3 June 2024.

 

The Ice Age Voidomatis Trail follows the magical Voidomatis River through western Zagori. This short hiking guide covers everything you need to know.  

Bubbling up from an underground spring at the end of Vikos Gorge, the Voidomatis River surges between lush mountains to meet the Aoos River some 15 km away in the fertile plains that sprawl across the valley beneath Konitsa.

The Ice Age Voidomatis Trail hugs the Voidomatis River for one of its prettiest sections, following the pristine, remarkably blue water as it weaves between canyon walls, rushes by gleaming pebble beaches, alongside ancient, twisting oak trees that crowd the riverbank and beneath historic stone bridges that arc high above the waterway.

Though this trail may not have the sweeping panoramas that you’ll experience elsewhere in the region, like Vikos Gorge or Dragon Lake, the tranquil beauty of the Voidomatis River and the verdant forests that surround it is really quite special and well worth setting aside an afternoon for.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Billowing up from underground means the water levels remain constant year round without the reliance on snowmelt to keep the water gushing along. This also means the water maintains a consistently icy temperature of between 4 and 6°C.

The trail itself is relatively flat and easy with a few small hills to contend with and you’ll find ample opportunities to stop along the way for a bone-chilling but wonderfully refreshing dip in the clear water. Be sure to choose a sunny day to make the most of it!

Read on for everything you need to know about hiking the magical Ice Age Voidomatis Trail.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
How to Get to the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail

The Ice Age Voidomatis Trail goes back forth along the same route between the bridges of Papingo and Kleidonia meaning you can start your walk from either end depending on your Zagori itinerary.

To reach the Papingo Bridge, navigate to Aristi and follow the signs to Papingo, turning down the narrow hairpin bend in the centre of the village. Less than 10 minutes later, you’ll cross the bridge over the Voidomatis River and find a large parking area to your right.

Though the trail begins a short way further along, this is a lovely and popular place to stop and see the beautiful pools churning beneath the bridge.

For the actual trailhead, continue on for 350m to the next bend where you’ll see another small paved parking area on the left hand side of the road. There’s a sign here introducing the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail, however there’s only space for a handful of cars so in peak season, you may need to leave your car back at the bridge and walk along the road to reach the trail.

For the Kleidonia Bridge, you’ll likely be arriving from Konitsa. Natigate to Kleidonia and continue for 1km past the town where there’s a left hand turn that takes you directly to the bridge. At the end of the road, you’ll find a food truck cantina with outdoor seating and the Kleidonia National Park Information Office.

The parking here isn’t quite as organised as the other end but you’ll find some space at the very end of the road, otherwise there is overflow parking between the information centre and the cantina. The trail begins immediately on the left at the base of the bridge.

 

FIND YOUR RENTAL CAR  //  There is next to no public transport in the region so you’ll definitely need your own car to reach the trail, as well as the many small villages, bridge and hikes nearby. Compare the best rates for rental cars here.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
Where To Stay For The Ice Age Voidomatis Trail

The Ice Age Voidomatis Trail is close to a number of Zagori’s famous stone villages so where you stay will depend on your overall itinerary within the region.

I hiked the trail on my way between Monodendri and Papingo where I spent several nights each, and returned a few days later for a swim when driving to Konitsa which lies outside of Zagori but is just a 25 minute drive from the Kleidonia Bridge. Aristi is another fantastic option and is the closest village to the Papingo Bridge.

Below are a few of my recommendations for nearby accommodation.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Agriogido – Rupicapra Villas  |  Set beside the main parking area in Papingo Megalo, this small, traditional guesthouse offers spacious, well-equipped rooms with beautiful views of the Papingo Towers that rise up across the valley. Great location for exploring the area and the lovely host runs the cafe on site. Check rates and availability here.

Papaevangelou Hotel  |  Tucked in a small cobbled laneway in Papingo Megalo, this top-rated hotel offers charming rooms with natural wood detailing throughout and one of the best views you’ll find in town. Check rates and availability here.

Ladias Guesthouse  |  This cosy family-run guesthouse in Monodendri is a great affordable option located right in the heart of the village. Operated by two brothers who are a wealth of information on the area, you’ll receive a warm welcome and be offered plenty of advice for your visit. A solid traditional breakfast is also included. Check rates and availability here.

The Five Keys  |  One of the newer options in Monodendri, Five Keys offers modern, freshly renovated rooms with guests being particularly fond of the excellent breakfast spread and welcoming host. Check rates and availability here.

