→ Get around the lake, a 7-kilometer distance in total, via car/bicycle or by wrecking your feet. Preferably start from the southern string of sand and stroll lakeside before reach the northern side of the pond, the neighborhood of Apozari.
Included in the Natura 2000 - the largest network of protected areas in the world, lake Orestiada is considered to be one of the most beautiful Balkan lagoons, while a narrow trail with willows, beeches and platanus trees beside the lake captures the psyche of every visitor no matter the season. Finally, on a daily basis you will notice many locals going round-the-lake (called "gyrolimnia" in Greek).
→ Enjoy a visit to the 74 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches of Kastoria, which date back from the 9th to the 19th century and are declared as historical landmarks.
One of the most important abbeys is the lakeshore Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa (11th century) with its famous exterior frescoes depicting a number of Byzantine emperors. However, the most famous of all the monasteries is the Panagia (Virgin) Koumbelidiki or Kastriotissa or Skoutariotissa (10th century) – the only church in the city that belongs typologically to the cruciform rhythm with a dome and where the Holy Trinity is depicted. Furthermore, Agios Stefanos (9th century) - the oldest surviving temple in Kastoria,which also bears the solely women's quarter, Agioi Anargyroi (12th century) - the only temple that is duly marble-decorated and a variety of cameos in all of its gates, as well as Taxiarchis Mitropoleos (11th century). Without an exception all of these churches belong typologically to the basilica, apart from Panagia Koumbelidiki, which was named after its featured dome. Prior to your visit you will need to contact the Byzantine Museum of Kastoria or call at 24670-26781, 24670-22800.
→ Spend some time at the museums around Kastoria:
Folklore Museum of Kastoria situated in Doltso and housed at the historic mansion of Nerantzi -Aivazi (1680), which is an actual representation of a typical old-times manor, also exhibiting objects of everyday life. Open from Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-17:00 & Sundays at 11:00-17:00, entrance 2 € (12 Kapetan Lazou, tel. 24670-28603).
Delinanio Folklore Museum – known also as the Museum of the Kastorian woman is located in the neighborhood of Doltso, and displays from aged photos, heirlooms, bridal outfits, woven fabrics and vintage knitwear to the "beddings" of old Kastoria. Open only on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00-13:00 (Riga Fereou 12, tel. 24670-28155).
Shelted in the mansion (built in 1750) of two brothers, Ioannis and Panagiotis Emmanuel, Costume Museum in Doltso, displays costumes of men and women, local uniforms, and an important collection of jewelry and old coins from locals. Open on Sundays & during holidays at 11:00-13:00 (Byzantiu 13, tel. 24670-28603).
The museum of the Macedonian Struggle in Doltso with a rich pictorial collection and other objects donated from the Macedonian Struggle (1893–1908) such as costumes and relics. Open from Tuesday to Sunday 09:30-14:00, entrance 2 € (Picheon 2, tel. 24670-21144).
Byzantine Museum of Kastoria has one of the largest collections of Byzantine and post-Byzantine treasures from the most remarkable churches in the area, such as portable icons of the 12th to the 17th century and ecclesiastical woodcarvings, books, ceramics and coins, and early Christian mosaics and frescoes. Open from Tuesday to Sunday 08:30-15:30, entrance 2 € (Dexameni, tel. 24670-26781).
→ Stopover Kastoria’s Jewish memorial hollocast, which is located close to the Byzantine Museum of Kastoria in the neighborhood of Agios Athanasios and was set up to honor the victims of the World War II.
The monument itself has been set up right in the spot where the Germans fetched 1,000 Jews living in Kastoria and drove them to the Nazi concentration camps back in March 1944. From these people, only 35 survived and moved to other parts of Greece or migrated in the US, Israel, and Istanbul.
→ Spend some time at the Fur Exhibition Center “Edika” to learn everything about the art of fur or even buy a fur coat.
This is a permanent exhibition center expanding in 5,000 square meters offering a range of fur products (processed fur and skins, fur and leather clothes, gloves, hats and many more) found at manufactory cost (Leoforos Gounaradon, Chloe district, tel. 24670-27772).
→ Visit the sweet-water Aquarium, also known as the Environmental Education Center of Kastoria. Expanded into a 450 square meters building the aquarium is located at the city entrance.
Considered to be one of the largest sweet-water aquariums in the Balkans, is officially called after the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, hosts over 55 freshwater fish species, aquatic turtles, crayfish and other species living in Greece’s lake ecosystem as well as other rivers with its neighboring countries. Open from Tuesday to Sunday and during holiday season at 09:00-17:00 (Zalongou 3, tel. 24670-80229, 24670-23069).
