SECRETS OF EPIRUS

Secrets of Epirus

13 Days $3750 ex Athens

Accommodation

1 Night Camping
2 Nights Refuge (Dorm)
4 Nights Hotel 
5 Night Guesthouse

Transportation

Mostly on foot
Transfers included & Domestic flight

Included Meals

12 Breakfasts
9 Lunches
9 Dinners

Trip Grade

Category 3
High Heart Rate Holiday

Time.

We often feel we’ve not enough, yet it is its passage, the years, decades and centuries that have seen empires crumble, and lands sculpted by wind, rain and the movement of the earth.

Scars formed in the earth are its canyons. 

Bulges under the skin become the mountains.

Time has seen the empire of Ancient Greece fall, it’s ruins left for us to pick over and explore like a carcass.

It’s hard to imagine at times, given the population of the world that places of space and peace can be found.

It’s here, in one of the most sparsely populated parts of Greece, that we hike in search of the Secrets of Epirus.

“Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.”

Socrates

“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.”

Euripides

Born out of ancient Greece, and divided by its fall, the lands of Epirus now straddle the lands between western Greece and southern Albania.

A rugged landscape, of jagged mountains and deep gorges that extends all the way to the Adriatic.

When most people think of Greece, it’s of bustling Athens, the Acropolis, and the beautiful islands scattered across the Adriatic and the Aegean.

We’d like you to start to look at Greece as so much more than that!

Trekking, climbing, rafting, skiing, mountain biking, you name it, Greece has a place for it, and it is our pleasure to show you!

With one of the longest written histories of any country, Greece is considered the birthplace of western civilisation.

It is known to be responsible for the beginnings of democracy, western philosophy, literature and drama, mathematic and scientific principles, political science and of course the Olympic Games!

After a long history of city-states with constant animosity, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, Greece finally emerged as its current nation-state after the war of independence in 1830.

Its rich history is ever-present at the countless museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the country.

Let’s head beyond the tourists, to explore the stunning landscapes as well, that make this region a true trekking delight.

The Journey

Landing in Athens you will be greeted by one of our staff and transferred to our hotel right in the heart of the tourist district.

The rest of the day is yours to rest, and explore.

There are a multitude of great restaraunts right outside our hotel, as well as a roof top cafe/bar for light meals in the hotel with a view of the Acropolis!

Today we explore Athens!

On foot, our historian tour guide will teach you about the history, mystery and architecture of some of Greece’s most famous sites.

Stops include the Great Library, the Academy, Emperor Hadrian’s Arch, the temple of Zeus and a few others before exploring the Acropolis Museum, and the Acropolis itself.

After a short rest, we’ll depart in the late afternoon and start our road trip by driving to Delphi to spend the night. (B,D)

We step back in time this morning at the Ancient site of Delphi, believed for many years to be the center of the universe!

We’ll be guided around this ancient site and also the museum gaining an insight into ancient life through the 3 pillars of society, religion, arts and philosophy and of course sports!

Grabbing some provisions, we then head to the famous battle site of Thermopylae where King Leonidas of Sparta and his 300 bodyguards held off the entire Persian army of King Xerxes.

Here we are lucky enough to have some inside information about the site, and will be able to explore some of the areas most people don’t know about!

If time permits, we’ll stop at the healing hotsprings then continue to the town of Kastraki, at the base of the cliffs of the Meteora Monasteries.

Time permitting, we can head up to the tops of the cliffs and watch the sunlight fade over the spectacular scenery. (B,L,D

An early start, we’ve got the option to head up to our viewpoint again and watch the sun rise over the cliffs painting them in new colours!

After breakfast we’ll visit Megalo Meteora, the biggest of the monasteries and gain an insight into the history of these sites and what life living on the famous cliff tops is like.

We’ll then drive to the lakeside city of Ioannina for a picnic lunch by the lake, and a tour of the ancient city centre.

The afternoon sees our drive up to the tiny village of Papigo, where we’ll meet our mountain guide, and spend the night in a lovely guesthouse. (B,L,D)

Today our trek begins in style as we must gain the high plateau from the lowly villages.

We ascend a large valley, as the vegetation thins and we emerge above the tree line. Each step higher the views become more and more spectacular.

