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Culture Tour: Exploring the Ancient Theaters of Epirus (self drive)
Overview

Cultural tours in Greece are a unique experience to discover the cultural routes and traditions of Greek antiquity.

Ancient Greek drama thrived in Greece between the 6th and 2nd century BC. Tragedy, comedy and satyric drama were the three theatrical genres performed in ancient Greece during the festival of Dionysus, an event held in honor of the famous God of wine, festivity and ecstasy. Every ancient city-state had its theater, and theatrical performances were considered “the mass media” of their time.

The rugged and mountainous region of Epirus, is home to four remarkable ancient theaters: the theater of Dodona, among the most well preserved ancient theaters, that was built by Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus, during the 3rd century BC, the theater of Cassope, with a panoramic view to the Ionian sea, the theater of Nicopolis, with its blending elements of Greek and Roman architecture and the small theater of Ambracia in the city of Arta.

Our journey to Epirus, reveals a historic timeline of the region, leading us from the Mycenaean era (oracle of Dodona devoted to Mother Goddess and oracle of the Dead, or “Necromanteion”), and the classical period through a cultural itinerary to the three ancient theaters of Epirus (Dodona, Cassope and Amvracia), to the Roman period’s ancient city of Nicopolis. Along with the rich cultural heritage of Epirus, travelers will discover a crossroad of civilizations and landscapes between the Pindos mountain range and the Ionian sea. Castles, monasteries, arched bridges, stone-built villages and natural beauty blend in harmony to offer an unforgettable experience.

Tour highlights

  • Visit the beautiful cities of Arta, Ioannina and Parga
  • Explore the ancient Theatres of Epirus: Dodona, Ambracia, Cassope, Nicopolis
  • See the site of Oracle of the Dead “Necromanteion”
  • Admire the natural beauty of the historical river of Acheron
  • Explore the Roman City of of Victory, Nicopolis, and its magnificent Museum

Itinerary

Day 1:  Arta

Driving with your rented car you will leave from Athens in the morning heading west through the northern coast of Peloponnese, until you cross the bridge of Rio to the town of Antirio. After a short break you will head to the north, passing by the National Park of Messolonghi-Etoliko lagoons, where the Patraic gulf meets the Ionian Sea where Evinos and Acheloos rivers pour their waters. You will arrive to the city of Arta that was known in ancient times as Ambracia.

There you can visit the medieval bridge over the Arachthos River, the church of Panagia Parigoritisa, one of the most important Byzantine churches in Greece, the ancient theatre of Ambracia and the Byzantine castle (13th century), where general Makriyiannis and his men were imprisoned by the Turks during the 1821 revolution. After lunch you can depart for the city of Ioannina, the capital of Epirus, spreading out around beautiful Lake Pamvotida, where you will spend the night.

Day 2 Ioannina

Ioannina was established in the 6th century AD by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. It was always a multicultural city dominated mostly by Christians, but with Islamic and Jewish influences, a coexistence which is evident even today. You can spend the morning in the city and enjoy its relaxed pace and beautiful sceneries. Υou can explore the imposing castle of Ioannina, the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece with significant influence over the history of the town. There you can visit the recently opened Museum of Silversmithing, an interesting thematic museum, that focuses principally on the history of silversmithing in the region of Epirus.

You can also stroll on the banks of Lake Pamvotida and take a small boat to reach the island of the lake, an earthly paradise with lush vegetation and a small village with picturesque paved alleys and folk art shops. This island used to be an important monastic center and has five monasteries of great historical significance. For lunch you can head to the village of Zitsa where you will visit a traditional vineyard and taste local food and wines. On your way back to Ioannina, you can make a stop at Theofegyro, an impressive natural monument, a huge rock that forms an arched bridge over Kalamas river.

In the afternoon you can explore the traditional coffee shops of Ioannina and taste the delicious local sweets, the famous ‘sker bourek’, or ‘sugar pie’, the exceptionally delicious baklava and other local syrup pastries. You will also get acquainted with the local tradition of silversmith’s art and admire the silver ornaments, the delicate earrings, the intricate chains, the ornate buckles, that are sold in the town’s jewellers’ shops. You will spend a second night in Ioannina.