→ Take in panoramic views from the lake Oresteiada from the best spots, aka the the uppermost peaks in Kastoria, the church of Profitis Ilias or the hill of Agios Athanasios.
Profitis Ilias offers a bird-eye view at the north string of sand and the neighborhood of Apozari, while Agios Athanasios offers 360° sight to the whole city (from the southern edge to the northern string of sand) and of course the entire lake. Also, both of these peaks offer cafes/bars to gaze the lake along with a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or even an appetizer. Immediately after Profitis Ilias and a breath away from Agios Athanasios, you can also spot Kastoria’s small open theater, which usually hosts theatrical performances during summer.
→ Don’t miss the Cave of Dragon (Spilia tou drakou) besides lake Oresteiada. Inside the cave, there are 7 underground lakes and 10 rooms with magnificent crystal-shaped stalactites.
With an average temperature of 16 ° C the cave preserved the remains of cave bears for a 10,000 years. Also, you can walk through a-300-meter underground excavate crossing a row of bridges. You can visit the cave from Tuesday to Sunday at 09:00-17:00 (winter schedule) and at 10:00-18:00 (during summer term), entrance 6 € (next the Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa, tel. 24670-26777).
→ Spot the sculpture dedicated to the armed forces of the Macedonian Struggle (Makedonomachoi) placed amidst the homonymous square and take a big breath beneath the trees. The memorial consists of a marble cluster of two warriors,
an ancient one dressed in his helmet and a more recent one, while the warriors are facing each other – a noticeable representation of the Greek virtue and courage throughout history.
→ Journey from the park of the olympic flame, sited at the western way in the city, being a green oasis and cultural scene for the local summers.
There one can also find a small auditorium used for gymnasiums; theatrical performances and/or other artistic events. The name of the park is not random, as it was given to honor the memory of Sydney 2000 Olympic Games (when the Olympic flame was kept overnight in Kastoria).
→ Experience pot fishing in the tranquil fresh-water lake of lake Orestiada.
Loads of professional as well as amateur fishermen wait for some fish bait (carps, perch, wels catfish, southern platyfish and other fish species) countless hours there every so often.
→ Walk out on the lake-district of Doltso,
one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kastoria paved with cobblestone lanes, refurbished neoclassic houses and imposing mansions of Macedonian architecture, but also because the most of the region's museums are here.
→ Wander around the neighborhood of Apozari,
one of the two traditional districts in the city of Kastoria, which is preserved almost to the present intact with aplenty classic mansions and historic Byzantine churches.
→ Spend some time at the Tsiatsiapas-mansion in Apozari,
which is the largest old hall built in the early 18th century divided in 4 levels with impressive wall paintings of folk canvases.
→ Take a gimpse of Ahmed Pasha madrasah (18th century),
one of the few surviving Ottoman buildings, with hemispheric dome roofs and embossed capitals. Madrasah was an educational institution for the Muslims who were ordained for the clergy and/or administration offices during the Turkish Empire.
→ Stop off Kursum Mosque that can be found at the heart of the old city and is the only one survived to this day.
Long-ago it used to be the mosque-cathedral as well as the most striking Turkish building in whole Kastoria.
→ You must try the chocolate croissants or at least the native-favorite stuffed orange cookies,
baked at the bakery chain notably called "Thea Dimitra", a reference name to the Greek goddess of crops and of fruits that can be found pretty much anywhere in Kastoria.
Journey around the lake Orestiada (30 kilometers in total) in order to discover hamlets by the banks of the lagoon, such as Dispilio Lakeside Neolithic Settlement, Mavrochori, Polykarpi, Fotini, Metamorfosi and Tichio.
Discover the prehistoric Dispilio Lakeside Settlement, about 8 kilometers far from Kastoria, which is regarded as the first outdoor ecomuseum in Greece. This pillared settlement with the 8 huts in total was recreated by a number of archaeologists to represent the shelters of the Neolithic period. Inside each hut you can observe century-old tools and domestic items, appointing lively the lives of the people, who used to bait fishes from the lake Orestiada since 5.500 B.C. Open on a daily basis (on public holidays, too) 09:00-17:00, entrance 4 € with a free mini guide tour around the settlement. Finally, you are also able to visit the workshop of the archaeologists in the same location - from Tuesday to Friday, 08:30-15:00 (tel.: 24670 21910).
