(CNN) — From colorful Parga and the stunning beaches of Sivota to the low-key port of Preveza, the Epirotic coast is dazzling.
Characterized as the Greek Amalfi Coast, though with its own allure, this endless coastline dotted with seaside villages, dreamy beaches, mountain villages, archaeological sites and amazing landscapes is still widely undiscovered.
This quaint seaside town, with the colorful houses built like an amphitheater on a hill leading up to a Venetian castle, serves as the perfect base to explore the area.
Although on the mainland, the atmosphere feels like an island, with its compact center and lovely corners crowned by bougainvillea flowers and the surrounding hills full of olive groves.
Buzzing with life, Parga offers mesmerizing views of the Ionian Sea. Kryoneri beach is right in front of the town, while numerous restaurants, cafes and bars line the promenade and continue on the road leading up to the castle.
Panagia (Virgin Mary), the islet facing Parga with its whitewashed chapel, is one of Greece’s most photographed locations and is featured in tourism campaign posters by the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT), and book covers (Paul Theroux’s “Pillars of Hercules”), as well as a dreamy setting for weddings.
Word has it that shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who bought the Ionian islet of Skorpios in 1968, had first expressed interest in buying this one. Today, during summer you can hop on a day trip from Parga and swim near the legendary island of Skorpios and others.
For sunset, you can head towards the Venetian castle on top of the hill. From up here, as you recharge over a drink at its café and take in the spectacular views, you’ll soon forget about the steep climb.
August 15 marks a double celebration for Parga — not only is this the day of a big Greek religious celebration marking the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, it’s also when locals celebrate their return to their homeland from Corfu in 1913. Almost a century earlier, the townspeople had fled after Parga was sold by the British to Ali Pasha, the Turkish ruler of Ioannina.
On this day fishing boats decorated with lights sail towards the port, fireworks splash the sky and a massive street party with bands goes on until the early hours.
Further afield visitors can sample a day excursion to the islands of Antipaxos and Paxos, with its scenic port of Gaios.
On Antipaxos, the out-of-this-world water of Voutoumi beach is one of the highlights.
Archaeological sites such as the Nekromanteion temple (the Oracle of the Dead), dedicated to the ancient Greek gods Persephone and Hades, are another.
Close to Parga, the popular beach of Valtos, the lovely gulf of Lichnos and the tiny cove of Sarakiniko are all great options.
Where to eat:
Villa Rossa’s farm-to-table restaurant serves a seasonal menu based on locally sourced, top-quality ingredients featuring fish and seafood such as shrimps from Preveza or beef fillet with fresh Greek truffle from the Pindus mountains.
The chef, Theo Karathanassis, is known as the “saffron chef” because he uses saffron in many of his signature dishes such as his seafood risotto.
Where to stay:
Sivota is a charming fishing village with access to plentiful beaches and hidden bays.
About 30 kilometers northwest of Parga, Sivota is a small fishing village with a pleasant promenade, tiny center and grandiose setting.
Snuggled in green, with some of the most stunning beaches of the area and islets which create little fjords, this is the perfect place to hop on a boat and explore dreamy places such as Pisina beach or to experience a sunset cruise.
To feel the soul of this place it’s good to wake up early and watch the fishermen untangle the catch from their fishing nets and maybe buy lunch from them.
On the way from Parga to Sivota, a climb up to the village of Perdika rewards with unhindered views of the area. There are also many taverns offering simple Greek dishes.
One of the most exotic beaches is Bella Vraka, reached by walking through shallow water — unusual and fun.
Megali Ammos has taverns right by the beach, while a glamorous beach bar offering super comfortable sunbeds dominates Mikri Ammos. Agia Paraskevi has a tiny island, which can be reached by swimming.
Where to eat:
Taverna “Oasis” in Agia village serves up traditional, hearty Greek food and great mountain views.
Where to stay:
Ideal for a day trip, Preveza has a peaceful vibe, a laid-back seafront promenade and cute little corners in its city center to discover while walking. Here, the modern archaeological museum of Nikopolis and the archaeological site of ancient Nikopolis are major highlights.
In the Preveza area, the deep-watered Monolithi and Kanali both stretch for miles offering numerous beach bars along the coast. The area is vast so if you prefer to hear only the sound of the waves and the feet tapping on the sand, it is possible.
Alonaki, with its grandiose rocky setting, is an experience of its own, while Ormos tou Odyssea cove has golden, fine sand and shallow waters.
Where to eat:
Downtown — Amvrosios for fresh fish and Psatha for traditional Greek recipes.
Kanali beach — Miriounis restaurant for tasty, simple food coupled with impressive sea views and sunsets or Sesa Boutique hotel’s restaurant for gourmet dining.
Agios Thomas — “To Ntaliani” and “Jimmy’s” for fresh fish.
Where to stay:
While Greek island hopping might be linked with the Cyclades islands, the Ionian Sea, with its calmer weather conditions and numerous sheltered harbors, is better for inexperienced sailors.