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The Zagorohoria – to give them their full name – are a cluster of stone villages, masterfully constructed bridges and monasteries carved into the mountains. This is a pure and seductive holiday destination for all seasons. You’ll discover the area’s rare beauty walking along the Vikos Gorge, staring up at the striking peak of the Astrakas Mountain and listening to the gentle rumble of the Voidomatis River. And you’ll feel it walking in the mystical fog of the villages, visiting the old monasteries and churches, or just relaxing by the fireplace in a guesthouse.
The Vikos Gorge is a schism in the earth that can have only been created by a divine hand. The narrowest section of the gorge is 1,100m wide and its depth reaches 900m. It is the realm of eagles, rare medicinal herbs and steep vertical rocks, beginning from the bridge of Kokoros and ending at the bridge of Aristi. Passing through it is an experience of a lifetime.
Nightime. Your footsteps echo in the cobblestone streets and the moonlight bathes Mt Astrakas, rising high above the villages of Megalo and Mikro Papingo. The light in the windows of the guest houses warms the cold darkness. The smell of burnt wood from the fireplace awakens childhood memories. You’re already dreaming of enchanting evenings in your stone villa, with a fireplace, flokati rug and comfortable bed.
You eagerly anticipate the moment when you’ll sit at a traditional taverna, enjoying handmade savoury pies, warm fasolada (bean soup) with fresh bread, grilled meat, and a few glasses of red wine. Early in the morning, well rested, you’ll walk the path that connects the two villages, along the bridge above the Rogova River, admiring the incredible architecture and old churches. It’s no surprise that these two villages are the most popular winter holiday destinations in Zagori.
The most magnificent mountain in the North Pindus range is Timfi. One of its peaks is Astrakas, with an altitude of 2,436m. South of the peak are huge horizontal rock formations, the famous ‘towers’, linking it with the Vikos Gorge. Only ‘awe’ can describe the feeling as you look up at Astrakas, especially during winter when snow decorates its slopes.
This alpine lake of Drakolimni is stunningly beautiful. A mythical dragon lurks in its depths, perhaps a distant cousin of Scotland’s Loch Ness beastie! Sightings are limited these days, but don’t despair, there are many real drakakia (small dragons) that are actually microscopic amphibians called alpine newts. It’s perhaps the only trace we have of the Ice Age. To reach the lake, allow for 2-5 hours of hiking from Mikro Papingo.
Aristi, Monodendri, Vikos, Dilofo, Kapesovo, Tsepelovo and Kipi. This cluster of villages is built in a circle. In their centre is a square with a large plane tree, a fountain, a church and traditional coffee shop. You’ll fall in love with every cobblestone alleyway, every home built of white carved stone and every old church with its rich history. The architecture of Zagorohoria is a source of inspiration and education for architects.
Make sure you seek out Kalogeriko, the most beautiful stone bridge in Greece. The fluid movement and harmonious lines of its three arches are what sets it apart from the rest. ‘A moving caterpillar’ is how the rhythmical movement of its three stringers has been described. It’s located just outside the village of Kipi and connects the banks of the Bagiotiko River.
There seem to be no end to the masterly crafted stone bridges to visit, including the Kokoris (or Noutsos) between the Koukouli and Kipi villages, the bridge of Misios at the Vikos Gorge and Milos near Kipi village.
Do you prefer traditional cottages or classic luxury? Are you in the mood for spa treatments, hydromassage or relaxing by the fireplace reading and playing board games? Looking forward to a traditional breakfast on a stone patio or the winter sun warming your back? Whatever your mountain holiday dream may be, you’ll find it in the villages of Zagori – all offering warm hospitality.
Perfectly in harmony with the landscape, elegant and built with exceptional artistry, Skala used to be the only way from Vradeto village to Kapesovo. Every step of the way, you’ll admire the tireless skill and patience of the craftsman who gave us this unique cobblestone trail.
Right next to the road that connects Megalo and Mikro Papingo, stop to see the Ovires. They look like small lakes and have blue water and rocks carved by powerful running streams. If you go during summer, you’ll be able to take a swim.
The Monastery of Agia Paraskevi at Vikos is built on the edge of a ravine and 800 metres separate it from the central square of the Monodendri village. It was built in the 15th century, has exceptional architecture and is considered a listed landmark.
Walking through a forest with perennial plane trees, you’ll reach Panagia tis Spiliotissas. The monastery leans, literally, on a huge steep cliff that ends in the Voidomatis River. The bell tower is built at the top of the rock, which you can climb up to. The view from here is spectacular.
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