27 June 2024.

 

Hiking between the Zagori villages is like stepping back in time, walking historic trails that have been followed for centuries. This guide covers the scenic route between Vitsa, Kipi and Dilofo. 

There are many ways to experience the magical stone bridges and villages of Zagori, but perhaps none better than exploring on foot.

Tucked away in the lush mountains that sprawl across northern Greece, Zagori is home to 46 stone villages, known collectively as Zagorochoria, and more than 160 arched bridges to aid in crossing the many tributaries of the spectacular Aoos and Voidomatis Rivers which border the region.

For centuries, these remote mountain villages have been linked by a network of stone pathways and rambling trails. While roads have long taken place as the primary means of transport in today’s landscapes, these historic routes remain as a nod to the region’s past and offer a wonderful opportunity to experience the area at a slower pace.

Countless trails criss cross the region from remote stone villages to high alpine lakes, and hidden monasteries to freshwater springs.

plakidas bridge. zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa kipi dilofo.

This hike focuses on the verdant eastern part of Zagori where you’ll find a tight cluster of stone villages and more enchanting bridges than you can shake a stickat.

Starting in Vitsa and covering an easy circuit through Kipi and Dilofo – three of the prettiest Zagori villages – makes a wonderful way to spend the day on two feet.

This guide outlines the exact hike I followed, but there are also numerous options for detours and side trips for those who would like to extend or shorten the circuit or add additional days of hiking in the area so I’ve included these suggestions below.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.
zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.
How To Get To And Around The Zagori Villages

Ioannina is the gateway to eastern Zagori and lies 36 kilometres or an hourlong drive to the south.

For this hike, the best starting point is Vitsa, however since you’ll be hiking in a loop, you could also start at any of the three villages visited along the way.

Take the highway north from Ioannina, turning right just after Metamorfosi and following the signs towards Vitsa or Monodendri.

In Vitsa, as you come around the hairpin bend in the centre of town, there’s a large parking area alongside the road where you can leave your car (here).

The trail begins right on the bend where a cobbled laneway heads downhill through the village with a sign pointing to Skala Vitsa or Vitsa’s Steps.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

FIND YOUR RENTAL CAR  //  There is next to no public transport in the region so I’d highly recommend having your own car to reach the Zagori villages and best explore this fantastic region. Compare the best rates for rental cars here.

JOIN A TOUR  //  Tours are another popular way to explore the region, and there are many day trip options that include a guided hike, departing from either Ioannina or within Zagori.

For those not keen to hike solo, this top-rated tour follows a short circuit between Kipi and Koukouli where you’ll pass through a beautiful section of forest and visit the prettiest Zagori bridges. Check rates and availability here.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT  //  The bus schedule for Zagori seems to be a closely guarded secret and it’s near impossible to find any reliable, up-to-date information online.

The timetable is not included on the KTEL website, however I did ask at the Ioannina bus station about the schedule and was told the next bus was in 10 days time. I did also see the bus bound for Ioannina waiting in Monodendri near the start of my trip.

If public transport is your only option, I’d recommend reaching out to your guesthouse in Zagori for more details and being very flexible with your plans. At best, it appears buses depart just once per week, or fortnightly outside of peak season.

TAKE A TAXI  //  If you’re not keen on renting a car and the infrequent buses don’t line up with your plans, it’s also possible to arrange a taxi from Ioannina to Zagori and between many of the villages. There are taxis available directly from Ioannina, otherwise Ladias Guesthouse in Monodendri also operates a taxi service within the region.

ON FOOT  //  Once you’ve made it to Zagori, you could very well spend weeks exploring the area on foot as the villages are so well linked and perfectly set up for through hiking with a decent number of guesthouses and restaurants on offer.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.
Where To Stay In Zagori

For this charming circuit walk, you can stay at any of the Zagori villages mentioned in the post. I stayed in Monodendri and Kipi which were both fantastic and have plenty of accommodation options to suit a range of budgets.

If you don’t have the flexibility of your own transport, I’d suggest Vitsa or Kipi as your best options.

Below are a few of my recommendations for nearby accommodation.

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.

Hotel Machalas  |  I spent my last night in Zagori at this wonderful 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.

Katikia Zagori   |  This beautiful stone hotel in Vitsa is one of the best rated in the region and offers newly renovated rooms that combine modern and traditional details throughout, a leafy terrace and includes an excellent breakfast. Check rates and availability here.

Dilofo Hotel Luxury Suites   |  Another excellent option, Dilofo Hotel provides bright, spacious suites and offers an onsite restaurant, bar and lounge for guests. As the quietest village in this list, Dilofo is really the place to go if you want to escape it all. Check rates and availability here.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.
Hiking The Zagori Villages

This lovely hike between the villages of Zagori travels in a meandering circular route from Vitsa, past some of the area’s prettiest stone bridges and through a rugged gorge on the way to Kipi (also spelled as Kipoi), before climbing through the forest to Dilofo and returning to Vitsa.

