Papigo villages- Beauty without limits

Papigo villages- Beauty without limits

Megalo (Big) Papigo

  Top destination all through the year, Papigo is getting higher and higher in the preferences of those who love mountainous destinations. We visited in autumn this year and we once again realized the reason for its certification as “Protected Settlement of Special Beauty”. We won’t talk about the beauty that our eyes enjoyed. The photos we took speak for themselves! We will just tell you where to eat nicely, and what to see in the area on a 48 hours’ stay!


  For dinner, we picked the “Routes of flavors” in Papigo and their pork chicken and chicken “kontosouvli”, a mixed salad and the local cheese (galotyri) in a beautiful environment, and when it was time to leave, we all agreed that Mr. Aris knows how to lead you in enjoyable, tasty trails!

The next day, for lunch, with the rain falling unceasingly, we found shelter in “Zeus”, in Mikro Papigo! The space inside makes you wonder if you made a good choice but what a lucky pick! Beef with spaghetti, ”metsovore cheese”, wine, all excellent!


  We stayed at the amazing “Papigo Villas”, a complex of 3 traditional autonomous villas at the entrance of the village! We stayed (all six of us) together in the lovely villa “Sileni”, overlooking the village and the towers of Papigo. Fully equipped, with a more than full refrigerator to prepare our breakfast! Ideal hospitality and a very good price (150 € / night for 6 people)! We strongly recommend it!


  Wander at the cobblestone streets of the stone-built villages! Do not miss the opportunity to walk them all! Every now and then you can’t resist but stopping for photo shots! As for the view to the Astrakas Towers it magnifies your eyes!

  In the unique “Sterna”, at the entrance of the village, you will spend a lot of time choosing unique and tasteful decorative and utilitarian items, homemade jams, liqueurs, herbs … but also in “Rogovo” , on the side of the village where the road leads to Mikro Papigo, you will find traditional products of the area and selected items that travel you in time!

“Kolimbithres” or “Ovires Rogovou”. Natural ponds formed on the road of the “Rogovos” stream, due to the particular geological character of the area. Follow the path next to the stream. It is in the middle of the distance between the two settlements. You will see the wooden sign.

“Voidomatis” riverVisit “Agios Vlassios” church in Megalo Papigo, with its rare architecture and its 100-year-old frescoes and the “Taxiarches”church in Mikro Papigo.

Stop at the bridge of the blue “Voidomatis” river! Highly photographed, it passes you over the cleanest river in Europe!

Hiking, horseriding, rafting for the most active of you… and more that you’ll discover yourself, depending on your mood or you will read in the article on our page

And if you feel like telling us what else you tried …we are here to listen!


“Margarites” in “Kipoi” village

  On our way back towards Giannena we stopped for some coffee in the village “Kipoi” and the café “Margarites”. We got in the café looking around the decorations! Freshly decorated for Christmas! All we wanted was a cup of coffee…. a few minutes later…six teaspoons along with an orange pie, a desert named “ants”, hot from the oven, ice cream with sweet blueberries, and a devine banoffee filled the table space!!! All handmade and freshly made!

Acheron in autumn colors

Acheron in autumn colors

Acherontas river

  Our “Acheron” excursion proved an ideal choice on an autumn weekend for the “pametaxidaki” group, although not it’s not a often picked as a destination by travelers in our region, especially at this time of the year. After 2.5 hours easy drive from Veria (Egnatia until the exit to Paramythia) and three toll stops we were transfered into a vast landscape of tranquility and outstanding natural beauty! At the village “Glyki”, right on the bank of the river amongst loaded orange trees!

 Dominant in the region, the river of sorrow, carrying in its waters numerous mythological and unexplained metaphysical legends, it rolls its turquoise waters through the wild scenery of the gorge, tied to ancient Greek mythology, traditions of modern times (St. Donatos’ legend) and history of our country (wars of Souli, etc.). Hall of Underworld, Acheron was the last route for human souls towards “Acherousia” lake in depth of which it was believed that the Underworld is lockated. There boatman Charon directed the souls, collecting the donations in return for his services! Read more about the myths that “flow” in the river’s water here:

Glykis Ear  We stayed at “Glyki Ear», ( , τηλ. 2666041007 ) a new hotel on a hill, overlooking the valley. In its well-equipped very tidy apartments, with kitchen, living room and balconies with a view. We have the best comments to make about Andriana’s hospitality in the wonderful apartments of “Glykis Ear”. About the accommodation prices, too! Ask us to introduce her to you!

