Discover the 11 best things to do in Metsovo
If you love village life, red wine, smoked cheese and some of the most epic mountain scenery in northern Greece, you’ll love all the things to do in Metsovo. With hiking, biking and even snow skiing, it’s long been a favourite holiday destination for Greeks and is the centre of the local Vlach population, whose language and customs you’ll adore discovering.
Visit the Averoff Gardens and gaze at the Pindos Mountains
There’s a good reason why the Averoff Gardens, a short walk above the main square, is the first of your things to do in Metsovo. Not only are you introduced to a name that’s at the heart of this town’s history and culture, but the view of the Pindos National Park is unsurpassed. The Averoff Gardens are filled with trees and plants that represent the flora of the Pindos Mountains and in the centre is the church of St George (or Agios Georgios) where Georgios Averoff – one of Greece’s greatest benefactors and Metsovo’s most famous son – prayed before leaving for Alexandria, in Egypt, in 1837.
Averoff made his fortune in Egypt and funded the reconstruction of Metsovo when it was destroyed after an uprising against the Ottomans in 1854. (He also funded an incredible number of schools, the refurbishment of Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium before the first modern Olympics in 1896 and Greece’s premier battleship at the time – but that’s another story.) Averoff sent a gardener from Alexandria to create the grounds you can admire today and give a special atmosphere to the church, which is an example of a basilica and contains icons dating from the early 18th century.
Take a stroll through town and meet the Metsovites
Metsovo is unlike any other town in Greece. In fact, it feels more like a Greek mountain village and is the centre of Greece’s Vlach population, whose language is of Latin origin and contains elements of Greek and Balkan dialects.
Strolling through town, you can see all these traditions in the architecture and woven textiles that brought Metsovo prosperity during Ottoman times. You might also be able to hear the Vlach dialect and smell the grilled meats that are so popular with visitors. It is one of Greece’s favourite getaways – not just for winter holidays but, increasingly, throughout the year.
You’ll know you’re in the mountains because of the sound of running water from the 20 or so fountains, many with names relating to famous Metsovites (like Maria Vlacha, Nitsa and Floka). Dominating the town centre is the Church of Agia Paraskevi, with a beautiful wooden iconostasis and rare icons from the 18th and 19th centuries.
As you explore, you’ll come across the statue of Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza (a great-nephew of Georgos and who you’ll be hearing a lot more about). Take your time to watch the Metsovites going about their daily lives (many older women still wear traditional dress). And head down to the Metsovitiko River and nearby monasteries – especially the one dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Along the Arachthos River is the restored Gina watermill, now a museum.
Raise a glass to Metsovo’s wines at the Katogi Averoff Winery
Discovering the local wine tradition is a reason in itself to visit Metsovo. On top of that, there’s a historical twist to the origins of the Katogi Averoff winery (a short walk above the Averoff Gardens) that elevates it to one of the best things to do in Metsovo. It was founded by Evangelos Averoff (whose statue you saw in town), a prominent Greek politician who also took the Tossizza name – another celebrated local benefactor family – in creating a foundation that set about restoring Metsovo to its former glory from the 1950s.
Averoff had the vision to plant vines on the steep slopes of the Pindos Mountains and introduce the Cabernet Sauvignon grape to Greece. The winery that he established is now run by his grandson, doubling as a hotel and offering excellent winery tours. At an altitude of 1,050m, the vineyards are the highest in Greece and the cellars are filled with artefacts showcasing the traditional and modern wine-making processes. There are also 1,200 oak barrels and a tasting room, where the ambience created by the atmospherically lit empty wine bottles is part of the experience.
Admire some of Greece’s finest artwork in the Averoff Gallery
The Averoff legacy in Metsovo continues at the Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art, established by Evangelos Averoff in 1988 and containing 200 works of some of the most prominent Greek artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Most were handpicked by Averoff himself and the collection is regarded as one of the most important of that period. As well as the permanent exhibition, there are often temporary exhibitions that include retrospectives, fine art and photography collections from other museums and galleries around Greece and abroad. There is also a children’s workshop.
Step into the past in the Metsovo Folk Art Museum
The cultural side of your guide to the best things to do in Metsovo has another stop in town. The Metsovo Folk Art Museum is housed in the renovated Tossizza family mansion (built in 1661). It’s a fascinating museum, allowing you to step into the shoes of one of Greece’s most prominent historical families and envisage daily life in a remote mountain village during a bygone era. A guided tour will lead you around the rooms, stables, warehouses and parlours of the mansion and discuss the weapons used in the 1821 Revolution against the Ottomans, as well as everyday tools such as kitchen utensils and looms, silverware and other family heirlooms and a staggering collection of impressive icons. The third floor is dedicated to Evangelos Averoff, with personal items and photographs of his life.
Go cheese-tasting, Metsovo-style!
Cheese and Metsovo are synonymous in Greece. In fact, the area’s best-known cheeses have Metsovo in their name. Metsovone (a smoked, hard, mostly cow’s cheese) is the area’s blockbuster, given Protected Designation of Origin status and involving a preparation that includes maturing for three months and being smoked with burning grass and herbs for 12 days. But you’ll also find semi-hard Metsovela, sweet Graviera, Grana (a kind of Parmesan), soft Galotyri that can be spread on pies and a kind of chevre called Batsisio, as well as other cheeses infused with red wine and wild herbs. The Metsovian butter is also pretty special.
