We made a weekly excursion to see some of the sights of the beautiful Epirus areas in Tzoumerka and Zagorochoria. Of course, a week in Tzoumerka and Zagorochoria is what you need to get a small, we emphasize, a small taste of 2 unique in Greece mountain destinations of Epirus and in a large part of the prefecture of Ioannina. We have renewed and we hope to keep our appointment for next spring when the waterfalls and rivers will be in their glory in both areas.
Before arriving in Tzoumerka or Zagori we would suggest you make the following rest stops when you have already entered Continent. We visited the list of destinations on the first day of the trip, except for the cave of Perama which you will find shortly after Ioannina, coming from the bridge to Rio-Antirio and is geographically classified from south to north.
Sights and stops before Ioannina (or shortly after)
- Lake Ziros, just beautiful. Everything you need for a dive or SUP if the weather is good.
- Roman aqueduct of Nikopolis with the river Louros at your feet.
- Louros Sources (Βουλιάστα). Do not miss it, the colors are unique.
- Ancient theater of Dodoni (archeological site, 8 euros entrance)
- Perama Cave (In Perama, next to Ioannina, 7 euros entrance, every half hour). Shocking, if you go through there, whether you go there or come, it is worth a thousand.
First day and arrival in Tzoumerka
We started from Athens 8 in the morning and after stuck for about half an hour on Attiki Odos, we passed Elefsina and Isthmus to enter Olympia Odos for good. Perfect road, many and expensive tolls until we reach Charilaos Trikoupis bridge (Rio Antirrio) in which we paid another 13,5 euros. Then, we enter directly on the Ionian road which has been completed to Ioannina. In total, the tolls from Athens to Ioannina are about 40 euros, but the road is blowing, they say. But before we get there, we decided to rest and enjoy the first 4 attractions mentioned in the list above.
Coming out of the 4th, the ancient theater of Dodoni that is, the hunger had hit red and after we contacted the first accommodation we were offered to eat in the village of Koutselio in the tavern Zagorisios. Fine food and just before nightfall we set off for Tzoumerka. First destination is the village of Kalentzi and the guesthouse Rodami which we arrived at night of course. Perfect room-apartment, breakfast quite rich and our host perfectly informed about the area. He gave us enough tips to spend our whole day starting with them waterfalls of Klifki.
The tour there starts over Arachthos gorge with impeccable views of the mountains and the river that crosses them. We saw them rafting and we were quite jealous is the truth. It is worth going down to the big waterfall (300 meters altitude difference from the point where you will leave the car) and if the conditions allow you to reach the bank of Arachthos, walk right on the rocks and discover the pedestals and the end of the stream with another small waterfall, on the river Arachthos.
At the bridge of Plaka
Leaving Klifki, on the way to our final destination for the day in Syrrako, we passed the most impressive Plaka bridge. In case you didn't know, the old bridge (1800+) completely collapsed in 2015 but fortunately in 2020 its reconstruction was completed.
The "asprila" of the new stone makes a bang from afar, of course, but we have no complaints, after all, the previous old bridge we say, was built on the foundations of an older one that had also collapsed. The river Arachthos does not seem to be joking! Cross the bridge and climb the slope, it has a nice view to Tzoumerka (Athamanika Mountains)!
Continuing the road to the final destination of the day, we said Syrrako, pass by the village of Agnanta, admire the mountain range of Stroggoula and reach just outside the village Masons and we stop it Anemotrypa cave. Be sure to visit it, the guide Manolis does a good job while the coffee on top is perfect for plowing under the fir trees while listening traditional Epirotika with clarinets and buying spruce honey and other perfect herbs for all uses.
The cave is amazing and from time to time the guide Mr. Manolis told us that the visitable area will be extended to the underground river, which until now we only heard without seeing. It should be quite impressive and we want to go again just for that. Do not miss the sleeping bats that suck on the roof of the cave.
Pramanta and arrival in Syrrako
Shortly after the cave of Anemotripa we arrived in Kefalochori Pramanta which is also the largest village of northern Tzoumerka. There it is worth visiting the big square with the plane tree, to eat in the butza tavern of Butza (delicious galotyri and veal in the hull) and to have coffee in Hayati with the sought after music and the beautiful wooden benches. After Pramanta we reached Melissourgou, but we did not go down to the village because it was getting dark, but we sat a little outside the picturesque red chapel of Kosmas of Etolos, who had taught in 1797 in Pramanta square!
At night we almost started the long way to Syrrako which while it reaches you low to the level of the Kalarrytikos river, then raises you up to 1200 meters where the village is located. Be careful on the road because it has:
- several large stones fell from the vertical cliffs on the side of the road
- many frogs (unknown why they are at such a high altitude)
- night owls, a big owl scratched us, not that he does not know where he is going but the driver may be scared
- and the most important: wild boars!!! He passed us in front, fortunately not very close to the car, mom wild boar with 4 wild boars from behind.
And then we got to beautiful Syrrako. The night we arrived, of course, we were badly impressed by the big white lights of the square, they do not match at all with such a beautiful and traditional village.
