies and several museums. The medieval town of Rhodes, selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, combines Late Gothic architecture with local Aegean features and Muslim elements added later by the Turks, thus creating a blend that makes this medieval town triple special.

Grasp the opportunity to visit the baths of Kallithea, hosted in a magnificent restored building – unique combination of nature, incomparable monumental architecture and history.

Kalithea baths via www.travel-rhodes.com

Kallithea baths via http://www.travel-rhodes.com

Labros Psomodotis

Skiing down Greece; discover 9 amazing ski resorts

10 Nov

1. Parnassos

Being one of the closest ski centres from Athens (and the largest in Greece), Parnassos gets quite busy especially during the weekends in the winter. The nearby town of Arachova, full with modern bars, restaurants and cafes, attracts loads of people and is one of the most famous entertainment hubs in Greece during the winter!

Distance from Athens:180km

Ski runs: 21

Total length of ski runs: 22km

2. Kalavryta

Source http://4.bp.blogspot.com

Source news.gtp.gr

 

At an altitude of 2340m, in the northern part of Peloponnese you will find the 2nd largest ski center of Greece, this of Kalavryta, situated close to the town of Kalavryta. Due to its close proximity to Athens, this ski centre also attracts many people during the winter, who enjoy the 12 ski runs of different difficulties including a black one, this of Ino (1400m long), considered to be one of the most challenging runs in Greece.

Distance from Athens: 203km

Ski runs: 12

Total length of ski runs: 20km

3. Kaimaktsalan

Source http://2.bp.blogspot.com

Source e-xionodromika.com

Kaimaktsalan ski centre, very close to the border with FYROM and the traditional village of Palaios Agios Athanasios, offers 13 ski runs of different difficulties. From up there (2500m) you will also be able to enjoy the view of lake Vegoritida and the peak of mountain Olympos!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 139km, from Athens: 660km

Ski runs: 13

Total length of ski runs: 15km

4. Pelion

Source money-tourism.blogspot.com

Source money-tourism.blogspot.com

In the extremely picturesque and full of nature mountain of Pelion, in Agriolefkes, there is a ski centre, at an altitude of 1500m. What is really worth saying about this ski centre is that offers the opportunity to ski while enjoying the view of the…sea! Yes, that’s right, you can go skiing whilst admiring the Mediterranean sea!

Distance from Athens: 346km

Ski runs: 8

Total length of ski runs: 5km

5. Pertouli

The ski centre of Pertouli, near the uniquely beautiful village of Elati, is not a big one; on the contrary, with only 3 ski runs, is probably one of the smallest in Greece! Still, it is worth visiting if you are in this magnificent area and spend some time skiing in all levels of difficulty!

Distance from Athens: 375km

Ski runs: 3

Total length of ski runs: 2km

6. 3-5 Pigadia

3-5 Pigadia (pigadi meaning well in Greek!) is the ski centre of Naoussa in Northern Greece. In this unique location you will find many ski runs and the only ski centre in Greece with a system of artificial snowing to ensure that the quality of skiing will be at high standards throughout the winter season!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 108km, from Athens: 557km

Ski runs: 10

Total length of ski runs: 9km

7. Seli

The ski centre of Seli, near Veroia in the north of Greece, was the first established ski resort in Greece back in 1934. Still a famous winter destination, it attracts people from all parts of Greece and offers a variety of ski runs for the visitors in its well organized facilities.

Distance from Thessaloniki: 95km ,from Athens: 540km

Ski runs: 19

Total length of ski runs: 15km

8. Vasilitsa

Vasilitsa is another very famous ski centre in northern Greece which attracts many ski lovers. Situated near Grevena, it offers high quality facilities and you will find it full with skiers especially during the weekends as many people from the surrounding areas visit to enjoy the snow!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 216km. from Athens: 468km

Ski runs:18

Total length of ski runs: 22km

9. Falakro

The ski centre of Falakro is one of the most important ski centres of northern Greece and one of the biggest as it has 21 ski runs. Although the name of the mountain suggests that there is not much flora (as Falakro means bald!), the mountain is quite rich in nature and magnificent sceneries. The ski centre is situated in an advantageous position which stays covered with snow more months per year compared to other ski centres in Greece and as a result is quite popular!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 210km

Ski runs: 20

Total length of ski runs: 20km

Enjoy your winter vacations in Greece!!!

Stavros Tsoukatos

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