  Looking for a place to eat towards the center of the village was a bit of an adventure for us! Most restaurants open only until early in the evening at this time of the year. We had lunch at the “Acheron” tavern right by the river- tasty but standard food. The wine was good, too! The next day we chose the tavern near the springs ( “Springs of Acheron”). The tables are under the trees, next to the banks of river. Nice food there, as well but no exceptional dishes. Except “galotyri” which is a local product and was delicious! (Prices from 13 € per person)

What we did and what we recommend:

 Cross the bridge and turn left. At the next street fork you will see a sign “Towards ” on the left. Arriving at the tavern next to the hotel “Acheron springs” the land widens offering magnificent river views. At that point starts a short footpath next to the river that leads to the springs. Walk the footpath! It is very compatible through the beautiful nature, along the banks where the river flows calmly.

 However, the “must” of the area is to walk the path to the “Skala of Tzavelena”. You will see the sign pointing the way to “Souli” and the “Skala of Tzavelena” on your right. It is an uphill path offering incredible views to the river and the surrounding mountains. One can reach “Dala” bridge or, through the well-marked path climbing from 40 to 500m. altitude, head to “Souli”. (a 2.5 hours’ walk)the path to the "Skala of Tzavelena" It is the old path that connected “Souli” with the plain and besides the beautiful view of the “Straits of Acheron”, it passes by stone bridges and derelict mills leading to the old castle of “Kiafa” which was the main stronghold of “Souli”. (Not tested by us!)

 More trails! At the fork we mentioned earlier, head right ways and at the next fork keep left. Once you see a plateau park your car. Take the uphill dirt road and after about 300 meters you will reach a tunnel. Cross it and follow the path through the forest of oaks and beeches, leading down to the river’s stone bridge. There the river flows impetuous forming puddles and ponds!!! Further on lays the old bridge of “Dala”. An easy route (45’) to and fro which we did early in the morning! A wonderful feeling!

 If you are an adventure type, walking to the springs of Acheron, through the river with clear cold waters that reaches the knee or the waist, choose to visit the area in the summer! The route between the towering vertical cliffs of the canyon has been calculated at 1 hour and 30 minutes. You will need suitable equipment (swimwear and tight shoes) and physical fitness for the 2 km walking in the water and swimming against the tide for about 10-15 meters!

Acherontas Otherwise, try one of the activities offered by the “Riverdream Action Club”. Vivi Markou escorted us to the descent by boat (rafting), an easy drive down until the bridge of the village. Bring shoes and clothes you do not mind getting them wet (ice cold water)! And of course, ensure the safety rules (e.g. life jackets, helmet) because you never know!!! If you do not want to get wet, go riding along the river banks or further up on the mountain! And a small tip: there are moments when people are queuing for these activities, which means a long delay (even to prebooked rides). On these occasions they cannot offer the best services as they would have liked or as they should.

 Visit the “Necromanteion” (Oracle of the dead)! At 17 km (15’ far) from Glyki, in the village “Mesopotamos”, on top of a hill, stands the necromancy (5th-4th century BC.) The faithful came here to communicate with the souls of their loved ones. The site is open and the guards willingly give information about its history. (ticket: Full: € 8, Reduced: € 4 – includes the archaeological site Ephyra, as well. Check the visiting hours: tel: 26840 41206 and 2682089890 or visit the site: )

Nekromanteion of Acheronthe entrance of the anechoic Central room of the Sanctuarythe anechoic Central room of the Sanctuary

Ammoudia Beach at the mouth of AcheronWhat was going on there? Find out here (at present only in greek):

 Take a coffee break at Mesopotamos the village with the neat streets or follow the road to “Ammoudia Beach” (5 km.) at the mouth of Acheron. Generally the access to the sea is very easy ( 5-10 km.)

