Forest and Aoos river at the valley of Valia Calda in northern Greece.

© dinosmichail/Shutterstock

Northern Pindos National Park


North of Ioannina, this large protected area includes the Vikos-Aoös region around the plunging Vikos Gorge, and the Valia Kalda forest north of Metsovo. Consistent across the nearly 200,000 hectares are pristine rivers and forests, flowering meadows, and shimmering lakes. Almost one-third of Greece’s flora (some endemic) lives here, along with native fish, foxes and chamois, rare hawks, otters and bears. Greece's second-highest peak, Mt Smolikas (2637m), is on the remote north side, a destination for backcountry hikers.

The park is hardly devoid of people. Within the boundaries are many villages, including the Zagorohoria, and resident Vlach and Sarakatsani shepherds still take their flocks up to high grazing ground in summer, returning to the valleys in autumn. There are information centres at Zagorohoria, Metsovo and on the road to the park.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Epiros attractions

1. Beloï Viewpoint

6.84 MILES

All the views of Vikos Gorge are stunning, but this one might be the best. It's reached from outside the village of Vradeto. You must park and walk about…

2. Plakida Bridge

7.37 MILES

A stone-paved trail leads down from the roadside parking area to this stone bridge, one of the prettiest in the Zagori region and a rarity in its triple…

3. Oxya Viewpoint

7.44 MILES

North of Monodendri, a narrow road leads to this cliffside lookout into the depths of the Vikos Gorge. En route, you pass through the Petrino Dasos (Stone…

4. Kokkori Bridge

7.84 MILES

Set between two sheer cliffs below the village of Koukouli, this is one of the most picturesque of the Zagorohoria's stone bridges. It was first built in…

5. Moni Agia Paraskevi

7.87 MILES

From near the lower plateia in Monodendri, by Hotel Arktouros, a stone path leads about 1km to this small, now-disused monastery perched on the edge of…

6. Rizarios Exhibition Centre


This cultural centre is housed in a renovated mansion. The exhibits focus on Zagorohoria history and culture, with excellent photography. Coffee-table…

7. Agios Vlasios

9.35 MILES

The most striking of Papingo's churches is Agios Vlasios (1852) with its separate 15m-high hexagonal bell tower (1887).

8. Vikos Gorge

9.64 MILES

The Voïdomatis ('Good Water' in its Slavic roots) River, a tributary of the Aoös, carved the 12km-long, 900m-deep Vikos Gorge over millions of years. Per…