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Zagoria – Mountain villages and beautiful stone bridges in Epirus

“Zagori – the land behind the mountain” hides 46 traditional villages on mountain slopes and in valleys. You will find it about 50 km northwest of Ioannina at the border to the great Vikos Gorge, second-deepest in the world, only passed by Grand Canyon in the US. This magnificent natural setting offers activities like hiking in the mountains, visiting the gorgeous stone bridges, river rafting of Aoos River and relaxing in the picturesque villages.

What is Zagoria famous for?

In Epirus, in the heart of the Pindus mountain range, you find Zagoria, also known as Zagorochoria. Zagoria is in fact a total of 46 picturesque villages nestled in valleys and on mountain slopes. Their trademark are the stone houses with grey-tiled roofs and narrow alleys, as well as the magnificent arched bridges over the rivers of the area. Zagoria is neighbor to the worldfamous Vikos Gorge, part of the Aoös National Park.

Zagoria – Top alternative for extreme sports

River rafting in Greece

The landscape is wild and rustic, perfect for hiking and river rafting. Go visit during your autumn or winter holiday or do a day trip to Zagoria from Ioannina, the capital of Epirus.
Zagoria has gained status as a top alternative travel destination for extreme sports and activities, such as rafting in Voidomatis River, trekking, and horseback riding. Of course, the most impressive location in Zagoria for hiking is Vikos Gorge. It is the second deepest gorge in the world after Grand Canyon. Most people do not consider Greece as a skiing destination, but the Zagoria is great for ski holidays, you will find ski centers nearby.

This magnificently beautiful region is still unknown to international tourists and therefore a perfect travel destination off the beaten track.

An autumn or winter trip to Zagoria is also a perfect opportunity to explore the nearby towns, especially Ioannina, the capital city of Epirus, beautifully located at a lakeside.

What does Zagori mean?

Zagori is a mountain area in the heart of Epirus. The name Zagori has a Slavic origin from the words ‘za’, which means behind, and‘gori’, which means mountain. So, Zagori means ‘the land behind the mountain’, and in particular behind Mt. Mitsikeli of Ioannina, which is the natural border of Zagori to the south. The region includes 47 traditional villages. The altitude of the region varies between 500 and 2.000 m, which is the altitude of the highest peak of Timfi mountain range, Gamila.

Map of Zagoria in Epirus

Map of Zagoria in Epirus, Greece
Click to enlarge map – Coordinates: 39°52′N 20°42′E

Zagoria (Zagochoria) facts

Zagoria is an area of about 1.000 km2 and it is divided into 3 geographical sections: West, East and Central Zagori. Each section has its own special beauty and history.

West Zagori – Megalo and Mikro Papigo

Natural pools of Papingo, Epirus
Natural pools of Papigo, Epirus

It lies on the north west of Ioannina and it includes the great famous villages of the Voidomatis valley, which are Megalo and Mikro Papigo, Aristi, Vikos, St. Minas and Mesovouni.

East Zagori – Vardas Valley, Zagoritikos and Vovousa

It lies on the north east of Ioannina and it includes beautiful villages such as: the villages of Vardas valley (Greveniti, Elatochori, Makrino, Flabourari, Tristeno), the villages of Zagoritikos (Anthrakitis, Karies, Doliani, Kavallari), the beautiful Vovousa, the villages Demati, Itea, Petra, Kastanona and the settlements of St. Paraskevi and Potamia.

Central Zagori – Vlachhoria and Ano Vikos Valley

Village of Monodendri, Epirus
Monodendri village, Zagoria

Central Zagori lies on the north of Ioannina and it includes special villages such as Vitsa, Monodendri, the wellknown Vlachohoria (Vrisochori, Iliochori, Laista), Kipoi, Dilofo, Asprangeloi and Koukouli, Kapesovo, Tsepelovo, Skamneli and Negades and the villages of Ano Vikos valley (Vradeto, Elati, Ano and Kato Pedina). It also includes the villages Dikorpho, Manassi, Kalouta, Dipotano, Fragades and Leptokaria.

Zagoria – What to see?

