Greece: The Vikos Gorge
Stone villages and mountainsBack to Routes
The stunning Vikos Gorge
Ioannina - the seat of Ali Pasha
Add a visit to Corfu Old Town for rest and relaxation
Festivities in Vitsa
Thursday 18th July | Posted by On Foot Staffview article
We loved the traditional culture of this whole area. The scenery and walks were outstanding in their beauty - totally breathtaking.
The guest house stops en route were unbelievably good - we especially enjoyed our stays in Kapesovo and Papingo, where our hosts and accommodation were truly spectacular. Joanna in Kapesovo was an amazing cook.
Patricia Webster, Brentwood, UK - August 2019
Zagori and the Vikos Gorge is an amazing place, and a very special part of Greece. We would highly recommend this walk as it's a very unique experience.
We had some excellent meals, with beautiful local produce, and loved meeting the local people including a local landscape photographer. As a fellow walker said to us, "it's Greece how it used to be." Thank you.
Kerryn Wood, Victoria, Australia - June 2019
We loved all of Zagoria - especially that the locals seemed proud of their area and wanted to share it with us. The taxi driver from Ioannina was knowledgeable and stopped by a bridge so that we could take photos. He explained a lot of the history and monuments on the journey.
Also, the lady in the upper cafe in the village square in Kapesovo proudly showed us the well inside her cafe and explained its history. The scenery was stunning. We felt very cared for and welcomed throughout.
Bob and Sheila Harrison, Birmingham, UK - September 2018
We enjoyed that each of the hikes got progressively harder and longer - it was a good build up.
We really enjoyed all the meals that were included and that we never had to worry about our luggage as it was transported to the next stop.
Joanna Jackowski, Toronto, Canada - July 2018
The flora/fauna diversity of the Zagori was absolutely stunning, especially at the time of our visit in early June.
We thought it would be good, and the reality was just fantastic.
Richard Gill, Aberlady, UK - May 2017
We loved our trip and it exceeded our expectations. We loved the hiking and the guest-houses and hosts.
Thank you for opening our eyes to a beautiful part of Greece we never would have discovered on our own. The hiking was beautiful and just right, and we loved the little traditional villages. Thank you for your great organisation and attention to detail.
Peter Roodhuyzen, California, USA - May 2017
At a glance
6 nights. Extra nights in any accommodation and a night in Ioannina, plus nights in Corfu for rest and relaxation recommended. Itinerary can be adjusted to suit flights and transfers.
How much walking?
Full days: 10-15km per day, 3½-6½ hrs walking.
Using shortening options: Only available in Papingo, where you can choose your walking to suit.
Stone villages and the dramatic Vikos gorge
This walk concentrates on the jewel in the crown of northern Greece – mountainous Zagori (also known as Zagoria), famed for its traditional stone villages and the “deepest gorge in the world”.
Transfer from Ioannina (a historic lakeside town, and the ancient seat of Ali Pasha – fit a night in here if you have time) to Zagori, a very different landscape and culture. These mountain villages of Epirus are fiercely protective of their way of life and heritage, which you can sample in friendly accommodation in the On Foot Holidays style. The walking is second-to-none in this region, and bearing in mind the drama of the scenery, surprisingly doable. The Vikos Gorge is a must for walkers of all persuasions, while the walk to the Astraka refuge takes you high into the Alpine zone.
Walked by On Foot staff: Simon and Mary
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to Greece, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
COVID-19 SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: Please read our summary of current regulations.
- Zagori and its unspoilt stone villages
- The walk to the Dragon Lake
- The Vikos Gorge (all 12km and 900m deep of it)
- Overnighting in a refuge at 2000m (optional!)
- Ioannina, Ali Pasha’s seat, and its dramatic lake (add-on)
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Mountains, Villages and farms, Birdwatching, Drive to route, History
Consider nights in Corfu at either end of the walk, or stop off for a night in Ioannina, an underestimated, lively Greek city with a beautiful old quarter and dramatic lakeside setting. Spend extra days at Papingo just relaxing, and doing some short local walks.
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: Only available in Papingo, where you can choose your walking to suit.
Medium-hard: Good paths, though signage often poor, so careful attention to our written route directions required; steep ascents and descents. Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 790m per day (500m-1030m), 1430m if walking to Dragon Lake. Highest point on route: 2,000m.
