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The Vikos Gorge & the Zagoria villages Page 11

Pramanda's best feature is its location, spread out across several ridges, with Mt. Kakardhitsa behind it and with great views of the Kallaritikos valley. A cave, inhabited during Neolithic times, is nearby, and found easily if you ask a villager where the 'spilia' is. There's a good hotel and several tavernas there, though lodgings are better in the smaller village of Tsopelas, 2km on the road to Melissouryi, which is more interesting, having escaped the fate of the other villages during the war. The buildings survived, but unfortunately the old slate roofs were replaced with ugly pantiles. There's a taverna here, and a large inn, but in midsummer it fills up with visiting relatives.

From Melissouryi some good walks can be enjoyed on the Kostellata plateau to the south, which separates Mt. Kakardhitsa (2429meters) from Mt.Tzoumerka (2399 meters), in a walk of about a day and a half. Paths are marked in the beginning and after that you can ask directions at the sheepfolds on the way. There are buses to Arta from the villages of Theodhoriana and Voulgarelli/ Dhrossopiyi, which are on the ege of the Aoos River basin.

The village of Matsouki is near a valley with some forest and offers easy access to Mt. Kakardhitsa; there are some rooms there too. Kipina has a monastery of the same name a half hour's walk from the village, which is perched on a cliff face. To get to Kallarites you go upstream from here another half hour, through a tunnel and past a road bridge where you meet up with a kalderimi that takes you into the village, which sits up high over the Kallaritikos River. This is one of the southernmost Vlach villages in the Pindos, which used to thrive on gold and silver smithing, with many of the craftsmen in Ioannina from here. Emigres from here helped finance the Greek revolution, who are honored by plaques in the town. The old mansions of the wealthy are still kept up by descendants; the flagstoned platia has remained the same for at least a century, and there are nice old stores and some café-grills, but no rooms, so think about camping if you come here. The Khroussias gorge just past this town, is quite spectacular. It separates the village from neighboring Syrako, which you can see from Kallarites, but which takes an hour to walk to, the trail including a vertical ladder up a sheer rockface. The canyon is very steep and narrow, with sun only a few hours a day; there are some old abandoned watermills down there. Syrako is also in a striking setting, situated on the steep slopes of a ravine, also with well-maintained mansions (arhondhika) but also with archways and churches that remind one of the Zagori. Monuments to various national figures are here too, including one to the poet Krystallis, who came from here. There's a summer only taerna, and kafeneio and a few rooms. When these fill up, visitors have been given mattresses and slept on the floor in the school, so you might ask. There are no buses going here.

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