Go off-roading to Pano Arenes (approximately 70 kilometers from Kastoria, at an altitude of 2,196 meters high) or on the top (at the Lake Gistova, on the border of Albania and Greece). This route traverses dirt roads and forest paths, so it’s possible only with 4x4 vehicles; especially the trail following the lake stream, is the epitome of off-terrain driving and difficult driving situations. Pano Arenes (or Mutsalia, deriving from the word “wet” in Vlach dialect) is a duo of jaw dropping beautiful ponds that communicate with each via a 60 meter-torrent. On the other hand, an alpine and quite barren lake, Gistova is the largest lagoon in Greece (at an altitude of 2.360 meters) on the borders with Albania. Up in both of the lakes; take a look for alpine newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris), the amphibian salamanders or "fishes with legs", according to the locals, thriving in the area.
Trek the mountain trails of Grammos mountain range, lost yourself deep in dense forests, and if you are lucky enough, you will meet up with a bear/hare/deer and/or other wild species thriving of the region.
Go for a gloomy trip to Koresteia, the forgotten villages of Macedonia, in order to encounter the mud-brick reddish houses that destroyed during the Macedonian struggle (the military conflicts of the native Macedonians -Greeks, against Turkish occupation and the Bulgarian komitadjis between 1904 and 1908). Gavros, Ano and Kato Kranionas, Mavrokampos, Agios Antonios, Halara, Makrohori, Ano and Kato Melas, compose the cluster of the deserted Koresteia villages. It is easy to access them via Koromilia (from the north of Kastoria), and their history goes from the 19th century until they were left totally abandoned - during the Greek Civil War (1946- 1949). These atmospheric settlements, famous as red houses or houses of mud, they were created with reddish clay to adjust the landscape’s shades. Finally, in Melas you can also visit the Pavlos Melas Museum, the other-known Kantzaki residence, where the Greek hero was killed during the Macedonian Struggle (free admission, tel.: 24670 84554).
→ Stopover at the Wax Museum and the temple of St. Nikolaos (Krepeni) ,both seated in the hamlet of Mavrochori, approximately 13 kilometers away from Kastoria.
The Museum is divided into halls and exhibits everyday life scenes and the folk trades of the past times in Kastoria. Here, you will see a representation of the regional marriage traditions as well as prehistoric figures living on the lake shores. Open from Monday to Friday 09:00-17:00, during the Weekends and on public holidays, 11:00-16:00, admission 5 € for adults, 3 € for students and special prices for groups (Mavrochori, Kastoria, tel.: 24670 74870, 697 039 21 96).
The post-Byzantine temple with the two dedicatory inscriptions (from 1650 and 1758) and few extraordinary murals of the 18th century in the Exonarthex - probably the remains of an ancient monastery, and the special icon, depicting the the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem.
→ Take a glimpse of the lake Orestiada from another beautiful spot, aka Tichio village (around 10 kilometers from Kastoria). There, you can also pay a short visit to the local Folklore Museum. In the Museum you can see an array of agricultural tools and everyday life objects used by the ancient lake people. Open upon reguest - tel. 6944315109.
→ Visit the Archaeological Museum of Argos Orestiko, located in the homonymous village, to be found about 12 kilometers from Kastoria. Inside the Archaeological Museum of Argos Orestiko you can see findings from the Homer’s time to the Diocletian Roman Empire (jewels, animal horns, ceramic objects, statues, a unique phalanxic shield of Peonian infantry, and the Battle of the Vatican, which is the most important political inscription from the Western Macedonia (El. Venizelou 9, tel. 24670 44616).
→ Drive all the way up to the village square Aposkepos, approximately 6 kilometers away from Kastoria, and apart from the stone-paved plaza, spot the 12 pebbled fountains with fresh water, as well as enjoy the silence beyond the ancient plane trees and the panoramic views to Lake Orestiada.
→ Take a trip to Nestorio, about 25 kilometers from Kastoria, a well-known village in Greece for its famous river party taking place on the banks of Haliacmon (the 1st outdoor, music event, lasting several days, held every August since 1978).
→ Indulge in a skiing, snowboarding or sledding experience at Vitsi Ski Center, around 25 kilometers from Kastoria. This relatively petite ski slope might offer just 3 ski tracks in total, but you will only have to wait in the lift-line for no more than 5 minutes. (tel.: 6944298482, 6944 988499).
