West Macedonia has centuries-old tradition, which is reflected in its historical monuments, temples, monasteries and chapels.

Throughout the long history of this region, Western Macedonia has been a place of intense spirituality and religiosity. Proof of this, are the numerous places of worship, as evidenced by the remains of temples dedicated to ancient Greek deities and humble chapels that are scattered across the region. Also, the numerous monasteries hide valuable treasures and relics, ready to welcome the visitor who wants to experience spirituality in simple, but welcoming their cells. Indeed, you feel like talking to God, as of the shocking natural environment where they are built.

Lovers of religious tourism, which in recent years is booming in our country as well, will be lost in the really numerous monuments that adorn the area. Visit the Religious monuments and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding them as the wider Western Macedonia offers beautiful landscapes created by mountains, lakes and rivers which cross the area. Whichever route the visitor chooses, North or South of Kozani, East or West, it is sure to be compensated by the richness of nature and religious buildings to be visited.

 

MONASTERY OF ZAVORDAS

Very close to Elati, on the left bank of flushing Aliakmonas, between Bounasia and Bourino, on top of Kallistrates mountain the monastery of Zavordas dominates. It was built in 1534 to 1544 by Saint Nikanor, beside the hermitage of the Saint over the rapid waters of Aliakmonas. Nowadays, the maintenance of the cloister of St. Nikanor (1491-1549) is being completed along with the new path that leads from the monastery in the recess of the vertical rock where the hermitage is, while construction work of the suspension footbridge is expected to start.

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ASSUMPTION OF VIRGIN MARY MONASTERY IN TORNIKI

It was built around 1200 AD and it is in a short distance from the village of Panagia (Tornikes). The monastery was founded in the 12th century and it is connected with the well-known family of Tornikes. The church is of a two-storey but the ground and the first floor are of one-room vaulted churches. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Both temples are covered with paintings, in accordance with relevant inscriptions dating the years 1481 and 1730. Remarkably, the painting of the year 1481 appears as one of the earliest works of the painters from the famous Kastorian laboratory.

The cells along the south side are also preserved. They are made of stone, with wooden roof and placed in the Ottoman era. Ruins of buildings stand along the north side, which have not been investigated archaeologically while in the center a small courtyard is formed. Despite all survival measures since the 80s, the earthquake in May 1995 created major damage mainly in the sanctuary floor.

Today, this monument of Post-Byzantine period, has been moved on rails and traveled a distance of 127 meters with a height difference of 27 meters and placed in an adjacent hill.

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The transfer of the monastery, weighing 300 tons, was considered necessary as PPC on July 13, 2012 proceeded in closing the diversion tunnel of the hydroelectric power plant dam of Ilarionas for the creation of the omonymous lake.

 

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It deserves to be seen and then one should travel vertically uphill Vounasa, where you can admire the Monastery Annunciation of  Virgin Mary of Bounasia probably built in 1348′s. The impressive temple, the beautifully painted dome and carved reliefs over the doors combined with the rugged landscape, make the 5 km dirt road up here worth passing it.

Across the county, the church of the Holy Virgin in Samarina with the pine over the dome, enchants thousands of people in mid-August. This is an over-sized three-aisled basilica with a large splint-loft, porch on the west and south, on the eastern edge of which there is a chapel dedicated to St Peter and Paul. In large faceted apse a pine tree has grown since the beginning of the century, at least. The church was built in 1812 (according to another aspect in 1818) and painted ten years later.

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The Churches Metamorfosis of Sotiros and St. Paraskevi, stand at the entrance of Valia Kirna or otherwise “the valley of the devil”. The tour around the uniquely beautiful landscapes of Pindos is a true experience: dense forests of pine, fir, beech, maple, elm, ash, poplar, pines, oaks and bushes, along with the fountains with running water to quench the passers’ and travelers’  thirst . Ideal trail for those who love hiking as long as they are prepared for encounters with wild animals that inhabit the area.

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A special religious monument in the area is the Monastery of the Dormition of Virgin Mary or Spiliotissa as it called, was founded in 1643. The iconostasis, the doors and windows are splendid examples of 17th century woodwork. Dozens of stone temples and churches adorn every corner of the county and have open doors to worshipers and visitors of the site.

Other places worth visiting are also the following:

METAMORFOSIS OF SAVIOUR MONASTERY IN DRIOVOUNO

Within three kilometres from the picturesque DrIovouno above the plain of Orestida, on a ledge of the Mountain Santovas, the monastery of Metamorfosis of the Saviour dominates the area at an altitude of 1000 meters, in a unique wooded location. It is the oldest monastery in the Regional Section of Kozani. The establishment dates back to 1592 and the painting in 1652. According to reports, there was a destroyed sign in which the year 1101 was inscribed, as the year of construction of the temple.

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The fact that made it a well known monastery was the visit of St. Kosmas the Aetolian, who after he preached the Word of God, served in the care of monks because of an epidemic. Having brought water from nearby source, he committed blessing, he gave it to the monks to drink and they were healed. Since then, the point where the holy water gushes, is formed as a chapel of St. Kosmas the Aetolian so that believers reach it to drink water as a blessing.

