You probably think that Greece is all about sun, sea and sand. It is. But it is also the third most mountainous country in Europe after Norway and Albania and this can only mean one thing – skiing.
From December to March this traditional summer getaway turns into a ski destination offering 18 ski centres and 190 km of runs for all abilities. And though these are located in quaint, traditional villages, the après ski scene is vibrant with a nightlife that is surprisingly busy.
1. GREVENA – The double ski experience
Grevena has two ski resorts. One is Vassilitsa National Ski Centre, located 42 km north west of Grevena and the other is at Anilio at Metsovo.
Vassilitsa National Ski Centre
Stunning picturesque routes and fresh powder snow define Vassilitsa National Ski Centre. Experienced skiers and snowboarders love it but it’s also ideal for families and beginners as it has 18 slopes offering 22km of skiing area that caters for all levels.
Two slopes, Zeus at 1000m high and Timfaia at 1814m, have been approved by the International Ski Federation (IFS) for alpine ski competitions but its to the Elimia slope that most skiers head to every Saturday.
Adult Daily pass: 13€ for weekends and holidays, 1 € student pass and 8€ for children. Weekdays: 3€ less.
Anilio Ski Resort in Metsovo
Anilio Ski Resort in Metsovo is located at the foot of the Pindos mountains. Skiers and snowboarders love it for the downhill runs into mostly unknown areas and the wonderful views over beautiful stone build villages. It has a two-seater lift, two sliding lifts as well as two baby-lifts.
Daily Pass: 5€- 12€
Where to stay
Breati Boutique Guesthouse – for great forest views this guest house is a winner. It is situated right next to the national park of Valia Calda offering 10 beautiful rooms each uniquely decorated with handmade furniture, a fireplace (wood supplies are free of charge) and a balcony. Breakfast includes a range of local products and homemade specialties.
It is situated between Grevena and Metsovo; 42 minute drive from the Vassilitsa Ski Center and 25 minutes from Anilio Ski Center and open year round. Facilities include Wi Fi.
Where to eat
Avlais Fungi Restaurant in Grevena town centre is housed in a renovated old house made of stone and wood. This traditional tavern is the ideal place to try a big variety of mushrooms, which is the gourmet highlight of the region. Don’t miss the fresh local meat and cheese and wash down with their homemade wine and “tsipouro”. Open daily except Tuesdays.
The Museum of Natural History. Uniquely in Europe, it houses Paleontological treasures of mammoths, the bridge Spanos, an architectural masterpiece built in 1846 and Samarina, the highest village in Balkans at 1450m of Smolikas Mountain.
2. KARPENISI – Fun and adventure in a tranquil nature
Karpenisi is a popular winter destination situated in central Greece within the Karpenisiotis river valley. It has a vibrant nightlife, a newly renovated ski resort and a clutch of beautiful traditional villages.
The Ski Resort Velouchi has 18 runs comprising all levels from green to black and four off-piste runs. Facilities include equipment rental, a ski and snowboard school and a restaurant. This is where the Greek and Balkan ski competitions will be taking place this year.
After sunset the slopes of Theseus and Takis Flegas are illuminated so skiing can carry on under the night sky. There is a snow bar and an ice bar at the foot of these slopes where you meet the dance floor and enjoy the dancing beat.
Ski Pass: Adults 5€ -20€. Children up to five years old and people with special needs go free.
Where to stay
Selestina Boutique Hotel – this newly built luxury boutique hotel has been fashioned out of marble and wood giving off a warm elegant glow. Though spacious, it only has 10 rooms and each has a spa bathroom (with Jacuzzi), a pillow menu, huge beds, tea and coffee facilities and a balcony with a fabulous alpine view. The hotel is open all year round and offers free Wi-Fi. Prices: 70€-120€ with breakfast
The historic 18th century monastery of Prousso. It has a museum that has wood carvings and silver utensils on display. Also consider hiring a 4×4 and drive to Chelidona to admire the unique view surrounded by lakes.
3. ARACHOVA – The cosmopolitan getaway
This picturesqe village has been dubbed by Greek jet setters as the “Mykonos of the winter” as it is the hot spot where celebrities, ski enthusiasts and party lovers go skiing. It is just a 90 minute drive from Athens and located next to one of the most organized ski resorts in Greece next to the Parnassos Mountains.
Parnassos Ski Centre features 19 ski runs, seven ski routes, 12 black country runs with deep snow, 10 trails and three nursery slopes with baby lifts. There is a detachable aerial lift that gets skiers from the plateau at 1750m to the natural ledge of 1950m.
Snowboarders and expert skiers use it but it also attracts people who just want enjoy their hot coffee at the chalet or the vibrant nightlife of the village until early morning. It is particularly busy at Christmas, Halloween and Easter holidays. It is open from December until early May.
