My Rough Guide: Enjoying the sunset at a ruin with a view

Best discoveries

North of Preveza on the west coast, ancient Kassopi is unimprovably set on a natural balcony 600 metres above sea level, overlooking the Ionian and Lefkadha island. Though nominal opening hours are in force, the site is unenclosed and at sunset you're likely to have the extensive and well- mapped ruins to yourself - a rarity in Greece.

Another gem is Arta and its environs: liberally sown with exquisite Byzantine churches dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Best hotels

Most of the best mainland hotels are housed in centuries-old structures rescued from dereliction. Top two in the Peloponnese are the Malvasia in Monemvassa, a complex of impeccably restored stone structures, the best and highest of which has marble, wood and textile-appointed rooms, no two alike; and the Byron at the quiet summit of Nfplion, a neo-classical mansion overlooking the town and bay.

Best meals

In spots with a mostly local clientele, far from the package-resort feed- troughs, you're spoilt for choice. Ioannina long neglected its lakefront as a venue for serious eating, but now there's Mezadhiko Syn Dhyo, with a lengthy, reasonably priced menu of mezedhes or starters, several of which can make a meal in itself. For more rustic cooking, with mountain specialities such as alevropites and other Zagorian dishes, look no further than Stou Mikhali, in Kipi village - they have their own barrelled wine as well, almost invariably a good sign of commitment to local tastes. It's worth planning a lunch stop in Arta for the sake of Skaraveos , a Greek rarity - traditional vegetarian fare, not imitation Cranks.

Biggest letdowns

Nymfeo village, halfway up Mt Vitsi east of Kastoria, came much touted in the local press as the perfect all-round resort: riding and hiking in summer, ski-ing in winter. In fact, it's a "hill station" pitched at Thessalonki yuppies and priced accordingly, the Simla-India analogy reinforced by the bizarre lead roofs which are the place's main architectural distinction. The villagers are surly and totally unused to foreigners, accommodation is either grossly over-priced, substandard or both; and distinguished eating venues notably lacking.

The other let-down was the supposedly magnificent bird mosaic at the basilica of yios Akhllios, on the eponymous islet of Mikr Prespa lake. Having missed going in 1991, I was determined to see it this time. No sooner had I arrived on the jetty opposite the islet than the boat-man (or rather boat-boy) appeared and we agreed a price to take me to the ruined abbey. On arrival I scoured the nave and transept - nothing. My guide laconically announced that the image had disappeared in the early Nineties.

Favourite souvenirs

Packaged food and drink, especially anything unobtainable in London, or Samos where I live part-time. When in Metsovo I always stock up on hearty winter food like trakhandhes (a sweet or sour dough grain soup base, to be cooked with milk) or khilpites (like tagliatelle, often cut into square sections), as well as the rich, local katyi red wine. That, and just about any other gourmet Greek wine that never reaches UK supermarkets (or most Greek tavernas, for that matter), can be obtained at one of two shops in Thessalonki. Readers may think Greece only produces plonk; a visit to any of the shops listed will serve as a necessary corrective.

fact file

Getting there

Sunvil Holidays (7-8 Upper Square, Old Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 7BJ, tel: 0181 568 4499) and Voyages Ilena, Old Garden House, The Lanterns, Bridge Lane, London SW11 3AD (0171 924 4440) are two of the few companies offering quality packages to the mainland.

Where to stay

Reservations are strongly recommended for all of the following, especially mid-summer or at weekends. Current exchange rate is about 460dr/pounds sterling.

Hotel Malvasia, old Monemvassa (tel: 0732 61323, fax 61722). Approx 13,000 dr double.

Hotel Byron, Pltonos 2, Nfplion (tel: 0752 22352, fax 26 338). Approx 13,000 dr double.

Xenonas O Dhias, Mikr Ppingo, Zagria (0653 41257). Approx 9,000 dr double; slight discount for trekkers.

Ouzeri-Hotel Gripos, Ai Yirgis beach, Ammouliani (tel: 0377 51049). Approx 6,000 dr double.

Marc Dubin wrote 'The Rough Guide to Greece'. Keep up with the latest developments in travel by subscribing to the free newsletter 'Rough News', published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions