Zagori, in Epirus, is a destination that gives you a different reason to visit every month of the year. The Zagorohoria (as the region’s authentic-as-they-come villages are known) and local tastes (pies of every kind, mountain fare and wild mushrooms) are reasons enough. But the Pindus Mountain Range in northwestern Greece is known, above all, for its incredible scenery and abundant rivers and streams.
The most famous of those landscapes is the Vikos Gorge, through which the Voidomatis River flows within the heart of the Vikos-Aoos National Park. One look at the virgin nature and impossibly-clear water – filtered as it flows over rocks and stones – and you’ll understand why it is included in UNESCO’s European Geoparks Network.
Just the sight of the Voidomatis River is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but hiking or rafting along its banks takes the experience to another level, especially if you’re the kind of traveller who’s always looking for fully sustainable ways to enjoy a destination.
It rises from sources beneath Vikos village and flows for 15km through the lush-green Vikos Gorge, meeting the Aoos River and ending in the Konitsa valley. Organised hiking and rafting trips mostly start from the Aristi Bridge (midway between Aristi and Vikos) and end at the Kleidonia Bridge – single-arch bridges that deserve their place within Epirus’ catalogue of world-famous stone bridges. Kleidonia Bridge comes with the bonus of a captivating backstory, having been built in 1853 on the site of an older Byzantine bridge that was linked to an incident involving two feuding families that resulted in a tragic meeting on the bridge and the eventual abandonment of the village where they lived.
These are the sorts of stories you’ll be told by your guide as you raft or hike along the river, passing age-old plane trees and other flora indigenous to Epirus. If you’re brave, you can even end your rafting experience or break your hike with a swim. Just be warned: the water’s refreshing (to put it mildly) even in the summer, having started its journey high in the often snowcapped Pindos Mountains.
The real adrenaline rush for rafters comes plunging down the small manmade waterfall just before the end point. Mostly, though, the journey is serene, whether you’re following the riverside path or in an inflatable on the water (an 8-10-person raft or 2-person kayak), giving you all the time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the national park. Hikers get to explore shallow caves (believed to have been inhabited in Prehistoric times) and the 17th-century monastery of Agii Anargyri.
Whichever way you choose to discover the Voidomatis River (rafting or hiking), the experience will be unforgettable, whetting your appetite to discover even more unforgettable experiences in Zagori.