 Finally visit the heroic “Souli” by car or rather the villages of Souli area, since there is no village named Souli. Follow the paved road outside Glyki leading to “Samoniva”. It’s an uphill 20 km curvy road. I don’t think we saw any people on our way up and through the area! The imposing landscape, with numerous wells everywhere one next to each other! We visited the new Agia Paraskevi church and off to the scales they have constructed so that people that gather there, during the representation events of the blasting of gunpowder.Kougi An amphitheater to watch the events that take place every last Sunday of May opposite “Kougi”, where the monk Samuel with his five comrades blew up the warehouse in 1803. Further down, the road leads to “Kiafa” castle. The view from up there is spectacular they say. On your way back, stop at the abandoned watermills, where people used to grind their grain. The water falls from several meters high! A fairytale landscape!

  A destination pleasing our vision, hearing and smell in the tranquility of the landscape of the area! A motivate for another trip there in the spring! Andriana, expect us again!


– Glyki – Mesopotamia (Necromancy): 19 km and Glyki – Beach: 20 km

– Glyki – Souli: 18km and Glyki – Paramythia: 19 km

– Glyki – Parga: 27 km and Glyki – Igoumenitsa: 56 km

– Glyki – Preveza: 59 km, Glyki – Arta: 88 km Gliki Ioannina 108 km


Ioannina – The city of legends

Ioannina – The city of legends

“Christmas and Ioannina blend perfectly!”, I would say to anyone who asked me. The choise to spend a weekend there between Christmas and New Year belonged to our 12-year daughter Helen. She prefers city traffic and strolling around the market streets rather than the mountainous villages we like. The capital of Epirus with its lake was an ideal choise!

the lake island   Less than a 2 -hours comfortable drive far from Veria and at 12.00 we were at the hotel “Politeia” in the city center ( Our room on the ground floor facing the beautiful courtyard was very cozy. Very nice for a start!

Half an hour later we were in the boat to the lake island . Departing every half hour or more frequently if the traffic is increased! The ticket is 2 euros (1 euro for children up to 8 years). Sailing on the calm waters of Lake Pamvotis that defines the nature, the climate and the character of the city took us there, in less than 10 minutes. Through streets with old stone houses, small shops with souvenirs and silverware, we were led to the monastery of Ag. Panteleimon (17th century), where Ali Pasha was murdered. Today it functions as a folklore museum (2 € entrance), where the style of a pre-revolutionary mansion of the area is represented. Besides important exhibits (documents, weapons, jewelry …) many exhibited paintings represent Ali Pasha. You can see the holes on the floor of the first floor from where the bullets found their way and fatally wounded Ali. We were impressed!

We were informed that, in addition to the monastery of Saint Panteleimon, there are five other monasteries on the island, with the monastery of St. Nicholas of Filanthropinon, 13th c., being one of the most important post-Byzantine Greek monuments with very beautiful post-Byzantine frescoes of the 16th century, as well as coveralls depicting the seven philosophers of Antiquity: Solon, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Plutarch, Chilonos and Apollonius.paved square

At the paved square with the tall trees people were having coffee or eating fresh fish at the taverns with the aquariums, where you can choose the lobster or eel you would you like to eat. While outside of the traditional delicacies you can enjoy frog feet, a specialty of the area.

After buying some traditional syrup sweets, we chose to return to Ioannina. We took the road to the center on foot. In “Averof” street we stopped to dine at “Masa roufa” restaurant. We barely found a table in the loft. Very large portions, tasty food and good prices. On our departure the city seemed different with the Christmas decorations. Very beautiful narrow streets, shops, galleries full with people shopping in the stores. A rich market! A coffee on the “Liampei” stoa ended the night.

