The masterpiece of nature, Vikos Gorge, will cause you awe and you will admire the wild majestic scenery combined with the views that it offers. Vikos Gorge crosses the western and central Zagori starting at Vikos village and ending in the village Kipi
. The gorge has a length of 12 km and holds Guiness record
as the gorge with the smallest opening in the world – just 1.100 meters; and with a depth of over 900 meters.
The descent into the gorge is via trails which start from some villages such as Monodendri, Vitsa, Vikos, Mikro and Megalo Papigo. The view from some points like Vardeto village from Oxia place is magnificent.
It is actually a ravine in the bed of which Vikos River is flowing and in its end has its springs Voidomatis River. Vikos Gorge with Voidomatis River are at the heart of the National Park Vikos-Aoos. Vikos Gorge is one of the most popular tourists routes, lasting five hours for experienced teams, offering unique images.
– The Church of St. Athanasios dating from 1801 is located in the central square. The temple is of special architecture and it was restored at the expense of Rizari brothers. The church is basilica and features remarkable frescoes of the 19th century.
– A remarkable church is St. George of the 18th century with magnificent frescoes.
– The Holy Monastery of Agios Minas at the entrance of the cobbled path that leads to the heart of Monodendri. The monastery has magnificent art paintings made by painters Michael and his son Constantine in 1620. Thus the construction of the monastery is long before 1620. The iconostasis of the monastery is the most beautiful of Epirus and it was made in 1782.
– Over the Vikos Gorge, in a natural plateau is the monastery of Agia Paraskevi, perhaps one of the most beautiful monasteries in Greece. In 13th century some hermits living in caves found the image of St. Paraskevi in a hollow of a tree. According to tradition, when the residents took the picture in the village, the picture returned after a while to its original position.
According to an inscription found there, the monastery was built in 1412 by the voivode Michael Theriano, when his ill daughter got well, which was attributed to the miraculous icon of Agia Paraskevi. The monastery is a basilica and has excellent frescoes of the 14th and 16th century. Remarkable are the icon of the Virgin and Christ, works of the 17th century and Lontza, an independent wooden cell hanging over the Vikos Gorge and served as a hideout and as an emergency exit.
Agia Paraskevi is celebrated on July 26th and it is the cathedral of Monodendri. From there the view is outstanding and breathtaking.
– In the route Monodendri – Oxia you will find the monastery of Prophet Elias. It is built on the ruins of an older temple in 1632. In this monastery they learned their first letters Gennadios and Markos Botsaris.
The Ancient Settlement of Molossos: Between Vitsa and Monodenri in Genitsari, the ancient settlement of Molossos was discovered in 1965. It is dating between 9th and 4th century BC and includes the settlement and two cemeteries.
In the cemetery of the village they were found 26 tombs of the 8th to 4th century and 151 tombs of 9th-4th century BC. The offerings in the graves were knives, swords, guns and spearheads in the male graves, while in the women’s graves were found jewelry, necklaces, rings etc. In the graves were also found Attic and Corinthian vases of the 6th-4th BC century and bronze utensils.
The Stone Towers of Oxia: At the left of the village there are the stone towers of Oxia and side caves in the rocks of the canyon that were shelter residents during the Ottoman period.
The National Park of Vikos-Aoos: It is located in Zagori, on the north of Ioannina and at the northeast borders of the National Park of Pindos – Valia Calda. It is a protected site of natural heritage that was declared a National Park in 1973. The area is part of the European network of protected areas Natura 2000 and is distinguished by the changes in the scenery: dense wooded areas sequence steep cliffs.
Within the boundaries of the park are some of the most important villages of Zagoria such as Monodendri, Mikro and Megalo Papigo and Vikos. Around the park there are the villages Aristi, Vitsa, Agios Minas, Vradeto, Kapesovo and Vrisochori.
The Park has an area of 122.250 hectares of which 34.120 hectares is the main core. The area is steep with high peaks with the highest that of Gamila at 2.497 meters in Tymfi. There are five endemic species unique in the world. Impressive is also the collection of the naturalist Kostas Lazarides who has collected 1.240 different plant species representing 96 of the 149 plant families. The collection can be admired at the natural history museum in Koukouli.
The Park has a rich fauna which includes 10 species of amphibians as the rare alpine triton, 21 reptile species, 130 bird species such as the endangered black stork and the golden eagle and 24 species of mammals such as bears, boars, deers etc. Vikos-Aoos include a very rare and extremely sensitive ecosystem so it is not allowed any human activity, except for browsing and recreation.