Pindus Horseshoe | Greece, 2001

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Vikos Gorge

Distance:  36 miles (58km) – including sidetrips to Gamlia 1 and Astraka.

Avg.Time :  3 or 4 days

Start / Finish :

Season : May to October

Maps / Info :

  • The hike takes place in the Pindus mountains of northern Greece, just south of the border with Albania.
  • Trekking in Greece (Lonely Planet Guides – 1993) – An oldie but a goodie. Also out of print, but occasionally you can pickup second-hand copies on Amazon. The basic map and trekking notes should suffice from a navigational perspective.

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  • The Mountains of Greece: Trekking in the Pindhos Mountains (Cicerone Press, 2010) – A much more current option. I haven’t personally seen this guide, but in some twenty plus years of regularly using Cicerone trekking guides, I’ve yet to have a bad experience. If I was hiking in the Pindus mountains again, I’d take a combo of this book and the 1:50,000 Zagori map.

Pindos Mountains, Greece, 2001

Route / Conditions :

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  • For the most part, the interconnected trails which make up this trek are easy to follow. Take a compass, consult your map/notes regularly and never miss an opportunity to confirm directional choices with friendly locals.
  • Visually stunning from start to finish. Highlights include the dramatic Vikos gorge, jagged limestone peaks, majestic lakes and alpine meadows filled with wildflowers (May and June).

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  • Water is not a problem. I chose not to treat water taken direct from springs or sources situated above grazing areas. In lower, more trafficked sections (such as the Vikos Gorge itself), it would be wise to purify/filter.

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Sleeping :

  • Accomodation is available in the beautiful stone villages of Mikro Papingo (not to be missed) and Tsepelovo. There is also a mountain hut at Astraka col.
  • Although officially illegal, “wild” camping is possible along the route so long as discretion and no trace principles are practiced. There are some classic spots overlooking Dragon lake.

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Overview :

  • Natural wonders combine with centuries old stone villages, monasteries and fairy-tale like Zagorian bridges, to make the Pindus Horseshoe a memorable fusion of the natural, historical and cultural elements. Highly recommended.

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A Memorable Night in a Little Stone Village

Mikro Papigo is a beautiful stone village situated in the Pindos Mountains of Northern Greece. After a memorable first day’s hike through the Vikos Gorge (the world’s deepest), I arrived late afternoon, greeted by a picture-perfect rainbow.

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Mikro Papigo

I wandered into the village and headed straight for a hole-in-the-wall restaurant/tavern, the name of which I can’t recall. Not long after sitting down, I struck up a conversation with a gay couple from Germany over a few beers. We shared numerous funny stories about the colourful night life scene in Berlin.

After a while, the girls and I were joined by a Greek husband and wife, who upon overhearing our conversation and having spent quite a bit of time in Germany themselves, pulled up a couple of chairs and our international group became five.

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Downtown Mikro Papigo

Many more beers and quite a few Ouzos later, we eventually said our goodbyes. It was around this time that it occurred to me that in the process of the night’s festivities I had forgotten all about finding accommodation. Not to worry; I knew where I needed to go.

I made a beeline for the centuries old village church of Agioi Taxiarches, where I lay down my mat in the vestibule (see photo below), slipped into my sleeping bag and drifted off to the land of nod.

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Agioi Taxiarches Church

Postscript: I was awoken the next morning by a middle-aged Greek lady, who upon spotting a stranger sleeping in the local church, had come to the conclusion that I was down on my luck foreigner who couldn’t afford accommodation. As a result of her semi-accurate supposition, I was brought a breakfast of yoghurt, olives, bread and one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had!

Home sweet home; the vestibule of the Agioi Taxiarches church.

 

 

 

 

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