The large tour around the lake. This tour gives us the opportunity to witness the grandeur of the lake. Starting from the southern exit of the city and driving parallel to the lake, we reach Dispilio, 7km from Kastoria. On the site called Douchlo, there is an interesting cave, which is accessed by going up the steps.
The bridges of Giole, Tsesme, Lakos and Granovonta villages are interesting works of traditional architecture. Near the chapel of Analipsi (Ascension), on Nissi site, we visit the lake settlement of Dispilio that was excavated in 1992. Five kilometres after Dispilio, the road passes by the settlement of Krepeni. According to tradition, here lived the ghost of Krepeni, which was going to Kastoria to enter the houses and upset the housekeepers.
The church of Saint Nicolas, outside Mavrochori, is worth visiting. This church, built in the 16th century, is the only remnant of the monastery that used to exist here. Magnificent hagiographies of the 18th century adorn the external wall of the narthex, among which an excellent representation of the infants’ massacre.
The beach of Mavrochori, the so-called “mouragio” (dock), offers us a stunning view to the lake. The dock is beautiful, with large areas of grass and lots of sycamore trees. Here we taste local dishes, such as sarmas (stuffed cabbage leaves), baked carp and traditional pasta. From Mavrochori, we take the small tourist boat to cruise around the lake.
Driving to the north and parallel to the lake, we reach Polykarpi village, 1 km from Mavrochori and 14km from the city. The village is ideal for walking on the lakeside or having a nice walk in the plain where we see apple tree cultivations.
Moving on and turning out of the central road, we reach two villages offering a panoramic view to Kastoria. In Fotini, we visit the oak forest, called “Kaniakos”, which covers an area of 4.000 stremmas. The dense beech and oak forest called “Kouri” in Metamorphosi has an excellent view. Outside the village, we find the church of Metamorphosi tou Sotira (Transfiguration) built in the 8th century. Then, we meet Toichio. As we are heading back to the city, we pass from the beautiful suburb of Chloe.
Source: Prefecture of Kastoria
11 km west of the city of Kastoria, inside the plain, we find Mesopotamia. It is a large village of 1.700 inhabitants, surrounded by a dense riverside forest of sycamore trees, poplars, and willows.
Here, one can have a pic-nic by the river or just stand there to admire the beauty of nature. In the village, it is worth tasting the local dishes such as: tsigarides, kremmydofoustro (omelette with onion) or hapsopoulia (potato balls with sardines).
After driving for 23 km after Mesopotamia and ascending towards the villages Agia Kyriaki – Oinoi – Pteria – Polyanemo – Akontio – Hionato – Komninades (1500m), we reach Dipotamia that is built next to the verdurous slopes of Grammos. In Dipotamia, there are some beautiful stone houses. You can also visit the folklore museum hosting exhibits that give an overview of the daily life of the inhabitants. Apart from the 60 springs covering the needs of the settlement, at a site called Mesovrachos, there is a sulphur water spring.
From the peaks of Alevitsa, of Ammouda and Taxiarchia, we enjoy the view to the lake of Kastoria and to Albania. On Alevitsa peak, there are observatories of the Forest Service.
Flora and fauna in this region are extremely rich. The region of northern Grammos is the habitat of bears, deers as well as of rare predator birds. Otters, Mediterranean turtles and alpine tritons live on the banks of Aliakmonas.
Finally, taking the road to Krystalopigi, we meet Ieropigi , a village whose inhabitants come from Epirus. All around the mountains, there are rich nickel deposits. This settlement, as well Mesopotamia and Dipotamia is the homeland of some of the most famous folk musicians in the region.
Source: Prefecture of Kastoria
Starting from Kastoria and driving north to Florina, we pass by the suburb called Chloe as well as Aposkepo, Kefalari and Sidirochori villages and then after the crossroad to Toichio, the road is ascending, offering a beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding plain.
14km from Kastoria, on the foot of the mountain, we meet Vyssinia village. Here, we will visit two very interesting churches: Agios Nikolaos, built in 1884 and Agios Athanasios built in 1886. Outside the village, there are two water mills constructed in 1910 and a stone bridge of excellent architecture, built in 1880.
Leaving Vyssinia, the road, still ascending, passes through a valley full of apple trees and pear trees and guides us to Oxia, a village 1.990 m above sea level. Some of the village’s houses are very interesting. Some are built of mud-bricks, that is baked clay. Their roofs are made of canes, woods and tiles. Others are made of axed stone and they have arches and heavy wooden doors.
The church of Prophitis Jeremiah and the church of Agioi Konstantinos and Eleni are worth visiting while in the village. Natives are collecting mushrooms, which are anyway abundant in this region. In the mid July, you can attend the mushroom festival where different types of mushrooms such as king mushrooms are cooked in the traditional way and served to all attendants.
Moving on, after Oxia, driving through the dense forest and after passing the crossroads to Polykeraso and Perikopi, we reach the ski centre of Vitsi, 1800m above sea level. The panoramic view from the tops of the ski slopes and the surrounding oak forest make it one of the most beautiful ski centres.
It has 3 slopes, which serve a large number of visitors. All slopes have a single starting point and they are served by the same lift. The central slope is 1000m long, the side NE is 2.500m long and the side NW is 1.300m long. The ski centre operates from December to March (tel. 24670 24884 and 24670 82666).
Driving 2.5 km after the ski centre on the same asphalted road to Florina, we reach near the mountain peak, 2.216m above sea level. There we admire the breath-taking view and we visit the Monument of the victims of the civil war, which reminds us of the fratricide battles that took place on this mountain, from autumn 1948 to spring 1949.
