Epirus is a geographical region of Mainland Greece on the north western side of Greece, between Macedonia and the Ionian Sea. Most part of this region is mountainous, while on the side of the Ionian Sea it has some nice beaches and seaside towns.
The first evidences of life in Epirus date from the Paleolithic times and the inhabitants that period were mostly shepherds and hunters. It was through Epirus that the Dorians descended to Sterea and Peloponnese at the end of the 2nd millennium BC and many samples of Mycenaen civilization was also found in Epirus.
Despite the formation and development of city states in the rest of Greece, in the classical times people in Epirus would live in small secluded villages and they were frequently attacked by northern tribes. However, the region was very important in religious terms, as the Oracle of Dodoni was located there. This Oracle was the second most important oracle after Delphi in the antiquity and the entire sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus.
In the 4th century BC, the dynasty of Molossians conquered many local tribes and united Epirus. In fact, it was the Molossian princess Olympiada who became the wife of Philip II, the king of Macedonia, and mother of Alexander the Great. Epirus remained a considerable power till the 3rd century BC, when King Pyrrhus fought the Romans in Sicily and South Italy, however it eventually lost the war and became a Roman territory.
During the Byzantine times, Epirus flourished again for some time when emperor Michael I Komnenos founded in 1205 AD the Despotate of Epirus with Arta as capital. In the 14th century AD, the region was conquered by Slavs, Venetians and eventually by the Ottomans.
The Ottoman occupation was very difficult for Epirus, as many cultivable lands were given to the Ottomans and the locals had to leave their homeland in search for a better life in Europe. Many of them, particularly men from Metsovo, Zagoria and Ioannina, settled in Italy and Vienna, became rich from trade and made large contributions to their homelands, helping in the financial and cultural development of Epirus.
In the 18th century, the town of Ioannina developed a lot and particularly under the rule of Ali Pasha of Tepelene (1740-1822). He gave a boost to trade and culture and also conquered parts of Epirus that were either revolting (like Souli) or under the Venetians (like Parga, Preveza and generally the western coats of Epirus).
Although the residents of Epirus fought intensively during the Greek War of Independence, the region finally integrated to Greece after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. The mountains of Epirus were also the main battlefield between Greece and Italy during World War II and the Greek Civil War that followed.
In the second half of the 20th century, Epirus was financially neglected and made their living mostly from cattle breeding and agriculture. Over the last decades, it is gradually developing in winter tourism (Ioannina, Metsovo, Zagoria) and summer tourism as well (Parga, Sivota, Preveza).
More: Epirus History
As a whole, the region of Epirus is rugged and mountainous. The Pindus Mountains, a mountain chain that theoretically crosses all Greece till Crete, lies in the centre of Epirus. The natural parks of Vikos-Aoos and Pindus National Parks are regions of dazzling beauty with many special flora and fauna. The flora of Epirus mainly consists of coniferous species, while the fauna includes bears, wolves, foxes, deer and other wild animals.
The Gorge of Vikos in Zagoria is a great place to visit, as this is the second deepest gorge in the world, after the Grand Canyon in the USA. Epirus is a great place for trekking through forests, lakes, gorges and traditional villages, and moreover visitors can practice sports like canyoning, rafting, river trekking or horse riding, especially in the region of Zagoria.
Over the last decades, Epirus has developed a lot in tourism. Summer tourism mainly focuses on the Ionian coasts of Epirus and particularly the towns of Parga, Sivota and Preveza. These towns have gorgeous beaches and relaxing atmosphere.
Winter tourism is developed in the mountainous part of Epirus, particularly Ioannina, Metsovo and Zagoria. These regions are often snowed in winter and visitors can enjoy sports from trekking and rafting to skiing.
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