The Vikos Gorge is likely one of the most spectacular sights on earth. It’s nature exhibiting off in all its majesty and the very best half about it — there are hardly any vacationers!
With everybody heading to the islands to laze on seashores, this untouched piece of paradise within the Zagori area of Northern Greece feels about as off the overwhelmed path as you may get (making it one of many prime locations to go to in Greece).
I visited the Pindos Nationwide Park in September 2018 throughout our 6-month campervan journey via Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, and Italy. We had been initially solely planning on spending at some point within the park, however utterly fell in love with the quaint villages and the breathtaking surroundings, so ended up spending 5 full days there.
We visited all of the villages in Zagori, ate scrumptious conventional meals whereas chatting to the locals, drove among the loopy hairpin bend roads within the campervan and stopped in every single place for wonderful views of the gorge.
Learn on to study in regards to the unimaginable Vikos Gorge in Pindos Nationwide Park, together with practicalities of the climbing journey. Plus, in the event you’re not a hiker, there are nonetheless quite a few different issues to do within the park!
The Vikos Gorge
The Vikos Gorge is situated within the Northern Pindos Park, within the historic space of Epirus, simply 30km from Ioannina and near the Albanian border. Click on right here to seek out the Vikos Gorge on the map.
You’ll be able to hike your complete size of the gorge with out seeing one other individual. For nature lovers, hikers and anybody who appreciates the outside, you’ll by no means wish to go away.
There are 46 villages (collectively named the Zagorohoria), that make up the realm of Zagori wherein the Vikos Gorge lies. Operating via the centre of Zagori is the magnificent Vikos Gorge. Recorded within the Guinness guide of data for being the world’s deepest canyon in proportion to its width.
The Vikos Gorge provides among the greatest climbing in Greece. There are hikes for all ranges of health, from vigorous 5-hour hikes to 1-hour meanders. For non-hikers, there are a selection of viewpoints, all simply reached by foot and providing essentially the most spectacular views of one in every of Mom Nature’s best creations.
The Zagori Area
Nestled within the Pindos Mountain vary lies the magical Zagori area, probably the most stunning and untouched locations left on earth. The deep gorge and mountainous panorama made accessibility nearly inconceivable, so for tons of of years, the villages on this space existed with hardly any affect from the surface world.
Now the roads are paved and accessibility is straightforward, but the realm nonetheless stays largely untouched by tourism.
This seclusion allowed the preservation of custom, and the wealthy tradition can nonetheless be seen as we speak within the particular person character and distinctive structure of every of the 46 villages.
The villages will be discovered perched excessive on prime of mountains, hanging over the edges of the gorge or deep within the backside of the valley. Wander the cobbled alleyways, benefit from the peace and tranquility and end up transported again in time.
The villages are all related by a community of stone footpaths, some main over magnificent arched bridges, some following alongside winding rivers, whereas others zigzag at an inconceivable angle up the steepest of slopes. These historical pathways now present glorious routes for hikers, mountain bikers and nature lovers alike.
How To Get To The Vikos Gorge
The Northern Pindos Nationwide park is situated about 30 kilometers from Ioannina, the capital metropolis of Epirus province. The most effective entrance to go to the Vikos Gorge is 27km North of Ioannina, simply after the city of Karies. This can take you to the Aspragelli Info Centre, the place they may give you maps and an unlimited quantity of knowledge on the park.
For some nice info and maps, click on right here.
Vikos Gorge by Automotive
The advisable method to go to is by automotive. Automotive rental is on the market in Ioannina, Thessaloniki, and Athens, however the very best worth and availability can be present in Athens. A lot of the entry roads will be discovered on the Western border of the park, between Ioannina and Konitsa.
The roads within the Zagori area are all new, which means nice high quality and simple to drive, it doesn’t matter what sort of auto you might have. Bear in mind that there are quite a few hairpin bends.
Buses run from Ioannina to nearly all of the villages of Zagoria, together with the favored villages of Papigo, Monodendri, and Konitsa. Relying on the place the villages are situated, the period of the journey will fluctuate from 40 min to 1 hour. The bus to Monodendri runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:15am.
In case you are flying into Athens or Thessaloniki, buses can be found to Ioannina. The buses from Athens and Thessaloniki to Ioannina run each day. From Athens, the buses go away from Kifissos Bus Station with the journey taking about 7 hours. From Thessaloniki, the bus leaves from KTEL Station and is about three hours.
The bus connection between the villages is poor, so be ready to hike or hitchhike.
On a Tour
The opposite possibility could be to go to the Zagori area on a tour. These day journeys will be joined from Ioannina.
Vikos Gorge Trailheads
There are a selection of hikes obtainable within the gorge. These vary in size and issue. The most well-liked hike is the Mondrendi to Vikos Hike. For these eager to go the additional distance, the Vikos to Papigano is a good add on. For these in search of a extra leisurely hike, then the Mondrendi to Kipi is a good possibility.
