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History & Best Things do in Epirus, Greece

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About Epirus

Venture into a realm where legends are sculpted from the very stones beneath your feet: Epirus, Greece’s historic treasure trove, the home of one of the most talented generals of the ancient world, Pyrhhus. Tucked away in the country’s northwestern corner, Epirus beckons travelers with its spellbinding blend of dramatic landscapes, ancient ruins, and rich culinary traditions. From the dizzying depths of the Vikos Gorge to the whispered secrets of the Oracle of Dodona, this region offers more than just destinations; it promises experiences that linger long after the journey ends. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a culinary enthusiast, Epirus unfurls a tapestry of adventures waiting to be explored. Embrace the allure, and let Epirus’s tales of antiquity, resilience, and beauty become a part of your own travel narrative. Undoubtedly, Epirus is among the top travel destinations in mainland Greece.

Pindus mountains are among the tallest in Greece. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Epirus Details

Map of Epirus

In contrast to the most of Greece, Epirus is green and plentiful of feresh water. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

History of Epirus

The Enigmatic Epirus: An Odyssey through Greece’s Historic Region

Nestled between the Ionian Sea to the west and the Pindus Mountains to the east lies Epirus, a region brimming with tales of ancient gods, epic battles, and civilizations that have ebbed and flowed over millennia. It is one of Greece’s lesser-known treasures, yet its history is as old as the Hellenic land itself.

The Ancient Realm

Epirus’s tale begins in prehistoric times, with traces of human presence dating back to the Paleolithic era. By the Bronze Age, Epirus was inhabited by various tribes, including the Chaonians, Thesprotians, and Molossians. It was the latter group that produced two of the most famous people to ever come from Epirus. First was the Molossian princess, Olympias, the almost mythical mother of none other than Alexander the Great, making one of the most known commanders of all time a half Epirote. At the time, Epirus was even wilder than Macedonia, therefore Olympias was known to be a witch, equally feared and respected by the people. She outlived both Alexander the Great and his father Phillip II.

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The Reign of Pyrrhus (319–272 BC)

The most famous figure from ancient Epirus is arguably Pyrrhus of Epirus, the formidable king and military commander. Pyrrhus was a member of the Aeacid dynasty, which traced its roots back to Achilles, the great hero of the Trojan War. While this crosses the realm of mythology, Pyrrhus in fact was the second cousin of Alexander the Great because his father was the cousin of Olympias.

Upon ascending to the throne, Pyrrhus set his sights on consolidating power and expanding the territories under Epirote control. Throughout his life he saw a lot of war, Pyrrhus got involved in the wars of Diadochi (fought between Alexander’s generals for his succession). Later on, he aided the city of Tarentum (modern-day Taranto in Italy) against Rome, setting the stage for his famous confrontations with the Roman Republic. Although he won battles at Heraclea and Asculum, the victories came at a devastating cost to his own forces, giving birth to the term “Pyrrhic victory.”

If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.
– Pyrrhus of Epirus

Pyrrhus also ventured into Sicily to fight against the Carthaginians, achieving significant success but ultimately finding his ambitions in the West frustrated. Despite his military prowess, Pyrrhus failed to capture enough political or popular support to sustain long-term occupations. He left Sicily predicting the confrontations between Rome and Carthage at this stage, what later became known as the First Punic War.

Back in mainland Greece, Pyrrhus also attempted to capitalize on the turmoil following the death of Alexander the Great, seeking to become the ruler of Macedonia. While he did manage to occupy the throne for a brief period, his rule was fraught with revolts and opposition from other Hellenistic states.

Ultimately, Pyrrhus’s ambitions outweighed his resources. In 272 BC, during a street battle in Argos, he was wounded by an Argonite soldier and when Pyrrhys tried to kill him, the Epirote commander was struck by a tile thrown by an old woman from a rooftop, the mother of the same Argonite soldier. Pyrrhus of Epirus subsequently died in the fighting that ensued. Despite his untimely end, Pyrrhus left an indelible mark on Epirus and the broader Hellenistic world. His military adventures, while not always successful, turned the eyes of the Mediterranean toward this region of rugged landscapes and fierce warriors.

In many ways, Pyrrhus embodies the spirit of Epirus: audacious, complex, and ever-reaching for greatness, even when the odds are stacked against it. His reign brought Epirus into the international spotlight, and his military exploits are still studied today as examples of both tactical brilliance and the high costs of overextension. Some ancient sources claim that Hannibal of Carthage himself claimed Pyrrhus to be the greatest Commander of all time.

A typical landscape of Epirus. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The Rise of the Epirote League (4th century BC – 2nd century BC)

The 4th century BC saw the tribes of Epirus coalesce into the Epirote League, a formidable federation. The league not only consolidated power locally but also engaged with major powers like Macedonia and Rome. The sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona, one of the oldest oracles in ancient Greece, symbolizes this era, attracting pilgrims from all over the Hellenic world.

Roman Conquest and Byzantine Period (2nd century BC – 1204 AD)

In the latter half of the 2nd century BC, the indomitable Romans annexed Epirus. While the region lost its political autonomy, it remained an important crossroad between Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The fall of the Western Roman Empire ushered in the Byzantine era for Epirus. It became a bulwark against Slavic invasions and, later on, a pivotal player in the Byzantine Empire’s complex politics.

Kokkorou bridge was built in the end of 18th century by two villagers. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Despotate, Ottoman Rule, and Liberation (1204 AD – 1913 AD)

Post the Fourth Crusade, Epirus transformed into the Despotate of Epirus, a Byzantine successor state. Though the Byzantine Empire later reclaimed it, the looming Ottoman shadow eventually enveloped the region by the 15th century.

