Scenic Drives in Northern Greece

Ioannina to Meteora and Kastoria to the Prespa Lakes

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

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. 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

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

To see this map with driving directions
click here

See these pages about driving in Greece...

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Latest Posts

  1. Greece to Welcome Brits this Summer ‘With or Without’ a ‘Vaccine Passport’

    Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis invited British travelers to pack their bags and visit Greece quarantine-free this summer once non-essential travel is restored and EU borders re-open.

    Read More

  2. Crete’s Rethymnon Becomes ‘Bike Friendly’ Destination

    The city of Rethymnon, located on Crete, has received the “Bike Friendly” seal by NatTour and the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, two organizations promoting sustainable tourism practic…

    Read More

  3. Dutch Travelers Eager to Visit Greece this Summer

    Greece is among the first holiday destinations that Dutch travelers will visit this summer, according to Dick Gussen, the brand and marketing manager of Corendon, a leading tour operator in The Nether…

    Read More

  4. The Telegraph Highlights 15 ‘Perfect’ Greek Islands for post-Covid Travel

    UK daily newspaper The Telegraph recently highlighted 15 Greek islands as the “perfect” destinations for post-Covid-19 travel. Titled “Which is the perfect Greek island? Here are 15 of our favorites…

    Read More

  5. Greece Updates Covid-19 Aviation Directive for Domestic Air Travel

    The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on Sunday issued an aviation directive (NOTAM) that extends travel restrictions for domestic flights (travel between prefectures) in Greece until 6am on Ma…

    Read More

  6. Attica Stays in Strict Lockdown for Another Week

    Strict lockdown measures will continue in Athens and the surrounding Attica region for one more week, following the recommendations of Greece’s committee of health experts, Civil Protection Deputy Min…

    Read More

  7. Tourism Minister Invites Digital Nomads to Work from Greece

    Greece stands to gain approximately 1.6 billion euros in a year if it manages to attract digital nomads to the country with its new technologies and lax tax policy, said Greek Tourism Minister Harry T…

    Read More

  8. Coronavirus Puts Athens’ Hospitality Market on Hold

    The ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the travel restrictions imposed worldwide and low demand have put Athens’ hospitality market on hold. “There are no bookings [for Athens] at the moment. No…

    Read More

  9. Covid-19: Arcadia in Strict Lockdown, Nafplio Goes ‘Red’

    Greek authorities have tightened lockdown restrictions in the regional unit of Arcadia in the central Peloponnese in an effort to stop the further spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). The General Sec…

    Read More

  10. Surge in Covid-19 Cases May Force Greece to Remain in Lockdown

    Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called off plans to ease Covid-19 lockdown measures early next month after the health authorities announced a surge in cases on Tuesday. “The sharp increase in…

    Read More