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Vikos Gorge and the Stone Bridges of Zagori 1

Vikos Gorge and the Stone Bridges of Zagori

Overview

The Zagori region in north-west Greece is little known but offers superb hiking trails, great local food and elegant stone mansions in a perfect setting. On this tour, you will discover authentic mountain villages connected by cobbled footpaths, and surrounded by breathtaking sceneries of dramatic cliffs and running rivers.

Our Vikos Gorge and the Stone Bridges of Zagori walking holiday allows you to immerse yourself in one of Greece’s greatest natural environments. You start in Kipi famous for its spectacular stone bridges, and if you spend an additional night here you can get to the great viewpoint at Beloi and descend the winding ‘steps of Vradeto’. From Mondendri you will traverse the magnificent Vikos Gorge as well as access some of the best viewpoints overlooking the Vikos Gorge. Before heading to the bigger village of Papingo, you spend a night in tiny Vikos, with only 35 permanent residents, located near the springs of the Voidomatis River.

  • Vikos Gorge, the world’s deepest canyon in proportion to its width
  • Arch stone bridges and historic cobbled paths
  • Ancient settlements and local hospitality
  • Spectacular views from cliff tops and high passes
  • Stone forest of Monodendri

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Kipi

After your arrival at Ioannina airport or bus station, you can take a taxi to Kipi (or you can pre-book a transfer with us). Kipi is a picturesque village known for its impressive stone 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: Kipi to Monodendri | 9 km

From Kipi you descend and cross the Voidomatis river via the old Mylos bridge. You walk along the Voidomatis river and cross the river again via the beautiful Kokkorou bridge. There you enter the upper end of the Vikos gorge, getting a taste of what is to come in the following days. You go across the old Misiou bridge and ascend a beautiful path up to the village Vitsa, located at the edge of the gorge. You continue to Monodendri where you will rest for the night.

  • Walking for the day:  9 km, 3h, ↑450m ↓150m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Zarkadas or similar

Day 3: Monodendri Circular Walks | 1.6-7.7 km

From Monodendri, you have the option to make three different walks to different viewpoints over the magnificent Vikos Gorge. Recommended is to go at least to the nearby abandoned monastery of Agia Paraskevi from where you have stunning views over the gorge. Most famous is the Oxya viewpoint that you reach via a path surrounded by eroded rock pillars. You can also visit the least-known viewpoint at the chapel of Agioi Apostoloi.

  • Walking for the day:
    Option 1: 7.7 km, 2.5 h, ↑325m ↓325m

    Option 2: 1.6 km, 30 min, ↑60m ↓60m
    Option 3: 2.1 km, 50 min, ↑50m ↓50m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Zarkadas 

Day 4: Through the Vikos Gorge | 12.2 km

Today’s walk is the 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. For most of the time, you walk close to the river bed and sometimes a bit higher. Along the way, there are lots of opportunities to swim or just cool your feet in the fresh water. From the Voidomatis springs, you ascend via a beautiful cobbled path up to Vikos, a tiny village overlooking the impressive gorge.

  • Walking for the day: 12.2 km, 4-5h, ↑475m ↓760m
  • Accommodation: Foris Guesthouse or similar

Day 5: From Vikos to Papingo | 5.3-6.3 km

You can admire once more the views over the Vikos Gorge before descending to the Voidomatis springs. On the way, you have the option to make a small detour to the church of the once bigger monastery of Panagia tou Vikou. At the icy springs of Voidomatis, you go across the river. Until June there is a chance that you might have to take off your boots to go across. You follow the zigzagging path uphill to Megalo Papingo, one of the most popular Zagorian villages located under the so-called Towers of Astraka – impressive limestone buttresses. You will stay in a beautiful mansion in the village.

  • Walking for the day:  5.3 km, 2h ↑450m ↓530m
    With optional detour: 6.3 km, 2.5h ↑550m ↓630m
  • Accommodation: Saxonis Houses or similar

Day 6: Papingo Circular Walks | 8.6 km

Today you make a round walk from Megalo Papingo. First, you walk towards Mikro Papingo and just before this smaller twin village of Megalo Papingo. 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 continue towards the Rock Pools, called ‘Kolymbithres’ in Greek. These natural pools are a great spot to spend some time, especially during summer. After an afternoon relaxation at the pools, you return to nearby Megalo Papingo for your last overnight.

