Zagori is a historical place of Epirus with unparalleled natural beauty, unique soil morphology, altitude differences and many rivers that justify the creation of a rich network of roads and bridges. Cobbled streets, cobbled streets, stone stairs, paths and over 100 bridges are the main ornaments of Zagorochoria. The unique beauty of the place hides fascinating treasures such as the two national parks, one of which includes the river Aoos and the Vikos Gorge and the other the area around Valia Calda, east of the imposing snow-covered Tymfi.
The idyllic landscape of Zagori in combination with the stone mansions, the famous libraries and the folklore museums, already holds a special place among the international destinations of mountain, nature, cultural and religious tourism.
The Vikos Aoos National Park is a protected natural resource area north of Ioannina and bordered northeast with the Pindos-Valia Calda National Park. The region is part of the European nature 2000 network of protected areas and is distinguished by the intense changes in the natural landscape: overgrown dense areas intersect with steep cliffs. The area includes the gorge of Vikos, which is also the core of the forest, as well as part of the Tymphi mountain range, the Aoos gorge and a number of traditionally preserved settlements. It is also called “Wood of the Great Peaks”, due to the steep and high peaks of the area, higher than that of Gamila and includes an extremely rare and sensitive ecosystem. To the west of the forest is the Vikos gorge, which crosses the western and central Zagori, starting from the village of Vikos and ending at Kipi. Traces of human activity have been identified since 40,000 BC. The canyon is water-borne and stretches over a length of 12 kilometers and has been recorded in the Guinness Book as the smallest open gorge in the world but with depths of over 1,000 meters and is the deepest gorge of the planet. In the depth of the ravine the Voidomatis river flows, the springs of which give crystal clear water all year round. The view from some points along the gorge is magnificent, especially from the village of Vradeto (Belio) and from the village of
Monodendri (location Oxià). In Monodendri there is also the “stone forest”, a set of huge rocks that stand up like abrupt trees. The Vikos Gorge is one of the most popular tours of tourists, lasting around 5 hours, offering unique pictures.
The Aoos River in the northern part of the forest crosses particularly dense vegetation on the slopes of Tymphi and a 8 km long gorge. Ideal destination for sports enthusiasts.
On the western slopes of Tymfis are the picturesque, traditional settlements Mikro and Megalo Papigo. Just above Mikro Papigo dominate the “Astrakas Towers”, huge towering rocks. In the area there are numerous lakes of different sizes. The “mythical” Drakolimni is the largest of them, at an altitude of 2,050 meters. It is an alpine lake, which owes its existence to the glaciers that existed in the region 10,000 years ago. Her name has taken it from a local legend who says that two Dragons, who were enemies, lived in Dramolimni of Tymphi and Drakolimni of Smolikas. Each time they stumbled, they were stoning to each other, explaining why the shoals of Dramalimni of Smolikas are white in color with scattered black stones, while the banks of Lake Tymphi are black with scattered white stones! Notable are the fauna of the area with over 400 species of mammals, including 24 endangered species and its rich flora with 1,700 species, including many mushrooms, wildflowers and plants of exceptional healing properties. The wealthy inhabitants of Zagori for the past two centuries have offered large sums for public works and the construction of the famous arched bridges that decorate the natural environment of the forest, its rivers and ravines. Moreover, apart from the bridges, scattered are old watermills and monasteries.
The Pindos National Park, also known as Valia Kalda, is located in a particularly inaccessible area of Pindos on the borders between the Grevena and Ioannina prefectures, including the valley of Valia Kalda and Arkoudorema, the Lygos and Mavrovouni mountains and is characterized by steep cliffs, rushing torrents and dense forests. It is one of the most important and virgin forests, from the last brown bear habitat, the wildcat and the wild goat, as well as a place where the most important species of Greek wildlife resorts. It also hosts more than 80 species of birds, rare wildlife and fish. Every year dozens of tourists visit Valia Calda valley to admire its unique and unforgettable landscapes with the vast coniferous and beech forests.
The most cosmopolitan villages of the area are located in the shadow of the imposing Astrakas (Gamila mountain) and are characterized by the picturesque mansions and their gastronomic proposals. Impressive stone guest houses, covered with the characteristic dark gray,
Epirus plateau, enchanting nature around, stone fountains, landscaped courtyards and the beautiful church of Agios Vlasios with the hexagonal bell tower, are several reasons for preference for those who love nature and warmth .
Rising to the tastes of tourists, these two picturesque villages attract more and more visitors to their modern hostels, built with the 18th-century dry stone technique.
Their long history has left their footprints at the girls’ school and in the churches of Agios Nikolaos and Taxiarches (1611).
One of the largest villages of Zagori built on a green hill, at an altitude of 650 m, is a very powerful base for exploring the wider area.
Life is centered around the central square with the plane tree, while in the picturesque neighborhoods of the settlement there are some of the most luxurious lodgings of Zagorohoria.
A vibrant and attractive village, it is immediately loved for the splendid view it has, thanks to its unique location, at an altitude of 1,060 m, opposite Vradeto and a short distance from the Vikos Gorge.
