The Pindus Mountains, which bisect the country, running from North to South, are often referred to as ‘the spine of Greece’. This 160km long mountain range runs from the Albanian border all the way to the north of the Peloponnese Peninsula. Its highest point is Mount Smolikas, which is 2,637 metres tall. This range is one of the best places to hike in Greece, with its varied geography of high mountain peaks, rolling hills, lush valleys and deep, dramatic gorges. Along its varied length there are two National Parks, Aoos-Vitus National Park and Pindus National Park.
One of the most popular walks in the Aoos-Vitus National Park is the walk through the Vikos Gorge. This route, it should be noted, is not a walk in the park. While well-maintained, this is an ankle-twisting trail which traverses the limestone uplands of Mount Gamila for 20km. Be sure to check conditions before you set off as the snowmelt of April or early May can often make the end nearest Monodhéndhri impassable. Be warned that heavy rainfall can also lead to landslides on the sides of the gorge. Still, if you set out well-prepared then you will be rewarded by the spectacular scenery – the gorge walls are sometimes over 1000 metres in height and tower over you in rocky splendour.
Another option is the beautiful walk along the banks of the river Aoos. This gorge walk as also dramatically stunning. You can walk from Konitsa and those who have a good level of fitness could consider continuing the walk up to the summit of Mount Papigo. There are many signposted trails around Vikos and Aoos that provide walking options for a range of fitness levels, ages and abilities.
Unfortunately, the surprisingly little-known Pindus National Park does not benefit from such good signage. Even getting there from the main road is a bit of a mission as there are no proper signs. You can gain access to this rugged wilderness by way of the village of Perivoli to the north.
The dirt roads that cross the mountains and weave their way through the dense black pine and beech forests of this area are perfect for hiking and more than likely if you are in search of peace and solitude then you will find it. If you are lucky you may see a glimpse of a brown bear – this is one of three regions in Greece still populated by these shy animals. If you walk in Flegga Forest, you may also catch sight of wolves, lynxes, wild cats, deer or wild boar. If you are looking for somewhere different to go, then Pindus National Park could be the perfect place as it is unlikely that anyone you know has been. This is the least known and least visited national park in Europe, which is a shame, unless you are looking to escape the crowds that is.
The Pindus Mountain Range is ideal for a real escape into nature, on hiking trails you are likely to have entirely to yourself.