Day 246 Mikro Papingo, Vikos National Park to Igoumenista, Northern Greece.

Today has been our last full day in Greece – tomorrow we catch the ferry to Northern Italy.

We left our wonderful little village of Mikro Papingo, and made our way back down the mountain. First we stopped at the Vikos Gorge, at a place called Papingo Pools, where channelled water runs down from the steep mountainside, and forms a series of pools at the bottom, before flowing into the river below. Here the layers of sedimentary rock are clearly visible, forming stack upon stack of wafer thin layers – quite a spectacular sight.

We then zig-zagged back down the series of hair-pins, and back up to the valley on the other side, stopping at Aristi for our morning coffee. The lady recognised from our outward journey, and gave a friendly smile.

We then bade farewell to the amazing Zagorohoria villages and the spectacular Pindos Mountains, and headed westwards towards the Ionian coast. The lush green of the mountains and the gorge was replaced by a more arid looking landscape for a while, until we spied the sea in the distance.

Igoumenista is a busy port, and we spotted several large ferries plying their way out of harbour – tomorrow that will be us.

Our campsite is a small affair by a beautiful pebbled beach just a few miles south of the town. For the first time in months, we are surrounded by Californias, mostly from Germany, and the ‘Big Whites’ are in the minority. There is a wonderful little taverna on the beach, where we plan to eat tonight – our last meal in Greece.

I must say that Greece has totally exceeded all our expectations. Often when you return to a place that you have fond memories of, you are disappointed – but not at all in this case. If anything, I am even more in love with this country. The people have been the friendliest of any nation that we have visited on our travels. If we hadn’t read about it in the news, and spoken with some of the locals, you would never know that this nation is just emerging from one of the worst financial crises they have ever experienced. Despite all their problems, as a nation somehow they have managed to stay cheerful and upbeat. They welcome visitors with open arms, and do it with a great big smile on their faces. The food has been some of the best we have eaten on our trip, at prices that have brought a smile to our faces too! We have been completely blown away with this part of Northern Greece, so far off the main tourist trail.

It is somewhere to which we would definitely consider returning, and we rarely do go back to the same place. Probably only Croatia, Montenegro and Norway have left us with the same thoughts, so far.

Tomorrow we continue our journey northwards, slowly winding our way back home. First we pay a visit to San Marino and Tuscany, before diverting off to Corsica for a week or two. By then, we will definitely be homeward bound. Just as well we have Paul Simon on our playlist!

PS No blog for day or two, since on ferry.

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