Stone Forest, Monodendri, Zagoria, Epirus - Photo S. Mourelatou
Stone Forest, Monodendri, Zagoria, Epirus – Photo S. Mourelatou

Zagori is an area of great natural beauty, with striking geology and two national parks, one including the river Aoos and the Vikos Gorge, the other around Valia Kalda, to the east of the imposing snow-capped Mount Tymphe. Zagori could also be called the place of bridges. The 45 or so villages of Zagori were interconnected by mountain roads and traditional arched stone bridges until modern roads were opened in the 1950s. The stone arched bridges were built by benefactions from expatriate merchants in the 18th century and replaced older wooden bridges. There often existed a bell under the bridges that warned the passers-by if the passage was dangerous because of bad weather.

The 11 best Zagoria villages to stay in

Zagoria, Epirus - Photo S. Mourelatou
Zagoria, Epirus – Photo S. Mourelatou
  • Megalo Papigo – located 59 km west of Ioannina. It is the most touristed of the Zagoria villages. Here you can stay all year round.
  • Mikro Papigo – located 61 km west of Ioannina. Beautiful village with great views, also quite popular.
  • Monodendri – located 39 km northwest of Ioannina at an altitude of 1,060 metres. Monodendri is a traditional village and from here starts the hiking path to Vikos Gorge. Nearby you will find the stone forest.
  • Aspraggeloi – located 30 km north of Ioannina. On your way from Ioannina Aspraggeloi is the first Zagoria village you will reach. Beautiful stone houses built on a mountain slope.
  • Vitsa – located 36 km west of Ioannina at an altitude of 960 metres. Picturesque stone houses built in two settlements, Ano and Kato Vitsa.
  • Ano Pedina – located 35 km north of Ioannina – traditional architecture and beautiful nature.
  • Aristi – located 48 km north of Ioannina on the edge of Vikos-Aoos Natural Reserve. Beautiful traditional architecture.
  • Kipi – located 37 km northwest of Ioannina in an altitude of 800 metres. Kipi is the centre for extreme sports like paragliding. The village has an interesting traditional architecture.
  • Dilofo – located 32 km north of Ioannina at an altitude of 900 metres – popular for its traditional style.
  • Vikos – 53 km northwest of Ioannina at an altitude of 770 metres. Vikos village is included in the borders of Vikos-Aoos Natural Reserve. From here you really can enjoy the beauty of the park at the trekking paths.
  • Tsepelovo – located 50 km north of Ioannina. This beautiful village with traditional architecture is the starting point for many hiking paths.

Mountain lakes and rivers in Zagori

You will meet a lot of lakes during your tour in the region of Zagori. Some of them are very small and others a lot bigger, but all of them are found in exceptional locations in the beautiful wild nature that surrounds them.

The alpine lake of Drakolimni of Gamila

 Drakolimni of Tymfi - The-lake resides at an altitude of 2050m above sea in Vikos National Park in Greece
Drakolimni of Tymfi, Vikos National Park

In the verge of the ravine of Aoos in 2.000 meters altitude, you will meet this alpine lake. Its place is particularly impressive and the landscape unique. Drakolimni of Gamila has permanent water and its particular characteristic is the Alpine Triton (Triturus alpestris), a rare species of amphibians that resemble small dragons. These creatures that live in the cold lake water have contributed in the past to the creation of legends that speak of the presence of dragons in the region. You can get to Drakolimni of Gamila after about a two-hour walk from Mikro Papigo.

River Voidomatis and River Aoos

River Voidomatis with its spotless frozen water springs from the Vikos Gorge and meets River Aoos in the plain of Konitsa. It is one of the few rivers where the water is potable, consequently whoever is thirsty after a walk by its banks can bend to the river and quench one’s thirst. Its light blue water  has stable temperature of 4° C all year round, but it’s definitely worth the experience of daring a dive only during summer months, of course.
You can walk on paths by its banks drowned in platans and enjoy the unusual natural beauty and a landscape which in certain points is completed by the traditional stone bridges, so typical of Zagori. 