A walk in the traditional, stone-built alleys will take you to well-preserved mansions, such as the Rizarion School building, Rizari’s benefactor’s home and the well-known Agia Paraskevi monastery, hung on the edge of the cliff (dated in 1412)
It is located in the heart of Zagorohoria and is like a lively postcard.
It is built amphitheatrically and divided into two picturesque neighborhoods (Upper and Lower) that blend into the square with the perennial plane tree and the historic church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Do not miss to visit the nearby settlement of the ancient Molosses.
The fairytale village, which has not been touched by time, at an altitude of 800m, Is famous for its cobbled streets and mansions, from year to year it becomes a strong pole of attraction for sought-after tourists.
The sights of the village include stone fountains, small churches, cobbled streets and mansions. In Dilofo is the tallest house in Zagorochoria, 13.5 meters high, the mansion Makropoulou (Loumidi), which according to tradition, the son of a rich Zagorite built the tall mansion so that his wife could gaze at her village, Koukouli, from its highest floors!
The jewel settlement on the slopes of Mount Mitsikeli, built since 1380, with wounds from the Germans, has a magnificent square, dominated by the church of Panagia and many other attractions, such as the church of Agios Nikolaos, the Monastery of Dovra (1600 ) and the University of Zagorisia.
Shortly before the village stands the monument of the Zagorissa Woman as a minimum tribute to the Zagorisians who helped our troops in the resistance of 1940.
Built on the banks of the Awo, Vovousa animates through a beautiful painting. It is undoubtedly the most charming “Zagorohori”. Its reddish ceramic roofs, which embrace the low stone houses, break the green agreement, which frames the crystal clear waters of the river, which flows into its center.
And if the river separates it in the middle its wonderful, stone, one-arched bridge, it unites it. Built on the two banks of the Aoos Cave, it dates back to 1748 and is one of the most beautiful and important sights of Pindos.
Built at an altitude of 1,100 meters, the lush village of Central Zagori is a place of love at first glance. Immense mansions, stone cobblestone streets, beautiful squares and countless “points of view”, marked with small wooden signs, which overlook the Vikos gorge from above.
In beautiful Skamneli, there is the faithful representation of a Sarakatsanian settlement, with typical cane huts. Do not forget to visit it!
Overgrown ravines, forests, river banks, bridges over torrents and the monastery paths are ideal for strollers. Enjoy the beauty of the stone villages and the natural landscape … walking!
In Zagorohoria there are 31 marked paths from the LIFE – Zagori program, with the Z code and yellow signs that connect the villages to each other and lead us to all the sights of Central Zagori. The paths connecting mountain clusters have been signaled by the EPER program with a red sign in a yellow box. In Eastern Zagori there are trails with the code P that unite Metsovo with Zagori. From the area passes the national path E6, which crosses Vovousa and the national path 03, which starts from the Ligiades, passes from Dikorfo, Kipi, Koukouli, Vikos gorge, Gamila and ends at Smolikas.
Some of the most beautiful hiking trails are:
Scala of Vradeto: The staircase is a stone cobblestone of unique traditional architecture between the villages of Kapesovo and Vradeto. The shortest route starts from Vradeto and lasts about 15 minutes. The view from Belioy’s place literally breathes!
The Voidomatis trail joining the Voidomatis cement bridge with the Kleidonia Bridge passing through the Monastery of Spiliotissa with its excellent view from the bell tower.
The Vikos trail with which the village of Vikos communicates with Mikro and the Great Papigo. The greatness of nature spreads out in front of you.
Ascension to Thimphi: It is made by the village of Mikro Papigo. It takes 6-7 hours to the shelter and another hour to Drakolimni. Simply Marvelous!
Kipoi – Tsepelovo through Vikaki: A very beautiful route with picturesque traditional settlements and many sights of one hour’s duration.
Vikos Gorge: The best time to pass the gorge is in the summer with the companion of an experienced attendant.
Aoou Lake – Ι.Μ. Voutsas – Dolyni – Ag. Christophoros – Leptokarya: A very distant but enchanting route with stops, through picturesque traditional settlements and many sights. There is a mark.
Karyes – Kavallari – Anthrakitis: Another beautiful route in the wild nature of Pindos, passing through picturesque traditional settlements and many sights. The duration is about 2-3 hours and is marked.
Dolyni – Tsipiani – Miliotades: Claims route for experienced walkers as it lasts about 4 hours and is not marked.
Kastanona – Mega Lakkos – Kazarma: A beautiful 2-3 hour route, with picturesque traditional settlements and many attractions but without marking.
Paths that start from Vovousa and lead to the heart of the majestic national park of Valia Calda, and to the green Arkoudorema.
Paths from Vitsa and Monodendri that end up in the core of the most beautiful national park of Greece, Vikos – Aoos. The short path, which leads from the square of Monodendri to the serene monastery of Agia Paraskevi, is of great interest as it is a nearly floating balcony over the Vikos Gorge, with panoramic views.