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The Vikos Gorge & the Zagoria villages Page 10

Mt. Grammos an 8 hour ascent

At the end of the Greek Civil War the Communist rebels made their last stand here, and were forced to retreat into Albania following upon the world's first use of napalm, supplied by the United States. Tens of thousands died in this last ugly episode of the Civil War, with a victory that saved Greece from totalitarianism for the next twenty five years. There are still slopes here that remain bare.

The village of Plikati is the closest Greek village to the Albanian border, and trailhead for Mt. Grammos, which is the least visited mountain in Greece. The village has stone houses and a very small population, though there are some rooms and a taverna/general store. There's a paved road of 18km from the highway to it, and a bus from Konitsa.

Mt. Grammos is number 4 among high peaks in Greece, at 2520meters, and takes about eight hours from Plikati to ascend. The easier slopes lead to Perifano, which is the second highest peak in the range. Leaving the village the route is pretty clear for the first couple of hours, with a river crossing, some climbing up through switchbacks and a wooded area leading to a pasture, a pond, and reaching a trail that heads west along the crest for about an hour to the summit.

The South Pindos

An interesting alternative to the far more visited country to the north/north east of Ioannina are the remote villages to the south of the Ipirot capital Ioannina, with an opportunity to experience traditional Ipirot life almost untouched by tourism. The villages are on the slopes of Tzoumerka and Kakardhitsa, which are visible from Ioannina, and from which there are buses to Agnanda and Pramanda. You can also get to them from the secondary road between Ioannina and Arta. The town of Plaka along this road has an 18th century bridge over the Arakhthos River and fabulous scenery. From here buses may stop and take you on a side road east as far as Melissouryi.

Agnanda is 12km north of Plaka, and is not very appealing, having suffered heavy damage during WWII, though there is an inn there.

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