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Magnificent Gorges, Towering Peaks & Stone Villages   

Departure       September 8 – 17, 2020

Greece possesses some of the most varied and impressive landscapes in Europe.  Combined with its magnificent past, Greece is an alluring destination.  Perhaps the most impressive and rewarding landscape is found in the country’s northwest corner, in the province of Epirus, which lies just south of the frontier between Greece and Albania.  This area of remarkable beauty is the focus of our journey.

Known as the Zagorochoria (the Zagori villages), it’s a place of towering mountains, thick forests, sparkling streams and a unique flora that serviced as the basis for traditional medical practice.  Around the slopes of the mountains are delightful stone-built villages that have changed little through the centuries.

Dominating the landscape is the incredible UNESCO-protected Vikos Gorge, with the steepest walls of any gorge in the world.

Our base in Zagori will be the Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, a Unique Lodge of the World.  Our journey will provide walks and hikes, with local naturalist guides.  We will also offer a choice of activities, a cooking demonstration of the area’s distinctive cuisine, bird watching, rafting and yoga.  

From Zagori, we travel to Ioannina where we take excursions to nearby sides, including Dodoni, one of the Greece’s most important and evocative ancient sites.

Magnificent Gorges, Towering Peaks & Stone Villages is a journey for lovers of unspoiled nature, history and places where ageless traditions survive.

Why Travel with Thalassa Journeys

Thalassa Journeys was established by the principals and managers of Travel Dynamics, the company that 50 years ago pioneered the concept of educational travel for America’s educational and cultural institutions. The belief that travel is primarily a learning experience forms the core principle of Thalassa Journeys.

Each Thalassa Journey is constructed around a particular theme. Unlike most tours, each of our journeys are intimate, and led by lecturers who are truly subject-matter experts for each theme. Although many other companies claim to have expert lecturers, few truly have accomplished, renowned experts in their fields, like Thalassa.

Itinerary

Day 1 : Sep 8 - Depart THE USA

Depart the United States for Athens, Greece.

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Meals Included

Day 2 : Sep 9 - ATHENS/IOANNINA/ARISTI, Zagori, Greece

Arrive in Athens. Connect with the flight to Ioannina, the main town in northwest Greece, where, upon arrival, we will be transferred to the characteristic Zagori village of Aristi and the excellent Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas.

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Meals Included

Day 3 : Sep 10 - Tour THE ZAGORI COUNTRY & VILLAGES

After a morning orientation at the hotel, drive to the nearby village of Vikos, where a promenade provides a staggering view of Vikos Gorge. About 12 miles long, and up to 1,600 ft. deep, Vikos is reputed to thave the steepest walls of any gorge in the world. The unspoiled condition of this amazing canyon makes it valuable to science as it is home to endangered species and because it contains many and varied ecosystems. Vikos is a UNESCO World Heritage site. After admiring the panorama of Vikos, hike to the springs of the Voidomatis River (about 30 mins, a bit longer on the return), where, in a thick forest of plane trees, we will visit the 16th-century Monastery of Panaghia Spiliotissa, built inside an enormous cave overlooking the river. Then, drive to Megalo Papingo, a delightful village surrounded by imposing mountains. Enjoy lunch at a local taverna and free time to explore the village, continuing to Mikro Papingo, its smaller namesake, stopping along the way to view the Rogovo canyon and the natural pools. Explore the stone paths of the village, set against a towering mountain. Those who wish, instead of driving the 1.5 miles from Megalo Papingo to Mikro Papingo, may walk on an old path that connected the two villages in the past.

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Meals Included

Day 4 : Sep 11 - Tour THE ZAGORI COUNTRY & VILLAGES

Leave the hotel in the morning to explore Zagori's superb country, some of its most beautiful villages and landmark sites. Drive to Dhikorfo, stopping on the way to visit two of the most notable stone bridges dating from the 18th century: the bridge of Kokkoris and the enormous triple-arched bridge of Plakidas. The village of Dhikorfo is known for its grand stone houses. Continue to the village of Dhilofo, one of the most delightful of Zagorian villages. Then onto Vitsa, another attractive village, where we will enjoy lunch at the Kanela kai Garifolo ("Cinnamon and Clove") restaurant whose cuisine specializes in local ingredients. After lunch, drive to the Oxya lookout which provides stupendous views of the Vikos Gorge, before returning to the hotel. For those interested, there will be a two-hour hike, led by a knowledgeable local trekking guide, from the triple-arched bridge to the village of Kipi, following an old country path, rejoining the group at the Cinnamon and Clove restaurant for lunch.

