Proudly lending its name to the Vikos-Aoos National Park, the Aoos Canyon is yet another stunning gorge cutting through the Pindos mountains. Rising scarps, a rushing stream, and a picturesque monastery create a wonderful and easily accessible hike best experienced as a daytrip from Ioannina.
Created by the relentless power of the Aoos river (Vjosë in Albanian), the Aoos Canyon is further testament to the striking beauty and natural diversity of northern Greece’s Pindos mountains.
Beyond the arching silhouette of Konitsa Bridge, the river gently flows along verdant riverbanks before the forested slopes slowly rise to dizzying heights and transform into sheer cliffsides, menacingly looming over the trail. Massive boulders, littering the stream, and the pebbly remains of landslides bear witness to a land still being shaped by the primordial forces of nature, despite the beginnings of its transformation almost two million years ago. As the path slowly snakes up towards the iron gates of the monastery, the views vanish briefly before reappearing in full force.
What the gorge might lack in epic mountain vistas (although you can spot Gamila from the valley floor!) and alpine solitude, it more than compensates with serenity and blissfulness. Whether you float down the refreshing waters of Aoos or simply unwind on the river’s shaded banks, the Aoos Canyon is the perfect destination for a hot summer day.
This hiking guide has all the necessary info to visit the gorge independently from Ioannina, including how to get there and back, when to go, and more.
How to get there and back from Ioannina
In stark contrast to any other hike in the national park, the Aoos Canyon is extremely accessible. Simply catch a direct bus from Ioannina to the village of Konitsa, and head over to Konitsa Bridge, located at the entrance of the gorge.
Since the bus station is located at the top of the hill, tell the driver to drop you off shortly after you exit the highway, leaving you much closer to the trailhead.
Buses run twice a day (on weekdays) from the main bus station in Ioannina and take roughly an hour to reach Konitsa. Be aware that there are no buses going to Konitsa on the weekend though.
Tickets cost 6,20€ as of June 2022.
Bus schedule June 2022 (Check out the latest schedule here):
Ioannina-Konitsa: Mo-Fr | 5:45 | 13:30
Konitsa-Ioannina: Mo-Fr | 7:30 | 15:15
Taking the early bus will give you plenty of time to do the hike + relax at the monastery/in the gorge before catching the afternoon bus. Alternatively, you could opt for the 13:30 bus, however that would entail hitchhiking back to Ioannina.
Keep in mind that Konitsa bus station is situated at the top of the hill roughly two kilometres away from the bridge, hence factor in the time needed to reach it on your way back.
THE STOMIOU MONASTERY
Before trail and river diverge, you will reach the gates of the Stomiou monastery. Constructed on a forested outcrop overlooking the rushing stream below, it is wonderfully serene, an ideal place to rest your weary legs after the short but rather steep ascent to the sanctuary and to enjoy captivating views of the gorge and the surrounding mountains.
The inner confines of the monastery may also be entered, revealing a gorgeous little courtyard flanked by arcades, shrines, and chapels, one of which is dedicated to the saint Paisios of Mount Athos, who died in 1994 and was only canonized in 2015, rendering him one of the “youngest” saints in Orthodox Christendom!
Women visiting the monastery will have to cover their legs and shoulders though (there are skirts for free use at the entrance to the inner courtyard).
The monks also offer loukoumi a traditional Greek sweet for free, so make sure to try it!
WHEN TO GO
Spring (Mar-May)| Although accessible throughout the year, it is adviced to wait for the snow to melt before hiking in the Aoos Canyon. Temperatures will be pleasant, and the forest will bloom in full force.
Summer (Jun-Sep) | Obviously the hottest months of the year (expect 30-40°C throughout the summer), however, due to the early buses you will actually avoid most of the heat on your way up to the monastery. It is also the ideal period to plunge into the cool waters of the Aoos river.
Fall | By far the best season for hiking in the Pindos mountains. As soon as the trees change their colours, the national park transforms into an autumnal inferno that shouldn’t be missed. Temperatures for hiking will also be perfect (10-20°C).
WHAT TO BRING
Gear | I always recommend wearing robust footwear, however, of all the hikes in the Vikos-Aoos National Park this is the one that doesn’t really require proper hiking boots. Beside the short ascent to the monastery, the rest of the trail is mostly comprised of flat earthen paths and concrete sections, making sneakers and other less sturdy shoes a viable option.
Food | Although there are a couple of smaller shops in Konitsa, keep in mind that you will arrive very early in the morning and that they won’t be open yet. Therefore, already buy your snacks a day prior in Ioannina.
Water | Even on a hot summer day, 1-1½ litres will be plenty. There are springs next to Konitsa Bridge, roughly half-way through the trek, and at the monastery. The water from the river is clean and can be drunk, as well.
Sun protection | While the trail will be entirely in the shade on your way to the monastery (since you’ll start to hike at around 7am), most of it will be exposed to the sun on your way back to Konitsa. Especially during the summer months, the canyon will heat up immensely so make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen.