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Hidden Gems
Vikos Gorge and the High Trails of Pindos 27

Vikos Gorge and the High Trails of Pindos

Overview

The Vikos Gorge and the High Trails of Pindos is a real hidden gem among our walking holidays in Greece. Walk through the impressive Vikos Gorge and hike by the Voidomatis’ springs, which is considered one of the cleanest rivers in Europe. Reach the alpine zone up to the famous Dragon Lake and enjoy the spectacular views of the Vikos Canyon, then descend the famous cobbled path of Scala Vradetou, built in the 18th century.

  • Vikos Gorge
  • Dragon Lake
  • Scala Vradetou
  • Stone Bridges of Zagori

The Pindos (also Pindus or Pindhos; Greek: Πίνδος) mountain range is located in northern Greece and southern Albania. It is roughly 160 km long, with a maximum elevation of 2637 m (Mount Smolikas). Because it runs along the border of Thessaly and Epirus, the Pindus range is often called the “spine of Greece”. The mountain range stretches from near the Greek-Albanian borders in Northern Epirus, entering the Epirus region and Macedonia region in northern Greece down to the north of the Peloponnese. Geologically it constitutes an extension of the Dinaric Alps, which dominate the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. This vast complex of mountains, peaks, plateaus, valleys and gorges traverses the Greek mainland from the Northwest to the Southeast.

Besides the imposing mountainous terrain of the range, one of the most magnificent gorges in Europe is located in the area: the Vikos Gorge, the world’s deepest canyon in proportion to its width according to the Guinness Book of Records. Together with the mountain valley of Valia Kalda it has been declared protected region and is part of the National Park of Northern Pindos. Furthermore, many mountain villages with a long history and unique architecture are located throughout the range. The trip takes in some of the most beautiful stone villages and bridges in Zagori. Retreat every evening in elegant hand-picked stone mansions in the traditional villages along the route.

Click to view map

*This map is only for general reference; detailed route maps will be provided in your pre-departure package.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Kipi

After your arrival at Ioannina airport or bus station, you will take a taxi to Kipi (not included, bookable upon request). Kipi is a very picturesque village known for its impressive stone-built arch bridges, built centuries ago to connect the villages, especially during winter times when the rivers became impassable. Each bridge is named after the wealthy family or noble who built it.

Day 2: Beloi and the Vradeto Steps | 17 km

You will be transferred to Tsepelovo and hike along some of the highlights of the region. You first ascend to a higher plain and then follow an old cobbled footpath to the viewpoint Beloi, said to offer the best views over the Vikos gorge. In the tiny village Vradeto, you find a small village square with traditional café. The village is well-known for its ‘Vradeto steps’, a steep zigzagging paved path between Vradeto and Kapesovo. After a stop in Kapesovo, you descend through a forest to the Vikos river and follow the river until you reach Kipi.

  • Walking for the day:  17 km, 6 h, ↑750 m ↓1100 m
  • Accommodation: Machalas Hotel or similar

Day 3: Walk Kipi to Monodendri | 9-17 km

From Kipi you descend and cross the Voidomatis river via the old Mylos bridge. You walk along the Voidomatis river and cross it again via the beautiful Kokkorou bridge, where you enter the upper end of the Vikos gorge. You go across the old Misiou bridge and ascend a beautiful path up to the village Vitsa, built at the edge of the gorge. From there you continue to Monodendri where you will rest for the night. If you have some energy left, you may walk to some of the terrific viewpoints around Monodendri. Highly recommended is to walk to the nearby monastery Ag. Paraskevi, hanging on the cliffs.

  • Walking for the day (main route):  9 km, 4 h, ↑450 m ↓150 m
  • Walking for the day (additional option 1):  7.7 km, 3 h, ↑325 m ↓325 m
  • Walking for the day (additional option 2):  1.6 km, 45 min, ↑60 m ↓60 m
  • Walking for the day (additional option 3):  2.1 km, 45 min, ↑50 m ↓50 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Zarkadas or similar

Day 4: Through the Vikos Gorge | 12.5 km

This is the real highlight of the trip. Descend 400 metres from Monodendri to the bottom of the gorge and then move up along the river bed until the Voidomatis springs. Mostly you walk close to the river bed and sometimes a bit higher, having lots of opportunities to swim or cool your feet in the freshwater. From the Voidomatis springs, you ascend via a beautiful cobbled path up to the village Vikos, a tiny village overlooking the impressive Vikos Gorge, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the deepest canyon in the world in proportion to its width.