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Meals Included

Day 5 : Sep 12 - Tour VIKOS GORGE & THE CENTRAL ZAGORI

Today we offer two different activities. Experienced hikers may hike a sizeable portion of the length of the Vikos Gorge, starting at the entrance to the gorge near the village of Papingo, ending at the village of Vikos. Starting in the moring, and led by an experienced local guide, the hike will take about six hours. Alternatively, take an excursion that involves shorter walks. Drive from the hotel to the lovely village of Koukouli where we will visit the Lazaridis Cultural Center, which houses a fine collection of local flora. Continue to Kapesovo and Vradheto, two other beautiful villages. From the latter, walk to Beloi (about 30 mins each way) which overlooks the Vikos Gorge and offers one of the best views of it. After lunch at a local taverna, drive to the Monastery of Aghios Ioannis Rongova. Built in the 11th century, the monastery contains exquisite frescoes from the 18th century. From the monastery, walk the short distance to a spot that provides an outstanding view of the Vikaki Gorge ("Small Vikos" Gorge), a beautiful narrow gorge, and then drive through magnificent scenery to Tsepelovo, the main village of Central Zagori. After exploring the village and visiting the imposing Ioannidis mansion, return to the hotel.

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Day 6 : Sep 13 - Tour ARISTI & INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITIES

The cuisine of the Zagori region is as distinctive as it is delectable. It relies on fresh ingredients, some of which are grown wild on the side of mountains. While level land for large-scale farming is not available, shepherding and diary production have been practiced since antiquity. One of the main characteristics of the cuisine is the savory pies that come in countless variety. For lunch, we will enjoy a cooking demonstration at the Aristi, where the hotel's chefs will demonstrate the preparation and cooking of representative Zagorian dishes. You are welcome to participate and assist the chefs. You will also have the opportunity to partake in a variety of other activities that will include a yoga session, bird watching and rafting.

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Meals Included

Day 7 : Sep 14 - Tour DODONI/IOANNINA

Leave the hotel in the morning and drive south to Dodoni, an archaeological site of great interest and importance. Set in a spacious valley that is ringed by mountains, Dodoni was the earliest oracular site in Greece, dedicated to Zeus. Homer refers to Dodoni in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. This splendid site is dominated by its superb theater, one of the largest in Greece, built in the early 3rd century BC. Other remains include temples and a stadium. After touring the site and enjoying lunch at a local taverna, drive to Ioannina where we will check-in at the Hotel Grand Serai.

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Day 8 : Sep 15 - Tour IOANNINA

The thriving university town of Ioannina first came into prominence in the 13th century. Since then, it remains the commercial and cultural center of northwest Greece. The interesting old section of the town is still enclosed within fortifications. Walk the cobbled lanes of the citadel to visit its landmark sites, including the early 17th-century mosque of Aslan-Pasha. Visit the Archaeological Museum which displays artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Roman periods. Spend the afternoon at leisure for independent activities. You may wish to take the local boat to explore Nissi, the small wooded island in the middle of the lake, with its interesting houses and frescoed chapels. Ioannina has been known through the centuries for its silversmiths and their fine filigree silver jewelry. Several streets are lined with silversmith workshops and boutiques. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

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Day 9 : Sep 16 - IOANNINA/ATHENS

After a short morning flight from Ioannina, arrive in Athens, where, after lunch, we will visit the Acropolis and its ageless monuments, built in the 5th century BC, including the incomparable Parthenon. Also, visit the superb Acropolis Museum which houses one of the finest collections of ancient Greek sculpture in the world. Spend the night at the elegant Hotel King George located on Constitution Square, the center of the city.

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Meals Included

Day 10 : Sep 17 - ATHENS/USA

Transfer to the airport for the return flight home.

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Meals Included

Tour Price

$TBD per person, double occupancy

Single room supplement: $TBD

Journey Extension

Pre Journey Extensions

Before the start of Magnificent Gorges, Towering Peaks & Stone Villages, spend three nights in Corfu, one of the most idyllic and historic of Greece's islands (depart the US on September 5, to arrive in Corfu the next day). Double Occupancy rate: $TBD; Single Supplement rate: $TBD

Post Journey Extensions

The post-tour optional extension will explore two of the country's most iconic sites, Meteora (the monasteries in "mid air") and Delphi, Apollo's sanctuary built below Mount Parnassus, as well as Athens (dates: September 16-20). Double Occupancy rate: $TBD; Single Supplement rate: $TBD

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