Kastoria: Northern Greece’s Gem

Mainland Greece

It is located 226 km from Thessaloniki but the drive is quite easy thanks to the large road that leads to it, so it normally wouldn’t take you more than two hours to get there; of course, if your starting point is Athens then your trip will probably be three times longer.

Kastorias’ Lake Photo Credit: Nikos Koutoulas

Built on a small strip of land which stretches to the center of lake Orestiada, splitting it almost in two, it definitely resembles a soaring island. A stroll around the lake is considered as one of the most scenic in Greece as it offers breathtaking views of both the city and the neighboring mountains.

Undoubtedly, this aura of romance is evident all around the lake which holds the perimeter of Kastoria tightly in its arms!

The calmness of its waters is harmoniously aligned with the lazy rocking of the tiny boats, while the majestic displays of the sun and the moon create one of the most romantic sceneries in northern Greece. It’s also home to a huge number of birds, such as pelicans and storks.

Kastorias’ Lake Pelicans Photo Credit: Spiros Vathis

In the old quarters of Doltso and Apozari, a visitor can admire luxurious old mansions, as well as many churches, a living proof of the city’s Byzantine roots.

When I visited, I was actually told that there are more than 70 Byzantine churches, while the architecturally outstanding mansions, which are still being used by locals as residences, date back to the 18th century.

Kastorias’ Lake Cafeterias Photo Credit: Spiros Vathis

As for food recommendations, locals, as usual, are the best source of information on the matter. The outdoor café and the charming garden area of the Orologopoulos Mansion is allegedly one of the best choices for breakfast, if one wishes to enjoy the ambience of one of the most charmingly quaint neighborhoods in Greece.

Kastorias’ Architecture Photo Credit: stefg74

In recent days, locals also seem to hold a clear preference towards “To Steki tis Pareas” and “Palia Poli” (with a large selection of wines provided by the local vineyard “Ktima Stergiou”), owing to their authentic approach to the delicious local cuisine.

After lunch, shopping is one of the recommended activities. The city has of old been famous for its prominent position in the fur trade , but the increase in demand for Chinese (cheaper) fur along with the rise of the anti-fur movement has put a damper on the glory days of this market in Kastoria. However, some stores still sell fur garments which have proved to be very popular.

Finally, if you’re visiting in the winter, you should take advantage of the impeccable ski facilities available at the Vitsi Ski Center. It is conveniently located, about 20 km from the city, and features ski slopes tailored to any age and experience group. But above all, it lays breathtaking mountain views at the visitor’s feet.

Cover Photo Credit:Spiros Vathis

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