Christ Pantocrator mosaic, Katholikon church, Hosios Loukas monastery, Boeotia province, Greece

Greece //

The central mainland

The central mainland of Greece has long been thought of as the Greek heartland, the zone first liberated from the Turks. In fact, its most central province Stereá Elládha means literally “Greek Continent”. For the visitor its most stellar attractions are the site of the ancient oracle at Delphi, and, further north, the other-worldly rock-pinnacle monasteries of Metéora. Close to Delphi is Ósios Loukás monastery – containing the finest Byzantine mosaics in the country – and, to the south, the pleasant port resorts of Galaxídhi and Náfpaktos along the north shore of the Gulf of Kórinthos.

North of Delphi is the vast agricultural plain of Thessaly, dotted with mostly drab market and industrial towns, but also boasting the mountainous Pelion peninsula, with its enticing villages, beaches and hiking options. On the east side of Thessaly lie the remote monasteries of the Metéora and the imposing Píndhos Mountains which once formed the barrier with the eastern province of Epirus, the last region to shake off Turkish rule. The Píndhos range makes for scenic hiking opportunities and features the dramatic Víkos Gorge, reputedly Europe’s deepest. The Epirot capital, lakeside Ioánnina, still evokes an exotic past. Nearby lies ancient Dodóna, the majestic site of Greece’s first oracle, presided over by Zeus. Finally, the west coast is sprinkled with some good beaches and resorts along the Ionian Sea, as well as with more historic sites from every epoch. With your own transport (highly recommended) and careful planning, you can take in the central mainland’s main sights and pleasures in a couple of weeks.

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