The next morning, the fog was sitting over the city until almost noon, and a journey to “Bourazani” (we watched a documentary about it on television the night before), led us to the decision to take the road north towards to Kalpaki and the Albanian borders. Soon we arrived at the War Museum of Kalpaki, where we were guided at the exhibits and later we took left road at the junction to Bourazani, we passed the bridge and turned left towards the borders. Customs station “Mertziani” said the sign. We were 12 km. far from Konitsa and 58 from Ioannina. On the way back we stopped at the bridge. Next to the stone bridge there is a military iron bridge over the river Aoos.river Aoos Shortly after we turned right towards the monastery “Panagia Molivdoskepasti”. Lovely, harmonized with the landscape, 400 meters from the Albanian border. Everything frozen all around. The thick layer of frost looked like snow. We continued to the village Bourazani. The road was icy and we didn’t go further. On the way back we stopped at the “Bourazani” hotel. They informed us that they have their own Environmental Park and Natural History Museum, where the entrance was 12 euros. We preferred to visit the river springs nearby and continue to Ioannina. It was around lunch time and turned left to “Asprangeli” looking for the hostel “Virginia”. It’s built on the hillside, in a very nice setting and was so beautifully decorated . We tasted “pork prasoselino” and “flour pie” both delicacies of the area. We really enjoyed it!

On our way back we thought of visiting the castle before it got dark. It’s the old town of Ioannina offering you the feeling of a bygone era, full of secrets and legends. Unique attractions buildings such as “House Matei Hussein”, the “Ottoman mosque of Veli Pasha”, across the historic center of Ioannina and the town’s castle (built in 528 AD). The walls enclose the old town, two mosques and several museums, including the Byzantine Museum and the arms. In the picturesque “Its- Kale” which was previously the inner fortress of the castle, dominates the “Aslan Mosque”, the famous Kale. There lived Ali Pasha, the emblematic and enigmatic figure of the Ottoman Empire. The great love of the notorious Kira – Frosini (Lady Frosini) was legendary and part of the city’s history. We finished the walk at the Castle enjoying at the same time the views of the lake and the island, against the magnificent mountain Mitsikeli. In the cafes of the old square many were having their coffee accompanied by homemade sweets.

We enjoyed our coffee and dessert at «Montley coffeesweet shop» in Ioannina! Nice coffee and fresh pastries prepared on the spot, right when you order them in the open kitchen!

On the way back we passed “Stoa Louli”, one of the points at which the three communities in the multicultural city, Christian, Islamic and Jewish, worked and prospered. The gallery which originally functioned as an inn, it has become a commercial center of great importance for the entire area.

inside castle  To tell the truth, all the littoral region, full of small shops and great restaurants in which the exquisite flavors are combined with lush greenery, is an ideal area for walks. The options for entertainment are many depending on tastes.

That’s how he spent our 3 days ! The next morning we decided to depart earlier in fear of the projected snowfall.

On a longer stay or if you choose to spend your time otherwise see below:

Ideas for extra visits

Just four kilometers far from Ioannina on the northwestern side of Lake Pamvotis, taking the road that leads to Metsovo-Trikala, you meet the village Perama. There is a mythical world beyond your imagination. Perama Cave was created 1.5 million years ago inside Goritsa hill, just above the village. It is one of the most beautiful caves in Europe. In a route of 1500 meters and 45 minutes (provided the mood for walking as required lifting and lowering stairs) you will discover a different world of stalactites and stalagmites, natural sculptures that surprise with their complex structure and harmony of shapes. Once you pass the cave exit stand to admire the view of the lake and feel the magic of nature. The train of Perama -Ioannina connects the picturesque village and is a nostalgic choice. In the village of Perama you can buy traditional silverware and jewelry.

On the 14th km. of Ioannina-Athens national road, near Bizani, is the wax museum of sculptor Paul Vrellis. One of the best and most impressive museums of Greece where the life sized creations of Paul Vrellis from beeswax, revive the Greek history and those who took part on it. The topics presented in the museum are: the pre-revolutionary period, the events of 1821 and images from WWII. The visit there brings back memories from our history.

12th km National Road Ioannina-Athens, Bizani, Ioannina (Tel. 26510-92128)

(Prefixes) 1 / 10-31 / 3: 10: 00-16: 00 – (Summer time) 1 / 4-30 / 9: 09: 30-17: 00

Aslan Pasha Tomb   Like a ” Pasha in Ioannina” concerning the culinary options in Ioannina was always a rich and aristocratic state. Pond fish, such as eels and trout, are, along with the particularly frogs, the Ioannina’s Kitchen trademark. The traditional sweets of Ioannina is famous throughout Greece. The famous sker patties, meaning sugary pie, the excellent baklava and other sweets are just some of the flavors that you will never forget. A completely original product, you can not find it anywhere else except at Ioannina, are liqueurs without alcohol. It is completely separate liquor, resulting from mixing organic vinegar with nectar, herbal and fruit aromas. Enjoy with crushed ice. In traditional cafes in the city to try the unique “sherbets” sweet wines with aromas of fruits and flowers.

