Plan for the day
Today we intended to visit a few other Zagori Villages and the famous sights at these villages. Our route would be from Zagori to Aristi, Monodendri-Oxya, Vardeto steps, Kipoi, to Vovousa and finally Metsovo.
We hope to be in Metsovo by the evening and to spend a night there. In the event that it was too late we would stop at any village enroute to Metsovo. Target was to stop driving by 7 pm.
Breakfast was provided as part of the room package. The dining room cum kitchen was in another house just behind the main house. According to our host all the breakfast food such as bread and jam were home made and eggs were laid by her farm chicken. Breakfast was simple but everything were very fresh and delicious.
My friends WM and AL liked the fruit jam so much that they asked to buy some from the host to bring home. To our surprise the host showed us a cupboard full of her homemake jams which she sold at €5 per jar.
Lovely Bridge over water
We drove southward on the road that brought us out of Papigo village toward Aristi Village. Shortly after we completed the stretch of downhill road of 14 switchbacks we came to a river with a bridge. The scenery at the bridge was very lovely. The early morning sun rays intensified the golden colour of the yellow leaves and with the sky and the water in different shades of blue the view was a very stunning combination of beautiful colors.
Vikos Gorge Oxya lookout
We drove through Monodendri village to get to Vikos Gorge, Oxya lookout point, a natural viewing platform over the deepest part of the gorge. We drove till we were near the end of the road and parked our car just by the side. There was signboard “Vicos Gorge (oxia)” which told us that the lookout point was just 100 metres ahead. Interesting we met a large black dog and a donkey that were loitering around the area. They did not seem to belong to anyone. The dog was very friendly with visitors and it walked with us all the way to the lookout point.
The Vikos Gorge is a 20km long gorge between the villages of Monodendri and Vikos. The average depth of the gorge is 700 metres but its highest point is 1600 metres. Its width varies from 450 metres to just a few metres.
Though there were several possible hiking trails into the gorge we did not go hiking. Each hike would take many hours and was no walk in the park. We took the next best alternative that would be to view the gorge at the Oxya lookout point.
The gorge was gigantic, it was extremely huge and deep. From the lookout point we could see the “Y” shape of the gorge. One branch was in the direction of northwest passing Papigo village and ended at Vikos village. The other branch stretch northeast.
From the lookup I could see a meandering white line which I supposed was Voidomatis River at the bottom of the gorge. The gorge had been carved over millions of years by the Voidomatis River, a tributary of the Aoos. Voidomatis has been characterised as one of the cleanest rivers in Europe as it does not face any environment issues. The river has a total length of 15 kilometers.
After the lookout point there was a ledge on the left that followed the side of the gorge. The ledge looked flat, wide and stable and it definitely seemed passable even though there was a sign that stated along the line of “proceed at your own risk”. We walked on the ledge for another 200 to 300 metres until the ledge ended in vertical drop.
Noutsos Bridge (Koukouli, Dilofo, Kipoi)
We drove about 22 km for 30 minutes from Oxya lookout point to Noutsos bridge. This bridge was situated between three villages, Koukouli, Dilofo and Kipoi. This one-arch stone bridge which spanned over Voidomatis river had another name, Bridge of Kokoris.
The bridge was first built in 1750 financed by Noutsos Kontodimos from Vradeto and subsequently many people participated in its maintenance, such as miller Grigoris Kokoris from Koukoulis. Now I knew where the names of the bridge was derived from.
The bridge could be easily spotted from the main road as it ran beside the road. We parked our car by the side of the road and walked up a short flight of steps that brought us to a stone path that connected to one end of the bridge.
This bridge was much smaller than the bridge of Plaka that we had visited the day before and the river that was supposed to flow below the bridge was thorougly dried at this time of the year. Whether standing on top of the bridge looking down or on the dried river bed looking up to this bridge, this bridge just did not give me the same imposing feeling that Bridge Plaka had given me.
It looked like after visiting Bridge Plaka which is the largest single span bridge in Greece all other single span bridge paled in comparison.