  • Walking for the day:  12.5 km, 5 h ↑700 m ↓1000 m
  • Accommodation: Foris guesthouse or similar

Day 5: Vikos to Astrakas Refuge | 8-19 km

Today’s hike is the most demanding part of this trip. You will first admire once more the views over the Vikos Gorge before descending to the Voidomatis springs. At the icy springs of Voidomatis, you go across the river. Until June there is a chance that you have to take off your boots to go cross. You follow the zigzagging path uphill to Mikro Papingo and you climb the 1000m up to an excellent path to the Astrakas Hut.

Either today or tomorrow morning, you walk further up through captivating alpine scenery up to the Dragon Lake, situated at 2050 m. The “dragon” in the name refers to the Alpine newts living abundantly in the lake. At the opposite side of the lake, you have a breath-taking view over the Aoos Valley, deep down below.

  • Walking for the day (option 1):  13 km, 6 h, ↑1600 m ↓425 m
  • Walking for the day (option 2):  8 km, 4 h, ↑1000 m ↓20 m
  • Walking for the day (optional loop):  6 km, 2 h, ↑400 m ↓400 m
  • Accommodation: Astrakas Hut

Note: Today, your main luggage gets collected in the morning at Vikos and is safely stored in your accommodation in Megalo Papingo, until you reach it on the following day. Therefore make sure you have everything you need (including a sleeping bag liner) in your backpack for an overnight at a mountain hut. The hut is built on a saddle and it is usually windy there. You need layers to keep warm, also in summer.

Day 6: Astrakas Refuge to Megalo Papingo | 4-8 km

In case you did not do it when you arrived at the refuge, hike to the Dragon Lake before making your long walk down to Mikro Papingo. Leaving this pretty village behind, you have the option to make a loop to the ‘Kokkino Lithari’, meaning the ‘Red Rock’. From this point, you have a superb view of the Papingo villages and surroundings. Back in Mikro Papingo, you follow the zigzagging path uphill to Megalo Papingo, one of the most popular Zagorian villages, located under the so-called Towers of Astraka: great limestone buttresses. You will stay in a beautiful mansion in the village.

  • Walking for the day (option 1):  6 km, 2 h, ↑400 m ↓400 m
  • Walking for the day (option 2):  8 km, 3 h, ↑100 m ↓1100 m
  • Walking for the day (option 3):  4 km, 1.5 h, ↑250 m ↓250 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Saxonis Houses or similar

Day 7: Walk via Klidonia to Aristi | 16.5 km

It is a very pleasant hike from Papingo to the village of Ano Klidonia, there are long stretches with a nearly flat and easy trail – and while are walking you can fully enjoy the beautiful views of the valley and the Towers of Astraka. You descend to the arched bridge near the Kato Klidonia village from where you enter the valley of the Voidomatis River. The path along the river is mostly flat and walking under the plane trees is very pleasant. Your walk ends at the Aristi bridge from where you will be transferred back to Papingo. We recommend you to finish the trip with a rafting excursion that is offered by a local outdoor expert. If you are not into this, just a 20 minutes’ walk from Papingo you find the unique rock pools, called Kolymbithres in Greek, where you can relax and swim in the freshwater.

  • Walking for the day:  16.5 km, 6 h, ↑320 m ↓800 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Saxonis Houses or similar

Day 8: Departure

After breakfast, you travel to the bus station of Ioannina or Ioannina airport/city for your outbound or onward travel. Some days of the week, there is a local public bus (not daily). You can get a taxi on the spot, or book an optional private transfer to Ioannina with us. You can optionally book extra nights in Ioannina, Thessaloniki or Athens or in any hotel during the tour.

