If you are a lover of the beauty of the mountains, of color, folklore, and good food then Metsovo in Epirus, Greece, is for you.
People come for the emerald and sapphire waters around the islands and at the numerous gorgeous beaches, but they forget that as a country, Greece is more than 80% mountainous. And that means that many people miss out on the breathtaking beauty of the Greek mountains and the Greek mountainous villages and towns all year long, but especially during the winter.
It might even come as a surprise, but it snows regularly in the mountains of Greece, giving you the chance to enjoy picture-perfect winter wonderlands, perfect for the winter holidays.
One of these stunningly gorgeous places is Metsovo, Greece. It’s not by chance that it is called “the Switzerland of Greece”!
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A Guide to Metsovo Greece
Where is Metsovo?
Metsovo is located in the mountain ridge of Pindos, in northern Greece. It has the city of Ioannina in its east and the cluster of Meteora in its west. Metsovo is a town village, but there are clusters of smaller villages scattered in the area around that are also considered part of Metsovo.
How to get to Metsovo
The closest biggest city with airport to Metsovo is Ioannina. From there it’s only a half hour drive through Egnatia highway.
From Thessaloniki, it’s 220 km away and again through Egnatia highway, you will need about 2 and a half hours to get there.
From Athens and through Ioannina it’s 450km and you will need 5 hours and 30 minutes. An alternative route from Athens is through Trikala and Kalampaka where you can stop and see the impressive rock formations and monasteries of Meteora on your way.
This route is 370km and you will need 4 hours and 15 minutes to reach Metsovo. If you don’t have a car the public bus (Ktel) goes to Metsovo from many major cities around Greece like Athens, Thessaloniki, and Trikala.
Things to Do in Metsovo Greece
Metsovo has stubbornly preserved its traditional style in architecture and general heritage, which is celebrated and guarded by the locals as much as its natural beauty is. Consequently, Metsovo has managed to completely conserve the way it looked in its height of commercial power in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it exported its famous textiles and woven goods in all the Balkans and even across the Mediterranean.
You will be surprised that Metsovo has something for everyone. From skiing and wine-dipping to hiking to experiencing folklore and enjoying tasty and unique local specialties and dishes, you will find that there’s so much to do in Metsovo that it’s best to give it a few days to fully savor it. Just looking at how long is the must-do list will give you an idea of the unexpected richness of experience this hidden mountain gem of Greece has in store for you!
So, what are the best things to experience in Metsovo?
Visit the Tsanaka Folklore Museum
The Folk Museum of the Tsanakas and Venetis families is housed in a centuries-old upper-class mansion in Metsovo. The house itself is a prime example of Vlach architecture and beautiful to see.
Within the Museum you will have the chance to witness more than 300 years of Metsovo’s history, from kitchen utensils to traditional clothing to legal and other official documents in full display. You will also enjoy a beautiful collection of 19th century woven Metsovo art, a unique photo archive documenting daily life in Metsovo in various eras, and a tour through the house to give you a feel of how it was to live in Metsovo in the past centuries.
Visit the Averoff-Tositsa Museum of Folk Art
The Averoff-Tositsa Museum of Folk Art is housed in a 17th century, three-story, traditional stone mansion. Walking inside, you step into a time capsule of how life was in Metsovo for the privileged classes.
You will enjoy the beautiful architecture and traditional interior design, as well as gorgeous collections of silverware, icons, carpets, furniture, and daily use items as they were when the national benefactors of Greece, Evangelos Averoff-Tositsa and Michail Tositsa, used them and bequeathed them to the museum.
Visit the Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art (the Art Gallery)
The Averoff Art Gallery in Metsovo houses the works of some of the most important fine artists of Greece.
Its permanent collection boasts works by all the major Greek painters of the 19th and 20th century, such as Gyzis, Lytras, Volanakis, and Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, and is considered one of the most complete collections of Greek art from these two centuries.
There are also works by major Greek sculptors and printmakers which you can enjoy, as well as other temporary collections and exhibitions of art from other major museums of fine art and even private collections.
Visit the Katogi Averoff Winery
Metsovo is famous for the production of Katogi Averoff, a deep red Cabernet Sauvignon wine first brought to the area in the 50s by Averoff, who wanted “French wine in the slopes of Greece” to become a staple- and it did.
Visit the beautiful winery and go on a tour to see the great hall with more than 1200 wine barrels, learn of the winemaking process, and top it off by tasting the wine.
Visit the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary
Just a little outside Metsovo village, where two tributaries of the River Arahthos meet, you will find the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.
Built in the 18th century, this monastery is unique and used to be a hub of Metsovo’s economic and commercial life as the monks were active in agriculture and trade, and let travelers use it as a waystation on their journey to Thessaly.
In the monastery, you will be able to enjoy gorgeous 17th-century icons and woodwork, beautiful frescoes, and a unique belltower, the top half of which is made of wood.
Visit the Church of St. George
You will find the Church of St. George on the northeast side of Metsovo, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountain ridge and walk in its garden with the giant trees.
The church itself is a beautiful example of a neo-byzantine basilica, with a wood-carved iconostasis and icons dating as far back as 1709.
