Are you ready to visit Kastoria? Just in case you have not heard of Kastoria, it’s a lovely town in northern Greece.
It’s a bit far from Athens,but something different from a Greek island, and much less tourists!
For sure you will be able to speak Greek in Kastoria, which is another “plus”. So let’s learn a bit more about this beautiful town.
When coming from abroad, the easiest is to fly to Athens or Thessaloniki, since those flights can be booked every day, whole year round.
From there, both routs are nice with scenic views and you will be able to enjoy a beautiful journey through the Greek countryside.
A little bit of history…
Kastoria has a long and interesting history that goes way back.
Kastoria’s history is closely tied to the Byzantine Empire. The town flourished during this period, especially between the 9th and 14th centuries,
becoming a significant center for trade. Its strategic location near the Via Egnatia, an important Roman road back then, contributed to its economic prosperity.
Therefore, in the old town of Kastoria, you will find a lot of byzantine churches, with frescoes, showing the artistic and religious significance of the era.
The Church of St. Athanasius and the Church of Panagia Mavriotissa are special places showing this history.
In the late 14th century, Kastoria came under Ottoman rule after the fall of Constantinople.
The town continued to thrive as a center of commerce and culture during this period. The Ottoman influence is still visible in the architecture of some buildings in the old town.
20th Century Challenges:
In the 1900s, Kastoria faced tough times because of the two World Wars. Borders changed, and people moved around.
But, despite these challenges, Kastoria held onto its unique culture and identity.
So, when you walk through the narrow streets of the old town or visit the ancient churches, you’re stepping into the history of Kastoria
It’s a special place that has seen a lot and still keeps its unique charm.
The Archontika or mansions
The “archontika” of Kastoria, as we say in Greek, are a collection of well-preserved mansions that reflect the town’s historical importance and cultural richness.
These grand houses, with their distinctive architecture, show the prosperity of the past, particularly during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
As you wander through the narrow streets of the old town, you’ll see several of those elegant mansions.
Each archontiko has its own story to tell, and it for sure adds to the enchanting atmosphere of Kastoria.
The archontika are built with a blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural styles, and many of these buildings also have beautiful courtyards and gardens.
Originally built as residences for the town’s affluent families, the archontika are characterized by their spacious rooms, high ceilings, and amazing interiors.
Walking through the corridors and rooms of these mansions offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of Kastoria’s elite in days gone by.
Over the years, there has been a good effort to preserve and restore these historic mansions.
Some mansions are now also transformed into boutique hotels.
The fur industry of Kastoria
The fur industry has been a significant aspect of the town’s economy and cultural identity for many decades.
Known for producing high-quality fur products, Kastoria has earned a reputation as one of the leading fur centers in Greece.
Kastoria’s fur products have also gained international recognition. The town’s furriers have participated in prestigious fashion events,
showcasing their creations and contributing to the global reputation of Kastoria as a distinguished fur-producing destination.
The roots of Kastoria’s fur industry can be traced back to the Byzantine era, but it gained prominence during the Ottoman period.
The town’s strategic location and proximity to the Balkans facilitated the trade of fur pelts and products.
It has been a major source of employment for the local population, supporting families and communities.
The success of the fur trade has contributed to the overall prosperity of the town.
In recent years, the fur industry has faced challenges, including changes in consumer preferences and ethical considerations related to fur production.
Kastoria, however, has adapted to these challenges by incorporating sustainable practices and promoting transparency in the production process.
The industry tries to continue,while finding ways to balance tradition with contemporary values.
Lake Orestiada: A tranquil Oasis and a birdwatcher’s paradise
Lake Orestiada, also known as Lake Kastoria, is a beautiful lake, that adds a lot to the charm of the town. Greece is known for it’s beautiful sea,
and not so many towns are located next to a lake, so let’s say some more words about this amazing lake.
This natural lake, covering an area of approximately 28 square kilometers.
The lake’s calm waters reflect the beauty of the surrounding hills and mountains, creating a picturesque setting.
This lake is also known for its rich birdlife, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
The lake serves as a vital stopover point for migratory birds, especially during the spring and autumn seasons.
Among the feathered inhabitants are various species of waterfowl, including swans, ducks, and herons.
What to do first in Kastoria?
Wander the Old Streets: Explore the narrow streets of the old town and take a look at the amazing archontika
It’s like a little maze with old houses and cool designs.
Boat Ride on the Lake: Take a boat ride on Lake Orestiada. It’s fun to see the town from the water and enjoy the view.
The boat rides offer a unique perspective, allowing you to glide over the calm waters and observe the birds in their natural habitat.
The lakeside mansions and the town’s reflection on the water create a magical scene, and perfect for taking photos.
Visit Doltso Square: Hang out in Doltso Square. It is surrounded by beautiful mansions and there are cozy cafes and places to eat.
When to visit best?
Kastoria is pretty all year, but the best times are spring and fall.
The weather is nice, and you can see flowers in spring or colorful leaves in fall. It’s less busy than summer, so you can enjoy the town more.
How to Get There? From Athens or from Thessaloniki
The most flexible and picturesque option is to drive. The journey takes approximately 5-6 hours,
you can actually choose two routes; via the Peloponnese (starting from the highway Athens-Patras)
and the Rio-Antirrio brdige (You’ll drive on a cool bridge called Rio-Antirrio, with awesome views of the sea.
, or otherwise take the route via Lamia (starting from the Highway Athens-Thessaloniki)
Take a look at google maps and decide which route you like best, or in which other places you would like to make a stop on the way
Several bus companies operate routes from Athens to Kastoria. The journey takes around 5-6 hours
Driving from Thessaloniki to Kastoria takes around 2-3 hours, covering approximately 230 kilometers.
You can also make a stop in Veria and Naousa, and even enjoying the scenic drive through the Pindus mountain range.
Intercity buses also connect Thessaloniki to Kastoria, with a travel time of approximately 3-4 hours.
Listen to a Podcast Story related to Kastoria 🙂
Podcast story 27, for Intermediate Language Levels in Greece, is a story about two tourists from the Philippines, visiting Kastoria.
Listen to the story, or read it…and learn more Greek at the same time