→ Why not foraging wild mushrooms in the dense forests of the region? Follow the Mushroom Club of Western Macedonia (based in Aposkepos, tel.: 6936005422). The highly-experienced and trained members of this regional Mushroom Club will introduce you into the fungus world, reveal you top secrets of the most delicious «mykhtes» (fungus) and inform you about all the health benefits they have in our lives.
→ Take a free lesson in modern Greek history and learn everything about the Greek Civil War at the Grammos Park of national reconciliation, perched in the heart of the homonymous mountain, around 60 kilometers away from Kastoria. The Grammos Park of national reconciliation, apart from being a park-museum at an altitude of 1,450 meters, it also has a café-restaurant. The park is officially subjected to the Greek Parliament, being a historic place for the Greek heritage. Also, there are guided tours offered (every single Sunday or upon request), while the visitors have the opportunity to watch a documentary about the Greek Civil War battles and operations, as well as to go through a series of old photographs. To get there, and beyond the asphalt road-system, there is also a 4-kilometer-route of dirt road, accessible to conventional cars, too.
Extra Tip: Prior to your visit, check for the existing opening hours and get an update about the current road system (i.e.: during wintertime, the road can be closed due to heavy snowfalls - tel.: 24670 21853, 24670 62136).
→ Go for a motocross ride on the slopes of the Mounts Psalida, Asprokklissia and Chiliodendro.
→ Take a trip to Sidirochori, about 11 kilometers from Kastoria, to enjoy the panoramic views of the lake of Kastoria, but mainly to dine at the tavern "Cistevo" (tel.: 2467072193), Greek-wide famous for its foraged wild mushrooms dishes. The most delicious mushroom variations hailing from Grammos mountain range and Mount Vitsi, are porcini (or ceps), "black trumpets" (Craterellus cornucopioides) and "Caesar's mushrooms" (Amanita caesarea) respectively.
→ Visit the Old Monastery of Taxiarches, to be found next to the abandoned village of Tsouka in Nestorio, seated in the community of Agia Anna, around 24 kilometers from Kastoria. Perched on a 150 meter-rock and right above a small stream of Haliacmon, this Byzantine monastery was built in the 13th century (1254). Today the visitor can see only the remnants of its three temples (one dedicated to Taxiarches, another to Zoodochos Pigi and a tiny one-room sanctuary). The monastery was breathing life until 1943 and from 1961 onwards, it has been declared a historical monument. A trip to the monastery is ideal not only for those seeking religious tourism, but also to all over nature lovers, since the monastery is facing a stunning waterfall (Agia Anna).
→ Take in the magnificence of the fossil forest located in Nostimo village, one of the finest and rarest monuments of geological heritage created 20 million years ago, about 26 kilometers far from Kastoria. Apart from the petrified forest referring to Early Miocene that was created by a volcanic eruption and has been spewing hot lava into the area, the Paleontological and Paleobotanical Museum is also located at Nostimo Museum. The museum exhibits, include from ancient trunks of trees and tropical plants to marine fossils (like starfish, shells, snails, mussels as well as the tooth of a giant prehistoric 25 meter-shark).
→ Take a trip at the monastery of Saint George in Eptachori, about 63 kilometers from Kastoria. Perched on a hill, the 17th-century monastery (1625) is characterized by its stone-built roof and a series of significant Byzantine frescoes. Above all, the surrounding rocks embracing the monastery offer an exceptional spectacle.
→ Stop at the Neolithic Settlement of Avgi to be found in the homonymous village, about 15 kilometers far from Kastoria and approximately 7 kilometers away from Argos Orestiko. This is a huge installation stretching over 30 acres and dates back to the 5.650 B.C.. Apart from the settlement itself where you can admire circular structured relics made of clay and negative pickets - fragments of ancient courtyard fences, you can also pay a visit at the actual site of the archaeological excavations (where the former Primary School of the village is located).
→ Take a tour at the Panagia Monastery (in Kleisoura), built in the 14th century (1314), 32 kilometers away from Kastoria. The once female monastery today constitutes an important pilgrimage drawing people from all the corners of the world each year. Visitors come here to wonder through the fortified monastery that shelters an impressive wood-carved temple of 1772, and actively participated in the the Macedonian Struggle (1904-1908) by hosting national heroes like, Pavlos Melas (tel.: 24630 94330). Besides the monastery, in this historic Vlach village – completely demolished by the Germans in 1944, you can also visit the parish’s Folklore Museum with a great selection of heirlooms and photographs.