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The Great National Parks of Northern Greece (7 days)


Day 1: ARRIVAL IN THESSALONIKI
Arrival in Thessaloniki airport and transfer to our hotel. Dinner and overnight.

Day 2: MT OLYMPUS
Early morning departure to Litochoro on the foot of Mt Olympus. Litochoro is about 1 hour drive from Thessaloniki. When we arrive there, we'll drive through dense forests to Prionia, the starting point of our hike, at an altitude of about 1.000m. This is the heart of Olympus National Park, a protected area with many species of unique plants and flowers, not seen anywhere else in the world. This is also the place where the mythical goddesses Muses were living. The hike starts in a heavily forested area of beech and fir trees and conifers. Going downhill, the trail traverses thick woodland and offers breathtaking vistas next to steep slopes. We'll need approximately 1 hour to get to the ruins of the monastery and the cave of St Dionysios. Continue downhill and after two hours hike we'll get into our bus and transfer to Ioannina. After three-hours ride through beautiful scenery, we'll arrive in Ioannina. Dinner and overnight.

Day 3: ZAGORIA
After breakfast we head one hour north of Ioannina, to Zagoria, an area of exceptional natural beauty and once a region of wealthy and cultured traders and artisans. There are many villages in Zagoria, including Monodendri, Aristi, and Papingo with local houses shadowed by buttes reminiscent of the American West. The routes are spectacular, as the roads climb the thickly forested slopes, pass through valleys, and across streams with medieval bridges. First we'll visit Papingo, a beautiful village, with narrow stone streets and pathways and grey stone houses, declared a national monument due to its architecture. Continue to Voidomatis river, reportedly with the cleanest water in Europe and famous for its trouts. Weather permitting, we hike for about 3 hours by the river and visit a monastery from Byzantine times. In the afternoon, we visit the small natural pools for a swim in crystal clear water. Overnight in 4* hotel.

Day 3: ZAGORIA
In the morning we'll start our rafting adventure in beautiful Voidomatis river (or Aoos river depending on water level). At noon, we'll continue our visit in this enchanting place. Visit of the Vikos Canyon, one of the deepest in Europe, that slices through the heart of Zagoria. The area hosts bear, wolves, fox, and an occasional vulture and the vistas are breath-taking. Parts of the road are surrounded by unique rocky slabs layered like hundreds of huge marble tabletops.In the afternoon we visit several other Zagoria villages, such as Dilofo and Pedina, all with traditional centuries-old mansions and stone made little chapels. One the way, we'll visit some of the most impressive stone bridges in the whole Balkans. Overnight in 4* hotel.

Day 4: ZAGORIA - KASTORIA
Departure to Kastoria, built by a lake, 60 miles to the north. We'll pass through heavily wooded country, deep ravines and small villages that dot the border with Albania. After our arrival in Kastoria, we'll have a tour to see the prehistoric Dispilio settlement by the lake and some of the town's remarkable byzantine churches. We'll drive along the lake to visit the small but impressive Dragon Cave. Overnight in 4* hotel.

Day 5: KASTORIA - PRESPES
Full day tour of the Prespes National Park. This area is surrounded by mountains, and is a magical world of incomparable natural beauty. Two important lakes here, Great and Small Prespa, provide a stunning sight, reflecting the wooded slopes of the surrounding mountains in their waters. They lie 2,500ft above the sea-level and have a depth of 150ft. Their shores at many places are steep and rocky. In other places they are calm and have rich vegetation. During our visit in Prespes, we'll cross the floating bridge leading to the island of Saint Achilios to start our hike and see the ruins of the 10th century church of the same name. We'll also visit the caves where hermits used to live and see the rock paintings which can be seen at Fishermen Bay or along the shores of Great Prespa*. At the end of our tour we'll wander around the tiny old villages, where we can also try a meal of carp, one of the delicious fish found in the lake, local bell-peppers and beans accompanied by local wine. In the evening we'll drive back to Kastoria. Overnight in 4* hotel.
* Weather permitting

Day 6: KASTORIA - THESSALONIKI
In the morning we'll drive through forested land to Nympaio, an old traditional mountain town. This is bear country and here we'll visit the sanctuary of the big brown bears. We'll hike through the forest and we'll have a tour of the sanctuary and its bears. Continue to Thessaloniki. Arrival, dinner and overnight.

Day 7: THESSALONIKI TOUR - DEPARTURE
In the morning we'll have a tour in downtown Thessaloniki. We'll see the seaside medieval fortification called the White Tower and the medieval churches on Via Egnatia, all protected by UNESCO. Continue to the Arch of emperor Galerius, with its relief sculptures, built in 303, to commemorate the Roman triumphs over the Persians and the nearby domed rotunda, which have been intended by Galerius as his mausoleum. We finish our tour with a visit to the archaeological museum. At noon we'll go to the airport to catch the flight back home.


What to expect

This tour includes visiting areas of outstanding natural beauty. Lunches are served in local restaurants. Some roads are winding and narrow, all are paved though. Weather in this part of Greece is unpredictable especially in early spring and late fall. Hotels are fine and comfortable.


Dates

Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct


What's included
  • Hotels 4*
  • Full board (Breakfasts, Lunches & Dinners)
  • All transfers
  • English speaking guide
  • Sites, museums & national parks entrance fees
  • Insurance
  • V.A.T.

What's not included
  • International airfare & tax
  • Tips
  • Soft drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Anything optional
 
     
 
 
         
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