3 June 2024.

 

Planning to visit Balta di Stringa, Iliochori’s beautiful waterfall? Read on for everything you need to know. 

Tucked away in the foothills of the spectacular Tymfi massif in the north of Zagori, the remote mountain village of Iliochori and it’s nearby waterfall, Balta di Stringa, makes a lovely stop while exploring this region of Greece.

The origins of Iliochori date back to the 11th century, though it only gained its current name, meaning the ‘Village of the Sun’, in the early 1900s.

The area sustained widespread destruction during World War ll and later during the Greek Civil War which caused many inhabitants to abandon the region, however a recent revitalisation has improved infrastructure and supported access to local attractions such as Iliochori’s waterfall.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

The reasonably easy walk into the valley guides you to a series of three, stepped cascades surrounded by lush greenery. The tallest of the trio plunges 25 metres into an impossibly turquoise pool that invites you in for a refreshing swim.

For those driving the spectacular mountain pass through central Zagori, this short trail to Balta di Stringa makes an excellent stop along the way. Read on for everything you need to know about hiking to the Iliochori waterfalls.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece
How To Get To Iliochori

Located on the east of the Tymfi range, this tiny, remote village is accessible via just one meandering mountain road (Epar.Od. Asfaka – Vrisochoriou) which cuts through central Zagori and navigates around the rugged terrain between Kipi and Paleoselli.

From Konitsa, the 41 kilometre drive is slow but incredibly beautiful taking around 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Iliochori and offering up spectacular views of the stark Tymfi massif and the lush, misty valley as you make your way towards the Paleoseli Pass, across the Aoos River and back up the other side.

views over tymfi and gamila mountain along the road from konitsa to iliochori in zagori greece.

The road is largely paved and in reasonable condition though there are some damaged sections with numerous potholes or where recent rockfalls have encroached on the asphalt.

There’s only one small section that is unpaved which you’ll cross after the Aoos Bridge on the ascent of Passo Vrysochori, however it’s not long and appeared to be under maintenance at the time of writing.

Given this drive is so ridiculously scenic, there are surprisingly few places to stop and enjoy the view so I’d suggest pulling over when you do see a suitable stopping bay to take it all in.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece
balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

Coming from the opposite direction, the road from Kipi (36km / 1 to 1.5 hours) is much wider and in better condition making it an easier driving experience. Though not quite as dramatic as the northern route, this drive passes through Tsepelovo and Skamnelli and has some pretty sections overlooking the surrounding valleys.

There’s also a 10-minute signposted walk just outside of Tsepelovo (see here) that offers lovely views over the far end of Vikos Gorge which is worth a stop to stretch your legs.

Iliochori itself lies right on the main road and as you enter the village, you’ll find a reasonably large parking area opposite the shaded water fountain where you can leave your car to begin the walk (located here).

If you’re game, you can also turn sharply here at the signposted intersection (to the right if coming from Kipi, left from Konitsa) down a steep cobbled road that leads you to the village square which also has some parking, or a short way beyond this you’ll reach the Agios Nikolaos Monastery and another parking area (located here) where the trailhead begins.

balta di stringa walk. iliochori waterfall. iliochori village. zagori greece

As someone who is not particularly fond of driving on these tiny cobbled roads, particularly in the wet, I opted to park up top on the main road and walk the extra 200m down.

From the town square, there is a sign with a photo of Balta di Stringa pointing you in the right direction.

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

Where To Stay To Visit Iliochori

There’s no accommodation in Iliochori so this area is best used as a stopping point between the other villages as you make your way through the mountains. I visited on way between Konitsa and Kipi, spending one night in each. Monodendri where I stayed for several nights earlier in my trip would also make a decent base depending on your itinerary.

Below are a few of my recommendation for nearby accommodation.

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 great 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. It’s location also makes for an easy morning departure along the mountain pass to Iliochori. Check rates and availability here.

konitsa on the road from konitsa to iliochori in northern greece.

Hotel Machalas  |  I spent my last night in Zagori at this lovely guesthouse in Kipi where you’ll find spacious, well-equipped rooms set around a courtyard and an excellent breakfast – the best I had in the region. The restaurant opposite is run by the same owners and is also the best 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.

Iliochori Waterfall Details

Distance  |  1.1 km one way

Duration  |  30 minutes

Difficulty  |  Easy

Trailhead  |  Agios Nikolaos Monastery

Hiking to Balta Di Stringa

Despite being tucked away in this remote pocket of the mountains, the trail to Balta di Stringa is well established and maintained by the local community and signposted at regular intervals for the entire route.

Setting off from the town square or beside the monastery, you’ll see the first waterfall sign directing you down a wide cobbled path.

While much of the valley here is filled with open conifer forests which can appear somewhat sparse as you descend, there are some lovely stretches where birch trees dressed in their verdant spring leaf, so characteristic of this region of Greece, shelter the trail in lush greenery.

After just 350m you’ll reach the Petsou Bridge and a short way further along you’ll come across a small water fountain and a shaded sitting area with benches beside the trail.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

Up ahead, the Agios Athanasios Monastery is perched the hill where you’ll catch a glimpse of the Rasenitis Valley before veering steeply downhill.

