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The Vikos Gorge - Aoos Gorge - Zagori Villages Page 1

nature in the areaThe Vikos-Aoos National Park, established in 1975, encompasses both the Vikos gorge and the spectacular Aoos River canyon to the north. There have been struggles to keep dams, teleferiques, and ski centers out of here.

Trekking companies, however, have been coming here since the early 1980s, beginning with French and British firms, which has resulted in available food and lodging in every nearby village since then.

From mid-July through August, however, without advance room reservations, you'd do well to have a tent with you on your trek, and even during the year, weekends and three-day holidays can bring enough visitors to fill up the rooms closest to the gorge.

A little farther away can't hurt, though, since the villages at a little distance from the gorge will prove less touristic and cheaper too.

The trekking possibilities in the Zagoria area in general is superb, with the high Drakolimni Lake in a saddle of Mt. Gamila, and the beautiful arched stone bridges built during the 19th century by itinerant craftsmen.

There are also some monasteries here and there, including the 13th century Molivdoskepastou and the 18th century Stomiou.

The Vikos gorge (and the Zagoria in general) is very close to the border with Albania and is the only place where land crossing is possible, at Kakavia, with a bus that comes from Patras and passes through here, headed for Tirana. The gorge is still the main refugee trail for impoverished Albanians heading south to find work. During the summer of 1996, a series of earthquakes damaged some of the newer buildings in the town of Konitsa, a little to the north.

Konitsa is the starting point for many long treks in the area; to the east of this town is an old stone packhorse bridge over the Aoos River. The bus ride from Konitsa to the rail head at Kozani is among the most picturesque in all of Greece. On this route, the village of Pendalofos was the headquarters of the British Mission to the Greek Resistance during WWII.

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