Self drive vacation in Northern Greece, hike & tour

“Drive and hike amongst the rugged Zagori region of northwest Greece on a flexible eight day itinerary that features Thessaloniki, Meteora and plenty of choice in between.”

Highlights

Meteora | Thessaloniki | Kastraki | Monastery of St Nicholas | Vergina | Zagori Region | Vikos-Aoos National Park | Dragon Mountain Lake | Konitsa | Ioannina and Metsovo | Dodoni and Vergina |

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Self drive vacation in Northern Greece, hike & tour

Environment

Our local agency specialises in sustainable adventure and wildlife vacations in Greece. They offer diverse travel packages that allow for flexibility, affordability and variety. Our customers can choose from a small group trip or a completely tailor made option for minimum two persons.

Our aim is to promote ecotourism and sustainable adventure vacations at the same time as providing a unique travel experience and allowing you to enjoy the fantastic nature and scenery of this part of Greece, a world away from busy tourist resorts.

Our treks and vacations throughout Greece, encompassing National Parks, Protected Environmental Areas, Archaeological Sites, Caves & Hot Springs - places that have great natural, geological, cultural, and historical value, and the local guides provide further information about the environment and the benefits of sustainable adventure vacations. All staff have a wide knowledge of local areas that you visit during the trips and, most importantly, they know how to protect them.

The most sensitive animal species in our visited areas are two amphibian species, the Fire Salamander (mainly to be seen in the gorge of Enipeas – upper part) and the Alpine Newt (to be seen in the Dragon Lake of Astraka). We always inform our visitors to watch their steps as these animals can be found on our walking paths. Some endangered species of Birds of Prey like the Golden Eagle and the Egyptian Vulture and also rare mammals like the Brown Bear and the Balkan Chamois are present in the visited areas. Visitors get information about these species as well. Especially during the spring time, we see a lot of orchids in the Vikos Gorge. Although for all of our visitors it is obvious, we inform them that orchids are rare and protected. More interested visitors get details about the Greek Flora and Fauna which is one of the richest in Europe.

We strongly believe in the need to protect and enhance the places we travel to, and in the potential of responsible tourism, to be a positive force in environmental and cultural conservation. Our vacation pack provide lots of information to our clients and encourages them to research and support the two specific NGOs:

1. Archelon - The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece
2. Arcturos - The Society for the Protection of Wildlife in Greece (with current emphasis on the Brown Bear and Wolf).

Since 2015 a percentage of the tour price is donated to maintain ancient paths in the Zagoria area (Vikos National Park) and Pelion.

We ask all our customers to respect the fragile mountain environment by, for example, taking their litter away with them. All our trips are either in very small groups or tailor made for individuals to minimise the impact of large groups on this mountain region.

In Zagoria area, near the Dragon lake, the Mountain Hut Astraka is operated by Giorgos and his wife. Since 2013 the hut uses renewable energy sources (photovoltaic panels).

We strongly believe in the need to protect and enhance the places we travel to, and in the potential of responsible tourism, to be a positive force in environmental and cultural conservation.

Community

100% of our guides and drivers in Greece are local people. We firmly believe that a local licensed guide can offer more insight into the countryside and region as a whole as well as enhancing the local economy. Their expertise and local knowledge will enhance your experience and understanding of the historical context and the environmental impact of your visit. This is preferable, in our opinion, than sending a guide from another country or even from elsewhere in Greece. All food on the included trek is bought locally, which provides employment for local shops.

The accommodation used on the tour is in small, family run establishments which have been in business for many years. Many of these hotels are traditionally built, respecting the local architecture and surroundings. Of course at the same time, these enterprises have to offer high standard of quality in dining and accommodation. Last but not least we have a personal relationship / friendship with all of our providers. Food in the hotels is primarily sourced locally.

In Meteora we stay in Hotel Dellas, which is owned by the family Dellas; they have 5 more employees, all locals from Kastraki and Kalambaka. We have our lunches and dinners at the Restaurant Paradisos, a family run (couple serving and mother is the cook) with 2 more employees. In Tsepelovo village we support Hotel Gouris. It is run by an old lady (Mrs. Anthoula) who has no other income except this little guest house. In Vitsa village we stay at Selini Hotel. It is also a family run little hotel run by a couple (Takis and Maria); the homemade food that Maria prepares is excellent. In Mikro Papigo we stay at Hotel Dias and we also dine there. It’s a family run Hotel and restaurant run by Kostas and his brother; 5 other local people are working there. In the town of Konitsa we stay in Hotel Dendro, eating at the restaurant of the hotel, a few meters away. It is a small family run hotel, run by a couple (Yiannis and Katerina) and their son Christos; 3 more locals are working both in hotel and restaurant.

Generally it is a big help when people visit Greece, especially in these hard times. Doing it with some environmental education, supporting the local economy and small enterprises is even better. Also tourism in small scale is helping the people in these areas to protect their environment as they understand that this is why tourists are coming.

In all of these villages, the main income of the locals is tourism. Since the economic crisis in Greece, the number of the Greeks visiting this area reduced dramatically. There are no official reports to support this statement yet, but we know it. Greeks used to be the majority of the tourists in the area (our estimation is around 80%), now only a few Greeks can afford a trip there. The area of Zagori is already considered to be one of the poorest of Greece.

Reviews of Self drive vacation in Northern Greece, hike & tour

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 13 Sep 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The opportunity to undertake self-guided walking in areas of fantastic and dramatic mountain countryside, having been thoroughly and expertly prepared by the local tour guide. Our trek to Gamila peak, one of the highest mountains in Greece was truly breath-taking as was our walk through the Vikos Gorge.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Explain what level of walking you are comfortable to undertake and the tour staff are happy to modify the walking programme for you accordingly.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. We stayed each night in small family run hotels and guest houses. They were extremely friendly and helpful. The food served was superb and the vast majority of ingredients used were locally sourced.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Absolutely excellent. I would very highly recommend to anyone looking for superb walking , beautiful food , unbelievable scenery and very friendly and helpful hosts. A brilliant vacation thank you.

Reviewed on 29 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Excellent vacation, we enjoyed it all - highlights were Meteora, where we did a hike to view the monasteries and walking in the Vikos Gorge, stunning, our photos don't capture the majesty of it all.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take a portable GPS! The directions were good as far as they went, but the Greeks seem to be very sparing with their signposts, it took us some time
to find our way in and out of Ioanina (having stopped to eat and go to the bank) in both directions!
We booked a guided walk at Meteora and that was definitely worth doing rather than just arriving at the monasteries by car.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We would hope so, all the accommodation was family run, all very welcoming and anxious we should get the best from the area. We only used the
car to get from place to place and did lots of walks. The area is clearly trying to increase the number of visitors with more hotels etc., but we hope it
doesn't get overwhelmed.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Epic!!

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