The Land of Arced Bridges
George Papadellis | SG Head
Panagiotis Papadellis | SG Team
In the slopes of mountain Pindos, a little further from Ioannina, the historical, political, cultural, educational and economic capital of Epirus [headquarters of the notorious Ottoman Ali Pasas (1744-1822)], some very special Greeks had "nested". They developed a civilization of their own, based on the safety of the inaccessibility of the area, and further of the independence they had secured from the Ottomans. Forty-six villages hanging on the slopes of Pindos, among the mountains Mitsikeli and Tymfi (Gamila), became well known as Zagori (from Za and Gora, which in Slavic means behind the mountain) or Zagorochoria. A unique tough landscape of wild beauty, protected from UNESCO, which makes you speechless from the first moment. The rocky surroundings, which nature and time structured for years, cannot be imitated. The special residents, “fermented” from their early ages in freedom, had been familiarized with wild animals and had tamed their fears. The place full of single-arced and multi-arced bridges, water-mills, stone-trails, and rivers, as Aoos and Voidomatis, lakes as that of the mountain Tymfi above Papingo, the Drakolimni (Dragon Lake) (2½ hours trekking), which tell myths and endless stories.
Here, the mind travels to caravans of merchants who transferred people and products of the area and supplies for the residents from other areas. Difficult to approach slopes above the Vikos Gorge, that was awarded the Guinness prize for the narrowest and highest opening in the world. The wild flora of 1.750 herbs that have been recorded and the inaccessibility of the area have made it possible for many residents of the Vikos valley to exploit their abilities, for more than two centuries, in sorting and collecting them to cope with illnesses. These practical doctors, who ended up being medical consultants of the Ottoman Sultans, were named vikodoctors. It is being assumed that a vikodoctor was healing the wounds with mold long before the invention of penicillin from Fleming. It is also guessed that much of their knowledge comes from Egypt and many other foreign areas, which were wandered by traveling doctors wearing strange outfits (long hats, etc.) who used passphrases they had invented.
This inventive nation that climbed on the eagle nests of Pindos, goes back in time thinking of the future. They enlivened and they still enliven all wreckages of urbanization, of civil war and of the lack of past living and infrastructure conditions. They make them, respecting the value of their cultural heritage, into a unique residential environment, well hidden in a wonderful nature, being protected with passion and delivered to the whole world as a sign of respect to tradition, protection of the natural and architectural environment and realized sustainable consciousness.
Zagori is an area in northwestern Greece, on the mountain chain of Pindos, with very low population density, which consists of 46 villages widely known as Zagorochoria or Zagorohoria that used to be historically connected to each other by arched stone bridges built mainly by expatriate benefactors. The area, of incomparable natural beauty, has the form of a triangle, with Aoos River as a north border line, the city of Ioannina as the south point of the triangle, Mount Mitsikeli as the south-western side and Varda River as the south-eastern side. Zagori Greece hosts parts of two National Parks, the National Park of Vikos-Aoos (with the Aoos River and the Vikos Gorge) and the National Park of Pindos or Valia Kalda (with Mountain Tymphe and its Dragon Lake), and more than 160 arched bridges built of local stone by local excellent craftsmen during the 18th and the 19th century, many still standing, with the most well preserved being the Plakidas bridge.
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Zagori is split into 5 sub-zones. The Central Zagori Zone (hosting the villages: Agios Minas, Ano Pedina, Aristi, Asprangeli, Dikorfo, Dilofo, Dipotamo, Elafotopos, Elati, Kato Pedina, Manassis, Mesovouni, Monodendri, Vikos and Vitsa), the Eastern Zagori Zone (hosting the villages: Agia Paraskevi, Anthrakitis, Demati, Doliani, Flambourari, Greveniti, Elatochori, Itea, Kavallari, Karyes, Kastanonas, Makrino, Petra, Potamia and Tristeno), the Papingo Zone, the Tymfi Zone (hosting the villages: Frangades, Kapesovo, Kipoi, Koukouli, Laista, Leptokarya, Negades, Skamneli and Tsepelovo) and the Vovousa Zone.
The area of Zagori Greece has evidence of human presence from 15.000 to 8.000 BC, mainly found in the Cave of Kleidi. In antiquity, Zagori belonged to the Kingdom of the Molossians, whose capital was Molossi, a city close to the modern city of Konitsa, in the junction of the rivers Aoos, Sarantaporos and Voidomatis. This Kingdom was created from Molossus, who was the son of Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus (son of Achilles) and Andromache (wife of Troy’s Hector), and a famous Molossian was Olympias, Alexander the Great’s mother. Later, in the Hellenistic times, the area was ruled by King Pyrrhus, a descendant of Neoptolemus, who led several expeditions against the Romans in Italy.
In the early Byzantine period, Zagori was a passage of Slavs, to whom it owes its name. From 1204 to 1337, the area belonged to the Epirus Despotate, in 1348 it was acquired by the Serbians and in 1430 it was acquired by the Ottomans who established a local autonomy. The economy flourished thanks to expatriates of Constantinople, Romania, Russia and Ukraine, and prosperity allowed the building of many schools like the Common School of Greek Studies built in Monodendri by Manthos and Georgios Rizaris. Zagori was finally liberated from the Ottomans in 1913 during the Balkan Wars and later was the shield against the Italian attack in 1940. The area suffered also during the 2nd World War and the villages were temporarily abandoned during the Civil War of 1946-1949.
Our Hotel Proposals
Aristi Mountain Resort is a proud member of the "National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World", with numerous distinctions and awards for its infrastructure and services. The hotel is composed of a number of separate buildings, which contain rooms, suites and autonomous villas offering the best in luxury and comfort. The resort also provides a spa with an indoor heated pool facing the surrounding mountains.
Mikro Papingo 1700
Mikro Papingo 1700 Hotel & Spa Mikro consists of 15 rooms and suites and a uniquely designed spa. While developing mild in space at different levels, it rightfully claims the title of the most beautiful “balcony” in the Vikos Gorge and in the settlements of small and big Papingo. A destination famous for its architecture and ecological beauty, an oasis of tranquility and good taste.
The Pirrion Boutique Hotel's basic idea is that all services provided (warmth, fun, safety, library) and everything produced (breakfast, sweets, food, selected wine) must reflect the family business’ values. The hotel offers superior double rooms, junior suites and family suites, most with a fireplace, yoga sessions, massage treatments, and a genuine Greek traditional cuisine.
Zagori Suites is a retreat into the luxurious elegance. Located in Vitsa, at the center of Zagori, next to Vikos Gorge and the beautiful river of Voidomatis, is open all year round, winter and summer, perfect for couples, families and groups of friends who seek an elegant and comfortable stay. The hotel offers suites, villas, chalets and local culinary experiences.