Epirus, which is Greek for the continent, is a superb mountain region covering an area of 9,203 square kilometers in northwestern Greece. It has a population of 350,000, and its capital town is Ioannina.
Protected in the east by the mighty Pindus range and the serried peaks of Panaetolikon, Epirus is a region with vast orange groves surrounding the deep inlet of the Ambracian Gulf. Some of its most famous towns are Ioannina, Arta, Parga, and Igoumenitsa.
The well-preserved ruins of polygonal walls, theater, and odeum at Kassiopi, in central Epirus, reflect an era in the history of the region when the first of the Greek tribes came to settle here in the Bronze Age. Other interesting ruins include those at Nikopolis, near Preveza, an ancient city built by Octavius when in 31 B.C. he defeated the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. Even more impressive is the Theatre of Dodoni, one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in Greece.
The serene flow of life in picturesque towns and idyllic valleys and the fine beaches on the shores of the Ionian Sea combine to attract an ever-increasing number of visitors to Epirus, especially now that Igoumenitsa has become a main gate of entry into Greece for motorists arriving from Italy.
From Igoumenitsa, an excellent road climbs up 101 km to Ioannina, where a choice has to be made whether to travel northwards and then eastwards through the splendid scenery of the Pindus range to Metsovo, and over the Katara pass to Meteora, Trikala, Larissa, and then on to the Athens-Thessaloniki toll highway. The other choice, which is also the more usual, is to head southwards through Arta, Amphilochia, to Agrinion for the car ferry to Rio, on the Peloponnese.
The fast, new, and scenic highway from Igoumenitsa to Rio across from the Peloponnese is one long perfection. It winds up into hills and through woods, past green meadows that are bright and scented with flowers, and into a valley where oleanders grow beside stretches of plane tree-shaded river banks. Here one can pitch a tent and spend days by the River Louros, enjoying a swim and pastoral meals by a green bank, with sheep and goat bells tinkling away in the distance.
Apart from the several ancient sites in the region, the Perama Caves with their fascinating underworld of stalactites and stalagmites are also worth a prolonged visit. They have situated 3 km from Ioannina.