The Zagori region in north west Greece is little known among visitors heading to Athens and the islands. But amid its mountains, canyons and ancient villages are superb hiking trails, delicious local fare and top places to stay
As I wound my way up a wildflower-strewn path along Greece’s dizzying Vikos gorge, I had to keep stopping, just to drink in its sheer scale. Forested mountains stretched into the distance – the craggy peaks still topped with snow – and the clear waters of the Voidomatis river whooshed by below. I hadn’t seen another soul for hours. In a country so blessed with ancient ruins, islands and beaches, people tend to forget about Greece’s mountains as a holiday option.
Unspoilt Vikos-Aoös national park is in the Zagori region, near the Albanian border and an uncomplicated three-hour drive from Thessaloniki airport. As with everywhere in Greece, times are hard in this region, and businesses are keen to attract tourists. Prices have been slashed. We stayed at one of the more upmarket hotels in the region, Aristi Mountain Resort, in the village of Aristi, where room rates now start at 15% less than before the crisis. A cluster of traditional stone buildings perched on a slope overlooking the valley, it has phenomenal views, chic interiors (natural materials, rich Ottoman rugs and fireplaces for winter nights) and a spa with indoor pool, steam room and sauna. Luxury for a little more than £80 a night for two.