Once again, we have the Averoff family to thank for this legacy as it was the Tossizza Foundation (established by Evangelos Averoff) that invested in cheesemakers from Metsovo honing their skills in Italy. Today, Metsovo produces 170 tonnes of cheese from the milk of sheep, goats and cows. Specialty stores such as Pigi and Gnision (stocking cheeses exclusive to the Tossizza Foundation) will let you sample as many as you like before you pick the ones you like best.
Become a truffle-hunter for the day
Truffle-hunting in the forest around Metsovo is a unique experience you can book through local providers, not just because you are introduced to the world of truffles but because you then get to sample delicious food made with the fruits of your labour. Whether you get stuck in or choose to be a spectator is up to you as you explore the forest with specially trained dogs that jump into bushes and start digging when they pick up the scent. If you want, you can retrieve the truffle from the dog’s mouth. The experience ends in a meadow by a river where you get to taste delicious food based on truffles and wild mushrooms!
Keep an eye out for bear footprints as you hike the Ursa Trail
As with many mountainous regions of mainland Greece, Metsovo has a long relationship with bears, which are a protected species. You’re highly unlikely to see the shy creatures, but you can look out for their paw prints as you hike in the gorgeous countryside, especially on the Ursa Trail (named after the Vlach word for bear). It’s actually a collection of trails around Metsovo (totalling some 40km) that host an epic annual trail running event. More realistically, you can walk any part of it to be introduced to some of the most gorgeous scenery in Greece. It’s been certified as one of the best hikes in Europe for good reason.
Marvel at the Alpine beauty of the Aoos River Lake
More epic scenery awaits as our list of best things to do in Metsovo heads to an alpine lake. The Aoos River Lake is 20mins north of Metsovo by car and was the product of a hydroelectric dam project in the 1980s. You’ll scarcely believe that such an important habitat of birdlife and other animals is manmade. The lake is around 12km2, with the occasional islet breaking the surface, and is surrounded by mature black pine and robolas trees that combine to create a scene of breathtaking beauty. Whether you drive or walk any part of the 32km perimeter, or perhaps join a group kayaking on the lake, the experience will be divine.
Turn up the tempo in the Anilio Adventure Park
The adrenaline picks up as you head further into the Pindos Mountains, about 25mins from Metsovo, to the Anilio Adventure Park. Hidden amongst the peaks is Greece’s newest ski resort, operating since 2012, with nine slopes from 1,650-1,850m for alpine skiers and snowboarders. There’s even a little snow park to perfect your jumps. The more adventurous can try ski mountaineering (skimo) or you can hire ski mobiles or sledges and, beyond the winter months, try out more of the hiking and biking routes of the Pindos National Park.
Head to the nearby villages for a taste of local life
Finally, you delve even deeper into local life in this unique corner of Greece, visiting a couple of villages just outside Metsovo. The first, Anthohori, is a short drive southwest of Metsovo, whose river (Rona) carries water down from the Pindos Mountains at such a rate that it powers a series of watermills that carry out specific functions – such as washing handmade woollen carpets and rugs (known as floketes). Three wooden watermills have been restored and form an interesting open-air museum. Also worth visiting is the nearby Zoodochou Pigis Monastery (with icons and frescoes from the 18th and 19th centuries).
You can relax in Anthohori at a cafe-restaurant, sampling local products to the sound of rushing water. But make sure you leave time to visit Anilio, a village with strong Vlach roots, which – as well as being known for its wooden barrels and beehives – is popular for its lamb chops. Niao restaurant specialises in grilled meats and (for an even more authentic experience) Delfas has succulent lamb chops and chips served directly on parchment paper laid out as a tablecloth. You can’t get more authentic than that!
Top things to do in Metsovo
All of Metsovo’s traditions and alpine activities are bound to open your appetite, so keep an eye out for the best places to eat and drink as you explore town. You won’t be disappointed. We’ve put together a few pointers to help you plan your trip:
Where to eat in Metsovo
- Galaxias: Beautifully decorated with local artefacts and a lovely terrace and large tree-filled yard. Focuses on slow-cooked local dishes and pies.
- 5φφφφφ: Tucked away down a side street by the square, specialising in Metsovo-style kontosouvli (pork cooked on giant skewers), loukaniko (country sausage) and kokoretsi (lamb’s offal wound around a skewer).
- Koutouki tou Nikola: With a wide variety of delicious and nicely presented local dishes.
Where to drink in Metsovo
- Krini: A good selection of spirits and beers and a surprising number of well-presented cocktails. One of the nicest places for coffee in Metsovo.
- Metsovorama: An equally good choice for spirits and beers and a great place for coffee with a balcony view of the Pindos Mountains.
- To Gnision: The perfect spot to explore the wines of Metsovo, accompanied by a selection of cheeses from the Tossizza Foundation.
- Karma Cafe: A good summer option, with an outdoor courtyard.
FAQs about Metsovo, Greece
What is Metsovo known for?
Metsovo is a traditional village in the Pindos Mountains, in the Epirus region of northern Greece. It is the centre of Greece’s Vlach population, whose language is of Latin origin and contains elements of Greek and Balkan dialects. Metsovo is known for its woven textiles, wood carving and red wine, being the first location in Greece to introduce the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It is also associated with two of Greece’s biggest benefactor families, Averoff and Tossizza.
How do you get to Metsovo in northern Greece?
Metsovo is around 445km (4½hrs) by car from Athens via the Rio-Antirrio Bridge near Patras or 411km (5hrs) via Karditsa, and 217km (2½hrs) from Thessaloniki. The closest city is Ioannina (50k, 50mins). You can also reach it by public bus (KTEL) from all these locations.
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