Scenic Drives in Northern Greece

Ioannina to Meteora and Kastoria to the Prespa Lakes

Greece has great beaches but its scenic drives are beautiful too. Travelers may know the Greek islands best, and think of Greece as perfect for a beach vacation, but you can take great drives through its spectacular mainland scenery. 

Ioannina stands on the shores of Lake PamvotisIoannina stands on the shores of Lake Pamvotis

Here are two of the best scenic drives in northern Greece. The first winds from the lakeside town of Ioannina, capital of Epirus, through spectacular mountain scenery to arrive at the fabulous monasteries of Meteora. The second drive also takes visitors from a lakeside town, Kastoria, to the beautiful remote Prespa Lakes, on Greece's northern borders.

Scenic Drives in Northern Greece 1

From Ioannina to Meteora

The region of Epirus in north-west Greece is one of the most stunningly beautiful in the whole country… indeed, in the whole of Europe. There are pretty lakeside towns like Ioannina and Kastoria and the awe-inspiring Pindus Mountains. A drive east from Ioannina takes you through the mountains, over a high pass that can be closed in winter, and down into the region of Thessaly, and one of the most distinctive and magical sights in the world: the monasteries of Meteora.

The Monasteries of Meteora in GreeceThe Monasteries of Meteora

The capital of Epirus, Ioannina, has a character all its own. It sits on the shores of a lake in the middle of which is a small island called Nissi, which means ‘the island’. You could easily spend several days in and around Ioannina, and you should drive out on the road towards the Perama Caves – well worth stopping off to explore the cave network. The road then rises around the lake to give lovely views back of Ioannina, before winding upwards into the mountains.

Metsovo in GreeceMetsovo

Another essential stop is the mountain town of Metsovo, a ski resort in winter and another very distinctive Greek community. Beyond here is the Metsovon Pass, one of the highest in Greece at 1705m (5594ft), but don’t set out on this drive in winter without checking the state of the roads. Even if the pass is open, the sharp bends and sheer drops can be dangerous for the driver unused to them.

At other times the rewards are enormous, not just here in the high mountains, but the descent into the lusher plains of Thessaly and, at the very end, the amazing sight of the monasteries of Meteora sitting on top of the rock formations jutting out of the plain. This has to be one of the best drives in Greece. 

Map of drive from Ioannina to Meteora(c) Google Maps

To see this map with driving directions
click here

Prespa Lakes in GreeceThe Prespa Lakes

Scenic Drive in Northern Greece 2

From Kastoria to the Prespa Lakes

This is only a short drive, but definitely one that will live long in the memory. Like Ioannina, Kastoria is a pretty lakeside town of the kind not normally associated with Greece. There are handsome mansions, one of them now a folk museum, and a wealthy history because of its fur-trading past. Head north out of the town and you climb through woods and head towards Greece’s northern frontier.

KastoriaKastoria

It’s only just over an hour or so until you start to descend, and round a corner you will get your first glimpse of the Prespa Lakes. The whole area here is a National Park, and there’s wildlife in abundance. There are small fishing communities on the shores of the lakes, and it is one of the most peaceful areas of Greece. A visitor centre in the main village of Ayios Germanos gives information about walks and wildlife, and you may be able to take a boat trip out onto the lakes with one of the local fishermen, if you ask around. In the middle of the Great Prespa Lake is the border point where Greece meets Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. You can’t get much more off the beaten track than this.

Map of drive from Kastoria to the Prespa Lakes(c) Google Maps

To see this map with driving directions
click here

Other pages about driving in Greece

  • Travelling Around Greece

    Practical information on travelling around Greece by plane, by ferry, by bus, by train and by driving, including car rental, parking and other driving advice.

  • A Drive around Attica

    This drive around Attica offers visitors high hills, beach resorts, small villages and classical sites like Marathon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.

  • Santorini Car Rental

    Santorini car rental companies include Budget, Hermes, VIP Rent a Car and Euro Dollar, with Santorini car hire at the airport, and around Santorini.

  • Our Hire Car in Crete

    The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.

  • Northern Corfu Drive

    There are two sides to every Greek island, the tourist and the traditional, and this drive from Corfu Town through northern Corfu shows the two faces of Corfu.

  • Driving in Greece

    An account of driving in Greece for Greece Travel Secrets including links to the best drives in Greece, practical information and a note of some of the hazards.

  • Best Drives in Greece

    The best drives in Greece chosen and driven by Mike Gerrard of Greece Travel Secrets including from Ioannina to Meteora, the Prespa Lakes and the Mani.

  • Driving in Greece Practical Information

    Driving in Greece practical information including speed limits, fines, drink-driving, buying petrol and other advice for driving in Greece.

  • Athens Car Rental

    Athens car rental options include almost all of the major international car hire firms such as Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Europcar.

  • Athens Airport Car Rental

    Athens Airport car rentals include Alamo/National Car Rental, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt, all with offices at the airport.

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