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Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Vikos Aoos National Park: Greece's Wild and Beautiful Backcountry - Page 2

Written by Michael Heins
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Arriving after a long ferry ride from the island of Naxos, I dashed through Athens, and hopped on the intercity train that heads north toward some of the greatest natural wonders found in this mythic land.

The hike takes approximately a couple of hours depending on one’s physical abilities and speed. The Refuge is set on a saddle above a glacier-carved lake basin, a setting reminiscent of the Montana Rockies. On my second day, starting early in the morning, I hiked up to the Refuge and spent about an hour staring at the stark beauty of the glacier cirque below. The combination of the wind, wildflowers, open space, rugged peaks and stillness gave this backcountry a sense of unforgettable beauty, tranquility, and inner peace, the reason so many long for the solitude of the wilderness.

I was so absorbed in the beauty of this land that only the feel of rain against my face awoke me from my trance. Within 10 minutes of my return to the inn the surrounding peaks were covered in misty clouds and a violent thunder exploded over the craggy peaks. The storm was brief and as it started to break up, the clouds lowered and surrounded the giant sentinel-like mountains, a scene of majestic, mythic beauty. I could almost see Zeus standing tall above the peaks with thunderbolts in both hands.

One of the many things that drew me to this enchanting landscape was the fact that this was one of the last homes in Europe for brown bears, lynx, and wolves, as well as other species, including roe deer, wild boar, chamois, eagles and vultures. Just the thought that these animals still exist in this remnant wilderness took me back in time when my Greek ancestors walked, lived and hunted in these ancient mountains. While I was at the park I could feel and sense the history that stretches back to the time when the valiant Greeks fought against the invading German armies, to the days of Byzantium, and on back to the mysterious Bronze Age. To walk in one of Greece's last remaining wild areas gave me a sense of my roots that I have never felt hiking anywhere in North America.

On my last morning, in the park, I awoke to a spectacular sight: the mountains were covered in a mantle of snow. It was such a beautiful scene with the village of Megalo in the foreground that I felt like staying another five days, but I had a ferry to catch to Italy and, with regret, I left the park.

Photo by Onno Zweers
Photo by Onno Zweers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I highly recommend a visit to Vikos Aoos National Park, it is truly one of Greece's national treasures. Even for non-hikers, the beauty around the village is enough to make Papingo a worthwhile destination. Local lodging is very reasonable and quite comfortable, and the lodge's tavern offers excellent Greek cuisine and some tasty local yogurt and honey. To make arrangements for the inn or the mountain refuge call the inn at Megalo Papingo (26530/41-257 or 26530/41-892)

Bring a pair of sturdy boots for the uneven cobblestone paths of the village and pack a canteen, rainwear, compass and first aid kit for the backcountry. Because the park is so close to the Albanian border one is unable to obtain topographical maps while there, but I would suggest going to a map store before leaving home to get any topographical maps of that area, if available.

For further information on the Vikos-Aoos National Park check out these three web sites:

Villages of the Land Behind the Mountains, Zagoria, Greece" http://www.great-adventures.com/destinations/greece/zagoria.html

The Zagorohoria Villages & the Vikos-Aoos National Park and Greece Zagoria/ Pindus Mountains http://www.ekoltravel.com/greece/GreekMaps/htmlgr/zagorimap.htm

or http://www.greecetravel.com/hiking/vikos.html

©Michael Heins

(Page 2 of 2)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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