Where to stay
Arahova Inn – a modern hotel with private parking in a central location just a minutes walk from the main square. Rooms are pleasant and comfortable and a hearty Greek style breakfast is served. You can arrange a massage in your room, particularly useful if you have overdone it on the slopes. The hotel is open all year round and prices start from 50€ during the week, 70€ at weekends and 90€ during holidays including free Wi-Fi.
Eight kilometres away is Delphi, “the centre of the world” according to the ancient Greeks. Check out its Unesco World Heritage monument then take time out at the Paramount hot spot on the way up to the ski centre.
4. ELATOCHORI – A modern fairy tale
Located in Pieria County this traditional, stone built village could have been plucked out of a modern fairy tale.
The ski centre is just eight kilometres away from the main square of the village in the northeast side of the spectacular Pieria Mountains with its superb view of the Olympus Mountain.
Elatochori ski resort is ideal for families with kids and beginners. Experienced skiers should head to the top of Karekla from where a stunning view over the mountains folds out beyond. There are 10 slopes one snowboard run of 500m length and beautiful natural ski routes that meander through the forest. There are ski schools and coffee bar at the chalet.
Daily Pass: From 2€ – 13€. There is a discount for athletes, kids and students.
Where to stay
Vaela Pallas Cultural Resort & Spa – an unusual hotel with 17 rooms whose décor was inspired by the owner’s travel around the world. There is spa area that overlooks the magnificent mountains and the sea. Every morning there traditional breakfast with homemade and deli-style goodies are served.
Check out the “50+ Groovy time” project upcoming March with long term stays from 2 week until 3 months. Free Wi-Fi. Prices: 70€ – 175€ with breakfast
The monastery of Saint George built back in 1494, which is an excellent spot for to see Olympus Mountain and Pieria Mountains. The Kremasto waterfalls at 1000m high and a spectacular view should also be on your bucket list.
5. NYMFAIO – The aristocratic ski resort
This traditional village, located an altitude of 1350m, is “one of the ten most beautiful villages in Europe” according to Unesco. It belongs to Florina county and it is close to Voras ski resort (Kaimaktsalan), the highest ski centre in Greece reaching an altitude of 2680m. A lot of the skiing is through unspoiled forest beauty.
There are 14 slopes suitable for beginner and expert skiers that are skiable from November right up to early May.
It also has a snowmobile run, snowcat routes, airboard trails and a fun snowboard park. The three-floor chalet is a great place to enjoy the stunning view and do a little food shopping. Florina has a vibrant nightlife waiting just a short drive away.
Day pass: 1€ (for kids) -15 €
Where to stay
La Moara Guesthouse – a member of the Historic Hotels of Europe this mansion noted for its beautiful architecture offers eight elegant rooms four of which can accommodate up to four people, two living rooms, one restaurant with an extensive wine list, a playroom with billiards, library and wine cellar. Free Wi-Fi.
Prices: 95 euros for a double room per night, including breakfast.
Where to eat
Naoumidis Restaurant – everything on the menus is absolutely fresh as it comes straight from Naoumidis brother’s farms. Smoked carp with caviar, prawns with red pumpkin, caramelized pork with quince are some of the specialties. Their peppers are cooked in unexpected ways will surprise you. An experience not to be missed.
Price: 15€ -18€ person
The museum of Gold and Silver located in the heart of Nymfaio in a beautiful traditional mansion. Inside are examples of old handmade furniture, authentic costumes, photographs and artisan jewelry. Also, a stop-over at the village of Agios Athanasios is a must.
6. KALAVRITA – Skiing with a sea view
Located in north Peloponnese Kalavrita is a picturesque mountainous village easy to get to from Athens and Patra. The ski resort is located by the impressively high Chelmos Mountain whose highest peak is at an altitude of 2355m. There are 12 runs all with a beautiful sea view, seven lifts and 12km of skiing runs of all levels. Snowboarders love this resort for its uncrowded, comfortable runs and its consistantly deep snow. The Snowboard Park and the night skiing are the highlights when the resort turns into a fun zone and the chalet into a dance club.
Families and children can enjoy the playground. Psychologists are on hand to help them gain self-confidence to improve their skiing. There is a snowboard park dedicated to children.
Daily Pass: adults 5 €-25€, 0-5 & over 70 & Disabled Free entrance
Where to stay
Kalavrita Canyon Hotel & Spa – this luxury getaway has 38 rooms with all modern facilities, great view of the mountains, a spa services, bar and a restaurant that specialises in local cuisine. A hearty breakfast is included. Feel free to ask the friendly stuff for customized tours of the area. Free Wi-Fi.
Price: From 60€
Catch the Odontotos train which is one of the six most famous in the world. It was built in 1896 and cuts through the Vouraikos Canyon, considered one of the ten, most beautiful in Europe.