 Silver and gold

The art of the silversmith of Ioannina is one of the most important aspects of native culture. The wire or cast jewelry Epirus, the famous “tzovairia” was famous outside the Greek territory. The expression “Arta to Ioannina” meant – and means – “all the wealth of the earth.” The beautiful jewelry of Ioannina, in traditional or original designs continue to be synonymous with understated elegance.


A 2-days’ trip to West Zagori

A 2-days’ trip to West Zagori

Easter was very early this year. We always have a small trip somewhere in the 2nd week of Easter holidays but this time we were a bit concerned about the weather. It was rainy and cold. The excursion was arranged the minute we saw the photos of a hotel that Vasia (our niece) booked for a weekend. The hotel was in Papigo and she had traced and booked it from Belgium! It has been almost twenty years since we last visited the area. We were so jealous! Both about the hotel and the destination.

We arranged everything right away! An evening at the “Astra Inn Hotel” (unfortunately there was no vacancy for a second), in Papigo and one in “Gamilla Rocks Mountain Hotel” in Aristi, the village just next to Papigo. Early on Easter Tuesday morning, we set off from Veria to Zagorochoria. In less than two hours we were leaving Ioannina and taking the road up to Zagorochoria to the north. After 35 km we passed by the historic Kalpaki (at the entrance of which there is a nice war museum). Another 4 km and a sign showed us the road that goes right ways , towrds Aristi (10 km) and Papigo (23 km)the magnificent view from the rock of the belfry (Panagia Spiliotissa)

Tip: The last Gas Station is in Kalpaki. Fill in there!

So we turned right and began slowly to ascend the road. After 4 km we passed through Mesovouni village and another 4 km near the village of Agios Minas. 2 km further we reached beautiful Aristi. We crossed it took the road to Papigo.

3 km after Aristi, we came to a sign that leads the way to the path to Panagia Spiliotissa. (There is a small opening of the road for parking). A newly built bridge and a 5 minute walk leads to the monastery, built in 1579 in a fantastic location, right over the river. “It has an impressive carved iconostasis and frescoes from the 17th century. It served as a refuge for the inhabitants when in danger. After the earthquake of 1897, it was completely abandoned. It has now been restored and is quite tidy but the church cannot be visited”, we read on a guide book. It was abandoned for sure, and it’s only worth going up there just for the walk through the towering plane trees, but especially for the magnificent view from the rock of the belfry, if you are eager to climb up there.

Papigo bridge     We returned to the car, and after another 400 m we suddenly saw the bridge and the river! (Caution! The narrow bridge does not fit two cars to cross at the same time. Moreover, being particularly pointed, the driver standing at one end of the bridge, has eye contact only with half of the bridge!) Once we went across, we parked on the right, in a plateau under the trees. The water that poured this year had changed the configuration of the landscape. It was very different the last time we visited it. What had not changed at all were the crystal clear, emerald waters of Voidomatis River. That’s why there were dozens of visitors, admiring the scenery, taking photographs and many of them preparing to descend the river by rafting. Inflatable boats, life jackets, trainers…… (The ride until Klidonia costs 25 Euros per person)

(The path leading to the river head starts at this point. Through the dense plane trees and a direction opposite to the flow of the river, with a relaxed pace, in about three hours, one can reach the riverhead of Voidomatis). Voidomatis is one of the cleanest and coldest rivers of Europe, since its waters, even in the heart of summer, during a heat wave period, do not exceed a temperature of 6 ° – 7 ° C. Etymologically, the term Voidomatis probable derives from the Slavic “Voda Mate” meaning “spring/fountain”.

Back in the car, we began climbing up the twisting, winding road to Papigo: within a distance of 3 km from the river, we passed at least 17 – 18 “hairpin bends” of 180 °, ie the notorious “Kagelia of Papigo”, where increased attention is needed, especially when the road surface is slippery and even on the way downhill.