From this site, you enjoy the unique beauty of the nature on Vitsi. The dense forest with its rare fauna and flora is a game shelter and a significant habitat for the endangered bear.
Source: Prefecture of Kastoria
Starting from Kastoria, we are heading north, following the road to Nestorio, passing through the villages Maniaki – Kolokynthou – Mesopotamia – Kalochori and we drive on the right side of Aliakmonas river. At the crossroad to Kranochori and Ptelea, there is a small hill, where the ancient city Vattyna was built.
Moving on, it is worth making a one-kilometre deviation from the central road, to visit the village Agia Anna, that is crossed by two branches of Aliakmonas river. Two small waterfalls and dense vegetation create a landscape of extraordinary beauty.
Outside the village, 150m above the branch of Aliakmonas, stand the ruins of the Monastery of Taxiarches of Tsouka, built in a canyon. The monastery that is an excellent example of post-byzantine architecture, dates back to the 13th century and it was destroyed in 1943 by the Italians.
Among huge walnut trees, on the edge of the steep, we find the ruins of three churches: Taxiarches, Zoodochos Pigi and an unknown hall church. Soon after returning on the central road, we reach Nestorio (25km from Kastoria). Standing 950m above sea level, it is the largest village in the broader region of Grammos and the main entrance to the mountain.
Here, we find a branch of the mountain path E6 (it starts in Sweden, transverses Europe to the coast of Adriatic and then enters Greece from Igoumenitsa and ends to Samothraki). The path goes from Zouzouli to Pentalofos, Voio, Nea Kotyli, Nestorio, Kastoria, Kranionas and Gavros and then to the prefecture of Florina.
The village was created by the union of cottages in 1772. Its residents rebelled against the Turks saying “nemstra” (I am not afraid) and this is how the new settlement took its name, Nestrami, which then changed into Nestorio. Some of the sites in the village that are worth seeing are the church of Pammegisti Taxiarches, built in 1858, with a magnificent wood-carved temple, the mills of Rallis and Serenis and the square of the legendary Alexandros Papaterpos, the hero of the Greek-Italian war of 1940-41.
The village is nowadays very popular thanks to the river party held every summer in a captivating landscape, on the shores of Aliakmonas River. This youth party started in 1974, when a group of native young people living abroad, who every summer returned to their homeland for their vacations, went to the riverbanks for a good-bye party. Many changed since then, but fun remains the same. The first long weekend of August, thousands of visitors camp by the river.
Concerts of popular singers, happenings, fires, dances give a special colour to this youth meeting. The tour around Grammos starts from Nestorio. It is an unexplored land, ideal for trekking. The visitor can enjoy the rich fauna and flora, the oak, fin and black pine forests and identify the dolorous remnants of the recent Greek history.
One of the paths that we can follow, as we leave Nestorio is the dirt road to the deserted villages Livadiotopi, Giannochori, Monopylo, Slimnitsa, Fousia. To take this road, you need an appropriate car and good weather.
After we cross the beautiful black pine forest of Barouga, which in 1985 was classified as a protected nature monument, we arrive to the huge valley of Grammousta, 1400m above sea level. This legendary village inhabited by Vlachs was tormented during the civil war. The ruins of the bombarded church at the entrance of the village witness the events that took place that time. The village is ideal as a starting point for climbing to the surrounding peaks and to Gistova lake, 2.300m above sea level.
Driving to the south, we reach the bridge of Sarantoporos river. There we turn to find ourselves in a unique landscape, the mountain peaks called Arrenes. The dirt road first passes through grasslands and then cross a dense forest of pines and oaks. The road finally ends to the plateau of Trakosara spring. Natives say that the water of this spring is so light that a kilo only weights 300 grams.
Here, you will find Moutsalia lake, 1740 m above sea level, with frozen waters and water lillies. Driving south, we pass by the villages Pefkofyto and Chrysi and then we take the asphalted road to Nea Kotyli, passing through the deserted Palia Kotyli with the beautiful stone houses and Kypseli, one of the most picturesque villages in the region. From this point, we return to Nestorio from the other side of Grammos mountain.
Source: Prefecture of Kastoria
Our tour starts from Lefki, which is 6km from Kastoria. In the village, which is full of taps, flows part of Aliakmonas. 2km from Lefki, we meet Koromilia where one can visit the chapel of Agios Nikolaos and the stone arched bridge, built in 1865, during the Turkish domination. This one-arch bridge is built on a branch of Aliakmonas called Ladopotamos.Ladopotamos flows from Korestia.
From the canyon of Koromilia, which is 500m outside the village, one can enjoy the breath-taking view. The canyon is 70m deep and 2,5km long. Walking from the bridge to the springs is very easy, thanks to the existing path. Leaving Koromilia, we take the road linking Kastoria with Prespes, to reach the villages of Korestia.
In these villages – many of which are deserted – stand the humble and at the same time impressive mud-brick houses that have a very characteristic red colour. These houses are made of baked mud and their roofs are made of canes and tiles. The settlement of Korestia is relatively new and it is inhabited by the old residents of Gavros.
The villages to meet next are Agios Antonios and Halara, where “mud mansions” pop out of walnut trees. Here, it is worth visiting the water mill located outside the village (1900), the tap in the chapel of Agios Athanasios (1800) and the church of Panagia (1717) that is made of mud-bricks.
Moving on north, we meet the villages Makrochori, Melas and Ano Melas. Pavlos Melas found a refuge to this village that has been named after him (it used to be called Statista). This is where he was killed by the Turks. The house where he was killed is now a museum hosting relics of the Macedonian Struggle. In the broader region, there are huge areas with beans giving the famous variety “Gigantes from Kastoria”.
Source: Prefecture of Kastoria