By western European standards Zagoria is a relatively wild and remote area. However the footpaths have been marked and we have prepared route notes, which read in conjunction with the map we provide will enable you to find your way. The walk includes a traverse of the magnificent Vikos Gorge (sometimes referred to as the Greek Grand Canyon), as well as treasures of vernacular architecture. Many of the late 18th century stone-built villages, which we visit, are within what is today a Conservation Area. Maintenance grants assist house owners to repair and renovate using traditional materials. Five nights of the tour are spent in Zagorian villages, one night in a mountain refuge, and one night at a hotel in Ioannina on the shores of Lake Pamvotis.
The tour is graded 'moderate to challenging'. The paths are rough and stony but reasonably well defined. There are ascents/descents of up to 900m/3000ft per day but the walking need not be seen as particularly strenuous as the days are not long. However, it is necessary to have some experience of map reading and route finding from written descriptions. This tour is best suited to hill walkers who are experienced at route finding in all weathers, in places like the English Lake District, Snowdonia or the Scottish Highlands. Because of the remote and rugged terrain this self-guided tour is not available to solo walkers.
On arrival you will be picked up and transferred to Tsepelovo for your overnight accommodation. From Ioannina transfer time 1 hour and from Preveza 3 hours. Wander around the village where you can admire the old mansions decorated wooden balconies, a feature of this timber-producing locality. The recently restored Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos contains interesting frescoes.
Accommodation: Your first two nights are spent in a comfortable small pension in this typical Zagorian village.
From Tsepelovo (1050m) you start with an uphill path towards the highest village in Zagoria called Vradeto (1450m), from where the beautiful path at the edge of the Vikos gorge leads to a great viewpoint at Beloi (1650m). From here you can look right over the Vikos in all its resplendence and see the paths that you will be following tomorrow. Return to Vradeto village continuing downhill to Kapesovo village heading down the famous steps of Vradeto – a stone path built in the 16th Century on the slopes of the Vikos. Transfer back to Tsepelovo for your second evening.
An easy descent to where the Vikos gorge starts, which is marked by a stone bridge dating back to 980 called the “Paliojefira.” Continue through a forest of beech and pine trees, where you might see evidence of bear pugmarks on the path. You end up in the village of Kipi. From here you walk up the “Koukouli Steps” and visit the centre of this picturesque village. From here walk down into the Vikos gorge again crossing the “Misiou” bridge and climb the Vitsa stairs and reach the villages of Vitsa and Monodendri that are built at the edge of the gorge.
Accommodation: The stone-built guesthouse where you stay offers traditionally decorated rooms with views of Mout Mitsikeli. Rooms are all ensuite.
Early in the morning descend the old Vitsa stairs into the Vikos ravine. Traversing the ravine you can do a bit of bird and flower watching, as there are quite a number of rare species that have taken refuge into the gorge. Early in the afternoon you will arrive in Vikos village and be transferred to nearby Aristi, where you will overnight.
Accommodation: This 2 star hotel is constructged in traditional local style with stone-built walls and warm wooden falls. All rooms are ensuite. The hotel restaurant offers local dishes inc
After a short transfer back to Vikos village, to the start of the walk, you follow the old up-hill path, which traverses the beautiful ravines to Papingo Village. Above the Towers of Papingo skyrocket inaccessibly into the sky. At the village’s natural swimming pool, you will have time for a dip and a break before heading to your accommodation. The twin villages of Megalo (Big) and Mikro (Little) Papingo huddle below the great limestone buttresses called the "Towers of Papingo" on the north side of the Vikos Gorge.
Accommodation: Tonight you stay in a simple small pension in Mikro Papingo.
Head on uphill, up Mount Astraka. After a 3 hour ascent you will come to the Astraka Hut (1950m). The footpath up to the hut is also a mule track or route leading from the Papingo villages to various high level grazing pastures which are the traditional territory of two or three local Sarakatsani shepherding families. There are four springs along the way. From here optional ascent to Dragon Lake at 2100m, before returning to overnight at Astraka hut.
Accommodation: Astraka Hut - Mixed dormitory style. The hut is owned by the Greek Federation of Alpine Clubs and all supplies are brought up by mules and horses. There are inside toilets and sinks and a couple of showers, be warned, these are cold!
After breakfast walk to Mikro Papingo the same way you came up yesterday, it should take about 2 hours. Return to your accommodation to pick up baggage and take the prearranged transfer to Ioannina which will take approx. 1.5 h. A tour of Ioannina old quarter and citadel is worthwhile. Out-of-town excursions could include the huge limestone cave system at Perama, discovered in the 1940's, or the 3rd century BC theatre of Dodoni, and nearby ancient oracle with its whispering oaks, 15 km/9.3 miles from Ioannina and accessible in an afternoon by public bus. For those who want to take home souvenirs or gifts, a local specialty is silver and filigree jewellery.
Accommodation: We usually choose a hotel in the old walled part of the town, formerly the Turkish citadel or a property in the town centre.
Depending on your flight times, there may be time for further sightseeing or souvenir buying before your transfer by taxi/minibus to Ioannina or Preveza airports.
We had a fantastic holiday, and the walking week was a complete success, and even more interesting, satisfying and stunning than we expected. Accommodation was mostly simple village pensions but that was part of the unusual charm of the itinerary.
P Richardson, Leigh, UK, 14 Sep 2017
Per Person, Twin Share