The Vikos-Aoos and Pindos (Valia Calda) National Forests, are two out of the 11 areas of the EU-wide network of NATURA 2000 protected areas. In addition, 11 wildlife refuges are included within the boundaries of the Northern Pindos Park, and Vikos-Aoos Geopark as well as a Biogenetic Reserve at the Valia Calda core.
Since 2002, the mission of the Northern Pindos National Park Management Agency is the vigilant protection and management of the area and its peripheral zones with the goal of promoting ecologic, aesthetic, cultural and local values in a sustainable development model in harmony with the human presence in this area of unparalleled beauty.
The protected area of Northern Pindos is one of the most important areas at both national and European levels.
It uniquely combines natural and man-made environments and geographically unifies the pre-existing National Forests of Pindos (Valia Kalda) and Vikos-Aoos.
Valia Kalda is located in the northern part of the Pindos mountain range, north of Metsovo. It’s one of the coldest places in Greece and was originally created as a bear reservation.
Valia Kalda is a beautiful forested valley hidden from the world by over 2000m high peaks. The Arkoudorema river (Bears creek) runs through the length of the valley until it joins Aoos river near Vovousa. You can see herds of horses grazing the green meadows and occasionally a lonely shepherd dog but hardly every other people.
There are few dirt roads heading for the valley of Valia Kalda from the main asphalt road. All of them are in bad condition and with almost no signs. 4X4 is the best way to gor.
It is named after the two major gorges of the area and encompasses 12,600 hectares (31,135 acres) of mountainous terrain, with numerous rivers, lakes, caves, deep canyons, dense coniferous and deciduous forest.
The core of the park, an area of 3,400 hectares (8,402 acres), comprises the spectacular Vikos Gorge, carved by the Voidomatis river. The gorge’s main part is 12 km (7 mi) long and attains a depth of 1,000 meters (3,300 ft). The Aoös gorge, mount Tymfi (2,497 meters (8,192 ft) at Gamila peak), and a number of traditionally preserved settlements form the park’s peripheral zone. The park’s remoteness and relatively small human population, combined with the great variation of biotopes and microclimatic conditions favors the existence of a rich variety of flora (1,800 species) in the area.
Vikos Gorge is water-borne and stretches over 12 kilometers in length and has been recorded in the Guinness Book as the gorge with the smallest opening in the world but with a depth of more than 1,000 meters and is the deepest gorge of the planet. In the depth of the ravine the Voidomatis river flows, the springs of which give crystal clear water all year round.
Vikos–Aoös National Park supports a wide diversity of fauna, with a plethora of large mammals such as the brown bear, for which the park is one of the last European strongholds, and a variety of natural habitats and ecosystems that rank.
The "place behind the mountain", as translated by the Slavic word Zagori, and its 46 adjacent settlements, the Zagorohoria, tight in their center, exude a nobleman of past centuries. Zagori is a historical site of Epirus with unparalleled natural beauty, unique terrain morphology, altitude differences and many rivers that justify the creation of a rich network of roads and bridges. Paving streets, cobbled streets, stone stairs, trails and more than 100 bridges are the main ornaments of Zagorohoria in the Pindus mountains.
The idyllic scenery of Zagori, combined with stone mansions, famous libraries and folk museums, is already a distinct place among the international destinations of mountain, natural, cultural and religious tourism.