After 2.5-3hrs walk we reach the Astraka Refuge where we’ll stop for a rest and lunch.

In the afternoon we’ll cross the small pass and an opposite rise to visit Drakolimni or the “Dragon Lake”.

Here we must tread with care, as the area is home to many dragons!

Back to the refuge for dinner and the night. (B,L,D)

We’ll spend another night here tonight so we can lighten the load for our day walk.

Heading out over to the main plateau of the range, with the objective of the day to reach the summit of Gamila Peak, the highest peak in the area, and the 6th highest in Greece at 2497m.

After taking in spectacular views all the way to Albania in the north, and trying to spot our camp for tomorrow night, we’ll head back to the refuge for a well earned rest. (B,L,D)

A hearty breakfast prepares us for heading deeper into the national park today venturing to areas the only see the most adventurous of trekkers.

We’ll launch of the end of the plateau in a spectacular fashion, and traverse around the base of the great ‘north edge’ of the Pindus Mountains.

Today is our most difficult day in terms of terrain, it is quite evident that these paths see very little use!

The scenery is amazing though and we’ll likely see many signs of wildlife in the forested areas as Chamiox, bear, pig and deer live safely after hunting was banned in the park.

You can also pick some wild mushrooms and the famous herbal ‘mountain tea’ along the way to enjoy at camp later.

Tonight we stay in a tented camp at our secret hut site.

We’ll enjoy a camp fire and a BBQ while staring up at the north face of Gamila Peak, where we stood just the day before, now nearly 1000m above us! (B,L,D)

Another big day today we head up the valley and skirt around the north of the mountains before descending all the way to the small village of Vrysochori.

We’ll stop here for a celebratory drink and well earned rest before a van transfer to the village of Tsepevolo.  (B,L,D)

A very relaxing night sets us up well for a change of pace today!

We trade in our hiking boots for an old pair of runners, don wetsuits and begin our canyon journey down the Vikaki canyon.

This non-technical canyon trip involves some trail and river walking and a little swimming. Taking around 3-4 hours we end up down the canyon at another stunning village.

Hot showers, and more great food and hospitality at another guesthouse in Kipoi. (B,L,D)

NOTE: There are several options for different canyons, allowing us to select the appropriate one at the time due to group abilities and safe water levels.

There is also an option to bypass the canyon trip should you not feel confident with it.

If weather and river conditions deny passage of the canyon there are plenty of activites we can do this day including via ferrata. 

Our last day trekking is a long one.

We walk the path along the floor of the Vikos Gorge, from one end to the other!

Being the deepest gorge in the world, in ratio to its width, the tall, sheer cliff walls will be sure to impress!

From the southern end of the gorge we walk along its floor and visit a small church and swimming hole before ascending the last 45 minutes out to the village of Vikos.

Here we’ll have a short rest before being transfered to back to Papigo.

Dinner is spent out on the town of Papigo where there are several great options, all surrounded by the typical beauty of this historic region. (B,L)

*For those who wish to extend their walk, it is possible to finish the hike by walking an extra 2.5 hrs all the way up to Papigo, most of this is a long steep climb.

A well-deserved rest day.

Take a stroll down to the natural swimming pools and explore up the small canyon.

There are many other activities that can be arranged today, exploring the local towns, archery, or even rafting and rock climbing. (Some additional costs may apply).

We finish the day, and our trekking trip with a big banquet at our guesthouse to celebrate a great trip. (B,L,D)

Departing Papigo, we are driven back down out of the hills to the lakeside town of Ioannina, where we’ll catch a flight back to Athens.

The rest of the day is yours to explore! (B)

Departure Day!

