I ‘ve been living in Greece for many years. I travelled a lot and I can assure you that Kastoria is the most beautiful greek town in Greece in winter. It is so romantic, so modeslty pretty… and you can do so many things there ! Here is a 6 days’ trip I organized 2 years ago in this town…
Why should we visit Greece only in summer ? No reason. Greece is an all weather nice country and you know that it is the most beautiful country in all Europe. Ok, you wanna come to Greece. I suggest you to visit one of the most beautiful town in Greece in winter which is Kastoria, in the North west of Macedonia region. What has this town so special anyway ?
- The location of the town is unique : town built on a peninsular hill reflecting in a small lake.
- The people of Kastoria are very friendly and like to talk about their town and its history.
- Many differents tours and activities can be organized :
- Walking in town and outside the town and long-distance hiking on mountain Grammos.
- Discovery of History : From prehistoric times to 2nd world war via Macedonian wars, including Byzantine period.
- Bike rides at Orestiada lakeside.
- Cross-country skiing at Vitsi mountain (north of Kastoria)
- Canoeing on Aliakmonas river.
- Discovery of nature : the fossilized forest, flora and faune with wildlife in Grammos mountain
- Discovery of economy and culture : People a Kastoria used to live from fur industry and trade, which dominated the local economy till 1974. Some traditional feasts takes places with traditional macedonian music and traditional songs when wedding take place. There is also the traditional Ragoutsiaria celebrated on the 6th of January in all the villages of the area…
- Discovery of traditional cooking and gastronomy : Τragana (made of curds), pies, lentils, sweet spinning fruits, liqueur, traditional pasta named « hilopites », sugar drpos and mints, mastic flavor in sweets, wine of wineyards of Maggel and Stergiou and Tsipouro (like ouzo but without anise).
What has this town so special ? I will prove you that, through the 5 days travel route I followed a few years ago. Of course, you need 10 days to discover the all area of Kastoria but personaly, I unfortunately did not have this time. Consequently, I could not make you discover in details all the region… What a pity… You can have a look for more routes in the book I present to you in my article « Winter also in Greece » (for the moment in french but the book also exists in english language at Amazon).
Are you ready to follow me at Kastoria ? Ok, let’s go
1st day : Transport : If you land at Thessaloniki airport, rent a car and take the Egnatia road till Kastoria (190 kms) or take the bus. If you landed at Athens (1h40), take again a plane to Kastoria. Accomodation : Personally, I stayed with my family in a wonderful familial traditional mansion called Pentolvio at village Sidirohori to have the best view of Kastoria (see photo below) but there are cheaper solutions in towns : many hotels in Kastoria at a very good price. Start noon visiting the town : you can walk like Kastorians everyday in the streets. Kastoria is a small town 17.000 inhabitants but very alive : cafes, pubs and nice shops are everywhere. My family and I decided to have lunch in a nice taverna in town at the lakeside, even if it’s 13 degrees outside (see photos below). We did have fun because all birds came to us for some bread in crumbs…
2nd day : Small round around the lake Orestiada in the afternoon. Let your car at the entrance of the town and walk 7kms on the south narrow aspalted lakeside road. You will admire the silencious and almost nostalgic landscape interrupted by the noise of the birds (ducks, cormorant and others) dipping into the water, flying out of the reeds and finally resting on the typical Kastorian boats (see my photo on the top of the article). After some kms, you will find the very well preserved Cave of the Dragon then the St Nicolas church (see my photo below) and after 2 kms, you will see the Monastery of Mavriotissa (built on the spot where troops of Byzantine military commander Palaiologos encircled the attacking Normans in 1083. It is believed that the emperor Alexios I Komninos built the monastery there to commemorate the event) with the beautiful outside and inside wall-paintings.
3rd day : Large round around the lake Orestiada in the afternoon. With the car, take main road ouside Kastoria and go and visit the amazing Dispilio which is an archaeological site containing remains of a Neolithic lakeshore settlement discovered during the dry winter of 1932, which lowered the lake level and revealed traces of the settlement. Excavations began in 1992 and a recreation of the lake dwellers’ settlement has been erected near the site to attract tourists from Greece and abroad (see my photo below).
We decided to see what we could do outside Kastoria. Well, we decided to discover Grammos mountain with its river Aliakmonas. We headed north, following the road to Nestorio, passing through the villages Maniaki, Kolokynthou, Mesopotamia and Kalochori and we drive on the right side of Aliakmonas river (See photo of Aliakmonas at Nestorio -950 m of altitude-). Nestorio is well know of its « River party » on summer and for canoeing… Nice experience, I assure you…
6th day :
We drove 13 kms east of Kastoria, on the road leading to Edessa, you will find Korisos. We wanted to visit the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos where Pavlos Melas along with other Macedonian fighters found refuge in 1904 but it was closed. Leaving the village Vasiliada, we travelled upwards, enjoying the landscapes and after 6km, we arrived at the legendary Vlach village Kleisoura. I knew this village martyr through greek commemoration songs but I was chocked by emotion when a taverna tender told us the story : In April 1944, within only two hours, the Germans killed 280 people and burnt 160 houses (see my photo below)