For centuries, the Epirotes lived under Ottoman rule, maintaining their Greek identity and Orthodox faith. It wasn’t until the Balkan Wars in 1913 that Epirus was finally unified with modern Greece. Unfortunately, the loss of the Greco-Turkish war in 1919-1922, and the influence of Austria, Germany, and Italy forced the Northern Epirus to be ceded to Albania, where it remains to this day.

The monument was erected in 1993 in honour of brave local women who helped to repel the invading army of fascist Italy by supplying men in the difficult terrain of the Pindus mountains. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Modern Epirus and Cultural Heritage

Today, Epirus is a haven for history enthusiasts and adventurers alike. From the rugged Vikos Gorge to the historic Ioannina, Epirus’s landscape is dotted with Byzantine churches, ancient ruins, and traditional stone villages.

This enchanting region embodies Greece’s eternal spirit: resilient, proud, and deeply connected to its past. An exploration of Epirus isn’t just a journey through time; it’s an odyssey through the soul of Greece itself.

Ioannina is the Capital of Epirus and is situated by Lake Pamvotis. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Top Things to Do in Epirus

1. Explore the Vikos Gorge

Regarded as one of the world’s deepest canyons, Vikos Gorge offers a breathtaking natural spectacle in the heart of the Zagori region. Hikers can traverse scenic trails, passing through ancient forests and alongside pristine rivers. The viewing points around this natural marvel like Oxia offer a panoramic view that leaves visitors in awe of the gorge’s majesty, but probably the most known and popular viewpoint is that at the end of a short Beloi hike. If you are afraid to traverse this terrain by yourself or unearth less popular viewpoints, consider hiring a guide to the spectacular Vikos Gorge.

The path leading to the Beloi viewpoint of the gorgeous Vikos gorge. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

2. Visit the Ancient Oracle of Dodona

Once considered the oldest Hellenic oracle, predating even the Delphic shrine, Dodona was a significant spiritual and cultural hub. Dedicated to Zeus and Dione, the sanctuary includes the remains of various temples and an ancient theatre of Dodona, which together with 15 ancient Greek theaters scattered throughout the country is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 2023, another cultural heritage from the town was recognized by UNESCO, the lead tablets of Dodona were listed under “Memory of the World”, proving its importance to the evolution of the Greek culture. Overall, Dodona is a serene spot where history and nature converge, allowing visitors to reflect on the mysteries of the past. If you want to learn more in detail about the fascinating history of this ancient site, I strongly recommend hiring a professional guide for tour of the archeological site and theater of Dodona.


Aslan Pasha, an Ottoman military officer ordered the construction of mosque in the Ioannina Castle. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

3. Wander Around Ioannina

The capital of Epirus, Ioannina, lies beside a picturesque lake, offering a blend of Ottoman, Byzantine, and modern Greek influences. Key attractions include the Ioannina Castle, the old mosques, and the island in the middle of the lake, which has monasteries and a rich folklore about the legendary Ali Pasha. The city’s vibrant cafes and eateries also offer a taste of local cuisine and culture.


Katesovo village, one of the “Zagorohoria”, is made entirely out of stone. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

4. Delve into the Stone Villages of Zagori

Zagori is home to 46 traditional stone villages, known as the ‘Zagorohoria’. These villages are characterized by their unique stone architecture, cobbled paths, and arching bridges. Visitors often feel transported back in time, and each village has its own charm, from the bustling Monodendri to the tranquil Mikro Papigo.


In Greek mythology, the River Acheron is where Cheron takes the souls of the dead to Hades with his ferry. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

5. Soak in the Acheron River

Believed by the ancient Greeks to be the ‘River of Woe’, one of the five rivers of the Underworld, the Acheron River today offers a stunning natural environment. It’s an ideal location for activities such as rafting, kayaking, or simply taking a refreshing dip in its crystal-clear waters. Surrounding the river, the Acheron Springs offers serene spots for relaxation and connection with nature.

Personal Experience

Nature-wise, for me, Epirus is the most beautiful region of mainland Greece. It differs so much that one could be forgiven for mistaking its green landscape for a country in a totally different part of Europe. While Mount Olympus tops the country, it is a remote lonely mountain. In contrast, the Pindus Mountains in Epirus are almost as tall the the home of Greek Gods, and it is a mountain range, that supplies the region with water crucial for life to thrive. That makes all the difference in the world. The mountainous terrain of Epirus is intertwined with streams and rivers, forming huge lakes in the valleys, reminiscent of the Alps rather than any of the mountains around the European side of the Mediterranean.

You can probably already tell that I loved my time in Epirus, thus I highly suggest planning to spend a bit more time in the region than simply stopping by the Vikos Gorge or Dodona. Even if you don’t plan it, you’ll do it anyway as it is really easy to get hooked up exploring the rapidly changing landscape. Epirus makes a perfect couple of days gateway but I’m sure there is enough to see and explore for a week or more.

Other Things to do in Epirus


Ioannina: North Tzoumerka Day Tour with Pickup

Explore North Tzoumerka's wonders on a day-trip. Visit the stunning Kipina Monastery, charming villages like Kalarrites and Pramanta, and the Anemotripa Cave.

Book now


Family-Friendly Rafting on Voidomatis River

Paddle along the serene Voidomatis River in a National Park setting. This kid-friendly rafting experience includes a trip under an arched bridge.

Book now


Parga to Paxos: Cruise with Voutoumi Beach & Blue Caves

Enjoy a guided cruise from Parga, featuring stops at Voutoumi Beach, Antipaxos' Blue Caves, and a leisurely stroll in Gaios town.

Book now

All content and photos by Alis Monte, unless stated differently. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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