Return to Home Page Harrys Greece Guide

The Vikos Gorge & the Zagoria villages Page 6

A six hour Trek

A less difficult trek from the refuge at Astraka col takes six hours, though the trail in recent times has been a little hard to see, unless it has been upgraded (maps helpful). This is the trail designated as Z1, which heads south across the Gamila high region, via theMiriouli pasture and the head of the Megas Lakkos gorge, to the central Zagori villages. Take plenty of water, as there is little en route, but the main destination of Tsepelovo is worth it. There's plenty of accommodation and tavernas here, as this village has become almost as popular as the Papingo villages. Nearby Skamnelli is less lovely, but the starting point for the well-marked hike to the Stomiou monastery (in the Aoos valley) is here, this by way of the Goura plateau and Karteros. At the top of this village are some quiet and traditionally built rooms.

stone bridgeHeading towards Ioannina from Tsepelovo (12km) by the road, you'll see some marvelous bridges around Kipi, including the much photographed multi arched one surrounded by lush greenery. Up until the 1950s and the coming of car roads, the old packhorse bridges were the main connection for many remote villages with the outer world, along with the old kalderimia (cobbled paths) on either side of them. They were built mainly during the 19th century by gangs of wandering crafsmen known as bouloukia, who were gone from home from early spring until early fall, the bridges financed by the wealthy members of the communities they served. Their secrets of their fine craft were carefully guarded with their own argot, and they travelled all over Greece and the Balkans up until WWII. The areas near the villages of Vitsa, Dhilofo, Kipi, and Koukouli are good ones to visit for those interested in viewing their fine work.

Some of the bridges span the upper Vikos gorge, which can be accessed from here just as easily as from Monodhendri or Vitsa. For heading down the valley on foot, there are two Z trails, which rank among the best hikes in the central Zagori; Z13 goes east from Tsepelovo, over the Vikakis ravine and through oak woods to Negadhes in about two hours; or before getting there you can get onto Z12 and walk about two hours to Kipi. The village of Kapesovo is the highest of those closest to the bridges over the gorge, and is a very appealing one. Its enormous former schoolhouse houses an ethnographic collection, and events are sometimes held there. There's a fine kalderimi up to Vradheto; and a route known as the Katafi to a view of the Mezaria ravine. The trail down to the gorge from Kapesovo, through oak forest, is well marked. Koukouli (4km from Kapesovo) is refreshingly non-touristic, with no cars allowed in the village, some accommodation, decent food and access to the gorge down to the O3 which goes between Kipi and the Mitsiou bridge. Kipi is another attractive village with accommodation and a taverna considered by many to be the best in the area (Stou Mikhali) which serves some local dishes as well as more widespread ones. There's a company here that organizes guided walks, mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, and canyoning.

To the north There's forest extending north to the Aoos valley from Skamnelli. A good walk, covered by some trekking outfits, leads in seven hours from Skamnelli to Vryssohori (see above) over a pass between the peaks of Megala Litharia (2467meters) and Tsouka Roussa (2377 meters). The mountain wildflowers in the Goura valley(below Tsouka Roussa) is a highlight of this trek. There's a trail from Vryssohori to Paleoselli via Aghios Minas chapel down to the Aoos River, where you must cross over (but only during the months when the water level is low) and make your way up the other side to the Paleoselli.; Padhes is also accessible from this route, both villages on the southern slopes of Mt. Smolikas , which is the second highest peak in Greece, which dominates a wide and beautiful mountain range, covering a hundred square kilometers above 1700 meters in elevation, including yet a second lake with name Drakolimni (not to be confused with the one on Mt. Gamila). This region is also one of the remaining pockets of traditional shepherd life in Greece, which has for many centuries been a way of life of the Vlachs, who speak a Latin-based language. English Tim Salmon's book, The Unwritten Places (Lykavittos Press) is a fine introduction to this very old, and sadly diminished world. The village of Samarina (described in that book) is the Vlach village at the center of that world, which is best visited in summer.

More The Vikos Gorge - Aoos Gorge - Zagori Villages Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11