Activities in Zagori and the Epirus Coast
As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Zagori and the Epirus Coast, here's our pick of things to do.
How active do you want to be on holiday? Do you want to stroll down into the Vikos Gorge or embark on an eight-hour hike into the alpine Pindhos mountains? Spend a quiet morning foraging or ride a whitewater rollercoaster over Grave IV rapids? Barely touched by modernity and blessed with beautiful scenery and rivers, Zagori demands to be explored, and the abundance of landscapes provides an adventure playground for all ages. Ancient footpaths are abundant in an area that didn’t get a road until the 1950s. Narrow gorges are brilliant for canyoning and azure rivers are ideal for rafting, with sections suitable for childred aged over seven.
We’ve found the special walks, the best rafting and canyoning providers, the horse-riding operator who treks into mountains, even an ecologist who reveals hidden corners of the region while foraging for mushrooms. Whether your idea of a holiday is lazy days or high energy, you’ll find it here.
Dragon Lake, Zagori, Greece
A few shepherds still guide flocks up to the rich pasture above Mikro Papigo in early summer. Mostly, though, it’s walkers who make the eight-hour return hike to Dragon Lake. Go through the village and left to locate the “03” track that ascends beneath the Astraka Towers, looking like a Mount Rushmore they never carved. Potable fountains are en route. You’ll crest at the Astraka Refuge hostel, then descend left into beautiful alpine meadows cupped in the mountains. Keep an eye open for chamois, which have returned to the rich grazing as shepherds have declined in number. Continue uphill to the lake. It’s fringed by snow until high summer and, yes, there are dragons. You’ll know them better as newts. 17km/8hr return
Vikos Gorge, Zagori, Greece
You’ve seen it from above. Now climb down into the Unesco-listed Vikos Gorge, the world’s deepest (1,000m) in proportion to its width. Park at the church in Monodendri and follow a white limestone track into the gorge, carved by the Voidomatis river over a half a million years. It’s deeper still if you continue left on a shady path for 30 minutes. The route tracks eventually to Vikos – you’ll beed to arrange return transport via your hotel if go you the entire way. 1hr 20min return to gorge, 15km/6hr to Vikos
Voidomatis Springs, near Vikos, Zagori, Greece
Scenery, culture, activity: this short walk ticks many boxes. From the end of the road near Vikos, you descend into the Vikos Gorge looking like a lost world of thick forest and sheer walls of limestone. Take a left switch-back beside a walking sign after 20 minutes. You’ll drop downhill to the Chapel of Pangaea with frescos in its chapel. It’s a Christian appropriation of a more ancient religious site – probably a place of pagan fertility rights inspired by the swollen rock like a pregnant belly which bulges into the Voidomatis river nearby – a good, if chilly, place to swim. The spring that bubbles into the river here is potable. 40min return
Mushroom foraging, Zagori, Greece
On paper you join these half-day tours to forage for chanterelle and porcini mushrooms. Yet their appeal is also to reveal those beautiful woodlands of Zagori that otherwise go overlooked at the same time as you learn about local ecology from Greek-Canadian ecologist Vassily Katsoupas, a former consultant to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – slow travel at its best. Premium mushroom months are April-June and September-early November.
Trekking Hellas, Zagori, Greece
As well as six-day guided trekking trips, this operator runs rafting trips on the Arachthos and Voidomatis rivers (minimum six people and four people respectively). Trips down the Voidomatis stop at the 16th-century Agion Anargiron monastery.
Alpine Zone, Zagori, Greece
Alpine Zone offers a full programme of Zagori activities, including rafting on the Voidomatis and Arachthos rivers for up to two days and canyoning. Other activities include winter skiing and paragliding. Bear in mind that many activities are minimum four, so couples may have to combine.
Horse-riding, Megalo Papigo, Greece
Zagori has a long, illustrious history of pony (or at least donkey) trekking. Indeed until the mid 1950s, only bridleways linked the villages to the world outside. Riding gently through its beautiful woodlands and tiny hamlets, the only sounds those of clopping hoooves and birdsong, is a superb way to discover the sensational scenery, flora and fauna. Its stables in west Zagori, White Pegasus runs a variety of trail rides, led by English-speaking owner Dafni. Options include hour-long meadow rides beneath the Astraka Towers that are open to beginners and young children and a half- or full-day mountain adventures.
For nearby places to eat, and local places of interest and low impact activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Zagori and the Epirus Coast