The traditional village of Nymfaio, one of the most picturesque villages in Greece, is located at an altitude of 1,350 meters in northern Greece, in western Macedonia. Thanks to its traditional architecture, with stone houses and charming cobbled streets, and its unique natural environment, this mountain village is one of the best vacation destinations in Greece, not only in winter but all year round.

The history of Nymfaio

The village of Nymfaio, known as Niviesta or Nevesta until 1929 and founded by Vlachs around 1350, enjoyed a long period of prosperity thanks to its inhabitants’ commercial relations with Central Europe and Egypt. From the end of the 17th century and for almost three centuries, Nymfaio became one of the greatest centers of goldsmithing in the Balkans.

In the 1950s and 60s, when the economic situation took a downturn, Nymfaio’s inhabitants began to emigrate en masse. In the 1980s, however, the village was resurrected by descendants of local families, who helped revive the village.

Discover the village of Nymfaio

Today, Nymfaio’s development is focused on ecotourism, combining a unique natural environment with the region’s cultural heritage, while the houses have been renovated in keeping with traditional architecture.

The impressive building of Nikios School was erected in 1928, thanks to funding from local benefactor Ι. Nikou. Today, it serves as a conference center for the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The Church of St. Nicholas, a post-Byzantine monument, was built in 1867 by craftsmen from Constantinople.

A visit to the “Nymfaio House” is a must if you want to learn about the history of the region, its customs and the local tradition of goldsmithing, as Nymfaio was known for its craftsmen who worked with gold and silver. This is a town museum, inaugurated in 2000; modeled on an original imposing three-storey manor that no longer exists, it was explicitly built to house the a collection of various artifacts, with an emphasis on  goldsmithing.

At a short distance from the village of Nymfaio, visitors can discover the picturesque lakes of Zazari and Chimaditis, both part of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which covers Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. A total of 141 bird species and 150 plant species have been documented at these sites.

“Arcturos”: a sanctuary for brown bears and wolves

In the middle of the woods around the village of Nymfaio you’ll find “Arcturos”, a non profit, non governmental, environmental organization; founded in 1992, it originally specialized in rescuing captured dancing bears, but gradually took on other projects, focusing on the protection of wildlife fauna and its natural habitat, caring for wounded bears and wolfs, preparing the animals for their return to the wild and raising public awareness on the protection of endangered species.

The Nikios School in Nymfaio is home to the “Arcturos” brown bear information center. The shelter also welcomes visitors, who have the opportunity to meet the bears cared for by “Arcturos”.

Leisure, sports and local gastronomy

Nymfaio offers visitors a wide range of outdoors activities. The beech forest surrounding the village is an ideal place to walk around and take in the fresh air of the mountains. You can explore the area by hiking or mountain biking, and organize a trip to Lake Zazari for canoeing, kayaking, archery or horseback riding.

In this corner of western Macedonia, traditional taverns serve trahanosoupa (a soup made from trahanas, a type of pasta made with wheat flour, milk and butter), game, but also pie with cheese and spinach. The best choice to accompany your meal are the famous PDO Amyndeon red wines, made from the Xinomavro grape variety. The area of Amyndeon (also spelled Amyntaio) is one of the two most important wine-growing regions in northwest Macedonia.

Translated from the original article which appeared on Grèce Hebdo; Photos: ©NYMFAIO HOUSE (1,4), ©Visit Greece (2,8), ©Discover Greece (3,5), ©ARCTUROS (6,7)

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