Day 2 was Christmas Eve and we woke up early and ready for adventure. Our destination for the day… Zagorohoria!
A little History
Zagorohoria’s historical significance can be experienced in its exquisite Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches. After the dismemberment of Byzantium by the Latin Crusaders in 1204, and the Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453, numerous important Greek families fled the capital for the mountain fastnesses of Epiros. The fortress-like Zagorohoria would safeguard Greek artistic and literary culture; churches in more vulnerable, low-lying parts of Greece suffered widespread damage from the Turks, who were particularly keen on gouging out the eyes of saints in frescoes.
However, the Ottomans also gave the region privileges and autonomy for guarding the mountain passes. This, together with the remittances and gifts sent from the large Epirot diaspora abroad, funded the creation of the matchless Zagori villages and their great churches, in whose lavish decorations we can appreciate what the holy shrines of Byzantium would have looked like in their prime.
The weather was a little moody with clouds and the constant threat of rain but to be honest it suited the landscape perfectly. The drive to our first destination was around 1 hour thought the mountains and some amazing panoramic views.
We arrived at the village of Monodendri. There we parked our car and made our way to the Convent of Saint Paraskevi. The Monastery of Saint Paraskevi is an abandoned monastery situated on the edge of Vikos Gorge. It was founded at 1413–1414, consists of a small stone-built chapel, the oldest preserved in Zagori, and offers panoramic views to the gorge of Vikos.
After some hiking around, we had a nice small pick nick overlooking those beautiful views we slowly made our way to our next destination but with some stops along the way.
Our first stop was the Papingo bridge where the Voidomati river flows underneath it. I was amazed by the beautiful turquoise the colour of the river. We took some lovely photos, accidentally got our shoes wet trying to get the perfect shot and then we were back in the car and heading towards our next stop.
Papingo Rock Pools
Papingo rock pools or Ovires or Kolibithres, in Papingo, Zagori, are natural pools created by the erosion of the lime rock bed due to the flowing water of Rogovo stream on its downward trip from mountain Tymfi. Man-made barriers placed by the locals control the level of these pools so that during the summer the water levels rise to create many natural “swimming pools” enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The story says that even Ali Pasha of Ioannina enjoyed his bathing in the swimming pools during the summer months.
Finally, we reached our final destination, Papigko Village. Night was falling so we had a nice hot coffee in one of villages cafe and then we looked around for a restaurant that would be open for Christmas Even hold and behold we found the Pantheon a lovely Inn and restaurant with an amazing view and food. Because of the day, the restaurant was mostly empty and we got to enjoy and quiet and delicious diner.
With full bellies, we then took the road back towards Ioannina. The return journey was a little over an hour but because it was night, the road is narrow with a lot of turns and the temperature was quite low so we had to be very careful but we made it safe and sound.
That’s it for Zagorohoria. Next time Kastoria. Stay tuned!