Second day in Tzoumerka
We woke up and after breakfast we started the walks all over Syrrako, It is worth to reach the highest point to enjoy the view of the village and the slopes opposite. Do not miss as you leave to relax opposite Syrrako, on the bench to enjoy the architecture of the houses and the gorge to the left of the village. There is also a path that connects Syrrako with Kalarrytes but we did not manage to do it, mainly to have an excuse to go again :)
Holy Monastery of Kipina and path Kuiasa Pouliana.
Next stop was the historic one Holy monastery of Kipina. Apart from its historical and religious interest, the Kipina Monastery is famous for being built on a vertical rock with the monks' cells and the small reception lounge literally hanging in space. Enter the monastery and ask to open all the places to visit if they are not open to see the kitchen with the crypt, the cells of the monks with the living room and the cave. We were lucky because we arrived with a guest bus and the manager there opened all the places to visit. As soon as the bus left, they closed the premises and there was no one. I wanted to buy a souvenir and there was no one to pay, I do not know if it is so in general but we were impressed.
Just before the next destination, which was the village of Kalarrytes, and a few kilometers after Holy Monastery of Kipina, be sure to go to the path with the strange name: Kuyasa Pouliana! It also has a stone bridge, be careful because it has no natural protection and is quite high above the river. Continue to the small but enchanting path to see the first waterfall (which starts from too high and let it not be seen) where the cafe is, and continue for another 5-10 minutes walk to the second waterfall (photo exactly below) with the large pedestal for swimming and swimming (we were jealous that it was not summer to dive).
Unique and huge irregularity the generator of the cafeteria in the area that causes noise but also a bad smell from the burning oil. It is really questionable how you can go to an area of infinite natural beauty and instead of listening to the waterfall and smelling nature, listen to the generator and smell oil! Of course we did not sit down for coffee or anything else. The bad thing is that we wanted to stop somewhere nearby but we finally left "running" (Oct 2021 this, I hope in the future something will change)
In the unique Kalarrytes
Final destination for the day, in terms of attractions, the village Καλαρρύτες which became famous as a unique quality silversmith center and silversmith nursery. We walked it all the way and enjoyed the unique view of its picturesque houses, the gorge and the mountains of Tzoumerka, until finally our hunger paid off and we ended up just above its beautiful and picturesque square, in its grocery-cafe-tavern NapoleonThe Acanthus.
There, along with the food, we drank the nicest red wine I have ever tasted, which as Mr. Napoleon Zaglis told us, comes from Zitsa, Ioannina (we drank red Zitsa wine in other taverns but while it was nice it was not enough nothing the quality of Napoleon).
We also fed the big red cat of the village and took the streets by car to reach the accommodation we had booked and which was located in the remote… Gardens in central Zagori.
The mountain road crossing Baros, from Tzoumerka to Zagorochoria!
Luckily we had caught the conversation in Syrrako during the morning, with a couple who suggested that we follow the mountain route and not return from the Pramanta (is the route usually suggested). This route is known as Baros passage and is the second highest, purely asphalt, road route in Greece (Oct. 2021). Beautiful and wild mountainous alpine landscapes, an impressive peak, several crows on the road, be careful not to be fooled by the driver, and a huge fir forest until you reach Anilio, just opposite the imposing Metsovo.
So, there, we took the Egnatia Odos and because it was night, we followed it until the exit for Ioannina and not for Zagorochoria because it has several turns and it is not the best night especially when you have driven from Kalarrytes. However, be careful in the weather because the Baros pass reaches 1,905 meters and in the north of Tzoumerka it is known that the snowfall is not a joke.
Sights in Zagorochoria, villages and bridges.
- First destination and one of the best Dilofo. We stayed at Dilofou Mansion (it is worth full) and ate at Stone, in this tavern to definitely eat! What we got was amazing, with good red wine in bulk. Definitely walk around the village, for a nice view.
- Village Gardens: We stayed in Mahalas. It was good but it did not have the breakfast it had at Dilofos Mansion. It was not bad though and you were full. In the Gardens I would suggest you go up to Church of Agios Nikolaos, of 1700+ with stunning views of the village and Pindos. Going to Gardens you will meet the 2 most famous stone bridges of the area, Noutsos or Kokkori (or Kokkorou, say it as you want, they will understand if you ask :) ) and the triangular Nun. It is worth stopping for photos in both. In addition, nearby, there is the bridge of Captain Arkoudas, Laskaridis and Pitsionis. All three are nice and especially Laskaridis is just before the Gardens. I think Pitsionis is after the Gardens and it is worth a visit while Captain Arkoudas a few kilometers before Kokkoros as you go from Dilofo to the Gardens.
- In this part of Zagori I would suggest a visit to Cocoon and its square, at Kapesovo (together with Mikro / Megalo Papigo and Dilofo is one of the 4 designated traditional / authentic villages of Zagori) and Tsepelovo (there we ate delicious walnuts in bulk from a walnut that "threw" them at that time). In Tsepelovo we were told about food either in what is in the square (the Little Bear) or in it just before you enter the village for ribs.
