Hiking Vikos Gorge

Hiking Vikos Gorge

The Gorge.

Day 1.

Hiking Vikos gorge under rain is treacherous because of the rock falls. So naturally the first thing I did when I woke up was to open the door and get on the small balcony. To my relief there was only a small cloud here and there. “Good start.”

The plan was to hike from Monodentri to Vikos village through the gorge. Total distance around 12.5km. Difficulty: relative easy, Duration: around six hours. Perfect warm up for our seven day hiking trip.

 

Have you read our Hiking Guide? If not, take a look!

 

vikos gorge hike the view from Agia Paraskevi monastery

The trail starts with a 300m descend from Monodentri to the bottom of the gorge. From there, it gently descends for most of its length until it reaches the only uphill of the day to Vikos village which is located 250 meters higher. Our guide would wait there to transport us to Aristi for the night.

On the road

We checked our gear one last time, put the backpacks on, and headed to the central square. There, we turned left towards the church and kept walking until we left Monodentri behind. The trail started zigzagging downhill between the trees and at some points it was steep.

Forty minutes later, we reached the river. Voidomatis’ bed was dry and pebbled. It hadn’t rained for days and there was no water up here, but that could change fast. The trees were mostly green but yellow tones had started to show on the edges. It was the middle of autumn.

Vikos trail stays on the left bank of Voidomatis for its whole length and is part of the greater O3 national mountain trail which starts from the lake of Ioannina and finishes at Mt. Gramos.

Being the world’s deepest gorge in proportion to its width, its enormous walls make you feel humble—a tiny spot in the gorge’s belly.

Vikos Gorge Hike forest path

The route was straightforward except for a bit of rock climbing at some point, but ladders and ropes made it easy. The weather was sunny and the alternation of clearings and dense forest kept us cool. My mind had already started to clear from everyday stress and worries as the narrow path was leading us through the woods, turning only slightly here and there to avoid a big old tree or a mossy rock. We felt we were in a microcosm, isolated from the rest of the world.

Vikos gorge is a natural paradise. 1800 species of flora can be found in the greater area making the place feel alive. Many herbal healers known as vikogiatri (Vikos’ doctors) used to handpick their medicines around here. They were renowned between 18th and 19th century all over Balkans and Asia Minor.

Just before the middle of the hike, another gorge called Megas Lakos (great pit) meets Vikos coming from the highlands of Mt Tymfi. At this exact spot—known as Klima, is the only source of drinkable water.

Vikos Gorge Hike flower

Towers of Astraka

Astraka is the third highest peak of Mt. Tymfi. At the joint of the peak’s base and the gorge’s northeast wall, there is a series of huge vertical rock formations called “Towers of Astraka.” As the wall forms a right curve following the base of the peak, so do these formations act as a spectacular background for one of the most beautiful villages of Zagori— Mikro Papingo.

By the time we reached this geological wonder, we had gotten hungry. Veronika proposed to stop for lunch and I agreed. The day’s menu had fresh bread, cheese, salami eggplant salad and local biological tomatoes and cucumbers. We used a big flat rock as table (Nikos had even put a tablecloth in the lunch pack!) and sat under the shade of the trees. It was peaceful. The only thing we could hear was the rustling of the leaves in the breeze. Some of them were leaving their branches and were falling onto the ground in a slow dancing manner. Serenity.

Vikos Gorge Hike the towers of astraka

Back on the trail. After fifteen minutes we came across another trail going to the right towards Voidomatis springs and Mikro Papingo. We kept going straight and soon the path started to ascend towards Vikos village.

As a result this section provides some very good photographic opportunities. The gorge at that point takes a curve to the right and gets broader. The south east wall provides some spectacular viewpoints to the springs and the church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) but mostly to the gorge itself which now I could shoot from a higher and more central point.

That afternoon was overcast and the sky was mostly covered with clouds. Not the best conditions but not bad either. In travel photography you always work with what you’re given.

Vikos Gorge Hike Chrisostomos KamberisA very nice shot from miss Veronika

Fortunately we were ahead of schedule, so I took my time, setting my tripod on several locations. Normally it takes around forty five minutes to the village from the gorge. It took us an hour and a half, and that with Veronika urging me to move all the time. Which is probably the story of our lives when hiking.

Nikos was waiting for us at the viewpoint by the end of the trail.

“How was it?” he asked. “It fulfilled our expectations and that’s quite a feat” I answered.”

