If you’re a winter person looking for a destination that will steal your heart while traveling in Greece, then I’m here to introduce you to Samarina. Samarina is a small village situated in the northern Greece and specifically in the municipality of Grevena.
It is said to be one of the highest villages in Greece and also one of the highest in the Balkans! Located at the eastern spur of Mount Smolikas, (the second-highest mountain of Greece), Samarina is the greek village of highest elevation, at 1650 meters above sea level! Well it might not sound that impressive to you especially if you’ve travelled to the Himalayas or to similar winter and high altitude destinations, but considering Greece’s “salty” nature…you gotta admit that this altitude is above the average standards and believe me it’s a village that will impress you!
Having a grandma whose origins are from Samarina, I grew up listening to stories about the village, its people and about its naturalistic beauty; What is worth mentioning is that like most Vlach villages, Samarina is extremely hospitable. The people there are always friendly and willing to help you and of course to feed you, no matter what! (And my grandma is a great example of that!).
There is lodging in Samarina, with a large hotel at the top of the village and smaller, cleaner places to stay around the misohori. The majority of the taverns and the traditional cafeterias is situated in the middle of the central square, which is actually the most lively part of the village. While visiting Samarina make sure that you try its local delicacies, such as its “arnisia paidakia”, that are actually lamb ribs-extremely delicious and uniquely well-cooked!- and of course the galotiri, which is a local, homemade cheese-cream including feta and yogurt! The cheese lovers will appreciate it, I do too!! Spread some on your bread and you won’t regret it; also it goes perfectly along with fresh tomatoes! In general try the lamb and the cheese! (oh I’m getting hungry!).
However, the pride of the village is the church of Megali Panagia, with its famous pine tree growing on the top of it. It’s still a mystery how the tree continues growing since there are no visible roots and it seems like it’s suspended in the air! Literally impressive!
Clinging to tradition, generations of Greeks participate in annual events that celebrate life and their past. The biggest celebration in Samarina takes place on the 15th of August, the day of the Virgin. The day after, the people gather around the church and sing all together folk songs while forming a huge dance circle, also known as Tsatsos.
Samarina is offered as a great winter destination due to its proximity to Vasilitsa’s ski resort, which actually is one of my favourite resorts in Greece! The winter myth in Greece starts as soon as the first snow falls! Then, lovers of nature, athletes, jet-setters, travellers, snowboarders, couples in love, family people and skiers dash to the mountains eager to have a good time and live the adventure! Many spas, hotels and fancy restaurants can be found around the area so do not miss the chance to visit it!
At the same time the area is offered for hiking, mountainbiking, trekking and winter wanders in the forests! So it can definitely be considered as a great ecotourism destination! Here it's me with my best friend reaching the top of the mountain! Make sure you get your warm clothes with you, it's freezing up there!!!
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