During the wars that the Greek Nation has gone through, the monastery was a hiding place for the persecuted and those who were in need of assistance. It offered goods to civilians or combatant population and it was a munitions depot and a base of chieftains. According to reports, the monastery hosted and fled, Riga Feraiou’s brother, Dimitrios, Captain Vardas and Pavlos Melas. In 1943 the monastery was burned down by the Italian invaders along with its valuable historic records. The renovation began in 1996. Currently, there are 12 monks and it belongs to the Bishopric Sisanion and Siatistis. Many believers from different areas come to the monastery, especially during the festival of August 6.

 

MONASTERY OF SAINT ANTONIOS SIAPKAS

From the village Kastania in Servia, the view to the blue stripe of the artificial lake of Aliakmonas and the plain of ancient Elimeia is unique as unique is the path through the woods that reminds Alpine landscape. Therein lies the Monastery, located eleven kilometers from the village of Servia Chestnut Mount Titaros and approximately the same distance from the village Sarantaporo.

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The first buildings of the monastery are lost in old times, the Byzantine era. In its heyday, the monastery was stavropegic, that belonged to the patriarchate. The miraculous image of St. Anthony causes awe, which was painted in 1901 with the assistance of the Holy Community of Mount Athos. In the western part of the temple there is the cell of the mentally ill. Saint Anthonios was a healer of specific diseases. So, any who had problems would come to the monastery, tied with chains and prayed for the protection and assistance of the Holy. The terrible chains which were used to tie those unhappy creatures are preserved even today.

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It was actually a commune with many monks as it appears from various records on pontifical Konstantinos since 1750 it was abandoned and the monks moved to Demerades where there was Metochion. The property was huge, apart from the sections of Siapkas, estates of the monastery was Vouvala, Farmaki and Vourpa. Today, only parts of the double leaf door are saved anda preserved along with the image of the Saint, a part of the welcome area and the abbey, a few cells and a Byzantine fountain with three letters engraved aov=1802 (date the fountain was built).

The religious festival takes place every year on September 1st and crowds of people from the surrounding area take part.

Ornament of the architecture is the small arcuate stone bridge, “Paliogkefyro” which is very close to the monastery. It is a small masterpiece that stands without any wear and reminds the old but famous back then mountain road from Thessaly to the famous throughout Greece Monastery of St. Anthony. The legendary Paliogefyro with the noisy torrent which stood as a terrible obstacle, especially in winter with large and often downloads of water, to farmers, to Kiratzides and guests of the monastery came from southern and central Greece, was built by anonymous craftsmen soon after two distinguished visitors who came from Thessaly were drawned, as an old tradition mentions.

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AGIAS TRIADAS MONASTERY IN VOIO

A sacred place for Voiotes, is the monastery of Agia Triada which is located between the Mastorochoria Anaselitsis, a mystic plateau in threshing place, 6-7 km from the village of Vithos in Voio province at an altitude of 1000 m. The monastery maintains even today the fortress like shape in the south and east sides.

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Architectural owned complex four (Athonite) type with a dome, side chorous and domes at front and diakonikon. The church has a narthex-loft, above which is the chapel of St. Modestos. The carved, exquisite art, gilded reredos were built with the technique of blowned air. All surfaces of the church and the sanctuary are covered with frescoes, which were painted, according to the inscription in 1802, during Bishop Neophytos years and abbot Neophytos by the painter Michael who came from Hioniades.

All the above sites, because of their religiosity, generously offer to visitors an alternative lifestyle away from decay of modern times.

In general, West Macedonia is the only region in Greece that has no sea, but has beaches and rich aquatic element with the eight lakes and many rivers. Water alternates harmoniously with rocky bulks, canyons, arched bridges, forested hills, streams and ravines. It offers throughout the year, an enormous variety of alternative activities such as rafting and kayaking on the rivers Venetikos and Aliakmonas, riding and skiing in Nymfeo, snowboard and rides in ski resorts in Vigla Pissoderi in Florina and Vasilitsa in Grevena as well as in the ski resort Vitsiou in Kastoria.

Especially in Kozani, the visitor receives many and varied stimuli. An ecosystem, created by human intervention in 1973, the lake Polyfytos dominates in Kozani and has gathered around activities like the production of goods, ecotourism, fishing and water sports activities.

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36 years ago, the valley of Aliakmonas blanketed by the waters of the river, when a dam was created for the needs of one of the major hydropower stations in the country. In the Valley the villages Neraida and Polyfytos were “drowned” and the residents were forced to relocate to other settlements. Today, in the underground houses “live” giant wels catfish that reach 2.5 meters in length and 200 kilos weight and fishermen who manage to catch them become proud for their skills. Today, the path around the lake is breathtaking.

It is worth visiting picturesque Velvento to do skiing in the lake, to taste fish at one of the many taverns but also to try the wonderful peaches. The “Peach Festival”, held every year in the beautiful and picturesque Velvento, aspires year after year to become more known to the general public, promoting the product and other local products in the wider region.

