My earliest childhood memory is of seeing a dragonfly, what looked to me like a cobalt-colored fairy, hovering by the stream that gushes out of the mountainside in Lia, the village where my father was born in Epirus, Greece. I grew up visiting this northwestern corner of Greece every year, and returned recently to find it was as pristine and uncrowded as I remembered. But there were changes, too; the provincial capital, Ioánnina, had morphed from a place that lived up to the term provincial to a fascinating city: there was now a teaching hospital; the medieval walls of the fortified Old Town, home to two mosques turned museums, a synagogue, and a church, were now illuminated at night; and the lakefront was lined with lively cafés.
And new hotels are opening: in Bourazani, where three rivers meet, forming the border between Greece and Albania, Giorgos Tassos has turned his grandfather’s grazing land into a lodgelike hotel, the Bourazani Wild Life Resort. The property is set in a 3,000-acre nature park, with wild animals, butterflies, and orchids. Thirty miles away in the Zagorohoria area is the new Aristi Mountain Resort, a 14-room boutique hotel whose indoor pool has mountain views. This is the most picturesque, popular destination in the region, where 44 villages cling to the edge of the Vikos Gorge, said to be the world’s deepest. The architecture of the stone buildings is protected by law, and travelers come to wander the streets and enjoy the local cuisine (pites, savory pies wrapped in thick homemade phyllo dough, are a specialty) as well as to hike and ride horses through the rocky, dramatic landscape. Here are some of my favorite hotels in the region, the first three in Ioánnina, the rest in the countryside.
Grand Serai Ioánnina’s newest hotel is a luxe interpretation of local Turkish-inspired architecture with wooden balconies, lavish breakfasts, and Hermès amenities. Doubles from $254.
Great Value Hotel du Lac On the lakefront, this 130-room property has live music around the pool on summer evenings. Doubles from $230.
Great Value Hotel Kastro This simple but charming B&B with an excellent location inside the city’s historic walls sits opposite an antiques store and below the Byzantine Museum. Doubles from $125.
Great Value Aristi Mountain Resort A new property in the Zagorohoria, which offers tasteful luxury in a mountain setting; its restaurant serves gourmet versions of regional specialties, such as spinach pites. Doubles from $203.
Great Value Bourazani Wild Life Resort This 20-room property with river views is set in a large nature park. Doubles from $110.
Great Value Papaevangelou Guesthouse Located near an entrance to the Vikos Gorge, the hotel is also close to a natural swimming hole off the road between Papingo and Mikro Papingo. Doubles from $120.
Great Value Lias Inn The 10 rooms here have balconies overlooking a pavestone-covered square below, scene to many a panegyri, or Greek holiday festival. Doubles from $50.
Both Aegean (aegeanair.com) and Olympic Airlines (olympicairlines.com) make daily 45-minute flights to Ioánnina from Athens (prices start at $85); Hertz, Budget, and other major rental companies have cars available at the airport.