By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny

 

1-Metsovo-and-the-Pindus-Mountains

Metsovo-and-the-Pindus-Mountains

Touring mainland Greece is an endless satisfaction for those with an inquisitive mind. If you travel, say, from Corfu on the West coast to Thessaloniki on the East coast, you will go through Epirus a little known Greek region. Here an untouched nature and authentic villages show you a totally different Greece. Let’s go beyond clichés.

 

2-A-chance-encounter-in-Pindus-Mountains

A-chance-encounter-in-Pindus-Mountains

An enchanting nature

Epirus is a mountainous region crossed from North to South by the Pindus Mountain range. Driving there will take you on some of the highest roads of Greece going through the “Pindus Mountain mixed forests” one of Europe eco-regions. Although winters are cold with heavy snowfall summers definitely have a hot Mediterranean climate. This mixed climate fosters a rich wild life and a remarkable diversity of trees such as black pines, junipers, deciduous and evergreen oaks, maples… Here live Greece’s last wolves, deer, wild boars, wildcats, chamois… as well as Dice snakes or rare nose-horned vipers! But there are also less frightening animals such as goshawk, Egyptian and griffon vultures or majestic imperial eagles.

 

3-Charming-Metsovo

Charming-Metsovo

Vivid Vlach culture in Metsovo

The route will for sure take you to Metsovo a lively mountain town full of charm and character. Built on a hillside Metsovo has strong stone and wood houses as well as historic mansions. In the past Metsovo was a prosperous trade town ideally located on a high mountain pass on the North to South road linking the Balkans to the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa. Local people called Vlach were good shepherds and skilled weavers. They made renowned colourful hand woven textiles with unique patterns that they were able to sell throughout the Mediterranean world.

 

4-The-mouth-watering-Metsovo-Spanakopita

The-mouth-watering-Metsovo-Spanakopita

Today Metsovo is both a ski resort in the winter and a hikers’ paradise in the summer. Walking up and down its streets you will hear the sound of running water springing from countless historic fountains. This wonderful mountain water is drinkable so don’t bother buying bottles of water in Metsovo and enjoy this free drink. Fortunately you will have more than water to keep you going! Metsovo cuisine is a hearty mountain one and you will enjoy tasty goat cheese, game, roast lamb, delicious pita bread such as a mouth-watering wood-oven baked “spanakopita” stuffed with spinach or “tiropita” stuffed with cream cheese.

 

5-Typical-Metsovian-architechture

Typical-Metsovian-architechture

Local wines are quite unique too. In the late 1950’s Evangelos Averoff was the first wine grower to plant French vines in Greece. He grew Cabernet Sauvignon on the sunny slopes of Mount Pindus reviving an ancient local wine tradition. He was crowned with success and today the “Katogi Averoff Winery” produces international awarded red wines. Never failing to innovate the Averoff now promote ancient indigenous Greek varieties that are blended with French ones to make unique vintages. The winery is open to the public as well as several others in Metsovo.

 

6-Award-winning-Red-and-Rose-wines-by-Metsovo-Averoff-Winery

Award-winning-Red-and-Rose-wines-by-Metsovo-Averoff-Winery

As head of a vital mountain route and trade centre Metosovo has flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries under the Ottoman rule. Merchants prospered and were able to build grand mansions. Several of them are still to be seen in town and you can visit the Tositsa Mansions built in 1661 that now is Metsovo Folk Art Museum. It still looks like a family house and displays a rich collection of furniture, icons, rugs, silverware, local folk costumes and jewellery.

 

8-Stunning-view-from-the-main-terrace

Stunning-view-from-the-main-terrace

The “Grand Forest Metsovo”, tailor-made for a full nature immersion

Although most tourists in the area are Greek more and more foreigners are falling under the spell of this mountainous destination. The heavy snowfalls in wintertime allow all kinds of winter sports and there are three ski resorts near Metsovo with ski lifts and ski schools. But this close to nature destination is at its best in late spring, summer           and early fall offering a wide range of activities for top athletes, mere amateurs and families. Hiking is the king activity around Metsovo and the Pindus Mountains while discovering magnificent landscapes hiding picturesque villages, stone bridges or crystal-clear lakes. You can also go canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing or fishing… or do nothing and enjoy it!

The “Grand Forest Metsovo” is a 5-star hotel perfect to enjoy great accommodation surrounded by nature, great cuisine and hospitality. The hotel was recently built on a mountain slope on the fringe of a black pine forest with amazing views over the Pindus Mountains and Metsovo. By using sustainable materials such as stone, wood, glass or wool its designers have created a contemporary architecture while respecting local traditions. Since opening in 2013 the “Grand Forest” is listed “Small Luxury Hotels” and in 2019 it won “Europe’s Leading Landmark Hotel” award at the World Travel Awards.

