The Vikos Gorge
The route The Vikos Gorge stands out as an extraordinary ravine on a global scale due to its exceptional dimensions. It's often hailed as the deepest canyon globally, boasting a staggering 1,250 meters of vertical drop. However, this measurement primarily pertains to its narrowest point, a mere 200 meters wide, as documented by the North Pindos National Park, where it holds a central position. Furthermore, the Vikos Gorge enjoys the distinction of being part of the UNESCO Geopark and is designated as an Area of Absolute Protection, signifying a strict prohibition on any activities within its boundaries, such as overnight stays, flower picking, or lighting fires. As the path traverses this terrain, it offers a mix of uphill and downhill segments, interspersed with level stretches. Your journey takes you through dense vegetation, occasionally along paths etched into the canyon walls, at times over ancient cobblestone trails, and sometimes even across the riverbed itself. All the while, you are surrounded by the imposing limestone cliffs, with vistas of Tymfi's peaks in your sightline. The air is filled with the sounds of chirping birds and buzzing insects. You pass beneath natural rock canopies and traverse thick forests where sunlight can scarcely penetrate. You remain alert, listening for the potential presence of a bear, and marvel at the renowned herbs and blossoms that change with the seasons. To grasp the richness of this environment, consider that the park has documented an impressive 186 distinct bird species and over 1,800 plant species within its borders. The classic route starts from the village of Monodendri and ends in the village of Vikos, or vice versa. However, there are various variations. We began our journey from the village of Megalo Papigo and ended in Monodendri, extending the duration but savoring the path amidst the imposing Astraka. The Stops In general, in Vikos, you can stop almost anywhere as there are many shaded spots. One of the most beautiful, however, is at the springs of the Voidomatis River, approximately 2 hours after Papigo (when you reach the riverbed, you will need to walk a short distance in the opposite direction). Here, the famous river gushes forth, and the locals will encourage you to drink directly from its bed, though swimming is prohibited within the National Park. If you undertake the journey before the first rains, this is the only point where you will encounter water. In case of rain, though, please exercise extra caution as the limestone rocks can be quite slippery. You will make a nice stop at the Klima Spring, roughly in the middle of the route, where there is also a fountain to fill your water bottles. Another great spot is the intersection with the Megalo Lakko Gorge, where you can take photos with the backdrop of the highest and narrowest point of the gorge. Myths and Stories Balsam herb for burns and wounds or crow herb for the heart: The Vikogiatri or Kompogiannites were the famous practical healers who were celebrated but also questioned in the 17th century. They traveled from village to village with their staff, selling their herbs to the locals, curing a variety of illnesses. They were not named Vikogiatri by chance. The herbs they sold came exclusively from the Vikos Gorge, which is a true treasure trove of medicinal herbs still used today in alternative medicine. Who is this for? The crossing is considered challenging because, although it does not involve technical difficulties, it includes several hours of hiking, which is not suitable for everyone, especially not for children. Do not underestimate it, as in case you decide to abandon it, there are not many exits from the gorge. Tips A great alternative route is to end up in the quieter village of Kapesovo instead of Monodendri. In this case, you will need approximately 1½ hours more. If you start from the village of Vikos instead of Papigo, calculate 1 hour less. In any case, follow the markings of the national trail O3, although your path is so clear that you are unlikely to get lost. At Mikro Papigo, you will find the information center for any information you need. Before or after the crossing, it is worth reaching the two viewpoints of the gorge, located at its narrowest point: Oxia after Monodendri and Beloi in Vradeto. Duration The route is 12 km long and takes about 7 hours, depending on walking pace and stops. From the altitude of 1,000 m where Papigo is located, you will need to descend to the bottom at 500 m and then climb back to 1,060 m, where Monodendri is located. Plan ahead for your return to your base as distances in Zagori are considerable.