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Friday, April 15, 2011
Zagori: The Land Behind the Mountain
At the heart of Epirus prefecture, perched like eagles’ nests on the slopes and ridges of the Tymfi and Mitsikeli mountains, the Greek mainland reveals the wild beauty of the 46 stone-built villages of Zagori, also collectively known as 'Zagorohoria.' The name Zagori means "the land behind the mountain", and geographically, the area is divided into three parts: eastern, central and western.
Throughout the settled area of Zagori, the wealth of past times is still reflected in the stone mansions, the school buildings, and the imposing churches, most of which were built with donations by affluent expatriate Zagorians.
Although each one of the 46 villages may have their own unique qualities, but all of them share an incomparable beauty that captivates even the most demanding visitor. Built amphitheatrically on the mountain slope and sheltered from the wind, the village of Monodendri welcomes the visitors in its central square where an enormous old plane tree (platanus) stands.
From there, after a few minutes walk on a stone-cobbled path, the Aghia Paraskevi Monastery appears nestled on a rock overlooking the Vikos Gorge, which is said to be the deepest in the world. The monastery, which is also known as the 'balcony over the gorge', is the oldest preserved church in Zagori, built in 1412.
At the foot of the Tymfi Mountain lies one of Greece's most delightful and unblemished villages, Papigo, which consists of two districts: Megalo (large) and Mikro (small) Papigo. In Mikro Papigo, WWF Hellas has established an Information Centre for nature and culture in Zagori, housed at the old primary school of the village.
Imposing rocks hang over the village, known as the "towers of Papigo" and on a mountain terrace lies Drakolimni, one of the three alpine lakes in the Pindus mountain range, which according to local legends used to be inhabited by dragons.
No words can describe Zagorochoria. It is a natural and cultural wonder to be discovered and an experience that undoubtedly will not let you down. And with 46 picturesque and idyllic villages, there is plenty to explore and discover!