We arrived to Papigo! On the left, there is a spacious free parking (for those who want to leave their vehicle and continue on foot (unless you have to unload suitcases, etc.). In front of us we saw the first church, completed in 1852 and dedicated to Saint Vlasios . Just beside it, is the imposing hexagonal stone steeple of 1887. A few meters after the church we passed by “Kallineio School” that was built in 1897 and houses the nursery/ primary school.Towers of Astraka

Papigo is built at an altitude of 980 m. In fact, there are two villages or if you prefer a village in two neighborhoods. Some refer to them as Megalo Papigo (Big Papigo) and Mikro Papigo (Small Papigo) (1,040 m) which is 3 km further. They are definitely the most beautiful villages of Zagoria, perhaps the most touristic and it should de noted that they are protected traditional settlements. The population in Papigo decreased significantly during the 40s, 50s and 60s and reached its lowest point in 1971 with only 95 inhabitants. Currently, there are about 250 inhabitants (in both villages). All the glorious art of Zagoria’s craftsmen to reclaim the only product that nature gave them abundantly, the stone, unfolds in this corner of the country. Beautiful traditional houses with stone roofs, well kept paths, beautiful stone fountains, all made of stone. And all this with the background of the “Towers of Astraka,” a series of five, huge rock formations of Mount Gamila (or Tymfi), rising just above the houses, a real eye catcher. Our hotel was the last building of the village, on the road to Mikro Papigo. Facing the towers! Stone terraces, corners with flowers, tables in the sun! We looked further up to the mountain. Small Papigo was standing, perched on Tymfi’s slopes. Half an hour later, we were drinking our coffee on the terrace of the hotel “Mikro Papigo”, at the highest point of the village and a little later we were tasting Zagori pie, smoked sausage and grilled mushrooms in the Astra Inn restaurant. In the courtyard, under the pleasant sunshine!The view from the "1800" hotel terrace

In the evening, the village retained its beauty, with yellow lights faintly illuminating the streets and the silence that reflected our steps in the cobbled paths, to make it even more atmospheric. We enjoyed our coffee in the courtyard of an old café (“Koulis”), at the small square, and later a drink by the fireplace.

Astra Inn    The wonderful breakfast in the next morning, raised the trip to the top of the evaluation scale. Delicious, homemade breakfast, in a wonderful room, coffee in the courtyard, under the trees, chatting with the people of Astra … reluctantly we got up for our morning walk. Halfway on the road to Mikro Papigo (3 km.), on our right, we went down a path that lead to a ravine with a beautiful stone bridge. On the same stream, just a little further, on the left of the road this time, we saw an all green ravine. It is the stream of Rogovo, forming large natural pools, which the locals call “ovires” or “fonts”. Here, during the warm, summer months, a lot of people take their swim.

Going further up, we arrived to Mikro Papigo. Cars, fortunately, cannot enter through the narrow cobbled streets. Everybody park next to the church of the Archangels, with the perennial plane tree. We walked down the alley and at 40 m on the left we stopped at the “Information Center for Nature and Culture at Zagori”, which was founded by the WWF and is hosted in the building of the old primary school, a donation of Michael Anagnostopoulos.

   VISITING HOURS: Daily /Weekends (except Mondays) 9.30- 15.00 (tel. 2653025096). Very informative material for the region from the Management Body of National Parks “Vikos –Aoos”. There, they informed us on the many mountain trails that offer courses of various difficulty levels. A popular trail includes the crossing of the Vikos Gorge. (six-seven hours’ hiking/medium difficulty)


Mikro Papigo – Drakolimni: 3 hours (one way) Monodendri – Mikro Papigo: 7 hours (crossing of Vikos gorge) hiking trails info
Mikro Papigo – Gamila: 5 hours (one way) Kapesovo – Vradeto: 1.30 h (round trip)
Mikro Papigko- Red stone 40 ‘(one way) Klidonia Bridge – Bridge Papigo: 2.30 hours
Ano or Old Klidonia – Papigo: 2 hours Vikos -Voidomatis headriver: 1. 30hours (round trip).