Between the bridges and hilltop viewpoints, there are plenty of beautiful places to stop along the way allowing you to enjoy the hike at a leisurely pace.

The route from Vitsa to Kipi is particularly scenic with the bulk of the Zagori bridges concentrated along this section so I’d recommend allowing plenty of time here.

Zagori Village Hike Details

 

Vitsa to Kipi   |   6 km   //   2 to 3 hours

Kipi to Dilofo   |   4 km   //   1.5 hours

Dilofo to Vitsa   |   3 km   //   1 hour

Total   |   14 km   //   4 to 6 hours

Vitsa To Kipi

Perched on the steep hillside below Monodendri, Vitsa is the first village of the day where this circular route begins.

This first leg of the hike is the longest and most beautiful, guiding you along cobbled laneways speckled with fragrant rose bushes, down historic stone steps, through verdant forests, across enchanting centuries-old bridges dressed in yellow wildflowers, along dried riverbeds between rugged cliffs and to stunning viewpoints that gaze across these vast green landscapes.

In short, you’re in for a fantastic start to your day!

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

From the main road, the trail veers downhill along the charming cobbled back streets of Vitsa and past a small church before tracing through grassy meadows and forests until you reach Agios Nikolaos, the Chapel of St Nicholas.

Along the way, you’ll notice the wooden, hand carved sign pointing down the hill to Dilofo on your right which is where you’ll arrive at the very end of the hike.

Check out the picturesque viewpoint just beyond the chapel that overlooks the valley, before heading down the Skala Vitsas – the Vitsa Steps.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa steps.

Much like the famous Vradeto Steps, both Vitsa and nearby Koukouli have similar stone staircases that climb steeply from the valley to the hilltop village of the same name, forming part of the historic trails that were once used by villagers making their way through the mountains.

Though perhaps not as dramatic as those in Vradeto which scale the steep cliffs of a canyon, the Vitsa Steps weave back and forth through a beautifully lush section of forest until you reach the river below and the first of many bridges of the day.

The trail continues to the left alongside the river, however there is also a tiny trail that guides you down to the river bed and the beginnings of what will become the spectacular Vikos Gorge further downstream.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.
zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.

During my visit, the river was completely dry with the gleaming white stones painting a stark path beneath the delicate arch of the Misiou Stone Bridge in the shadow of the rugged cliffs.

Built in 1748 to better link Vitsa with Koukouli and Kipi, this is one of Zagori’s most famous bridges.

Spanning across the gorge in a perfect semi-circle above the river and lined with vibrant yellow wildflowers, it’s not hard to see why.

misiou stone bridge zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

OPTIONAL DETOUR 1  //  Just 300m on from the Misiou Stone Bridge, you’ll arrive at an intersection that leads to Koukouli via the Koukouli Steps which climb steeply for about 500 metres until you reach a dirt road just outside the village.

There are some pretty views along the way across the surrounding countryside, but it’s not quite as scenic as some of the other places you’ll encounter on the rest of the hike.

Continuing on to visit Koukouli proper and returning the same way will add about 3 km to your trip.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

Otherwise, continue straight ahead where the trail flattens out and hugs the edge of the dry riverbed.

Trees vibrant with spring foliage crowd the startlingly white pebbles, while pillars of stone puncture the forest canopy, piled high like towers of silver coins teetering overhead.

There are some very pretty scenes to be found here as you meander up the gorge before reaching the main road and arriving at the Kokkorou Stone Bridge.

Wedged between soaring cliffs streaked in ochre and lush vegetation, Kokkorou is among Zagori’s largest and most impressive bridges spanning across the Vikos River. Located right beside the main road, it’s also the most popular as you can drive right up to it to enjoy the view so don’t expect to have this one to yourself.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

Now, for the final stretch to reach Kipi, there are two routes you can take depending on the weather and water level in the river – either following the riverbed or over the hilltop trail.

During my visit in mid-May following a winter where there had been virtually no snow, the river was completely dry and easy to navigate. However, I’ve seen photos of the river gushing with water here and was told by a local that sometimes even when it appears dry, there can also be large pools that form up stream which can be challenging to get around.

If the riverbed is dry and you’re comfortable hiking across the rocks, I’d recommend walking this way to reach Kipi and taking the route over the mountain pass on the way out. If the river isn’t passable, you’ll need to take the mountain route both ways.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.
zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.

To follow the river, take the stairs beside the road down to the pebble bed and head up the gorge this way. Don’t try to take the tiny path that hugs the cliff beyond the stone bridge – it’s a real sketchy climb to reach the riverbed from here.

