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The Northwest

Some of the most beautiful and wild nature in Greece, as well as remarkable and unspoilt mountain villages are found in this part of Greece, but even so it is still far less visited than other regions of the country. Part of this has to do with it distance from main population centers in Greece, and also lack of direct road access from other European Union countries, as it is bordered by Albania, and FYROM.

Certainly many tourists want to be near the sea, though for hikers and naturalists, it is a fascinating area to explore. The area has three National Parks, more than any other region in Greece.

They are the Vikos-Aoos, Pindos, and Prespa Lakes, and though they are certainly worth visiting (and the Vikos gorge is indeed a popular gorge hike in summer for many travellers), the entire region is full of wonders, including areas with very few villages.

Autumn in this region can be very beautiful, as it is throughout northern Greece, with magnificent colours of the turning leaves of the trees. The climate up north is a Balkan rather than a Mediterranean one, with more rain and snow than farther south, and cold weather often lasting through April, though the coastal areas can warm up by the late part of the month. For the inland mountain areas, one might have to wait till mid-June or even later, to get past the threat of cold weather.

Ioannina (also sometimes spelled Yannina)

lake ioanninaThis main town in the nomos (prefecture) of the same name sits right on a huge natural lake, Pamvotidha by name., fringed by marshes and reed beds. The spring fed lake is quite large and shallow, and mostly built up on the western side. The reed beds are inhabited by great reed warblers and common reed warblers, as well as herons (both purple and grey ones) and many other water birds.

White storks, which breed in towns and villages near the lake, can be spotted feeding in the marshes or around the lake, and lesser kestrels nest on cliffs and old buildings nearby. Winter brings great numbers of wild fowl, as well as pygmy cormorants.

As might be expected, amphibians are plentiful here, with marsh frogs in great numbers, which are eaten by storks and herons, and also tree frogs. There are also tortoises and terrapins.

Flowering plants, dragonflies and insects complete the list. This lake area is convenient to the town from which one can hire boats to explore the lake, and there are frequent boats to the lake island of Nissa (also known as Ali Pasha's Island, which belonged to an Ottoman potentate who got too big for his britches and was executed by his imperial superiors, the bullet hole in the floor of his mansion on the island a big tourists attraction). The east shore of the lake can be explored via a road off of the Katara Pass road.

Dodoni

This famous Greek site to the southwest of Ioannina, with its huge amphitheater and ruins, is also a wonderful place to see wildflowers in spring (late April through May), and there is also some birdlife there. It is located near the village of the same name. Take the road south from Ioannina and follow the road signs.