Aristi was less than a five minutes away. It’s a beautiful village built amphitheatrically on a slope. Our place for the night would be Zissis Hotel. A nice mansion with a beautiful front yard under a vine.

We sat for a shot of Tsipouro before going to our room. As we watched the sun go down, I was thinking that we didn’t meet more than a dozen of people all day. It was Tuesday and I’m sure that weekends are more crowded, but still, considering that Vikos gorge is the most popular trail in Zagori, and one of the most famous in Greece, it is impressive. Being a part of Vikos-Aoos national parked has helped in keeping the place safe from overdevelopment.

Vikos Gorge Hike Zissis Hotel living room

The room was big and again it had a fireplace. It is always nice to have the luxury of a hot bath and new clothes after a day’s hike. Our dinner’s menu had trout with green pie and Greek salad that night. Again everything was homemade and delicious.

We didn’t feel very tired, so we went to explore Aristi a bit. It was a moonless night and the streets were empty…

Previous day : Zagori Hike : The Beginning

                                           

Next day : The River

 

Gallery

Map

Hiking one of the most beautiful trails in Europe. The jewel of Zagori stands up to its name, offering to people who hike it some unforgettable experiences
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Chrisostomos Kamberis
I'm a travel photographer and writer. Having worked in the tourism industry for years, I created Trip & Trail to share my love for
travel and photography with friends and anybody who has the same passion.

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13 Comments

  1. Nouhaila on 12 May, 2017 at 22:12

    Now after reading this I want to jump on an airplane and wander!!! Love this!!!

  2. Bruce Schinkel on 13 May, 2017 at 03:45

    What an amazing hike! I loved reading about this experience. Hiking through places like this is so surreal and beautiful

  3. Yaswanth on 13 May, 2017 at 05:15

    Hiking in Greece seems a lot of fun, I had always knew there was more to Greece than just islands. Great pics.

    PS: Here is some feedback, it takes quite some time to scroll down when I passed the photographs, you could try getting some feedback from some others to see if this is a problem.

  4. Daniela || Ipanema travels to on 13 May, 2017 at 11:26

    Breathtaking views! Interaction with nature brings such a peaceful feeling in oneself… even if it is only by looking at the photos.

  5. Penny on 13 May, 2017 at 17:49

    Woah! At first I thought it was an easy hike. As I kept scrolling I noticed that the difficulty increased significantly. Kudos to you guys! I’m just so afraid of heights that I doubt I would have made it to the top.

    • Chrisostomos Kamberis on 13 May, 2017 at 21:15

      The path was wide enough most of the time so, probably you wouldn’t have a problem.

  6. Nir on 2 August, 2017 at 08:51

    Hi there,

    First I’d like to say, great job! This is a great description!
    I’m planing on doing the hike next month, and wonderd if you can answer some questions- We’ve already reserved hotels for the night before (in Ioannina) and the night after (Papaevangelou), and we have a car. At first I thought to walk from Monodendri down to the gorge and back the same way. But after reading your blog, I thought of maybe trying to get some sort of ride from the end of the trail, back to Monodendri and the car, but I don’t know where I can find something like that… What do you think?

    Thank you,
    Nir

    • Chrisostomos Kamberis on 3 August, 2017 at 11:07

      Hey Nir,

      Thank you!
      There isn’t a regular bus or any other transportation from Vikos village back to Monodentri as far as I know.
      What I would propose you to do is drive in the morning from Ioannina all the way to Papingo and arrange (in advance) with your hotel someone to transport you to Monodentri.
      You can hike from there all the way back to Papingo through Vikos.
      You can also hike from Papingo to Monodentri which is downhill and arrange to be picked up from Monodentri in the end of the day.
      In case you contact your hotel and they fail to give you a solution, don’t hesitate to text me again.

      • Nir on 9 August, 2017 at 07:56

        Thank you! I will try that.
        How long will it take us from Monodentri to Papingo? Or the other way around? Which way do you recommend?
        Take in mind that we’re medium-low pace walkers.

        Thanks again!

        • Chrisostomos Kamberis on 9 August, 2017 at 08:35

          Hi, I was under the impression that the two Papingos were on higher eleveation than Monodentri but that’s not true(Monodentri is actually 150m higher).
          So, I would propose from Monodentri to Papingo because you will have less meters to climb and second because you will hike towards the mountain which I always prefer to do.
          In all I would say around 7 hours.

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