What to expect

Accommodation

The accommodations in the Zagori area are all in traditional mansions, built from limestone and usually with the characteristic slated roofs. Some hotels are housed in buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th century. Because the villages are protected, even new buildings are built in the traditional style. All rooms have private facilities. Usually, there is no balcony, but the accommodation offers a nice shaded terrace to enjoy your afternoon or evening drinks. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. The hut, where you stay on Day 5 provides only cold water and there are a couple of cold showers. Overnight is in bunk beds. There are pillows and blankets, but you need to bring a pillowcase and sleeping bag liner.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a property of equal standard. We will provide full accommodation details upon booking confirmation.

Meals

The overnights are on bed & breakfast basis. Every morning you enjoy a traditional local breakfast with ingredients from local produce. Characteristic for this area are the pies, usually with wild herbs and feta cheese. For lunch, groceries and sweets are available in the local mini-market in all villages along the way, and packed lunches can be ordered on the spot at your accommodations. Occasionally there is also a possibility for a tavern lunch along the daily route. Evening dinner can be enjoyed in the local taverns and some of the accommodations. Simple meals can be ordered at Astraka Refuge, too.

Difficulty & terrain

This moderate hiking tour is appropriate for experienced walkers (read more about difficulty grades). The walks are on stony footpaths and cobbled paths (kalderimi). The walks are not as difficult as you would expect looking at the dramatic scenery. Some sections of the trails are steep and considerable sections follow old cobbled footpaths dating back to the 17th and 18th century. You have to be sure-footed and have some experience with walking in mountainous areas and route finding. At some viewpoints, you can get close to steep drops, but it is up to you how close you get to the edge, and you can avoid this should you suffer from vertigo.

When to go

This trip is available between May and October. Summers can be warm, still, some walks are partly through shaded forest and leaving early in the morning makes it possible to even accomplish the walks in mid-summer. On the Astraka plateau, there can be patches of snow until June. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.

The climate in Zagori is Mediterranean continental with an average of 100 days of sunshine in the May-September period. It is influenced by the mountain range of Pindos and spring and autumn are pleasant with cool nights and occasional rain.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airports are Thessaloniki and Preveza, which are well connected to the major UK and European airports. Ioannina is also well connected to other airports in Greece by internal flights.

By train or bus

  • From Preveza: From the airport, you can take a taxi to the bus station (KTEL) in Preveza city. There are direct buses from Preveza to Ioannina, approx 8 busses per day on weekdays and 4 in the weekends. Duration of the trip is 1.5 hrs.
  • From Thessaloniki: From Thessaloniki airport, you have to take a taxi or public bus (approx 45 mins) to the bus station of Thessaloniki. There are approx 6 busses per day from Thessaloniki bus station (KTEL) to Ioannina, the last bus departs at approx 20:30. Price is approx 25 Euro per person one way. Duration of the trip is approx 4 hrs. You can prebook the airport taxi in combination with the bus ticket along with your booking.
  • From Athens: If you arrive early afternoon at Athens airport, you can travel by taxi or public bus to the bus station (KTEL) of Athens. There is a public bus approx 6 times daily with the last departure around 18:00. Duration of the trip is approx. 5 hrs and price around 35 Euro per person one way.
  • Travel to Kipi: You have to take a local taxi or pre-book a taxi from Ioannina bus station or airport to Kipi. Public transport is hardly available.
  • Leaving Papingo: Your trip ends in Megalo Papingo. There is hardly any public transport from Papingo, so you have to take a taxi or pre-book a transfer to Ioannina airport (domestic flights to Athens) or bus station. You can travel to Preveza airport, Athens bus station or Thessaloniki bus station by public bus.
  • On arrival and departure day, private transfers can be arranged from/to Ioannina at an extra cost, upon request.

Inclusions

Included

  • 6 overnights in comfortable en-suite rooms as detailed in the itinerary
  • 1 overnight in Astraka Refuge, shared facilities (cold showers only)
  • 7 breakfasts
  • Transfer Kipi – Tsepelovo on day 2
  • Transfer Aristi Bridge – Megalo Papingo on day 7
  • Luggage transfers when changing hotels on days 3, 4 and 6 (one piece of luggage per person, max 20 kg)
  • Detailed road book and maps in English (in digital format)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Single room supplement for members of a group
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights in Ioannina before or after the holiday
  • Private arrival and departure transfers from/to Ioannina (alternatively, you can also pre-book bus tickets with us)
  • Rafting on Voidomatis River on Day 6 (Euro 25 pp, local payment)

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