Want a change from those Greek islands, with their artifice and crowds? Looking for a holiday in a Greek environment that is, well, just naturally natural? I have just the place! Evergreen slopes and lush valleys, deep-set rivers and unspoiled lakes, towns that are lived in and villages of timbered houses, slate or tile roofs -- it's the northwestern corner the Greeks know as Epirus. Plentiful rainfall, the rugged Pindos Mountains, and a generally more temperate climate -- in places, it seems like Alpine country. And, in fact, it's one of the few regions in Greece where you'll be enjoying your travels away from the sea.

Epirus and its capital city, Ioannina, seem immune to the throngs who crowd the beaches and restaurants, the ferries and ancient sites of so many parts of Greece these days. It isn't the travel-poster Greece many expect, and it certainly hasn't organized itself around tourism and foreigners.

Although there are plenty of hotels and restaurants, the pace of life in Ioannina and other Western Greece cities, not to mention in the villages, is still governed by local customs. During the off season, for instance, places such as the post office and information offices may be closed all weekend. Museum hours are cut back, as are the hours of gift shops and many restaurants. And except for staff in the hotels, better restaurants, and visitor information and car-rental offices, few people speak English, although they may speak Italian, French, or German. You may find yourself sharing a hotel with Greek commercial travelers, and it will probably be harder to find your English-language newspaper or fresh-squeezed orange juice. In other words, this area is for those who enjoy traveling in an authentic foreign land. Try it -- you may like it!