Aristi Mountain Resort  |  For those after something a bit more special, this luxurious mountain resort offers a full-service spa, on site restaurant with ingredients sourced from local farms and spectacular views provided by the hilltop location. Check rates and availability here.

Hotel Rodovoli  |  Located close to the centre of Konitsa, Rodovoli offers comfortable rooms, ranging from basic doubles to deluxe suites, most of which provide beautiful views over the valley below town. An excellent breakfast is included, reserved street parking is available and you can find excellent deals here out of season. Check rates and availability here.

Konitsa Mountain Hotel  |  Perched high on the hillside above Konitsa, this traditional mountain resort offers a variety of spacious rooms, but the real drawcard is the exceptional view that can be enjoyed from the hotel’s balcony. If you’re planning to take the mountain pass over to the Iliochori waterfalls, its location also makes for an easy morning departure. Check rates and availability here.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
Ice Age Voidomatis Trail Details

Distance   |   9.2 kilometres return

Duration   |   3 hours (allow more time if you plan to swim)

Difficulty   |   Easy

Trailhead   |   From the Papingo side here, or the Kleidonia side here.

Hiking the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail

While this hike can be completed from either end, I began from the Papingo side so this guide will follow that route, but if you’re beginning from the Kleidonia bridge instead, simply follow the exact route in reverse.

Alternatively, I also met a few people who hiked half way in and then turned back to shorten the walk and if you’re choosing this option, I’d suggest starting at the Kleidonia side which sticks closer to the river and, while the whole hike is worthwhile, I found this later section to be the most beautiful.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Setting off from the small parking area on the Papingo side, the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail begins along a wide cobblestone path that descends immediately to a perch above the water’s edge that gazes over a large turquoise pool where the river surges by.

A short way beyond, a tiny trail feeding off to the left will lead you to the first pebbly beach of the walk. The trail continues like this for most of the first half, climbing small undulating hills and then returning back to the edge of the river where you’ll be welcomed by tiny pebble beaches, one after the other.

Dappled sunlight illuminates the water in a ridiculous shade of blue and verdant forests line the waters edge offering up plenty of shade during the walk.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

After 1.2km, you’ll reach an obvious fork in the path where you’ll need to head to the left, more or less sticking alongside the river as you make your way over a small rocky cliff.

Initially, I took the right hand path which seemed wider and better established. This climbed steeply and veered inland before petering out in the forest. Tiny tracks then meandered back down a very steep and slippery embankment covered with leaf litter where previous hikers had clearly tried to rejoin the main trail.

If you stick to the left fork from the beginning, you’ll have a much easier time of it.

I ended up backtracking to the correct path, but if you’ve gotten stuck on the inland trail, there’s a dry river bed at the base of the embankment that will also join up with the correct trail at the water’s edge where there’s a set of small rapids.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Pushing on, a small set of stone steps guides you higher where the canyon narrows and rugged grey and ochre cliffs rise overhead as you make your way around the bend in the Voidomatis River. On the other side, you’ll arrive at an open grassy area surrounded by bracken where a yellow sign indicates the tiny trail to Agii Anargiri Monastery on the right.

Set on a rocky perch amongst the trees, less than 100m from the main trail up an unkempt stone staircase, this abandoned hilltop monastery built in 1658 is an easy detour though today it’s not possible to go inside.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Back on the main trail, the rust stained cliffs guide you forward to the cool of the river’s edge. There’s a small rocky section here that does require some scrambling and marks the half way point of the walk.

Onwards, the trail flattens out considerably and what is perhaps my favourite section of the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail begins.

The river swells, fed by further underground springs, and forms large pools in a deep, irresistible shade of turquoise. Lush forests crowd the river bed and ancient, moss-covered oak trees cling to the banks, sinking their twisted roots into the icy water as it rushes by.

Large white pebbles gleam in the sunlight and the river views that emerge between the forest as you continue forward are like something out of a fairytale.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

While there are small pebble beaches earlier in the trail that are simply beautiful, in my opinion, they get even better along this final stretch on the approach to Kleidonia where you’ll find wider and sunnier stretches of pebble and sometimes even sand ‘beaches’ to plonk yourself down and enjoy a refreshing swim.

Some sections, particularly the deeper pools, still have quite a strong current though so be sure to pick your swimming spot carefully and know where you plan to get out.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

About 400 m from the end of the trail, you’ll climb a set of old stone steps that feel like stepping back in time and lead to a cobbled walkway raised above the river which will guide you along the rest of the trail to the Kleidonia Bridge.

