Experience the secluded villages of Zagoria and the Vikos Gorge - the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Greece!
There are very few places that can boast the same natural beauty as Zagorochoria in the north-west of Greece. This area is almost completely unspoilt and has 46 picturesque villages as well as clear rivers and mountain lakes which give rise to a beautiful and natural sculpturing of the landscape.
Although it is beautiful all year round it is better to visit Zagorochoria in springtime as temperatures get very low during the winter and roads are often closed due to snow. Flora is at its most colourful in springtime and your eyes will sink into the endless green of the rich surrounding forest.
In this heavenly place you will be able to enjoy a whole range of sports and mountain activities such as rafting, canoe-kayak, horse riding, hiking, climbing and mountain bikes. Jeep trips and skiing are available in the winter. Kids can safely participate and enjoy most of these activities as there are many ‘easy’ routes that you can take, such as the one that extends from Elafotopos to the village of Vickos, or the route that starts from the village of Monodentri and leads to Oxia.
The most famous path you can take is the one at the base of the Vickos Gorge. This gorge is one of the longest (24km) and deepest (1.2km) in the world, and you can start to walk it from the village of Tsepelovo and finish in the village of Vitsiko. The route takes about 6 hours and is very well marked with many signs. Kids can enjoy the natural beauty and learn about the geological phenomena that has sculpted our planet through the ages. The result of glacier movement can easily be seen on the limestone base of the gorge. This route is NOT suitable for young kids.
If you enjoy climbing you should visit Smolikas as it rises to a height of 2637m, being the second highest mountain in Greece after Mount Olympus. Adventurous kids will really enjoy it. You can start you’re the hike at the village of Pades, or alternatively Agia Paraskevi, and traverse the wonderful vegetation to reach the lake of Smolikas dragon lake at 2150m. These lakes are admired for their rich blue colour that derives from the limestone foundation.
Another wonderful place for a family visit is river Aoos. Starting from its traditional arch shaped stone bridge you can enter the gorge and find countless rock pools where you can dive and feel refreshed. The highlight of the trail is the Gravos waterfall near the old abbey of Stomios which was built in 1774. From there you can see a breathtaking view of a copious part of the Aoos gorge. Make sure you have a rest before you restart your walk to the end of the trail which is at the village of Skamneli.
If you choose to stay at the multi-awarded Aristi Hotel near Papingo you’ll have easy access to an abundance of trails and activities. This hotel has a key position in Zagorochoria. In the surrounding area there are a lot of wonderful springs and beautiful villages like Elati and the two Papingo villages where traditional tavernas serve the finest delicacies. There are many mountain shelters where you can take a rest while enjoying the view.
Panigiri (local village festival) in Zagorochoria
However, possibly the most important thing to experience during your stay in Zagorochoria is to visit a local village festival, or ‘panigiri’ as it is called in Greek. These traditional festivals are the epicentre of cultural, musical and recreational activities. You will be able to watch people dance wearing traditional customs, listen to live local music and take part in the feast that includes many delicacies, wine and tsipouro (similar to Italian grappa). If you visit during springtime such festivals take place in the villages of Agios Minas, Ano Pedina, Dikorfo, Elatoxori and Elafotopos. However, the vast majority of the Zagorochoria villages hold their festivals during the summer so if you want take part in this interesting Greek experience you should make your plans accordingly. For a list of local festivals click here.
When to visit
Spring is also Easter time in the Greek Orthodox calendar and as thus a time when locals go to church often. The religious celebration can last for the best part of a week and can be particularly memorable in the area of Zagorochoria.
Look at the stars and … dream
As all villages in Zagorochoria are high in the mountains and far away from the nearest light polluting city you will be amazed by the clarity of the sky at night. Thousands of stars, nebulae and distant galaxies can be seen as you look to the night sky. Take a telescope or binoculars for a closer look if you have them, and kids will be amazed at this spectacle as seen even by the naked eye.
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- Visit: all year