Day 3 Archaeological site of Dodona

You will start your day exploring Ancient Dodona, the ancient sanctuary and oracle of Zeus, which according to Herodotos was ‘Greece’s most ancient city’. Dodona was a major spiritual place in ancient Greece, the oldest of the Greek oracles. Ancient people would travel great distances in order to consult the priests. Outside the temple of Zeus the priests gathered under a sacred Oak tree and glimpsed into the future by listening to the sound of the leaves as they shivered in the breeze. People from the entire known world would make the pilgrimage to Dodona in order to consult the future-telling Oak tree and to attend cultural festivals that took place regularly there. During your tour in the site you will explore the well-preserved Hellenistic Theatre and the foundations of the Hiera Oikia (Sacred Home) that stood next to the sacred oak, as well as the traces of the ancient stadium.

You will continue your journey towards Parga, through the mountains of Paramythia along the Ionian Sea, a small town built amphitheatrically along the slopes of the mountain, offering thus a beautiful view to the sea. There you can visit an Old Olive Oil Factory that has been transformed into an interesting museum about the tradition of olive oil processing and production. You will spend the night in a boutique hotel in Parga.

Day 4 Ancient Cassope & Oracle of the Dead, or “Necromanteion”

Today you will visit the ancient city of Cassope, which was built in the middle of the 4th century BC at the slopes of Zalongos mountain. It is considered one of the best remaining examples of a city built along the lines of a Hippodamian plan in Greece, an urban plan based on streets intersecting at right angles. The city walls, the theatre, the odeon, the agora, the prytaneion, the temple of Aphrodite are some of the sights that you will see. Your next stop is the Necromanteion, believed to be the doors to Hades, the place of the dead. Labyrinth halls and underground tunnels were leading pilgrims to the central chamber, where they could have their future told by talking to the dead.

Nearby are the banks of the beautiful river of Acheron, known as one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. The river springs from the village Glykí at an altitude of 1.600 metres in the mountains of Souli and pours in the area of Ammoudia on the Ionian coast. You can have a short hike at the village of Glyki to explore the springs of the river and later head to the vilage of Ammoudia, where you can eat fresh fish in a traditional taverna by the sea and if available have a boat tour at the calm waters of the river. After the boat ride you can return to Parga, where you can have some free time to relax and have dinner. You will stay for a second night in Parga.

Day 5 Roman city of Nicopolis and return to Athens

Nicopolis, the City of Victory, was founded in 31BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus Octavian following his victory in the naval battle of Actium against the combined forces of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra. The archeological site today represents the largest Roman city in Greece. You will be astonished by the fortification walls, the Theatre, the Odeon, the Monument of Augustus, the Stadium and the well known Nymphaeum. You can also visit the newly built archeological museum of Nicopolis, to admire the impressive statues and learn about the history of this victorious city. After lunch you will start your return trip to Athens.

Important Tips

  • Travel Bite date and/or time might be modified or cancelled due to weather conditions and in this event the option of an alternative date or full refund will be given.
  • We would recommend to bring with you good walking (closed toes) shoes with non-slippery soles, hat, sun glasses, sunscreen and a camera.
  • Single occupancy with extra charge 120 euro per person (in case of interest please send email from contact us section or here)

Tips & Useful Info

Starting point: Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece
Languages: English, Greek
Included Amenities: Accommodation in hotels and characterful local guesthouses with breakfast, Information material with maps and guides about the itinerary and the places you will visit, Public Liability Insurance, all applicable taxes, 24x7 support
Excluded Amenities: Personal expenses, Transportation to the meeting point, Air tickets to/from Greece, Travel Insurance, Entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites, Food, drinks and beverages if not mentioned above, Tips, anything not specified in the inclusions section
Minimum number of guests needed: 2
Maximum number of guests: 8
Physical Level: No difficulty. Previous experience is not required. Basic level of agility and fitness is needed.

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