Vikos Gorge- A hidden paradise 

Paloma and team ‘our leap of faith’ are way off the beaten tourist path, isolated by the Pindos Mountains, the Epirus region of northwestern Greece we are in one of the least populated places in Europe.

 Ecosystems of exceptional diversity include thick old-growth forests, pure lakes and rivers and a number of endangered species, some found nowhere else, also the promises of bears and wolves highten the sense of anticipation …


To reach our destination we left Kastoria and headed out on the E90, one of the quietest and most senic mountain passes you could ever hope for…..


A drivers paradise with tight hairpins on the way up and long sweeping bends as you descend ….


As we neared out destination the turns got tighter and hills got steeper…..

The road leading to a lookout had a sign saying “Forest of Stone, and as we reached near to the top we could see why as the landscape changed to interesting rock formations and trees growing amongst them.


Through the Forest we followed the signs to the Oxia look out and walked down the short pathway to have our first and one of the most amazing view of the gorge. 


What also amazed and excited me was the lack of real barriers on the edge of steep cliffs, they had built a small stone wall along part of it, but in other places the path was very close to a drop off that would have given you little chance of survival.


We overnighted in the small mountain village Mondendri,  at an altitude of 1,060m and with very little inhabitants it gives the feel of an isolated mountain village.


Monodentri as a village has been around since 1753. Before then it used to be a community consisting of three neighborhoods: Vitsa, Ano Machalas and Agios Georgios. 
During the 17th and 18th centuries, some local benefactors took charge of some important constructions that remain today.


These buildings  included churches, schools and manors, which contributed to the village decoration and provide the current visitors with some special attractions, such as the monastery of Prophet Elias and the churches of Agios Athanasios, Agios Georgios and Agios Minas. 


More impressively even the new builds are built of matching local stone, making it near impossible to tell the recent from the historic……

Up with first light, we took the craggy path down into the basin of the gorge, minding our step on the crumbling cliffs. 


The initial part of the walk was through a wonderful Beech forest on paths that whilst quite steep were not too difficult. Once at the bottom the path ran alongside the dry river bed.

The Vikos Gorge cuts a deep swath through this pristine wilderness, offering magnificent views and, for the fit and experienced, exhilarating hiking. The gorge stretches about 12 miles between the villages of Monodendri and Vikos.


Back at the village and after another set of spectacular views we headed for the gravity-defying cliff-face monastery of Agia Paraskev.



The now abandoned monastery was founded in 1413 and consists of a small stone-built chapel, the oldest preserved in Zagori, and offers panoramic, jaw dropping views from its terrace across the  gorge.


Paul.

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