Greece's Zagori region is the mountain wonderland you've been craving, Adventure.com
In Greece, Holly Tuppen discovers an untouched playground where travelers are an essential drop in an ocean of biodiversity, mountain adventure, and centuries-old communities.
Moments of discovery have a way of creeping up when you’re least expecting them. Case in point: I’m in Greece, but I may as well be in the Andes, the Atlas Mountains, or the Himalayas.
The air is filled with tinkering cowbells, wafts of wood smoke, soft chatter from the village square, and a cool breeze that’s whistled along ice-cold rivers and echoic ravines to reach me. I never expected to find such wilderness in a country I thought I knew so well.
Most people visit Greece for a dose of laidback island life, but I’m here for towering peaks and deserted trails. Since weaving west 300 kilometers from Thessaloniki, there hasn’t been a platter of squid or quaint fishing boat in sight. Instead, road signs warn of bears, rusty pick-up trucks chug along carrying everything from beehives to precariously perched goats, and unending forest has replaced the ocean.
I’ve come to the Northern Pindos National Park where just 4,000 people populate 200,000 hectares of pristine mountains, rivers and forests. My base is Aristi Mountain Resort, a world’s-best, sustainably-minded lodge hovering above one of the Zagori region’s 46 carefully-preserved stone villages.
Breakfast comes with a view of one of nature’s most enchanted playgrounds. Astraka’s craggy peak looms and a dark slash in the forest reveals Vikos Gorge, a 20-kilometer long, 400-meter wide ravine (the world’s deepest according to the Guinness Book of Records).
Hairpin bends glimmer in the distance, winding up to the three Papigo hamlets where a smattering of stone cottages and family-run vineyards peter out into ancient trails. Trails that lead to some of Greece’s highest summits, the mysterious Drakolimni lake, and the translucent Voidomatis River. I’m at once fixated yet itchy to play.
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