Where: Nr Ioannina, Greece/Albania border
Best Season: April – June for nature, July & August for hiking and festivals
Best Sights: Dragon Lake and the Vikos gorge, the largest in Europe
Watch Out For: Bring plenty of water, be careful not to become de-hydrated in the heat of summer
Where It’s At
Zagorohoria National Park, located north of Ioannina and close to the Albanian border, is one of the most beautiful and rich ecosystems in Europe. Consisting of 46 villages full of fascinating architecture and style, houses are built from local grey stone and wood. Back gardens, surrounded by thick walls for the heavy winters, are all wonderfully preserved to date. The villages are popular for their natural beauty, serenity, fresh air, and for their delicious local vegetable, meat and cheese pies, called ‘pittes’.
Zagorohoria National Park is a paradise for exploring nature, long distance walking and hiking. TheDragon Lake, or ‘Drakolimni’, according to tradition houses the dragons of the past. It takes a seven-hour walk to get there from the nearest village, Papigo, on an exhausting but at the same time fantastic route through the valleys. Trekkers have the chance to rest in the refuge for nice soup or an overnight stay before deciding whether to visit the lake or to climb Mount Gamilla for its breathtaking views. For the most courageous, we would suggest a swim in the cold waters of the Voidomatis River or a crossing of the Vikos Gorge, the biggest gorge in Europe.
When To Go
For the those who enjoy the picturesque, the best time to visit Zagorohoria is April to June, when you will have the chance to enjoy a splendid spectacle of wildflowers, leaves, trees andgreenery. The weather is still cold at that point and there might be a little bit of snow left.
For climbing, July and August will prove better as the snow is then completely gone. The scenery is still rewarding, and this time is better for getting to know the local culture and people, as August is the month when, at the festivals which abound at that time, you can get an impression of much of the traditional Greek food, dancing and music.
By Villy Ioannou