Arching high over the water, this historic stone bridge, also know as the Voidomatis Bridge dates back to 1853 and makes a pretty bookend to the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail.

Here you’ll find a small cantina and the information office however both were closed during my visit.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Be sure to climb over the bridge and walk down to the large rocky beach that lies on the opposite bank to the left where you can enjoy the views looking up at the bridge. Visitors that aren’t completing the hike also often come here purely for a swim and then continue on their way.

When you’ve finished seeing the bridge from all sides, simply return the way you came. If it’s a warm day, you may like to complete the hike in one direction and then amble slowly back, taking the opportunity to stop and swim as you please.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
Rafting the Voidomatis River

Keen to give your legs a rest after several days of exploring Zagori on foot? Rafting down the Voidomatis River is another popular way to explore and covers the exact stretch of river as hiking the Ice Age Voidomatis Trail so you won’t miss a thing by taking to the water instead.

Seeing a few groups starting their adventure at the bridge and then later on down stream, it looks like a really fun experience and one that I wish I had signed up for.

The river rapids are all quite tame (this is hardly a white-water experience) and there are some wonderfully serene stretches where the river swells into large blue pools lined with ancient oak trees where the boats can drift along peacefully, no frenetic paddling required.

Only a few sections and a small ‘slide’ once you’ve crossed under the Kleidonia Bridge require you to navigate the river carefully.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

There are several companies that offer rafting tours year round, starting from the Papingo-Aristi Bridge. These tend to take 3 hours total, with 1.5 hours spent on the water and all provide equipment and deliver a solid safety briefing.

 

BOOK A TOUR  //  This top-rated rafting tour includes a full safety briefing by qualified guides, all necessary equipment, photos and videos of the adventure and a stop alongside the river to explore the abandoned monastery. Check rates and availability here.

Things To Know Before your Visit

Bring enough food and water for the walk

 

Facilities are really limited on and around the route so I’d suggest bringing all the food you’ll need for the hike as well as plenty of water as it can get rather hot along the trail.

There is a small cantina with outdoor seating at the Kleidonia end of the trail, though this was closed during my visit in May, and I did also see signs for a cafe at the large RV Park located around 500 m from the Kleidonia Bridge. There are also no facilities around the Papingo end of the trail with the closest cafe located up the hill in Aristi.

If you’re bringing a packed lunch (which I’d highly recommend), you’ll find plenty of lovely shaded beaches that would make a perfect picnic spot along the way.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.
ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Go For a Refreshing Swim

 

The Voidomatis River is fed by a natural spring and is recognised as one of the cleanest rivers in Europe.

While the icy, single digit temperatures make jumping in something of a shock to the system, it’s a wonderfully refreshing way to cool off after a hot and sweaty hike and you’ll warm up quickly again in the sun.

voidomatis bridge kleidonia. ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

The best time of year to visit

 

As the Voidomatis River relies on spring water, its size and strength doesn’t ebb and flow based on spring snowmelt or mountain runoff like many other rivers in Europe allowing it to maintain a pretty consistent water level throughout the year.

Spring, summer and early autumn are the best times to visit when the weather will be warm enough for you to enjoy a quick dip surrounded by lush forests, while autumn puts on a spectacular array of rich amber foliage. In winter, the forests will have dropped their leaves so while the river will appear largely the same, the scenery will be rather bare.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

Where to find the best beaches

 

This entire section of river is incredibly beautiful with many potential swimming spots, but personally I found the best ‘beaches’ located closer to the Kleidonia side of the trail and even returned here a second time just for a swim.

You can find some of the prettiest beaches within about 1 kilometre from the Kleidonia Bridge, but there are plenty to choose from along the last 2 kilometres of the trail.

Alternatively, the vast rocky shore accessible beside the Papingo Bridge is also lovely, though the current here is reasonably strong.

ice age voidomatis trail. voidomatis river. zagori greece.

See more of the Voidomatis River

 

While this section of the Voidomatis River is spectacular, just 5 kilometres upstream you can see the Voidomatis spring to life (pun intended!) between the mighty walls of Vikos Gorge.

From a dry river bed, the springs emerge to create the turquoise river that carves its way across the landscapes.

This area can be visited from Vikos village along a steep trail that heads downhill via a series of switchbacks before veering to the left to reach the Panagia Chapel perched amongst the trees beside the river. If you’re hiking the spectacular Vikos Gorge, you’ll also be able to visit the spring further along the trail.

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