From the rising scarps of Vikos, to the magnificent peaks of Pindos, and the still perfection of Drakolimni, Epirus is anything but shy of natural marvels. However, in the region’s far south lies a geological formation that truly stands out: the rubicund hills of Kokkinopilos.
Named after its striking colour (Kokkinopilos literally means “red clay”), this unique place might leave you wondering whether you are still in Greece or whether you got randomly cast into the middle of the Australian outback.
Formed by water’s primordial force, dozens of immaculate crests and ridges meander down the red-coloured hillside, like tributaries congregating, before losing themselves at the bottom of the mound. Lonesome trees balance precariously on these terrestrial spines, their tangled roots jutting from the reddish ground, stubbornly refusing to yield to the loss of their once formidable foundation relentlessly stolen away by the elements. Sedulous ants scramble across this barren land, hunting and scavenging, while giant beetles, their emerald carapaces shimmering in the sun, fill the air with hum. The occasional wildflower and bleached stone adorn the reddened soil, as a verdant ocean, enveloping the site, heralds the coming of spring.
A minimalistic painting in red and green, yet plentiful in its simplicity.
The extent of the site is relatively vast, and you might even spend a few hours exploring and wandering around this Martian landscape. If anything climb to the top of the first hill to get an excellent view of the site! Once up there you will also find a dirt road leading to other parts of Kokkinopilos.
Despite their hazardous look, the slopes are surprisingly pleasant to walk on though. Nevertheless, once the rain starts falling the area might turn into mad mud mayhem, so schedule your visit accordingly!
Completely off the tourist trail (I spent three hours there entirely by myself), Kokkinopilos is an exceptional destination ideal for those seeking the remote and uncharted on their journey across the already underrated Greek region of Epirus.
Kokkinopilos is best visited as a daytrip from one of Epirus’ main cities.
Disclaimer: You will find the location on Google Maps (Kokkinopilos Preveza), yet not on Maps.me.
HOW TO GET THERE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
| From Ioannina
Although the location of Kokkinopilos feels fairly remote, it is surprisingly easy to reach from Ioannina. Head to the city’s main bus station and buy a ticket to Filippiada. (If you want to research the bus schedule online, you are looking for the bus towards Preveza).
However, you don’t want to go all the way to Filippiada but instead get off the bus shortly before, since Kokkinopilos is located seven kilometres north of Filippiada, near the village of Agios Georgios and the Louros reservoir. Simply tell your driver to drop you at the side of the road just a wee bit south of the lake (right after the bend).
If you follow the road towards Filippiada, you should quickly spot a set of stairs leading up to a gated crevice on your right-hand side (the tunnel used to be part of a Roman aqueduct). Pass the tunnel and continue for another minute to reach the path leading up to the site (you will see a map of the area and red soil, so you can’t really miss it!).
The red hills of Kokkinopilos are situated just a few metres further up the steps.
| From Arta
Several buses a day run between Arta and Filippiada. Once you reach Filippiada, you will have to decide whether you want to walk (7km) or hitchhike the remainder of the way.
| From Preveza
Take the bus towards Ioannina and tell your driver to drop you off just south of the village of Agios Georgios and the Louros reservoir (7km north of Filippiada). Admittedly, I don’t know if a ticket to Filippiada is sufficient or if you need one for a destination further up the road. Repeat the steps from above to find Kokkinopilos.
HOW TO GET BACK
While reaching Kokkinopilos without a car is relatively straight forward, be aware that getting back to where you came from might prove to be a tad bit more challenging and will certainly include (at least some) hitchhiking in the process.
Since you can’t just hop on the next best bus back home, hitchhiking will be your most reliant option (unless you are merely returning to Arta) since buses from Arta to Ioannina and Preveza run very infrequently.
Definitely keep that in mind to leave enough time for the return journey!
Alternatively, if there is a late bus from Arta going back to Ioannina or Preveza respectively, you could just head to Arta and catch a bus there.