Visit the Averoff Gardens
Stretching across an impressive 10-acre expanse, the Averoff Gardens near the Church of St. George are certainly not to be missed. In it, you will find a huge array of all the flora of the Pindos area, represented in an overflowing, painstakingly arranged composition for everyone to enjoy.
You will be surrounded by a miniature of the entire Pindos mountain ridge, with all its huge trees, all the way to the delicate flowers and bushes, while your children can play in the special area prepared for them.
Visit the Ghinas Watermill
At the riverbanks of Arahthos, not at all far away from Metsovo, you will come upon Ghinas’ watermill. This is one of the most well-known watermills in Greece, and it used to be the area’s powerhouse for grain processing across the ages. It has been converted into a museum, and the guard there will be happy to give you historical and cultural information.
Visit Lake Aoos
Aoos Lake is an artificial springs lake, created for the production of electricity. It is now an integral part of the ecology in the area. The lake is breathtakingly beautiful in summer and winter alike. In summer you can even take a swim in its waters and enjoy the colorful blooms all around, while in the winter you can enjoy a magical snowy location that looks like a movie set.
Go skiing at Anilio Ski Resort
If you visit Metsovo during the winter, you can’t miss going to Anilio Ski Resort. Whether you are a beginner skier or a master, the resort has the skiing slope for you! Greece is well known for its excellent ski resorts, and Anilio is one of the most recent, modern ones.
Enjoy skiing surrounded by stunning, imposing mountains, and when you are tired enough, hurry inside for a warm fire, excellent service, and delicious food as you look at the gorgeous view.
Savor the delicious cheeses and local delicacies
Metsovo is renowned for its local cheeses. So, while you are there, you absolutely should taste them all!
Metsovo is internationally especially famous for Metsovone, a smoked semi-hard cheese that has been under PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) since the 90s. Made of cow’s and goat’s milk, it is then allowed to mature for three months and then exposed over smoke made by burning special grass and herbs for 12 days.
Except for Metsovone, you should ask for Metsovella cheese, as well as an assortment of very local cheeses made with infusions of red wine, pepper, and herbs. There is also galotyri, a soft creamy one you spread on bread or pies and then wash down with the excellent local wine.
Metsovo’s cuisine is centered around dairy products as well as goat, sheep, and forest products such as mushrooms, wild greens and herbs. In the local tavernas, you will enjoy many different tasty and uniquely delectable combinations of all these ingredients, from grilled meats and salads to local cheese and herb pies.
Visit the Pindos National Park (Valia Calda)
Near Metsovo, you will find the Pindos National Park, also known as Valia Calda. It is comprised of two thick forests of black pine (Pinus nigra) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica). The forested area is characterized as of outstanding natural beauty and high ecological significance, as a lot of important and rare species of animals and plants live there. It is a NATURA 2000 protected area and considered a “biogenetic reservoir.”
Go hiking in Valia Calda, and enjoy the several creeks, springs, little rivers, and tiny mountain lakes, surrounded by ancient trees and walking on a beautiful forest floor. You can also go swimming, fishing, mushroom collecting, kayaking, camping, and a lot more, depending on the season!
Continue on to Ioannina
As you leave Metsovo, or even on a day excursion from Metsovo, you must visit Ioannina. Ioannina city is the capital of the region of Epirus, and one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. Sitting right next to the lake Pamvotida with the characteristic tiny island in its middle, Ioannina is a historical city with amazing heritage and beauties to take in.
Ioannina has been a colorful city through the ages, with the Greek Christian, Islamic and Jewish elements meshing seamlessly to create Ioannina’s special flavor. Visit the Castle City of Ioannina, where the famous (or infamous!) Ali Pasha lived, and hear of his fiery story with Lady Frosyne as you enjoy the view of the lake. Enjoy the famous Ioannina cuisine and marvel at the gold and silver work on display in jewelry and various utensils- and perhaps purchase some for yourself!
Nearby, there is one of the most beautiful cave complexes of Europe, the Cave of Perama, with the mesmerizing natural sculptures in its various chambers, such as the Chamber of the Pilgrims and the Imperial Hall. It is hard to believe that no human hand created the art you will witness in the Cave of Perama, just as it is hard to believe that natural beauty as the one you’ll find in Ioannina, as well as Metsovo, exists outside of movies.
Where to eat in Metsovo
All the restaurants around town offer very tasty food. During my recent visit, we chose the taverna called The Tzaki that offers delicious grilled meat, homemade pies, and local cheeses.
Where to stay in Metsovo
There are many accommodation options around Metsovo. My personal choice was The Katogi Averoff Hotel and Winery. A luxury but yet affordable hotel located in the centre of the village and next to the homonym winery. It offers nicely decorated rooms with attention to detail and all the modern amenities.
The hotel staff is very friendly and helpful and the breakfast buffet offers a wide range of traditional products. At the hotel bar, I had the pleasure of trying a couple of wines from the winery accompanied by local cheeses.
Another great, more budget friendly option to stay in Metsovo is hotel Kassaros located in the centre of the village. It offers traditional rooms with modern amenities and mountain views.
Metsovo is a great destination all year round offering visitors a wide range of activities in the nature like skiing in the winter, hiking and horse-back riding. It is also a great destination for gastronomy and wine lovers.
Have you ever been to Metsovo? Did you like it?