Epirus occupies a vast area of incomparable natural beauty, filled with thick forests, alpine lakes created by Nature herself up on high mountain peaks, mountain valleys and plateaus, mountainous hiking refuges and hundreds of marked hiking trails that cross through much of the natural landscape. All the above–and more– make up the perfect circumstances for Epirus to be considered as a top-tier destination for hikers and lovers of outdoor activities in Greece.
If we were to be more specific, many certified routes which allow the visitor to explore the mountainous Epirus and its wild beauty have very recently been established and are adored by travellers. Two of those are the “Epirus Trail” and “Ursa Trail”, which extend from Konitsa in the far north all the way to Tzoumerka in the south: let us briefly take a look at both of these trails!
The Epirus Trail is the largest single hiking route in Greece, with a total distance of 370 km, crossing through old “kalderimia” streets that served as the primary routes for the transportation of the people of Epirus for centuries. It is divided into 3 parts, east, west and south, all with their fair share of highlights for the hiker. Some of those surprises are Konitsa, Aetomilitsa (the second most mountainous village in Greece), Vovousa in Zagorohoria, the picturesque town of Metsovo, the Monastery of Kipina, Syrrako and the Katarraktis mountain refuge. The route is fully and clearly marked and the Region of Epirus continues towards its full certification. Tip: Download the “Epirus Trail” free Android mobile app to navigate easily along the trails!
The “Bear” Ursa Trail is a 40 km mountainous route going around Metsovo, where the mountain running race “Sta Hnaria Tis Arkoudas” (meaning: on the tracks of the bear) is held every year in May. It was recently awarded with the “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe” certification from the European Hiking Federation. This route is divided into 4 parts and takes you to places such as the Anilio Ski Center and the lush green meadows of Politsoara.
Hiking in Epirus without adding a little Tzoumerka to your menu is unthinkable! Take a tour at the National Park of Tzoumerka, Peristeri & Arachthos Gorge and see why the land of the “Athamanians” is often thought to be the absolute epitome of mountain hiking. Many renowned paths cross the stone-built villages of endless beauty, such as Syrrako, Kalarrytes, Melissourgi and Pramanda. Ascend to the Stroggoula peak starting from the mountain refuge of Pramanda, explore the long riverside route of Arachthos called “Monopati Tis Vidras” (the path of the otter), soak on the sun at the large waterfall at the little village of Katarraktis and gaze at the stunning view from the highest peak of Tzoumerka, at 2,429m. Last but not least, at the end of March every year Arta holds the “Road of Giofiro” half marathon, which ends at the emblematic stone bridge of Arta.
A uniquely beautiful creation of nature and a site of attraction for every hiker and nature lover is undoubtedly the lush green valley in the Regional Unit of Ioannina called “Valia Calda” or – as it is officially called – Northern Pindos National Park. An ideal trailhead is the village of Vovousa or the Lake of Aoos Springs, located just a brief drive outside Metsovo. The ascent to the alpine “Drakolimnes” dragon lakes of Flenga and the crossing of Arkoudorema, the main affluent of river Aoos, should definitely not be missing from your hiking schedule in Valia Calda.
Another hiking route that you should definitely try is the crossing of the Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge on the planet in proportion to its width. Imagine a huge, overly impressive gorge, which “cuts” Mount Tymfi in right through and offers an astonishing view from Monodendri looking towards its southern end, to Mikro Papigo in the north. The waters of the “cleanest river in Europe”, Voidomatis, run along its base which you will have right next to you while crossing the gorge and the usual starting point is located in Monodendri, near which you will spot the “Thesi Oxia” observation point of the Vikos Gorge. The view from there is certain to take your breath away!
Did you know that..
– Legend has it that the two lakes of Flenga were formed by the tears of the dragon Lyngos, who shed tears when he found out that his dear friend Pindos was killed by his brothers.
– The name “Valia Calda” in the local “Vlahiki” dialect translates to “warm valley”. Indeed, the valley is surrounded by very dense vegetation.
– The “Athamanika Mountains” (an alternative name for Tzoumerka) took their name from the Athamanes, the ancient Greek race that lived in the southeastern parts of Epirus and Western Thessaly.