Skala Vradetou and position Beloi, view of the gorge of Vikos
- Shortly after Kapesovo there is a sign for the village of Vradeto. It is worth going there to see her at the beginning of the road Skala Vradetou on the opposite slope (stone steps on a vertical slope that connected until the 1970s (!) the village of Vradeto with Kapesovo and the rest of Zagori) as well as the view gorge of Vikos with the name Beloi. To get there is a bit difficult but it has the most beautiful view of the gorge we found stunning. From the beginning of the village of Vradeto, it has a 2,5 km walk, a bit on a gentle dirt road and most on a relatively straight path but with rocks that are a bit tiring (we did it at the end of the day so it seemed a bit). It's crazy worth it.
Vitsa, Monodendri and Oxia place for the gorge of Vikos
- Leaving this area, you go more centrally stopping at Ano Pedina (we did not go but we were told that it is nice, it has a monastery worth visiting, we have left it for next time). In the most central you will meet Vitsa, definitely a stop to see its square Kato Vitsa with the huge plane tree and the view of Ano Vitsa. After Vitsa is the Monodendri, the most touristic village of Zagori with a nice square. From there, on foot it is worth going to the monastery of Agia Paraskevi of the 14th century, with a nice view and handmade paintings.
- For food in our area they suggested "Sta riza" and "cinnamon and clove". They both said they were fine. However, it did not happen that we ate at someone so I do not have a personal opinion.
- From Monodendri, be sure to go by car to position Beech (less and easier walking compared to the place Beloi) with a very nice imposing view of the gorge of Vikos. To get there you pass by the "Stone Forest" with some special points and strange rocks.
Below Astraka: Vikos, Mikro and Megalo Papigo.
- We leave this area and go further north where we will visit the beautiful Excellent, walk it from the traffic light up to the perimeter and end up back in the small square. After Aristi either go to Papigo either to the village Βίκο. Be sure to go to Vikos, it has a wooden kiosk with a great view of the gorge (geographically it is directly opposite the Beloi Place) and find Mr. Kostas who has set tables on the plot next to the kiosk and is waiting for permission to start serving coffee and more . It also has a shop with traditional products. Vikos is a very small village so apart from the view it has nothing else I think but it is worth a visit.
- And then we start to Small and Big Papigo. Before the turns start, stop at Aristi bridge through which the Βοϊδομάτης. Amazingly icy, crystal clear and turquoise waters. I would suggest a walk along the river to the north (to the left, ie if you park berries to the river). It has a path in the plane trees which, if you find the point is not difficult, however, it becomes stone with an arch and a nice view of the river and the Astraka.
- The turns and the petals start from the bridge of Aristi, so it is better not to have eaten before the ascent to Megalo Papigo. In Megalo Papigo stop for a walk, it is as the name says, big, so it has different places from where you can see parts of the traditional settlement. We walked it all and it is worth it. Megalo Papigo is the most in village so it is very likely that you will see people who have run out of hair salon… Shops for super pies and gifts are “the Cistern”(Perfect vegetable pie and sweet rose), the Rogovo (the seller is a nice guy) and Pine (very young hangout, full of young people mainly, with huge green pies and other course that we did not have time to try). It will definitely have other shops but we did not manage to visit them. For food we were told the “AstraBut we did not happen to eat.
Under the epic Astraka: Small and Big Papigo
- And we close with my favorite Little Papigo. But before you arrive, it definitely has a stop at Ovires (it is on the road from Megalo to Mikro Papigo, you can also find them as Kolimbithres but the right one is Ovires). It needs attention because it has slippery rocks but we went all the way because before the beginning of October it did not have much water.
- In addition, before you reach the small Papigo and from several parts of the Big you will have the opportunity to see its imposing towers Astrakas. Mountains that with a little imagination look like dragon teeth (2400+ meters the highest peak). The Little Papigo is just below and the view as you go to the village but also walking it is breathtaking. In Mikro Papigo we stayed in the first hostel which is next to the first parking lot, the Papigo Towers. Nice, good breakfast but a little out of place and time with the music and the decoration of the breakfast / restaurant area. For coffee and a unique view of Pinocchio, outside if it is not cold of course. For food do not forget to go to Zeus. Perfect bean soup, sausage, metsovone and ribs, generally what we got was delicious.
- We even went twice. We sat outside with a stove because inside there was enough light and nothing special from decoration while outside in the yard it was very beautiful. In Mikro Papigo, walk to where the last houses reach to the right and not from where the hostel 2 is and the paths to Drakolimni. And of course to visit the beautiful church of the village. In closing, in Mikro Papigo you will find the information center of the area where the fully informed Costas can answer your questions and create new ones by proposing new attractions and routes. We went and talked with him for at least half an hour!
- If you have time to go to the old stone bridge Lock, is a bit off the road and we did not catch up now. I went 15 years ago though and they are beautiful as it goes unique Voidomatis under. It also has a beautiful path that takes you very close to the bridge of Aristi (1,5 hours walk) but from what we were told it is recommended for spring, summer and September. If we had 1-2 more days we would definitely do it anyway.