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: May, June, July, September
Other possible months: August, October
While we can offer this from the beginning of May, the best time to go is in June and July, when the foliage is still fresh. Mid-July can be a problem with the Zagori mountain races taking most available accommodation (please avoid 23-26 July 2021 and 22-25 July 2022). August and early September can be hot, and you may be able to catch autumn foliage in late October. Early May and October walkers will not be able to stay at the refuge, nor (possibly) walk up to it or to the Dragon Lake because of lying snow (early May).
Use the calendar below to see in more detail the best times to walk.
Please note: date ranges shown are for a ‘normal’ year. While Covid-19 restrictions remain, please contact us to discuss your plans and availability.
Weather and rainfall chart for Ioannina
Day 1 - Arrive in Kapesovo
Arrive in Kapesovo after a transfer from Ioannina, and settle in at Joanna's lovely merchant house. Have a look around the quiet old stone village, maybe pay a visit to Elli's craft shop and look forward to a good dinner and a sound sleep.
Day 2 - The Beloi circuit
For your first Zagori walk, a magnificent climb up the Vradehto steps will cause you to marvel at the engineering skills of 19th century Greeks, even while under the control (relatively benign in these parts) of their Ottoman overlords. It’s a tough climb but easy underfoot, and leads you to the quiet village of Vradehto (church, plane tree, taverna and all). From there a well trodden path winds over to Beloi, where your first real view of the Vikos Gorge is obtained. (Easy-medium: 3½ hrs, 10km, CUSs 500m)
Day 3 - Kapesovo to Monodendri
Your second Zagori walk takes you down from the village of Kapesovo, along a narrow woodland path (steep and scrambly at times), to the first river bridge just below Kipi. From here an easy path leads you up to the Koukouli, where you can refresh yourself at the taverna, before descending to the upper end of the Vikos gorge – just a taster here of what is to come. The final stretch is up the “Vitsa Steps” (steep and long, but will complete your training for the big day tomorrow) to the gorge-side village of Vitsa en route to Monodendri where you will rest for the night. (Medium: 4½ hrs, 11km, CUSs 530m). Alternatives: Ask your hosts for a lift with the luggage (we suggest a €5 tip but it is not obligatory) to the bridge at Kipi.
Day 4 - The Vikos Gorge
This is a real highlight of your walk, and the drama will be unforgettable. Descend the Monodendri steps to the bottom of the gorge. From then it is a delightful and lengthy valley bottom walk on a well-used path, with opportunities for bathing in season, before exiting at the extraordinary river eruption at the Voidhomatis Springs (another swim?). Then the sting in the tail – a climb up to your next overnight stop in the village of Papingo. (Hard: 6½ hrs, 17km, CUSs 700m). Alternatives: None – except to ride with the luggage.
Day 5 - Papingo to the Astraka Refuge and the Dragon Lake
Your climax after the Gorge consists of a major 1000m ascent on an excellent path up to the Astraka refuge where, if you have remembered your toothbrush and sleeping bag liner, you can opt to stay (dorms, book ahead before setting off to be on the safe side, €17 plus board, pay locally, no refund for missed night at Papingo), or return to Papingo for the night. It’s a 9 hour walking day if you include the Dragon Lake and return to Papingo, so staying at the refuge is more relaxing. (Hard: 4 hrs, 7 km, CUSs 1030m to refuge, 2½ hrs, 6 km, CUSs 350m to Dragon Lake and back, 2½ hrs descent to Papingo). Alternatives: Try our optional shorter walk, or just stay and relax around the pool; or wander up to the swimming ponds above Papingo to cool off.
Day 6 - Short walks to explore Papingo
Papingo has so much to explore. Armed with Frances Annear’s book ‘Exploring Papingo’ of local walks based around Mikro and Megalo Papingo, you’ll be sure to get the very best out of an extra night (or two) here.
Your taxi will meet you at your Papingo accommodation and take you back to Ioannina for your onward travel.
ARRIVING BY AIR
Corfu is the best airport with the most flights, though Preveza is a good but seasonal option. Ioannina is the nearest airport to Zagori (Vikos Gorge) and has two daily flights from Athens only. Intercontinental connections via Athens (or other European hubs) to Ioannina.
Land by: (for direct mainland transfers)
11:00 for bus Igoumenitsa-Ioannina + final leg taxi to Kapesovo (13:00 if overnighting in Ioannina).