 

The “Grand Forest Metsovo”, tailor-made for a full nature immersion

Although most tourists in the area are Greek more and more foreigners are falling under the spell of this mountainous destination. The heavy snowfalls in wintertime allow all kinds of winter sports and there are three ski resorts near Metsovo with ski lifts and ski schools. But this close to nature destination is at its best in late spring, summer           and early fall offering a wide range of activities for top athletes, mere amateurs and families. Hiking is the king activity around Metsovo and the Pindus Mountains while discovering magnificent landscapes hiding picturesque villages, stone bridges or crystal-clear lakes. You can also go canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing or fishing… or do nothing and enjoy it!

 

9-The-Pines-stylish-lounge-and-bar-at-Grand-Forest-Metsovo

The-Pines-stylish-lounge-and-bar-at-Grand-Forest-Metsovo

The “Grand Forest Metsovo” is a 5-star hotel perfect to enjoy great accommodation surrounded by nature, great cuisine and hospitality. The hotel was recently built on a mountain slope on the fringe of a black pine forest with amazing views over the Pindus Mountains and Metsovo. By using sustainable materials such as stone, wood, glass or wool its designers have created a contemporary architecture while respecting local traditions. Since opening in 2013 the “Grand Forest” is listed “Small Luxury Hotels” and in 2019 it won “Europe’s Leading Landmark Hotel” award at the World Travel Awards.

 

10-Swimming-pool-with-a-view-at-Grand-Forest-Metsovo

Swimming-pool-with-a-view-at-Grand-Forest-Metsovo

The hotel is perfect for active guests offering tailor-made experiences for each guest. Wine tasting, horseback riding, hiking, e-bike, snow trekking, stand-up-paddling, canoe and kayak, paragliding, rafting, snowmobiling, wild truffle hunting, skiing, mountain biking, canyoning as well as cultural visits can all be organised for you buy the hotel staff. You can also opt for a day excursion to the Pindus National Park, to the ancient town of Ioannina, to beautiful Perama Cave, to the ancient Greek site of Dodoni, to authentic villages such as Zagori or Tzoumerka, to Meteora and many other places. The Pindus area is so rich that you won’t be able to see it all during your stay. But you may also feel like staying at the hotel sunbathing next to the big infinity pool or being pampered at the spa.

 

11-Cosy-luxury-suite-with-fireplace

Cosy-luxury-suite-with-fireplace

All of the 62 suites have stunning mountain views a warm decoration inspired by nature and luxury amenities. They all have a vast balcony to enjoy your first morning cuppa, top quality bedding for sweet nights, some of them even have a fireplace to enjoy a late afternoon coffee or an evening drink from the mini-bar.

It comes as no surprise that being in a region with such a rich gastronomy the “Grand Forest Metsovo” offers exceptional dining options. With a huge fireplace open on all four sides and its big floor to ceiling picture windows “The Lobby” is more than inviting for a light meal, a snack or a drink. In my opinion the best place to relax in the hotel.

 

12-The-Lobby-main-lounge-and-bar-of-Grand-Forest-Metsovo

The-Lobby-main-lounge-and-bar-of-Grand-Forest-Metsovo

“Metsovo 1350m”, it actually is 4,400 feet high, is the hotel’s signature restaurant. Whether in the soberly decorated room or on the vast outside terrace with once again breathtaking views “Metsovo 1350m” proposes local dishes with a modern twist. Fresh local products are favoured and the wine cellar is stocked with all the prominent local wines from the Averoff Winery as well as a large selection of other Greek wines and international wines.

 

13-Grilled-wild-local-mushrooms-with-melting-local-goat-cheese

Grilled-wild-local-mushrooms-with-melting-local-goat-cheese

The chef Glykeria Lappa was born in Epirus and loves cooking local seasonal products and recipes. Mushrooms including truffle, smoke eel from Arta, homemade pasta, trout, lamb and fresh meat from local farms, vegetables including the famous Chrysovitsa potatoes grown in the hotel’s garden or in close by farms, cheeses… all are carefully crafted to reflect the traditional gastronomy of Metsovo. The main dish of local cuisine is pie or “pita”. It is believed that there are 50 different kinds of pitas stuffed with anything you can imagine from feta to greens or from lamb to pumpkin. You can also have typical Metsovian food such as tripe soup with garlic, quince with wild boar, fried frog feet, roast lamb, pork or chicken. The cheese platter is simply sensational with unique local specialities. Sheep, goat or cow’s milk are used by local cheese makers and the result is amazing. Making a choice through the menu will be the hardest time of your evening but you can be sure that your dinner is to be unforgettable

More information, booking and best fees on the hotel website at: www.grand-forest.gr

 

Text ©Annick Dournes

Photos ©Frederic de Poligny

 

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14-Copious-Greek-style-breakfast-ideal-to-start-your-day

Copious-Greek-style-breakfast-ideal-to-start-your-day