Explore a part of the central Pindos mountains in northwest Greece, considered to be one of the most beautiful parts of the country!
The wild and rugged countryside of the central Pindos Mountains are just one part of the long highland backbone of mainland Greece. Stretching 230km, these mountain complexes, with their densely forested lower slopes and succession of bare or often rocky high peaks, range from Greece’s northern border with Albania all the way down to the southern Agrafa massif and the mountains of central Greece. The Pindos in turn are part of the much larger Dinaric Arch that passes through Greece, subsequently curving upward from Crete to reach the Western Taurus Mountains of Asia Minor.
The majestic mountains of the Pindos are as varied in structure, climate and vegetation as they are in human history, culture and gastronomy. Home to a tremendously varied flora and fauna with over 2,800 plant species, including many endemics, they are also the last real stronghold of the Brown Bear in Greece.
At the region’s core the National Park of Tzoumerka, Peristeri & Arachthos Gorge is recognised as a hotspot for butterflies in Greece. With about 157 species recorded there is still much to be learned in this vast and remote place. Its secrets are not given up lightly but the rewards for effort are great and the pleasure gained from the chances of seeing any one of three species of swallowtail is matched by the challenges involved in finding and distinguishing among 46 species of blues, coppers and hairstreaks or 20 species of skippers.
A visit here means that records of almost all observations are a real chance to contribute to conservation efforts in the region and as part of our tours all records are submitted to the relevant and recognised authorities and experts.
Three mountain ranges make up the National Park, which stretches out southwards from the town Metsovo to Vourgareli in the south. The town of Metsovo, which is the main town of the Vlach community, is a principal access route, via the Katara Pass (meaning the “cursed” pass), through the high Pindos Mountains and was used famously by the Romans as part of their legendary road, the via Egnatia, to link Italy with Byzantium in the East.
Our first base, Metsovo is situated at 1,160m (3,800 ft) and being surrounded by densely forested mountains and deep valleys it has an alpine feel. Here traditions are strongly reflected in style and architecture as well in their rightly famous cheeses and wine. Metsovo and the nearby Katara Pass are also the approximate dividing line between the mountains of the northern Pindos, dominated by serpentine rock with three of Greece’s highest mountains, and the mainly sedimentary limestone substrates of the central Pindos. To the south of Metsovo the rounded and dry limestone rocky massif of Peristeri (2,294m) contrast with the rugged beauty of Kakarditsa (2,429m), the highest mountain of the central Pindos, and the peaks of the Athamanika Mountains otherwise known as Tzoumerka (2,393m).
The countryside of the central Pindos is a network of rolling lines of mountain peaks and alpine pastures interrupted by rocky screes and imposing cliffs. Lushly vegetated gullies channel mountain rivulets that flow on down through fir-tree covered slopes into deep ravines. Cavernous gorges funnel spring-fed streams between precipitous slopes clothed with deciduous forests often with a Mediterranean feel and character. Two main rivers, the Arachthos and Acheloos, arise from the watersheds that encompass the region.
Here also perched on the steep mountain slopes are the villages of the “Tzoumerkochoria” and amongst the most picturesque is the stunning small village of Syrrako, which is our second base. Surrounded by towering mountains are the distinctive grand stone mansions of the village with their slate roofs and narrow cobbled alleyways. These are traditional Vlach villages and despite their remoteness the original inhabitants were famous previously as bankers and traders, both in woollen products and silver and gold (the founder of the Bulgari company originates from here). The stonemasons of the region also perfected the construction of magnificent stone arched bridges that grace the countryside and are a continuing source of wonder and elegant but functional beauty.
Nowadays one thing that is absolutely guaranteed in these remote surroundings is good food and the satisfaction of a true natural history adventure of discovery.