If you’re flying out today we can arrange an airport transfer for you, or assist in getting you on your way to your onward journey however we can. (B)

SEASON

April – October

Includes

  • All accommodation as set out in itinerary
  • Private transport and historian guide during touring phase
  • Domestic airfare from Ioannina to Athens
  • Private vehicle transfers from Papigo to Ioannina
  • Qualified and experienced local mountain guide 
  • Canyoning day during the trek and special equipment hire (wetsuits) (or via ferrata weather depending)
  • Transfers of food and camping equipment required for trek
  • Farewell banquet dinner on the last night in Papigo
  • All access permits and fees
  • Registration with commercial air rescue organistaion.
  • All breakfast, lunches and dinners as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

Excludes

  • Travel Insurance (compulsory)
  • International Flights to Athens
  • Personal clothing and equipment
  • Additional personal expenses such as alcohol and additional snacks
  • Tips for guides and porters
  • Cost raised by cancelation or modification due to events beyond our control, e.g., landslides necessitating trail diversions, weather delays, political unrest, illness, et cetera.

Your Guides and Safety

The support network behind an expedition can play a pivotal role in assisting with emergency situations. All of our trips have a 24hr support network based in Melbourne, Australia, to assist in emergencies. In addition, our Greece expeditions have 24hr support from our local operations team in Athens.

The staff on our trip are a vital link in the support network that allows us to travel to the places we do and will be the people you will see on a day-to-day basis throughout the expedition.

Your expedition leader will be your local link into the Greek culture.

They’ll pick you up from the airport, settle you into our hotel, and lead the tour phase of our expedition, giving you great insight into the sites we visit and the stories they hold, both past and present.

They are responsible for the smooth operation and coordination of all our transport and activities, as well as dealing with any unforeseen circumstances that occur!

The trekking phase of our expedition is conducted and led by our highly experienced mountain guide. With unparalleled experience in the areas we travel, and high levels of training, our mountain guide is responsible for you’re safety and comfort (as well as entertainment!).

“We approached Athens from the north in early twilight, climbing a hill. When we reached its peak, we were dazzled to look down and see the Acropolis struck by one beam of the setting sun, as if posing for a picture. “


– Donald Hall, Poet

Accommodation

We will be utilising a variety of accommodation types, as set out in our Itinerary.

Hotel in Athens: In Athens, our home away from home will be Hotel Byron. Clean, comfortable, and located right in the heart of Plaka, Athens’ tourist hub. It also boasts a rooftop cafe, bar, stunning views of the Acropolis, and a great breakfast spread!

Boutique Hotels/Guesthouses: Outside of Athens there will be a few places where we stay in smaller hotels or guest houses. They are family-owned local businesses, who have spent their lives providing fantastic local hospitality to travellers. Beautiful, luxurious, and local.

Mountain Refuge: We will spend two nights on our hike at the Astraka Refuge. In Greece, a ‘mountain refuge’ is generally a large stone facility built to enable adventurous types to explore remote areas with ease.

They provide comfortable dorm-style accommodation, and generally have a kitchen operating to order meals. They are also a great source of snacks, water, local information and weather updates, some even offering souvenirs! The Astraka Refuge has a fully operating kitchen, bathrooms and showers (cold water only).

Secret Camp: Located below the tree line in the forest, deep within the national park, there is plenty of wildlife and spectacular views up the valley to the North face of Gamila.

We will stay in a tented campsite, with campfire, kitchen and dining facilities. Tables and chairs are available, as well as undercover space should the weather be unfavourable. Our tents will be twin share and have mattresses and sleeping bags supplied. (inner sheets must be used).

Food

While we do our best to include as much as we can to maximise convenience, there are some meals that we don’t include in our trips.

This allows you the flexibility to choose what you want from where you want it! It also means you’re only going to pay for what you order, therefore keeping the costs down.

Main meals in Athens are not included, as well as our return night to Papigo, giving you the freedom to be as adventurous (or safe) with your dining as you desire.

Breakfasts: All breakfasts are included for our trip! When touring, breakfasts will be supplied by our accommodation. In Athens, our hotel serves a full buffet breakfast. Other smaller hotels generally have a spread of continental options; breads, cheeses, cold meats, pastries, jams, cereals, fruits and yogurts are the staples, along with tea, coffee and juice.

While Trekking, breakfasts at the Refuge include breads and spreads, as well as yogurt and muesli.

Lunch and Dinner: While touring and staying in towns we will eat from a variety of places. A good example is the standard Taverna night. You’ll be able to order what you like, or as a group order a range of plates to share. Either way, there will always bread and salads to share.

During the trek, we will provide packed lunches, and snacks that you will carry for the morning.

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