  • Walking for the day:  8.6 km, 3h ↑600m ↓600m
  • Accommodation: Saxonis Houses or similar

Day 7: Departure

After breakfast, you can depart to Ioannina by a taxi or by private transfer (upon request). We can also book extra nights for you in the beautiful city of Ioannina and give you some ideas about extending your adventure in the region.

What to Expect

Accommodation

The Zagori area accommodations are all in traditional mansions, built from limestone and usually with the typical for the region slated roofs. Some hotels are housed in buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th century. In those times the area was under Turkish rule, but despite that was flourishing thanks to expatriate merchants who sent remittances to their families from other countries both in the West and the Middle East. Because the villages are protected, even new buildings are built in the traditional style; usually, you find nice carvings and a fireplace. All rooms have private facilities. Usually, there is no balcony, but the accommodation mostly offers a nice shaded terrace to enjoy your afternoon pre-dinner drinks.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

The overnights are on bed & breakfast basis. Every morning you enjoy a traditional breakfast with ingredients from local produce. Characteristic for this area are the pies, usually with wild herbs and feta cheese. Items for lunch are on purchase in the local mini-market in all villages. In most hotels you can order a packed lunch; discuss with the hosts what they can make for you and what you like and pay for your lunch on the spot in cash. Occasionally there is a possibility for a tavern lunch on your walk as well. Evening dinner can be enjoyed in one of the local taverns or at some of the accommodations you will stay overnight.

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is appropriate for non-experienced walkers and requires a good level of fitness. The daily walks are typically 3 to 5 hours (9 km on average), the only exception being the 5-hour Vikos Gorge walk (read more about difficulty grades). The walks are on footpaths and cobbled paths (kalderimi). The terrain is quite hilly, but 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. Summers can be warm; many walks are partly through shaded forest. You can get close to steep drops at some viewpoints, but it is up to you how close you get to the edge, and you can avoid this in case you suffer from vertigo. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. We are also using a specialized app for walking and cycling holidays. We recommend all guests to download the app and create an account on which we can upload all the information needed for the trip routes.

When to go

This trip is available between April and October. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in 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. Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary, but generally, in the May-September period, the daily averages are 15 –25C. High summer daytime temperatures are rarely too hot as even though temperatures can occasionally reach 30C. Summer nights are quite cool and pleasant.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

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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
  • Flight to Preveza: Preveza has flight connections to some cities in Europe. From the airport, you can take a taxi to the bus station (KTEL) in Preveza city. There are direct long-distance buses from Preveza to Ioannina, approx. 8 busses per day on weekdays and 4 on the weekends. Duration of the trip is 1.5 hrs.
  • Flight to Thessaloniki: From Thessaloniki airport, you have to take a taxi or public bus (app. 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 due to depart app. 20:30. Price is approx. 25 EUR p.p. 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.
  • Flight to 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 bus around 18:00 hrs. Duration of the trip is approx. 5 hrs and price approx. 35 EUR p.p. one way. You can prebook the airport taxi in combination with the bus ticket along with your booking.
  • Ioannina-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 no public transport from Papingo. You have to take a taxi or pre-book a taxi to Ioannina airport (domestic flights to Athens) or bus station. From Ioannina, you can travel to Preveza airport, Athens bus station or Thessaloniki bus station by public bus.
  • More information about the connections Ioannina-Athens and Ioannina-Thessaloniki is available on www.ktelioannina.gr. It is possible to book tickets online, but the site is only available in Greek. Therefore we offer the possibility to provide you with bus tickets in combination with the airport transfer.

Inclusions

Included

  • 6 nights accommodation (private en-suite)
  • Breakfast on each day
  • Luggage transfers when changing hotels on day 2, 4 and 5
  • 24/7 telephone assistance, just a phone call away
  • All the needed navigation materials in digital format

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 explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • 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

Gallery

Reviews

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Rating

     

Roslyn Owen

We had a fabulous time on our hike, and would not change anything. The trails, food and places we stayed were fantastic. All the people at our lodgings were helpful, nice and extremely hospitable. This area of Greece is beautiful. We would definitely travel with The Natural Adventure again and actually have another trip booked in the fall of 2021 in Croatia.