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You also can visit the archaeological museum in Aiani a royal necropolis, the Byzantine castles in Servia, the folklore and historical museums in Velvento and Servia, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle in Vourinos, the museum in Kozani and the Macedonian tombs in Eordaia.

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The paleontological, historical and cultural museum of Ptolemais holds a special place in the rich list of museums, where bones are exposed, mammoth tusks from elephantoid, fossil insects, plants and shells, showing that the area was once covered by the sea.

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Furthermore, a report from the tusks of the elephant vine (such Elephas Paleoloxodon antiquus), who lived 200,000 years ago, at the entrance of the former town hall Askio and accompanied by an artistic representation of the animal. However, the most complete skeleton of this species is the elephant in the Municipal District of Perdiccas, the current municipality Eordaias.

The area still holds a wide variety of visits to the mountain. Attraction is the area of Voio, the ridge of which is a natural boundary between Western Macedonia and Epirus. Many call it “door of Pindos”, as a visitor, starting from this famous mountain, can see the base of adjacent mountain ranges and sources of Aliakmona, the largest river of Greece.

The imposing peaks, rushing rivers and vast forests that change colors with the changing seasons make Voio a paradise for mountain trails and mountain roads. Voio is one of the most significant ecological and cultural geographic sections of Western Macedonia, being the continuation of track and mountain villages of Grevena.

Mountain Voio, 45 km in length, which gave its name to the whole province, consists essentially of four separate mountains of outstanding natural beauty. It is not a homogeneous mountain, but a mountain range with direction North – South, like the rest of Pindos.
The most striking feature of the mountain is the amount and the particular shape of the peaks, due to the impressive geological formations. In Mountain Voio lie the springs of the largest river in Greece, Aliakmonas as well as its main tributaries, Veneticos and Pramoritsa. Another historical and beautiful river, Sarantaporos, main tributary Aoou srings from the western side of the mountain.

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In Voio rich ecosystems, including many mixed forests dominated by oak, chestnut, beech, pine, fir, and there are also bushes. Secondly there are walnut, cedar, filberts, and almonds. The undergrowth of the mountain has a rich tea julep, prassako and many roses.

In the bovine species found any wildlife that one can encounter in Northern Greece, as deer, wolves, wild boars, bears, eagles, falcons, eagle owl, squirrels, foxes, wildcats, jackals, and fish. North of there Pentalofou cave with two galleries. Thermal spring just outside Pentalofo is beneficial to those who have refmatoarthritikes diseases, and generally favorable climate of the area creates serious expectations for the treatment of difficult diseases related to the respiratory system.

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In mountainous Voio, there are a number of ancient and newer routes historically documented. Of these, others stood in the streets, others in hiking and trekking paths, while others perished together with their connecting settlements. A network of forty hilly and mountainous villages, situated at an altitude of 750 to 1,450 meters while these traditional stone villages, called “Mastorochoria” or “chestnut tree” are organized residential and cultural tissues. Among them there are a number of ancient and newer trails, historically documented. Of these, others stood in the streets (arvanitostrata, Vlachostrata), others in hiking and trekking paths (the river trip Pramoritsa Pentalofos – New Kotyli), while others perished together with their connecting settlements or abandoned due to construction of new roads. From the region of Voio crossing international E4 and E6 and the national trail O3. Specifically, the sides of the canyon region is perched the “stone-dead mogul” a form that was made from the erosion of rock, by means of flowing water. Just next to it are the “Bear,” the “Eagle” and other sculptures, creations of nature and the human imagination. It is a landscape of great natural beauty and scientific interest, as it will hit students geology, location and scientific research. The reason is the presence of many fossils, coral and organisms, the study of which reveals important information for both the manner and the time modulation cortical region and to study the flora and fauna of the place.

Today, the visitor of the gorges in Servia can be seen in front of the stunning mountains, beautiful landforms and different types of rocks, offering multiple possibilities of exploitation of tourist side. The Municipality, moreover, has formed at this point a very beautiful path that promises a pleasant walk leads to the castle of Servia.

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Alternative routes in the surrounding area also include the area of ​​Velvento and waterfalls, dam of PPC and the natural beauties in Boucharia Mikrovalto. There, a stunning geological phenomenon, unique in Greece, demonstrates the artistic mood of nature.

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“Boucharia” is about 20 pyramidal formations made ​​of gravel, clay, loam and pebbles, with the top covered with slate, which exceed a height of two meters, reaching in some cases even six to seven meters (so-called ‘Atlas’ ). Similar formations are in the same area the “Nochtaria ‘, with the only difference that they are no roofed with slabs.

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The combination of the two landforms creates a unique and peculiar forest, which has been derived from erosion over tens of thousands of years. A geological park has been created in the area in order to facilitate access for visitors and to highlight this rare phenomenon. The park is open to the public and offers the opportunity to be informed, to follow walks, relax in rest areas or visit the wooden watchtower in the north side of the park.

As gastronomy is a separate section in each place, do not forget to taste the mushrooms, the organic dairy products and meat produced by breeders in Livadero, saffron, wine and raki Amyntaiou beans and Prespa bleak, red peppers, pies and sweets produced by female cooperatives in the bovine and the famous local wine Siatistas.