Activities in Zagori

Hiking in Zagori

Trekking in Vikos Gorge, Epirus, Greece
Trekking in Vikos Gorge

One of the many routes you can choose from begins from the village Vikos and leads to Mikro Papigo. It is a route of 2 km which is really popular. You begin from Vikos in 760 meters altitude and go down the fine cobbled path until you reach the springs of River Voidomatis.
If it is summertime you will have to put your legs in the water of the river so as to get across and follow another uphill path, which takes you to Mikro Papigo. Though the route is quite short, only 2 km, the duration of the walk is about 2 hours because of the uphill path where the hypsometric difference is 700 meters. (read about other routes…

Hiking Trails and Trips in Epirus
Popular Hiking guides and trips in Epirus that you can use to plan your next adventure. You can download guides, including a detailed map, description and points of interest for a small fee to your iPhone or Android.

Rafting and kayaking on Voidomatis river

Rafting on Voidomatis river in Zagori, Epirus, Greece - Photo Gennady Shumakher
Rafting on Voidomatis river – Photo Gennady Shumakher

The first descent begins from the most photographed part of Zagori. This is not any other but the bridge of Papigo, 1 kilometer from Aristi on the way to Papigo. You will follow a green route in Voidomatis Gorge and the route finishes in the bridge of Klidonia. The descent can also be done by kayak, monoraft or inflatable boat. The length of the route is 5 km and the duration of the adventure is about 1,5 hour. Previous experience is not necessary as the water is not impetuous. 

For experienced river rafters

This descent addresses people who love this sport and have excellent knowledge and experience. The route begins from Vovousa and finishes in Vrisohori. It is a route whosemain characteristic is the big degree of difficulty and the big length of the descent, which is about 27 kilometres. The duration of the route is about 7-8 hours and it can be done only by kayak or monoraft. Finally, we should say that excellent fitness, perfect knowledge of all the techniques of descent, as well as previous experience in rivers of 4th and 5th degree difficulty are necessary. (read about more routes…)

Mountain biking in Epirus

Mountain biking in Greece
Mountain biking in Zagoria, Epirus

The variety of the geomorphological terrain and the feast of colours create ideal routes for the lovers of mountain bike. Those of you who will not come appropriately equiped will be able to address one of the companies that offer this kind of activities and they will take on to give you the right equipment as well as guide you. (read about the routes…)

Rock-climbing – 4 different degrees of difficulty

4 different ascensions with different degrees of difficult each, challenge your limits…
Route 1: The first route is in the region Astrakas of Zagori and it is a region that is famous for the quality of the climbing field as it gets together big routes in good-quality rocks, where the hypsometric differences reach up to 450 meters. Some of the routes are: Kopsi Triestinon with height of 450 meters, Kopsi of Lost Companions in 400 meters Altitude and Pilie of Rain. Some of them are snow-ice. (read about the other routes…)

Hanggliding – Parapente in Zagoria

Hang gliding in Greece
Hanggliding in Epirus

Those who have experienced a parapente flight say that it is magical to fly. The fans of the sport say that you feel complete freedom. The truth is that a trip in the sky is a challenge and thousands of stills with beautiful pictures will be kept in your memory. You’ll find schools of theoretical and practical training of parapente near the city of Ioannina in the area Asprangeloi. If you are novices and you want to taste this unique piece of experience you can be part of a tandem flight as a fellow-passenger.
The slopes of Mitsikeli offer suitable ascendants for an extended flight along the slopes. As far as where you will land, we can inform you that the landing takes place in open fields by the National Road Ioannina-Konitsa.

Early history of Zagori

Arced bridge in Vikos Gorge, Zagorochoria, Epirus, Greece
Arched bridge in Vikos Gorge, Zagorochoria

The first evidence of human presence in the area is dated between 17,000 and 10,000 years ago.

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Zagoria climate and weather

It is quite difficult to predict the weather in Zagoria because it is influenced by the mountains. Since the ancient years it has been well-known for its healthy climate.

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Museums and Libraries in Zagori

Folklore Museum of Agapios Tolis: It is found in Kipoi of Central Zagori. It includes an exceptionally rich collection of folklore material of 40.000 objects of daily life from the whole region of  agori, collected with hard  work by Agapios Tolis.

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