The main attraction
Country Life UK|January 26, 2022
The Greek islands have been a go-to holiday destination for decades, but what about the mythical and sometimes misunderstood mainland?
Teresa Levonian Cole 

CRETE or Mykonos? Or what about less-trodden islands, such as Icaria or Ithaca? Every year, thousands of holiday-makers set off to Greece in search of sun and sea from the Ionian isles to the Dodecanese. But, although there might be 2,000-odd islands to choose from, fourfifths of Greece’s territory is actually on the mainland—gloriously pristine and, with the possible exception of the Peloponnese, largely overlooked.

The landscape is dramatic—craggy, mountainous terrain that, at various points, stretches forward into the Mediterranean like gnarled fingers. This rugged beauty is paired with a rich, unparalleled history—Ancient Greek, Byzantine and Ottoman empires have all left their mark. It’s a year-round destination that’s as close to the gods as it gets.

The Zagorohoria, Epirus

When you meet a flock of sheep blocking the road, you will know you are close to Zagorohoria (‘the villages beyond the mountains’), which lies in one of the country’s most inhospitable terrains (so inhospitable that it deterred Ottoman soldiers for 400 years), not far from the Albanian border.

Time here stands still and the only sounds are of birdsong, tinkling goat bells, and a distant sheepdog bark, from dogs trained to protect their flocks from marauding bears and wolves. An impressive 35 of the 46 villages are protected by strict planning laws, so houses from the 19th century—constructed out of limestone and flint, camouflaged by the cliffs, and framed by expanses of medicinal herbs—still go untouched. From the villages of Papingo and Aristi, you can see the famous Towers of Astraka—vertical rock formations that can be climbed.

The UNESCO Vikos-Aoös GeoPark is a paradise for walkers and Nature lovers, who can take a leisurely stroll along the Voidomatis River (the coldest and cleanest in the Balkans), hike the famed Vikos Gorge (the deepest in the world in relation to its width) or even ascend Gamila Peak to the Dragon Lakes.

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