Mondrendi to Vikos Hike
Hottest hike within the Vikos Gorge
Size: 12.5 kilometers
Period: 6 – eight hours
The village of Monodentri is the most well-liked place to begin for visiting the Vikos Gorge. From right here you’ll be able to hike north to Vikos and the 2 Papingo villages or south to Kipi.
The principle hike takes you 12.5km alongside the underside of the Vikos gorge from the village of Monodentri to Vikos. It’s a comparatively straightforward hike, though you need to be ready for some boulder hopping.
Metallic or picket ladders have been strategically positioned to help you over difficult bits. The ultimate ascent can be very steep. The hike can take anyplace from 6 to eight hours relying in your degree of health.
From Monodentri there’s a steep 300m descent down a cobbled pathway to the underside of the gorge. From there, the path descends alongside a slowly graded footpath, via charming woods, all the way in which to Vikos.
Across the 2 hour mark, you’ll attain the intersection with the Megas Lakkos ravine. A pipped spring marks the midway spot and supplies a possibility to replenish your water bottles.
Across the three hour mark, the steep partitions begin receding and the gorge opens out. Right here you might have two selections: Both you’ll be able to proceed straight alongside the well-worn path till you attain the paved kaldermi, main as much as Vikos. The ascent is steep and can take about 1.5hrs. Or, the choice is to observe the marked 03 path to Mikro Papingo or Megalo Papingo, which can add on a further 2 hours.
The hike is nicely marked all the way in which to Vikos with crimson dots or white-on-red diamonds (03 route). The place markers have been misplaced, the locals have tied plastic baggage to bushes to information you in the proper route.
Vikos to Papigano Hike
As a substitute of ending at Vikos, you’ll be able to select to proceed to the 2 Papigano villages. This route will take you throughout the gorge mattress on the Voidhomatis springs. Permit a further 2 hours to achieve Mikro Papingo and barely much less to achieve Megalo Papingo.
Bear in mind although, the exit right here is steep and will be powerful going within the solar. The most suitable choice could be to cease for lunch in Vikos in order that your ascent to Papigano is completed within the late afternoon, so you can also make use of the shadows of the setting solar.
For these hikers wanting to move east into the Gamilla vary, the villages of Mikro Papingo and Megalo Papingo could be higher suited. The Vikos gorge will be hiked in both route so you could possibly additionally keep right here and hike to Monodendri.
Monodendri / Vitsa to Kipi Hike
In its place place to begin, the village of Vitsa can be a sensible choice for climbing the gorge, though it’s barely additional away from the doorway to the gorge. This path follows the dry riverbed south in the direction of Kipi and is a straightforward hike.
Be certain that to take alongside a map so to spot the traditional arched stone bridges and the stepped kaldermi paths that join the villages.
Practicalities For Climbing The Vikos Gorge
Be certain that to gather maps and guides on the vacationer info workplace. These can be invaluable in finding sights alongside the way in which. An important instance is the eighteenth-century Kimisis Theotokou chapel, situated at first of the ascent to Vikos. It’ll require a 15 minute spherical journey detour, however the unimaginable frescos can be nicely price it.
In the course of the hikes, you’ll discover an abundance of natural world within the Pindos Park with greater than 1800 identified species of flora and a myriad of animals to try to spot. The area is also referred to as Bear Park because of its inhabitants of Eurasian Brown Bears, however you’ll be extremely fortunate to see one in every of these.
As you method the Papingo villages, look out for Astraka, the third highest peak of Mount Tymfi. A sequence of giant vertical rocks referred to as the Towers of Astraka that kind a powerful backdrop to the village of Mikro Papingo.
Regardless of the gorge’s reputation with hikers, there are sections of the hike that aren’t straightforward. Be certain that to have sturdy climbing boots, ideally the over-the-ankle boots. Strolling poles and sticks could be very useful and a water bottle is an absolute important. You’ll go the Voidomatis river, however the water is just not all the time drinkable, so be certain to take sufficient water with you.
In summer time months, it’s best to start out the hike as early as potential to keep away from the noon warmth, whereas in winter months, you’ll have some snow at Monodentri.
There are nice eating places in all of the villages, all serving scrumptious hearty conventional dishes, however you will have to pack lunch for en-route.
It’s best to pre-organise a pickup out of your closing vacation spot, as there are not any buses. Ask at your home of lodging for transportation choices. Taxis will be organized however they don’t seem to be low-cost and also you’ll be taking a look at about 35 Euros for the journey. If you happen to haven’t pre-organised your transport, then ask on the native tavern and they need to be capable to help.
Issues To Do in The Pindos Nationwide Park
The mountains, lakes, and rivers supply the right surroundings for ecotourism actions. Climbing, trekking, climbing, mountain biking, and rafting are standard actions that may be loved surrounded by this most beautiful surroundings. For the not so energetic, the pure magnificence and the quaint villages make the park nicely price a go to.