For the mountain route, continue along the road for about 100 metres until you reach a path that heads steeply up the hill on the left and cuts over the hilltop, rejoining the main route at the Plakidas Bridge.

Back by the river, jagged cliffs tower overhead as you make your way between the canyon walls and a heavy salty scent hangs in the air.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike. vikos gorge.

After one kilometre, you’ll hear the rush of water nearby and arrive at a small cascade that fills a serene aqua pool and welcomes you to the enchanting triple arches of Plakidas (or Kalogeriko) Bridge.

To help you avoid the water, there is a tiny path through the trees to the left which cuts to the base of the bridge.

Perhaps my favourite of the Zagori bridges, the three delicate archways of Plakidas are in excellent condition, hovering above the large turquoise pool that flows underneath.

The original bridge dates back to 1814 when it was made of wood, however this was entirely reconstructed in stone in 1865 by the Plakidas family who continue to contribute to the bridge’s maintenance.

plakidas bridge. zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa kipi dilofo.
plakidas bridge. zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa kipi dilofo.

If you’re visiting in spring, the white wisteria which lines the roadside here bursts to life and the scent is absolutely heavenly.

Head up the cobbled path from the bridge to the main road and continue into Kipi for a well-deserved lunch break.

Taverna Michalis is located in the centre and makes a decent stop for lunch on the lovely shaded terrace where you’ll find a wide range of traditional food.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.
Kipi to Dilofo

After lunch, it’s time to continue onwards to Dilofo.

Head back towards the Plakidas Bridge and stop in at the small arch of the Lazaridi Bridge which is visible from the road on the right.

OPTIONAL DETOUR 2 //  If you’d prefer to shorten your hike and leave off the Dilofo leg, you can also return to Vitsa from here via Koukouli. Cross over the Lazaridi Bridge and follow the path over the hill into the village.

Make your way to the Koukouli Steps on the opposite side of town and rejoin the main trail near the Misiou Bridge, returning to Vitsa along the same route.

OPTIONAL DETOUR 3 //  Another option is to visit the Mylos Bridge and Water Mill which lies 600 metres further along the road in Kipi and will add an extra half hour to your hike (you can also drive here at a later stage if you wish).

Mylos is another lovely triple arched bridge which dates back to 1748 and you can look inside the old Mill House on the far side.

lazaridi bridge. zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

Back at the Plakidas Bridge, cross over the river and take the path over the hill that climbs gradually through lush forests where you’ll catch glimpses of Kipi across the valley.

After 1.4 kilometres you’ll reach another intersection where you’ll need to stick left, following the rocky trail downhill past ancient mossy trees back to the main road at the Kapetan Arkouda Memorial.

The righthand path will guide you back to the main road near Kokkorou Bridge.

Continuing over the tiny Kapetan Arkouda Bridge, the path cuts immediately to the right (although there is another trail that tries to lead you left) and begins a series of steep switchbacks up the hill.

The trail here is not as well established as elsewhere on the hike and is slightly more challenging with some slippery sections and loose rocks where the path has been eroded.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

As you cross over the hilltop, climbing gradually towards the fringes of Dilofo, the forests changes completely, transforming from the bright spring foliage of the beech trees, to the deep emerald of the young oaks.

Dilofo itself cascades across the hillside and as you arrive on the outskirts, the village appears somewhat dilapidated with piles of debris and fallen trees blocking the road which you’ll need to climb over.

The centre is lovely though and an example of the quintessential Zagorian mesochori or village square featuring the church, a water fountain and the enormous plane tree that takes pride of place.

zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. dilofo.

Dilofo is eerily beautiful and feels like a long forgotten town, left abandoned in the mountains.

Still and silent, it’s a curious place to wander, meandering along the rambling cobbled laneways without a soul in sight except for a lonely cat that darted off as I approached.

At the last census, the population was just 13 residents, with many of the charming old stone buildings now deserted.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. dilofo hike.
zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.
Dilofo to Vitsa

While many sections of this trail are incredibly well signposted, there are next to no signs in or around Dilofo, and despite being the smallest of the villages with very few official roads to speak of, I’ll admit I was constantly having to check my map to ensure I was going in the right direction.

From the square, take the trail that leads behind the church and continue along the cobbled laneway out the back of the village until you arrive at a white concrete road.

Some of these paths aren’t actually marked on Maps Me, but as long as you’re heading towards the main road, you’ll be fine.

Continue uphill along the white road to a leafy clearing and one of the highest points along the trail where you’re rewarded with stunning views over the surrounding mountains and a glimpse of the distant canyon.

zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. dilofo.

Now, from the top of the hill, the trail veers down very steeply, initially along dirt road, but eventually becomes an open scree slope which is slippery and not all that fun to navigate.

Regular readers will know I’m really not a fan of this kind of terrain and essentially become like an uncoordinated deer on ice, inching my way down at a painfully slow pace.