WE SUGGEST : On a longer stay

Mikro Papigo, at an altitude of 1,700 m, is the basis for many climbers starting climbing to either the legendary Drakolimni or to the famous caves of Astraka or the peek (2.497 m.). The well marked trail starts at the last houses of the village, after an hour’s walk it comes out of the woods, climbs on bare landscape, passes four fountains at different altitudes and leads to the mountain lodge at 1,940 m. (Tel. 6973223100). From that spot, it descends until a point called “Xeroloutsa of Tsoumani” and finally climbs (in total 4-5 hours’ walk from Mikro Papigo) up to the 2,050 m. plateau, reaching the famous Drakolimni (dragon’s lake) which attracts both Greeks and foreign climbers. It is a heart-shaped lake of ​​about eight acres, a diameter of about 120 m., a maximum depth of around 12 m. and water temperature, even in heat period, 18 ° -19 ° C! There are so many adventurous climbers that try a dip. Alpine newts live in the lake (similar to tiny salamanders). Climbing easily to the brink, images of infinite beauty unfold before you: Albania, Grammos, Smolikas, Vasilitsa, Konitsa, Aoos’ lacquer, the Monastery of Stomio, all before you. We were there one summer, 20 years ago. A unique experience! This time of the year, however, the climb is quite difficult if notimpossible for many. The tops are still covered by snow and the “shelter closed,” on the information sign verifies that.

Another attraction in Gamila are the 5 world-famous caves. One of them, more known as “Ewe” is a completely natural vertical well with a depth of about 407 m., the second deepest on the planet. However a visit is possible only with accompaniment of experienced cavers climbers.

After a walk through the narrow streets of Mikro Papigo, we take the road to Aristi. (650 m. altitude). Aristi is another traditional settlement with 130 permanent residents. It is 49 km. far from Ioannina.. Aristi is very green and has several well-preserved stone houses, of which most with view to the Astraka peeks. There are several hotels / traditional guesthouses, all in harmony with the environment. In the square you will find restaurants, cafés, the school, a stone fountain and the church dedicated to the Assumption, built in 1718.

Near the square you find signs that show the way towards Vikos village, Elafotopos, Kato Pedina, Ano Pedina, Vitsa and Monodendri villages. After 600 m. the road forks. Go straight to Vikos village, and turn right to Elafotopos and Ano Pedina. (Today the route Aristi – Elafotopos is only 6 km. From there you can continue to Vitsa and Monodendri.)

We left our luggage at the hotel and took the road to Vikos village (5 km. distance from Aristi). Vikos is built at an altitude of 770 m., has about 25 residents and 2-3 taverns around the square. We parked at the square near the church, the hostel and the old school. We walked for another 150 m. following the signs, until we came to the old stone threshing floor of the village. A wooden gazebo stands nearby, an ideal spot to enjoy the view of the famous Vikos Gorge. A sense of freedom is imposed to you by the impressive depth in front of you! It’s a canyon with a world record, for it is deeper in proportion to its width (depth 900 and width 1100 measures at a point). Farming and logging or other activities that affect the environment are not allowed in the area, favoring the development and preservation of a unique biodiversity. From this point, lower down, near the river, stands a small chapel dedicated to Virgin Mary. From the gazebo starts a path paved with Zagori stone, which in 15 minutes takes you to the chapel and from there in other 20 minutes, to the springs of Voidomatis. The height difference is so big that you have to think of the way uphill when you return! It’s going to be demanding!!

Vikos Gorge

When it’s dinner time, we return to Astra Inn to enjoy the food, the view and the clean air. A secure choice!

This second night we stayed in “Gamilla Mountain Hotel” in Aristi, a great hotel as well, with greater emphasis on decoration. Every decorative element was meticulous to detail! Very clean, with views of the Towers and the sounds of birds singing on the tree branches outside our windows!