Monastery of Aghia Paraskevi
The breathtaking Aghaia Paraskevi monastery perches on the vertical cliffs of the gorge and provides a panoramic viewpoint of the gorge. From Monodendri’s essential sq., observe the stone pathway for about 1km to the sting of the Vikos Gorge.
Among the best views of the gorge will be seen from the Beloi viewpoint close to the city of Vradheto. That is essentially the most southern level of the Vikos Gorge and from right here you will note the vertical cliffs stretching far into the space.
The stroll from Vradheto to Beloi is straightforward sufficient, however even higher is to climb the Vradheto steps (Skala Vradheto) because it winds up the cliff face to the village of Vradheto after which proceed on to Beloi.
The steps run three.5km from Tsepelovo to Vradheto and till the 1970s this was the one entry to Vradheto. This 17th Century historical stone stairway appears a lot more durable than it’s, because the zigzags should not as steep as they give the impression of being.
The path begins simply north-east of the village of Kepesovo. Park on the junction the place the street forks left to Vradheto. Observe the observe into the valley, throughout an outdated stone bridge and from there you’ll begin the ascent up the Skala.
If you attain the highest, preserve left close to the church till you attain the street. The street winds via the village after which turns into a mud observe. There are signposts to Beloi and the trail could be very nicely trodden really easy sufficient to observe. After a barely rocky part, you’ll emerge on the Beloi viewpoint with its jaw-dropping vista of the gorge.
The stroll from Vradheto to Beloi ought to take about 45 minutes with the ascent up the Vradheto Skala taking a further 2 hours.
The view at Beloi is actually spectacular so be certain to go away sufficient time to calm down and soak all of it in. Higher but, take a picnic and spend an hour or two!
For the much less energetic, you’ll be able to drive up the considerably hair-raising street to Vradheto after which proceed on the straightforward 45min to Beloi.
The taverna in Vradheto is superb and serves conventional Greek fare.
The Oxya Viewpoint is essentially the most simply accessible place to view the gorge and appears over the deepest a part of the Vikos gorge. Journey north from Monodendri, and when the street ends cease and stroll the remainder of the way in which alongside the stone path. It’s a fast 10-minute stroll however the views are spectacular!
To the left of the viewing platform is a stone path with a sheer vertical drop down into the gorge. An indication tells you to make use of the trail at your personal peril, however that doesn’t appear to cease anybody. For these courageous sufficient, the view from the tip of this path is much more unimaginable. If that’s even potential?
On the drive again, be certain to look out for the Stone Forest alongside the way in which. Big horizontal layers of stone have created fascinating rocky formations to create a pure monument.
The Zagori area is dotted with masterly crafted stone bridges, worthy of a go to in their very own proper. Till the 1950s these bridges performed an important function in interlinking these distant villages. Paying for the development of a bridge was an indication of wealth and afforded one nice status locally, so every bridge was named after its patron.
Probably the most simply accessible bridges will be discovered close to the village of Kipi. The Kokkori Bridge is likely one of the oldest and most spectacular, creating an enormous arch over the Voidomatis River and relationship again to 1750.
The Plakadis Bridge is likely one of the solely three arched bridges that exist, which might be why it’s the most photographed bridges of Zagori. Its triple arches are deceptively steep and present intricate craftsmanship.
The one arch Bridge of Lazaridis was in-built 1753. It may be discovered within the ravine of Mikros Vikos close to the village of Koukouli and requires a brief stroll down a stone pathway.
Different bridges to look out for are Kamber Agas Bridge, Misios Bridge, Milos Bridge, and Klidonia Bridge.
Lazarides Museum of Flora and Fauna
The realm is extremely wealthy in a wide range of medicinal crops and for a few years natural healers often known as vikogiatri (Vikos medical doctors) used these crops to deal with sufferers. Actually, in the course of the 18th and 19th century, these vikogiatri had been famend within the Balkans and Asia Minor.
Go to the Lazarides Museum of Flora and Fauna in Koukouli village, devoted to Kostas Lazarides. He was an essential naturalist who collected 1,240 totally different species of crops within the Vikos Aoos Gorge.
Prepared For Vikos Gorge and Pindos Nationwide Park?
With the attract of sun-kissed seashores, not many vacationers enterprise to northern Greece, which makes the Northern Pindos Nationwide Park and the Vikos Gorge one of many best-kept secrets and techniques within the journey world.
If you happen to’re trying to get off-the-beaten-track and actually turn out to be one with nature, then the Vikos Gorge is an absolute should! It provides among the perfect climbing in Greece, and with so few vacationers, you’re more likely to have the paths all to your self.
The simply accessible viewpoints enable hikers and non-hikers alike to benefit from the breathtaking views of one of many world’s deepest gorges. The wealthy tradition and traditions of the villages will captivate you, and also you’ll be amazed by the traditional bridges and pathways.
In case you are a nature lover however bored with having to share your experiences with tons of of different vacationers, then the Vikos Gorge is the place for you!
The submit Zagori Greece: A Information To The Vikos Gorge and Pindos Nationwide Park appeared first on Goats On The Highway.