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Mountains
Vikos-Aoos National Park
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Vikos-Aoos National Park is located in the northern part of the prefecture of Ioannina, covering an area of 120,000 acres. It is a unique place where a rare and fragile ecosystem coexists in harmony with the traditional architecture of Zagori.

The National Park was established in 1973 in order to protect the natural landscape. This area is part of the European network NATURA 2000 and the European Geoparks Network. The area is bounded by the Vikos Gorge at the West and Aoos river at the East. In the center stands the mountain Timfi. Within the park are located 4 famous villages of the Zagori : Monodendri, Vikos, Mikro and Megalo Papigo.

 

Geomorphology

The Vikos-Aoos National Park is characterized by intense relief with high peaks, canyons and gorges with intense erosion, cliffs, sinkholes and rock shelters that compose a unique Geopark with international reputation. Major rivers of the area are Aoos, Voidomatis, Bardas and Zagoritikos.

Vikos Gorge is the most famous attraction of the National Park. The gorge is located at the core of the National Park and it is 20 km long. Its characteristic feature is its depth, where in many places exceeds 1,000 meters. The seasonal springs of Voidomatis  river are crossing the last part of the gorge. The ecosystem of the gorge created a favorable environment for habitation by prehistoric man. The recesses in the rocks, caves and rock shelters along the river were safe havens. The excavations revealed several findings that reveal the lifestyle and living conditions that existed during the Paleolithic era. During recent history, a unique set of infrastructure was built that includes stone bridges, cobbled streets, paths and stone villages.

The weathering and erosion of the carbonate rocks of the National Park created a large number of impressive geosites that among the Vikos Gorge include the Aoos gorge, the fonts of Papigo, the caves and the alpine lakes of mount Timfi, the Stone Forest and the rockshelter of Asprochaliko.

 

Ecosystem

The alpine landscape of the National Park is a shelter for rare wildlife species and for rare endemic species of flora.

Regarding the flora of the park, at low altitudes (400-750 m) are spread mainly various types of scrub, followed by oak (750-1000 meters) and coniferous forests consist of pine and fir for the next 1,000 meters. Finally, at elevations above 2,000 meters, exist the subalpine-alpine meadows with grasses and low shrubs. On the banks of the river grow trees, willows and alders. The National Park hosts 5 endemic species unique in the world, 19 endemic species unique to the country and more than 250 species among the medicinal plants.

The vast landscape of the park with a great variety of vegetation is a major habitat of fauna representatives. At the lakes of the park are identified several species of amphibians, reptiles and aquatic birds.  9 species of fish with dominant species the trout are swimming into the rivers of the park. Regarding the terrestrial environment, low altitudes are dominated by reptiles. At higher altitudes, biodiversity is very intense with the presence of large and small mammals (bears, wild boars, wild cats, etc.) and birds (woodpeckers, grouse, eagles, vultures, etc).

 

Traditional Villages

The human element in the National Park is in full harmony with the natural landscape. The 4 settlements (Monodendri, Vikos, Mikro and Megalo Papigo), located within the boundaries and marked by the traditional architecture of Epirus, have remained unchanged over time. Other monuments of great interest are the 7 arched bridges, mills, monasteries and footpaths.

 

Tourist Attractions

In the last years, ecotourism has been promoted  into a significant economic section of the National Park. The location is ideal for trekking in one of the numerous trails, for river sports (rafting, kayaking, etc) in one of the rivers that cross the Park, for climbing the steep slopes of the canyons and for exploring some of the caves of mount Timfi.