Situated in Greece’s wild Epirus region, the Vikos-Aoos National Park is an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Still largely unknown, the Pindos mountains offer a wide variety of trails, from beginner treks to epic alpine affairs, serving all types of hikers and tastes. An incredibly underrated destination in the country’s far north.
While millions of sun worshippers swarm the country’s world-famous beaches annually, few forsake the warm waters of the Mediterranean and venture inland.
Those who do, will find a different Greece, however. A Greece of lofty heights and snow-capped summits. Of dim woods and blooming meadows. And of abyssal canyons cut into the perennial bedrock. Torrential streams rush through the depths of forested valleys, as ancient paths and earthen trails permeate the mountains and invite the intrepid to explore this remote land of rugged beauty.
Beyond the waves, Greece is more than just whitewashed dwellings and deckchairs filled with sunburned tourists. The Pindos mountains are a wanderer’s dream, an unbelievably uncharted hiking destination far off the beaten path.
Here are five incredible hikes to be found in Epirus’s Vikos-Aoos National Park.
Vikos Gorge is grand. It is extraordinary, and it is truly spectacular. Cutting through Greece’s Pindos mountains, the world’s deepest canyon relatively to its width is an impressive sight to behold. Yet despite this terrific accolade, for more than two and a half decades it has remained largely off the tourist trail.
Its relative seclusion and unspoiled state have created a unique biosphere, a sanctuary for bears, wolves, and eagles alike, and a habitat for hundreds of local plants and herbs.
Although Vikos can be visited throughout the year, fall trumps any other season. When the leaves change their colour and the gorge transforms into an autumnal dream, its beauty gets elevated to new heights. Go there in autumn because no other season compares.
A wonderful introduction to Epirus’ magical Zagori region.
FULL GUIDE | How to visit Vikos Gorge
DRAKOLIMNI | THE DRAGON LAKE
Set against an imposing mountain panorama, Drakolimni, the “Dragon Lake”, is an outstanding destination. Nestled in between verdant meadows and perpendicular cliffs, its location, at the quite literal edge of the Tymfi massif, couldn’t be more dramatic.
Far above the rushing torrents of the Aoos river, you might rest in silence as eagles proudly soar above the sky and chamois live out their suicidal tendencies on the mountain’s intimidating face, the scene spotlessly mirrored by the lakes still surface.
Add a thrilling tale of rivalling dragons and a sunset-accompanied descent, and you got yourself the perfect formula for a wonderful day out in the Pindos mountains.
FULL GUIDE | How to visit Epirus’ Dragon Lake
Of all the hikes one might embark on in the national park, none compares to Gamila. It is an epic journey across a rugged land of boulder-strewn meadows, rocky slopes, and along precipitous cliffsides, before arriving at lofty heights and wind-swept peaks. Where the ground drops to abysmal depths, your gaze will fall upon a sweeping world and your mind will roam freely and far.
Ascending Gamila is a true adventure, a mesmerising ode to getting off the beaten path, and quite simply the best way to experience the raw beauty of Greece’s untamed north.
Without a doubt, Tymfi’s highest summit will leave you speechless (and most likely breathless), trust me.
FULL GUIDE | Conquering Gamila
MEGAS LAKKOS GORGE
While most tourists flock to the various viewpoints celebrating the grandeur of Vikos Gorge, Megas Lakkos carves out a lonely existence in the shadow of its record-breaking cousin. Stretching from the enchanted woods of Vikos all the way to the verdant pastures of the Tymfi massif, Megas Lakkos shouldn’t be missed, however.
In many ways it is even more striking than Vikos. What the canyon might lack in sheer magnitude it more than compensates with roughness and solitude. As you ascend in the shadow of looming scarps, the imposing peaks of Tymfi slowly rise in front of you, before completely taking over the horizon.
It is an utterly magnificent sight.
FULL GUIDE | Hiking Megas Lakkos Gorge
Breaking through the mountains near the sizeable village of Konitsa, the Aoos Canyon is by far the easiest accessible hike on this list. Owing his name to the eponymous river emanating deep inside the national park, it is a simple yet beautiful trek and constitutes for a wonderful daytrip from Ioannina.
Commencing in the presence of the impressive Konitsa Bridge arching across shallow waters, the trail leads upstream, along the rushing torrents of the Aoos river and beneath the rising peaks of Tymfi, before terminating at the tranquil confines of the Stomiou monastery, constructed on a forested outcrop overlooking the gorge.
Since it is not advised to swim in Pamvotida Lake next to Ioannina (due to pollution), it is also the ideal place to cool down during the scorching summer months, offering absolute pristine spots to float in the translucent waters of the river and unwind amidst a brilliant mountain scenery.
FULL GUIDE | Aoos Canyon | A wonderful daytrip from Ioannina