Vikos - Aoos
UNESCO Global Geopark
The Vikos-Aoos Geopark is located in the Region of Epirus. It covers an area of 1,200 km² in the Municipalities of Zagori and Konitsa and includes 62 village settlements whose population mainly engages in tourism, agriculture, farming and forestry. The landscape is dominated by the gorges of Vikos and Aoos, the mountains of the North Pindos range, especially Mt. Timfi (alt. 2,497 m.) and Mt. Smolikas (alt. 2,637 m.), and the rivers Aoos, Voidomatis and Sarantaporos.
The geological history of the Geopark begins 200 million years ago, in the early Jurassic period. Sedimentary (limestone, dolomite, flysch) and igneous (magmatic) rocks comprise the geological structure of the area. Rapid uplifts, neotectonic activity, and climatic changes have caused intense erosion of the geological substratum and shaped the landscape as it stands today.
The geologically enthralling, rare and beautiful 51 Geotopes of the Geopark, which comprise seven categories (springs, tectonic structures [faults - folds], river terraces, rock shelters, panoramic view spots, karstic and glacial forms) are representative formations of the events of the region's geological history.
The Geopark has rich, dense forests, shrubs, sub-alpine grasslands and heavily rocky areas, while the two Drakolimni lakes (dragon lakes) -and the associated myths- lend rare beauty to the wild, mountainous landscape. More than 2,000 plant species grow in the Geopark, including many rare and several endemic ones. The wild fauna is varied and very noteworthy and includes chamois, bears, wolves, otters, golden eagles and Egyptian vultures.
The human geography of the Vikos-Aoos Geopark is distinguished by its particular cultural identity, and over time has made its mark in a great number of monuments from all historical eras and many buildings of particular architectural value, which led to the designation of 34 of the settlements as "traditional".
The cultural heritage of the region also includes religious monuments, such as temples dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries within and outside settlements, and monasteries at remote and inaccessible locations, such as those of Spiliotissa, Rogovo and Soudena in Zagori, and Stomio, Molista, Molivdoskepasti and Kladormi in Konitsa. An integral part of the region's architectural profile and an excellent showcase of the pre-industrial technology of Epirote craftsmen, which reached its apogee in the 18th-19th centuries, are the many well-preserved arched stone bridges, such as those of Plakida and Kokorou at Zagori, and Aoos and Mavri Petra at Konitsa.
Several mountaineering and hiking routes lead to the peaks of Mt. Smolikas, Mt. Timfi and other mountains in the region. Old paths, bridges and stone stairways lead the visitor to landscapes of incomparable beauty, via marked paths that connect the villages. There are many mountain roads suitable for mountain-biking, and there is a take-off track for paragliding enthusiasts.
The Geopark is traversed by a considerable part of the major hiking route of the Epirus region (the Epirus Trail) (the Epirus Trail: www.epirustrail.gr) and is where the internationally known "Zagori Mountain Running" race is held. The gorges of Aoos and Vikos are of inexhaustible touring and scientific interest, while the rivers Aoos and Voidomatis are suitable for water-sport activities, such as rafting and kayaking. The water and stream thermal springs of the Geopark offer visitors an opportunity to relax.
The geopark also attracts climbers and caving enthusiasts -300 cave chasms have been recorded-, studiers of the wild flora, birdwatchers and those interested in other wild fauna. As regards geo-tourism, the ten geo-routes and the five thematic/interpretative routes of the Geopark are of particular interest.
Almost all settlements in the Geopark offer hospitality options for lodging and eating. In the summer season there operate three refuges for mountaineers.
For more information visit: vikosaoosgeopark.com