1. Monday 11 June.
Bus journey from Thessaloniki and sightseeing around Monodendri, Zagori
We arrive in Monodendri (village square in photo) visiting a textile school, a photographic exhibition and the Agia Paraskevi byzantine church.
|2. A spectacular first view of the Vikos Gorge from the Agia Paraskevi church, the limestone cliffs rise up to 3000 feet above the gorge floor.|
|3. Another view taken from the church, this time of the dry river bed of the gorge.|
|4. And another shot of the gorge.|
|5. Later in the afternoon we did another walk to another viewing point across the valley from the church (lower left of the photo).|
6. Tuesday 12 June.
Four walks in the vicinity of Vikos Gorge
The morning mist in the valleys looking south from our guest house at Vitsa.
|7. The Vikos Gorge this time looking from the Beloi viewing point.|
|8. Our Greek guide Aris with members of our group at the Beloi viewing point.|
|9. For our second walk of the day, we descended to a steep valley down the 200 year old winding limestone Vadeto mule track and then up the other side to the village of Kapesovo.|
|10. Near the bottom of the Vadeto steps is a bridge, after crossing which we headed up the other side.|
|11. We had lunch at the village of Koukouli, with its 200 year old plane tree. Ice creams were on sale and there was a chance to refill our water bottles.|
12. The afternoon was spent walking and stopping at a number of ancient stone arch bridges, all built in the 1700s and sponsored by wealthy individuals for the benefit of the local communities.
This fine example has three arches. Stone has been removed or looted over the years.
|13. Another bridge in fairly intact condition.|
|14. This was a very large single arch example.|
|15. The same bridge is located below this huge rock near a main road.|
|16. Yet another bridge and in good repair, built to last.|
|17. We head back along another valley to our guest house at Vitsa.|
18. Wednesday 13 June.
A walk along Vikos Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world
The start of today's 9 and a half mile walk is a long descent from Monodendri village to the bottom of the valley. Here we pass through vegetation and trees as we descend.
|19. Down near the valley floor and the limestone cliffs come into view once again.|
|20. More cliffs in the deepest part of the gorge.|
|21. From time to time we actually walk on the river bed or alongside it, here is a boulder field in white limestone.|
|22. Looking east along the craggy rim of the gorge.|
|23. Continuing along the limestone and dolomite river bed.|
|24. Three chunky crags, these are around 1800m in height.|
|25. At this point where I'm posing for a photo on a rock, huge quantities of cold spring water emerge from rocks at the base of the cliff. This is snow melt water and north of here the dry river bed becomes a babbling river.|
|26. Nearing the end of our trek, we look back down the gorge and head upwards towards the village of Vikos.|
|27. This is (probably) Mount Biliza at 1788m.|
|28. Finally we get to the top and assemble at the viewing point in Vikos village.|
29. After boarding the bus, we move on and stop for a few minutes at the Voidomatis River and skim stones near a bridge.
We then move on to our next night's hotel stop in Papingo.
30. Thursday 14 June.
A long day, with an ascent to a mountain refuge (where we will stay the night) and then a walk up to the enchanting Dragon Lake
Looking down towards Mikro Papingo from where we started today's long ascent.
|31. We stop at one of several fresh water springs on the way towards the Refuge.|
|32. After lunch at Dragon Lake we explore the grassy slope a bit further on and encounter sheer cliffs.|
|33. Near the same spot, looking northwest across the Aoos River valley.|
|34. Near the lake the landscape here looks a bit like the Italian Dolomites, grey rock, patches of snow and screen slopes.|
|35. This must be a geologist's dream.|
|36. More limestone cliffs.|
37. Looking to the west this time, a view of Dragon Lake with a dollop of snow to the left.
The shallow lake hosts two species of newts, including the Alpine Newt.
I watch the newts and saw one of them grab and swallow a beetle which was struggling in the water.
The mountain Refuge we would stay at is just behind the ridge in the top left of the photo.
|38. Another shot of the lake with the cliffs visible.|
|39. The 5 of us plus the leader now make our way back towards the Refuge, with bad weather forecast we had to get a move on.|
|40. On our way back from the lake to the Refuge we passed these wild horses in a grassy valley.|
|41. Below the cloud shrouded peak called 'Astraka', we come back to another lake, with the Refuge just visible on the ridge in the top right of the picture.|
42. Saturday 16 June.
A walk around the 'Stone Forest' of Meteora.
A collection of huge rock formations composed of river conglomerates thought to originate from a prehistoric river estuary
An example of several of these large rocks weathered by rain channels, and with surfaces scars and features which almost make them look alive!
|43. Another rock.|
|44. A group photo at last, with (L to R) Barbara, Sue, Neil, Richard, Naomi, Nigel, myself and Janice.|
45. A monastery built on the side of one of the rock formations.
There were several of these, survivors of a bygone age.
|46. More rocks, like giant mushrooms pushing up from a forest floor.|
|47. We visited the biggest of the surviving monasteries, here in a side room are stored skulls and bones of previous inhabitants (probably monks).|
|48. A view of another monastery from a balcony of the one we were visiting.|
49. The church which forms part of the monastery complex.
Inside this building was a gilded and highly decorated interior, obviously the centre piece of the community up here on the huge rock.
There were also rooms in which huge wine barrels were present, and a fully equiped carpentry shop, a kitchen and living quarters.