Our first plan was to go north and pass by Nestorio and Konitsa. However, the weather was not propitious as a heavy snowfall made the passage not feasible. So, we moved towards Kozani in order to follow the highway that goes to Ioannina via the Egnatia Street.
The all-night snowfall carried on until the next morning. Fortunately, in the southern part of Greece people are adapted to these weather conditions and as a result, the greater roads were opened all day long without having any problem in their passage. Wondrous.
Suddenly, after Metsovo, when everything was all white, we passed through a tunnel and when we got out of it everything was green. This is a common phenomenon for the area because we passed by the back side of the mountain where the weather was not propitious enough for the snow to remain in its first condition. Thus, the snow was converted into rain.
We went through Kalpkaki after we had taken the regional road that leads to Ioannina. Our last destination was to go to Papigko via Aristi village. Due to the high traffic from and towards Albany’s border, you need to be careful; there are a lot of juggernauts in the street and lorries coming out of factories as the largest part of the area is an industrial one.
We turned left after Kalpaki village and we started to disappear gradually in the rambling cliffs of Zagori and the mount Tymfi. Once we left from the national street of Ioannina – Konitsa we reached, in 15 minutes, the first village called Aristi. Aristi is a village of majestic beauty which is characterized by both the architectural style of Zagori and the paving of its square that is distinguishing. The square of the village is a traditional square which is overlaid by plane trees and not only is located around the church but also the village’s central street passes through it.
We continued our road trip by turning left towards Papigko. The road declines slowly and meets the river Vidomatis which gives the town a wonderful sound. Vidomatis crosses Vikos which is one of the deepest canyons in the world and its depth is 90 metres. Also, Vidomatis is characterized as one of the finest rivers in Europe and this is confirmed by every gulp you drink from the area’s water fountains. In the spot where Vidomatis and the street meet there is located one of the most beautiful bridges as far as its location is concerned through which you can cross the river. In this area there is a controversy about the side the bridge belongs to. So, the residents of Aristi claim that the bridge is Aristi’s bridge whereas the residents of Papigko claim that the bridge is Papigko’s bridge. The most right thing to claim though is that the bridge should be called Vidomati’s bridge as Elli from Sterna said. The place is ideal to go diving, relax and have a picnic. You get amazed not only by the sound of the streaming water but also by the colours of the sky and the trees that are reflected on the river’s water.
The road goes upwards and leads to one of the most enjoyable passageways of the area. The passageway is a “serpentine” one and the bends are close enough to each other to go across this particular hillside. When you reach the hilliside’s top and watch the beautiful scenery of Papigko is a moment when you feel being like home. The idiosyncratic top of the mount Tymfi is called “Astraka” and it majestically dominates above the Small Papigko making the landscape look fantastic. The road trip to Papigko lasts about 2 minutes and overall it lasts 40 minutes from Kalpaki and the National Street. In 2km you reach the Small Papigko where the road ends and there are pathways through which you can enjoy every top of the mount Tymfi, the shelter, the top Astraka, Drakolimni; this tour lasts 2 to 4.5-5 hours. We arrived there, the moment when a heavy snowfall had already begun. After the “serpentine” passage the snow started to be apparent on the street’s surface. We finally reached Papigko when everything had been white and the sun had set.
The next day the passage was not an easy one to go through due to the snowfall, so we relaxed at Small Papigko. The scenery was dressed up in white so we had the opportunity to relax and organize better our road trip of the next days.There are a lot of excursion opportunities offered in this area as well as villages to visit, food to eat and be near nature. We were surprised by the streaming water’s crystal sound and its light taste which even though quenches you at the same time it makes you want to drink more. The good thing is that you see signs that advice you to drink streaming water and not bottled water.
The following days we toured the villages of Zagori, Ano Pedina, Vitsa, Monodendri, Kapesovo, Dilofo, Kipoi. The village we distinguished was Kapesovo that has an amazing view as it holds the largest height. The view from Kapesovo village towards the sunset and the mountains is incredible.We had the luck to view Zagori during the winter period when everything is snowy and serene. At that period of time Zagori is not crowded and most of the shops are closed. Moreover, in the winter, the residents organize themselves for the tourist season that starts in Spring and lasts until Autumn. They complete their accumulated tasks as far as the public services are concerned which are located in Ioannina. Also, they come up with ideas of what other things to do in the summer season. Everyone was active, joyfull and hospitable and even though there was serenity in the area they were willing to tell us where to go and what to see. Even though each one considered his/her village the most beautiful, each village is unique and offers by itself its own treasure of things and monuments to see.
Therefore, the period May-September is an ideal one to visit Zagorohoria because you will be able to see and enjoy every landscape and do all kind of activities you wish; however, this does not mean that the winter period is not a good option to visit Zahorohoria. Actually, at that period of time you will relax and you will get to know better the permanent residents who will make you feel like home. They will narrate stories about the area and you will enjoy drinking the most tasteful tsipouro in order to get warm because the temperature does not exceed - 4˚C. The weather conditions contributed to change our plan and our route. However, we will come back in spring or summer to transmit you the beauty not only of that period of time but also of the villages that we could not visit during the winter period.
After spending four days in Zagori we had to get back to Athens. We took the highway of Ioannina and Patras which was a better and more convenient route to follow.
Starting point: Kastoria
Arrival point: Papigko
Distance: via Egnatia's street 225 km
Where to eat: in Astra (Papigko), Dias and Papigko Towers in Small Papigko, in Thukidides (Kapesovo), eat sweets and have a coffee absolutely in Sterna (Papigko and Kapesovo). Also, there are some other significant taverns but we did not have the chance to try their dishes.
Where to stay: Choose to stay in one of the traditional accommodations. We chose to stay in Avragonio's settlement in Big Papigko which is distinctive of its traditional architectonic style and its tradition's persistence as well as of its unique view in Astraka's top.
What is worth seeing and doing: the Bridge of Vradetos, Kolybithres, Hiking towards the tops and in Drakolimni, diving into Voidomati's cold waters, rafting in potaki, the crossing of Vikos, visiting small and big Papigko, Aristi, Kipoi, Vikos, Monodendri, Ano Pedina.
We liked: The route from the villages towards Zagori, Astraka's tops, Voidomatis, all the bridges, crossing the bridge after Aristi and going to the final destination of Papigko is a stunning view, the three-arc bridge in Kipous, the clear water, Ovires-Rogovou (Kolybithres), the beautiful coffehouse "Sterna" in Papigko, the wine (Zitsa), the food, the people, the options to be close to nature, hiking into the canyon, pathways towards the tops, Drakolimni, Rafting, Horse-riding, Cycling, the air and both the mountain's sounds and the river's sounds at night.
We did not like: We would like the places to be more crowded and lively because most of the villages were abandoned and the shops were closed.
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