Here the trail is a mix of large wooden stairs, paved cobble stones and horizontal wooden tree trunks which I found the slipperiest of the trail. The wood in particular sent me sliding so I’d suggest avoiding it entirely if you’re there in the wet.

Some of the cobbled stones were also better than others making it a bit of a lucky dip as to whether you’d remain upright or be sent sliding so I’d suggest just sticking to the right edge of the trail where the solid dirt tended to be the safer option.

About half way down, a newly constructed wooden bridge has been installed to cross a small ravine – the old bridge is visible further down the valley and seems to have fallen victim to a previous flood.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

At the base of the hill, the trail flattens out and you’ll join a small forest path for the final stretch to the falls.

The vegetation grows increasingly lush as you move further into the forest and you’ll hear the throng of the waterfall intensify as you approach a fork in the path and the final trail marker indicating the waterfall in just 36 metres.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

There are three separate viewing areas for Balta di Stringa and I’d recommend visiting all of them while you’re here.

Taking the right fork in the path leads you to the stunning upper waterfall via a small wooden bridge that carries you over the river and ends at a cobble stone picnic area beneath the trees.

Fed by the Kryopotamos River, the first of the trio of waterfalls that make up Balta di Stringa is the tallest which tumbles 25 metres in one gleaming white thread into an icy, turquoise plunge pool surrounded by lush vegetation and jagged rocks.

It’s a wonderfully tranquil spot that would make for an excellent swimming stop on a hot summer day. It was a nippy 11 degrees when I arrived so unfortunately wasn’t on the cards for me but I’ll certainly be adding this to the list for next time.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece
balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece
balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

To reach the lower falls, return to the fork in the trail and take the left arm which will guide you to a stone viewing platform which was perhaps my favourite of the three where you can see the top two waterfalls cascading across the rocks.

From the platform, a small trail continues on to the next level down where you’ll reach the pool that forms at the base of the lowest waterfall. The trail here ends beside a large rock that essentially hides the third cascade, the smallest of the group, from view so you will need to wade into the water to catch a glimpse.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

This pool is far shallower than up top so makes an easy point to cool your feet in the icy water if you’re not planning on getting all the way in.

The serene setting is beautiful with the river meandering on its way through the forest.

Once you’ve visited all three vantage points of the Iliochori waterfalls, I’d suggest returning to the shaded sitting area beside the upper falls to enjoy a snack or lunch break before returning back up the way you came.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece
Things To Know For Your Visit

The trail can be super slippery

 

I was told by several locals that the best time to hike the trail is really in peak summer when warm dry weather prevails, rather than the frequent afternoon storms in was met with in early May, purely because this trail is known to become particularly slippery in the wet.

After having a few less than graceful slips and slides along the way, I can certainly confirm that they were correct.

balta di stringa walk. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece
balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

Anyone who’s walked along the smoothed cobbled laneways of Athens will know just how slippery some can be and this remote trail is apparently no different. A good chunk of the route is paved in cobblestones with some strips of wooden beams.

Somehow, the wooden sections proved to be the most slippery, while some of the steep cobbles were often not much better.

If you’re there during the wetter months, I’d suggest just sticking to the very edge of the trail where the dirt seemed to provide extra traction and made it far easier to navigate on the downhill without ending up on your butt.

There’s a Taverna in town

 

As far as Zagori villages go, Iliochori can feel a bit like you’re in the middle of nowhere, certainly far more so than those around Kipi and Monodendri where you’ll find a reasonably good supply of cafes and small stores.

Out here, there is just one traditional taverna located on the main square which serves up drinks and a variety of traditional dishes. This makes a decent place for a stop after your walk, but I’d also suggest bringing a packed lunch with you if you’re visiting out of season and enjoying a break at the lovely sitting area beside the waterfalls.

balta di stringa. iliochori waterfall. zagori greece

The Mountain Pass in is spectacular but remote

 

The scenic mountain road leading to Iliochori from either direction has some stunning vantage points, but outside of summer, the road receives very little traffic. I saw just two cars on the hourlong drive between Konitsa and Passo Paleoseli.

There’s also no fuel anywhere along the route so be sure you have enough to last the trip if you’re covering the full 3 hour drive between Konitsa and Kipi.

Although I didn’t have any issues and thoroughly enjoyed the drive, I was warned that rainfall can cause rockfalls along the road and in parts you can see them strewn about, particularly between Paleoseli and Vrysochori where very narrow lanes and steep switchbacks are a constant.

The terrain on Passo Vrysochori also appeared to be less stable with rocks rolling down the embankment and I can imagine that small landslides could also be an issue here in heavy rainfall so be sure to check the conditions before heading out.

views over tymfi and gamila mountain along the road from konitsa to iliochori in zagori greece.

What To Bring For Your Walk

 

The weather in the mountains can be hugely variable and conditions can change relatively quickly. Outside of peak summer season, temperatures up here can also be surprisingly chilly, even in the shoulder months.

I’d suggest bringing a rain jacket, a light sweater and closed shoes with solid grip (I wore my hiking boots but runners with good grip would be perfectly fine). If you’re visiting during the colder months,a fleece or puffer jacket would also be a good idea.

On the flip side, if you’re visiting during the heat of summer, be sure to bring your swimsuit and towel.

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