Zagori is a mountainous area in the north of Epirus near Ioannina with unparalleled natural beauty. The name “Zagori” means “the place behind the mountain” and this is a network of forty-six villages with unique characteristics and history. The gorge of Vikos and the river Voidomatis now form the core of the National Park Vikos Aoos. The area of Vikos – Aoos due to the great geological and geomorphological value, as of October 1, 2010, is designated as Vikos Aoos Geopark and joined the European Network of UNESCO Geoparks. This is now the 4th Geopark recognized in our country and it includes the Vikos Gorge and Voidomatis river, Aoos ravine, the mountains Tymfi, Trapezitsa and Smolikas. The region belongs to the protected areas system Natura 2000. The Park is characterized as one of the most impressive in Greece and often called the Forest of large peaks. Northern boundary of the park is the ravine of Aoos and the southern bountery is the Vikos Gorge which is the deepest in the world.
Tall and imposing peaks, sometimes sunny and sometimes snowy are what the visitor sees of the mountain of Tymfi. The peak Gamila (2.497m.) is the highest peak of the park with the rest to follow one another, like Astraka (2.436m.), Lapatos (2.251m.), Ploskos (2.377m.), Karteros (2.478m .) Megala Litharia (2.467m.), Tsuka Rossa (2.377m.)
In Tymfi several potholes (vertical deep caves) are found, with “Provatina” being the greater of the park and the second deeper vertical in the world, with depth of 407m. Apart from the high peaks, the Tymfi houses and other natural geological formations. Due to the altitude, on the plateaus here are not many springs and streams since the rocks are limestone, soluble and permeable. In the areas that flysch can be found, ponds are formed called “Dragonlakes”. The greater of them, is the Drakolimni of Tymfi, located at an altitude of 2.050m, associated with various legends of the region. A landmark of exceptional beauty is the waterfall in Iliochori.
The natural beauty of the Alpine landscape is not the only thing that attracts the eye of the visitor. It is the variety and alternation of different natural ecosystems, which make up an ideal environment to host and maintain rare species of flora and fauna. So far it is known that in the area of the park there are 10 species of amphibians, 21 species of reptiles, 133 species of birds, 24 species of mammals and many species of fish, all of them protected by law.
The presence of man is combined in harmony with the stunning landscape. The 46 villages of Zagoria, perched on steep slopes, are architectural masterpieces, with impressive stone houses, cobbled streets, arched bridges and rich tradition, leave no visitor unmoved! Hospitality, local cuisine and tourist infrastructure, promise unforgettable vacations to anyone visiting the area.
Four of these villages are included in the Park and are representative samples of the particular local architecture. This is Megalo Papigo, Mikro Papigo, Monodendri and Vikos.
Around and very close to the borders of the park are built six other villages of Zagori Aristi, Agios Minas, Vitsa, Kapesovo, Vradeto and Vrisohori.
The inhabitants of Zagori managed to unite the many rivers of the region with a unique network of arched, double-arched and triple-arched bridges. Within the National Park are built seven stone-built bridges with this of Konitsa being the largest. The history of each bridge is linked permenantely to a person or a family. So the double-arched bridge Misios in Vikos Gorge, was built in 1748 and connects Cocouli and Vitsa. Nearby, there is the bridge of Noutsou built in 1750, known as bridge Kokkoros. The bridge of Plakida or the bridge of Monks is a three-arched bridge located near the villages of Kipoi and Cocouli. Originally it was wooden and sponsored by the monk Seraphim, but in 1814 was rebuilt in stone. In 1865 the bridge was repaired by Alexis Plakidas. This three-arched bridge is one of the most famous bridges of Zagori.
Interesting places nearby
From the picturesque villages of Zagori, options for day trips are many and diverse. The city of Ioannina, a crossroad of civilizations with the lake of legends, Pamvotida and its unique atmosphere, is a nearby destination any visitor should persue. A stroll through the picturesque streets of the castle or near the lake, the liveliness of the modern shopping center, restaurants and chic cafes, museums and attractions are just a few reasons to visit the capital of Epirus.
Well worth a visit: The traditional village of Metsovo, home to many national benefactors. The stone villages of Tzoumerka, Sirako and Kalarrytes are famous villages with a lot of history behind them. The Mastorochoria of Pindos with renowned craftsmen of stone, built on slopes.
During the summer months, the coastline of the Ionian Sea with its beautiful emerald beaches, allows the visitor of Zagori to visit them, via Egnatia highway, in about 1.5 hours. The cosmopolitan Parga and Sivota are two popular destinations offered for dreamy getaways. Beautiful bays like fjords, small islands with turquoise waters and unique nature, bring more and more visitors every year in the region!