Sunset view from Aristi  In the beautiful, paved square we had our coffee while the sun was setting, painting the rocks of Astraka in red and purple. It got dark while we were enjoying our drink, listening to retro songs, at the unique probably “bar type” spot of the village. At night we left the window open to listen to the blackbirds. Their singing woke us up the next morning. The breakfast at the hotel was served in a very nice room. It was adequate but standard. The comparison was inevitable. Drinking our coffee on the terrace, with the morning sun warming us pleasantly, we decided to return to Ioannina by an alternative way, through Elafotopos, Ano and Kato Pedina etc. Soon we arrived first to Elafotopos. We had the sense of being in a deserted village! We felt like we’re alone. An elderly gentleman only welcomed us at the entrance of the village. Looked like he had been waiting long for someone to chat. He told us that, only 25 people live in the village permanently. There is a guesthouse with a restaurant, a tavern and a couple of cafes, he said. On our stroll at the cobbled streets, we observed that many old houses have been restored, so have the stone made streets …… but when were those that use them?

We descended back to the junction and continued to the left, on the road leading to Pedina. On our right we could see Kato Pedina but we turned left to Ano Pedina, one of the most picturesque Zagorochoria, with a population of approximately 100 residents. The village has a rich history. Among the great persons the village gave birth to, was Neophytos Doukas, the great teacher of the nation, the most important representatives of the Greek Enlightenment. The fortress- style Annunciation Monastery (1647) is another sight of the village, where, in the difficult years of Turkish rule, they had set up a small “secret school” and the church of Ag. Dimitrios in the village center.

We continued the way back to Ioannina, via the road to Vitsa. At the intersections we encountered, we always chose the direction to the right, until we got to the provincial road of Kalpaki-Ioannina. Soon we arrived to Ioannina. We stopped for a cold beer next to the lake and returned to Veria. My mind failed to return with me though! It was still in that place with the unique nature, right in the heart of Northern Pindos. On the high, massive mountains with the green forests, the fertile valleys, the lush plateaus, the unpolluted lakes and the rushing rivers, all unique treasures of this proud place.

FOOD GUIDE to the local cuisine


map of Vikos area“Hotel Astra” Restaurant : It’s a family business owned by, Spiros , Costas and Christopher Tsoumani. Pies, Epirus feta, galotyri (local soft cheese), soup dishes, pasta, rabbit stew, etc. Tel. 2653042108.

“Calliope” Tavern : On the path that starts from the church and passes near the old school. Among the oldest in Zagorohoria (operating since 1983). Ms. Kalliopi Bitou cooks the infamous “paprikasi”, ie pieces of pork in spicy chili sauce. Tel. 2653041081.

“Giorgos Ioannidis” Tavern : At the entrance of the village, opposite the church. Pies, soups, wild boar with prunes, coq au vin, etc. Tel. 2653041124.

“Nikos & Ioulia Tsoumani” Tavern: At the homonymous hostel. Open since 1992. She prepares pies, pork with leek and celery, lamb in a pot with potatoes, etc. Tel. 2653041893 and 6973682252.

“Astraka” Tavern: In space formerly operated as a bar. Tel. 2653042034, 2653041693, 6948204546 and 6974049104.

All taverns serve Zagori pies, grilled meat from animal bread in the area and local tsipouro.


“Jupiter” tavern /guesthouse. Since 1990, serves excellent beef soup with vegetables, bean soup, lamb fricassee, etc. Tel. 2653041257 and 2653041892.

Restaurant in the hostel “Mikro Papigo 1700” Tel. 2653041179 and 2653041094. Besides the excellent food, the view is fantastic as well as the decoration!


“Restaurant In Aristi”. At the square. It serves lamb stew with noodles, wild boar in wine sauce with prunes, beef soup boiled with vegetables, rabbit stew, chicken in lemon sauce with potatoes, homemade pies, fresh salads, goat cheese and Epirus ouzo. Tel. 2653042103 and 6998423444.

“Zisis” hostel’s restaurant. Near the fireplace. Specialty in pies. Tel. 2653041147 and 2653041088.

“Salvia” restaurant, inside the hotel “Aristi Mountain Resort”. The menu includes chicken soup, lamb with pasta in a pot, grilled vegetables and pies from Zagori. Tel. 2653041330 and 6943105011.


“Christopher Tsoumanis” Tavern. Very good food. Tel. 2653042170.

“Karpouzis” hostel’s restaurant. A grill house. Tel. 2653041176.