14:00 for taxi transfer direct Igoumenitsa-Ioannina or Kapesovo.
Return flight earliest: (for direct mainland transfers) – depends on start point and mode of transport: 16:00
No time limits if overnighting in Corfu.
PREVEZA and IOANNINA AIRPORTS:
Taxi transfers only, so no time limits.
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “Getting to the start of the walk” below for transfer information.
ARRIVING BY TRAIN OR BUS
Neither Corfu nor Zagori are accessible by train.
The Greek bus network is comprehensive and excellent value. Comfortable long-distance buses connect Corfu (via Igoumenitsa), Ioannina (for Zagori/Vikos), Athens, and even Thessaloniki. Contact us for more information.
ARRIVING BY CAR
For the adventurous, drive down through Albania – alternatively ferry from Brindisi to Igoumenitsa. Park in Kapesovo on edge of village (own risk, quiet). Taxi back at end included. Save cost of initial taxi from Ioannina.
Getting to the start of the walk
A taxi into Corfu town or to the port (for direct Zagori transfers) takes ten minutes.
Ferries from Corfu town to Igoumenitsa (mainland) daily, approx every 90 minutes, take 90 mins – 2 hrs. Tickets locally €10 (€15 return) per person, car €40.
Public bus Igoumenitsa to Ioannina (1½ hrs – €10) then taxi to Kapesovo (45 mins – prebooked and included), and return taxi Papingo to Ioannina (1 hr – prebooked and included).
OR: Pre-bookable taxis: Igoumenitsa to Zagori (Kapesovo) 1½ hrs, Papingo to Igoumenitsa 2½ hrs
PREVEZA and IOANNINA AIRPORTS:
Taxi transfers only to Zagori:
Preveza to Zagori (Kapesovo) – c. 2 hrs
Zagori (Papingo) to Preveza – c. 2½ hrs
Ioannina to Zagori (Kapesovo) – 50 mins
Zagori (Papingo) to Ioannina – 1 hr
Note: This route is also suitable for self-drive (car hire from Corfu, Preveza or Athens).
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
A lovely range of accommodation. Really personal experiences in Zagori – Joanna and her family will look after you well at Kapesovo in their merchant’s house. At Papingo stay with Vasili and Angelique in the friendliest of houses (Saxonis), or upgrade to an architectural gem of a restored collection of houses (Avragonio – Konstantinos’ father Petros is an architect).
Kapesovo – Guest House Thoukididis (dinner, B&B)
Wonderful recreation of a Zagori merchant's house.Website
Monodendri – Vikos Hotel (B&B)
Zagorian hospitality in a traditional stone house in the centre of Monodendri.Website
Papingo – Avragonio (B&B)
Gorgeous range of traditional restored houses in dramatic setting.Website
Consider nights in Corfu for rest and relaxation. We have two lovely hotels in the heart of the old town that we can book for you – Hotel Bella Venezia (below left) and the Hotel Siorra Vittoria (below right). Contact On Foot for prices.
Ioannina, the ancient seat of Ali Pasha, is also worthy of at least a night’s stay. Hotel Metropolis (below) in the city centre is a modern hotel with a warm welcome. Contact On Foot for prices.
Total 6 nights in double/twin room, all breakfasts, 3 picnics and 2 evening meals, taxis between Ioannina town/bus station/airport and Kapesovo/Papingo, luggage transfers; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £195
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £205
Large Party Saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £25 per person
Maximum party size: 10
Extra nights in any hotel: Contact On Foot (seasonal pricing)
Night(s) in Corfu: Contact On Foot (seasonal pricing)
Night(s) in Ioannina: Contact On Foot (seasonal pricing)
Further night(s) in Papingo: Contact On Foot (seasonal pricing)
Taxis between Igoumenitsa and Vikos (to replace taxis to/from Ioannina and public buses): Supplement from £105 per taxi (Igoumenitsa – Kapesovo), £105 (Papingo-Igoumenitsa). Prices shown for 1-3 pers. Other routes on application.
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK: £10-£40 (per pack, location dependent)
Guiding by Geo Zagori in Vikos area (priced per group): From £105 per day (1-8 pers.) for first two days. For full Vikos area guiding prices contact On Foot Holidays.
Our local team
Pavlos was born in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece. Currently he splits his time between the Halkidiki Peninsula during the summer season and Thessaloniki during the wintertime.
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