Thankfully it’s not too long and brings you into a dry, moon-like valley which feels a world apart from the verdant forests of the morning.

At the bottom of the valley, the path narrows and crosses over a small creek before being engulfed back into the lush greenery which guides you the rest of the way back uphill to Vitsa.

The remainder of the trail follows dirt roads, tiny forest trails or, in parts, opens up into a meadow and disappears altogether. There are also a few intersecting paths that lead off to private farms which can cause some confusion.

zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. dilofo.

The main trail is clearly marked on Maps.me so I’d suggest just checking regularly to make sure you’re on the right track.

The final approach to Vitsa climbs steeply along a rocky trail where you’ll emerge at the grassy meadow where you began the day. Head left onto the cobbled path that will lead you the rest of the way into town and to your car.

As seemed to be a theme during my time in Zagori, I was racing yet another afternoon storm during this hike and just as my car came into view, I was met with an absolute deluge and managed to jump into my little Picanto in the knick of time.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.
Tips For the Zagori Village Hike

The route is reasonably well marked

 

Much of this trail is very well marked with regular signs between the main villages, intersections and bridges, particularly on the more popular section between Vitsa and Kipi. However, Dilofo is often left off these signs entirely so it is well worth having a map with you to check you’re heading in the right direction.

The route between Vitsa and Kipi is marked on Google Maps, however the full circuit and all the optional detours are clearly visible on Maps.Me.

zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. dilofo.

You’ll see few hikers outside peak season

 

Visiting in mid-May, I met just a handful of other hikers following the route from Vitsa to Kipi, however once I left Kipi for Dilofo, I didn’t meet another person for the rest of the trail.

The popular bridges and stunning scenery surrounding Kipi make this the most well-trodden section of the hike, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the rest of the circuit receives very little foot traffic outside of the peak summer months.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipi hike.

The best time to visit Zagori

 

The best time to visit this region of Zagori is between April and October.

In early spring, these landscapes erupt with colour as the new foliage of the beech forests paints these hillside in juicy green, interspersed with colourful wildflowers. Temperatures can be rather chilly overnight but during the day you’ll be welcomed with mild conditions that are perfect for hiking with the chance of an occasional afternoon downpour.

Over summer, temperatures can climb well into the 30s and prices also increase substantially.

Autumn in Zagori puts on a spectacular display for leaf peepers when the mountains transform into warm fiery shades that perfectly complement the stone architecture. Temperatures are also more comfortable for outdoor activities following the heat of summer.

Winter can be particularly cold and ordinarily brings some snow across the region. Much of the forests which make this area so enchanting also drop their leaves and lay bare taking away some of the magic of the place so for the best experience I’d recommend a visit outside of this season.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.
zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.

Choose another detour to extend your trip

 

Hiking between these three villages makes for a delightful and relatively easy day of walking, with plenty of bridges, pretty river scenes and mountain views to occupy your time (and camera). But take a closer look at your map and you’ll quickly notice there are countless other trails that peel off into the wilderness leading to other villages across the region.

If you’re looking to extend your hike or add subsequent days of village exploration to your itinerary, these are a few other options nearby, though I didn’t have the opportunity to hike all of these myself.

For other Zagori hikes that lie further afield, don’t miss my other hiking guides for the region.

|   Kipi to Kapesovo via the Lazaridi Bridge

|   Kapesovo to Monodendri via Vikos Gorge

|   Kapesovo to Vitsa via Vikos Gorge and Vitsa Steps

|   Kapesovo to Vradeto and Beloi Viewpoint via the Vradeto Steps

zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. dilofo.

Keep an eye out for snakes

 

As an Aussie, you come to expect snakes as a reasonably common companion in the bush, but seeing them out and about on a chilly spring morning in Greece was not something I had anticipated.

And yet, I saw a couple on my walks within Zagori. One that slithered across the trail near Kokkorou Bridge and another in Vikos Gorge.

Snakes don’t want to interact with us any more than we do with them.

If you do come across one, they will usually try to get out of your way as quickly as they can. Give them space and stay still so they’re able to move off safely.

zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.
zagori greece. zagori villages. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa to kipoi hike.

Bring plenty of water and sun protection

 

The Greek sun is no joke, even outside the peak summer months.

While much of the trail does meander through the forests that provide ample shade, many section are exposed to the sun.

Be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses and wear suncream with at least SPF 30. A long sleeved shirt and trousers are also a good idea during the warmer months.

There are also few places to fill up with water along the way, so I’d suggest bringing enough to keep you hydrated for the full circuit. Maps.Me does indicate the freshwater spring locations which are present in some of the villages, otherwise you can also ask for a refill at one of the restaurants.

zagori villages greece. zagori bridges. zagorochoria. vitsa.

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