Way off the beaten path, isolated by the Pindus Mountains, the Epirus region of northwestern Greece is 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.
The Vikos Gorge cuts a deep swath (by some account’s the world’s deepest) 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.
Forty-five sleepy stone villages, with their cobbled streets and arched-stone bridges, known collectively as the Zagori, tuck into the surrounding slopes and valleys. Cobbled roads between the villages make for easy-moderate hiking.
The nearest major town is Ioannina, about 18 miles away. From Ioannina, 6-8 hours is plenty of time to gaze upon the natural splendor of the Vikos gorge and explore a few villages of the Zagori.
To hike the gorge, good physical condition and some experience is crucial. Descent and ascent are very steep and climbing up and over large rocks may be necessary on the gorge floor.