Vardeto steps (Skala tou Vardetou)
Vradeto was a name of a village in the Zagori region and it was situated at a height of 1340 metres and was the highest of the 46 villages of Zagori. Vardeto steps used to be the only way to get from Vradeto village to Kapesovo village.
From my research I understood that the route of the Vradeto steps started shortly after Kapesovo village and ended near Vardetos village. I did not expect that we could complete the entire Vradeto steps, so we planned to start at the top of the steps and go down as far as we could before turning back. To decide if we should start the steps at Kapesovo or Vardetos village we would have to find out which end went down hill.
We drove passed Kapesovo and came to a fork road, there was a signboard point indicating the start of the walking route and the driving route to Vradeto village. The walking route should lead to Vradeto steps.
From the Kapesovo end there were no steps but a gentle downward slope that went all the way down to the base of the valley. The steps started only on the other side of the valley going all the way up to Vradeto village
We went back to our car and drove on to Vradeto village which took about 10 minutes of driving on a winding road of about 9 km. In the village we drove passed a couple of two storey stone houses and decided to look for a place for lunch. As we walked by a restaurant, a hardworking old lady who was sweeping the floor, enthusiastically beckoned us to step into her restaurant for lunch. In the restaurant we saw an old man presumably the old lady’s husband slouching lazily on a sofa by the fireplace at one corner of the room, not even lifting his head when we walked in.
The old lady could hardly speak any English but luckily the lunch menu were in English so we ordered our meals by pointing to the items we wanted. The meal was simply delicious it was basically great home cooked Greek food.
After a good full meal we were ready to tackle Vradeto Steps. We left the restaurant and walk in the direction that the old lady pointed out to us. Then we saw a signboard pointing the way to the Vradeto Steps.
We walked on passing several stone houses, the path led us away from the village and after 5 to 10 minutes walk we finally saw the the start of the steps.
Vradeto steps was fascinating, the steps were made from stones that had weathered well through the years. These stone steps were carved by exceptional and highly experienced craftsmen who created 1120 large steps with a path of about 1.5 kilometers going down a height of 240 meters. We were midway down the steps when my husband and I decided that we would go down all to way to the bottom of the stairs.
As for my two friends, AL and WM there were way behind us, about a quarter way down the steps. They backtracked up the steps to pick up the car and drove back to Kapesovo to meet us at the other end of the Vradeto steps route.
We took about an hour to reach the base of the stairs. We took a long time because we made many stops to look at the changing landscape as we descended into the valley. At the end of the steps there was a stone path that led us to two stone bridges that spanning a dried up river. We crossed the bridges and they brought us to the other side of the valley and from there onward the path slope gently upward till we reached the top of the valley on the opposite side of Vradeto Village.
I felt a huge sense of satisfaction for completing the Vradeto Steps even though we took the easy way, which was walking down than walking up. Our primary aim was to view and experience the steps and its surrounding which was definitely achieved.
Bridge of Plakidas or Kalogeriko (Kipoi)
It was a very short drive from Kapesovo-Vradeto Steps end to the bridge. The distance was about 8 km and the duration about 15 minutes.
The bridge was on the right side of the road in the direction of Kipoi Village. It was not very obvious from the road level coming in this direction as it was on a lower ground and was covered by shrubs and trees at the side of the road.
This bridge had three arches and was in a poor condition, the walls on both sides of the bridge that formed the protection barrier to users had fallen to pieces.
As like some other stone bridges this bridge also had two names because it was named after Kalogeriko an abbot that sponsored the building of the stone bridge in 1814 and then after Alexis Plakidas the person who financed its repair in 1865.
From far three-arch bridge looked like a Chinese dragon, its stones body looked like dragon scales and its jagged broken side walls looked like dragon spikes. We walked down a path to the beginning of the bridge and walked across it. The stone floor of the bridge was uneven so we had to be watchful where we stepped. Below the bridge the river was totally dried, not even a trickle of water!
By the time we were done with Bridge of Plakidas it was around 6 pm. We decided not to proceed to Vovousa, a village in east Zagori region about 65 km and 1.5 hour away from Bridge Plakidas, as there was nothing special in Vovousa that we wanted to see. So we drove southeast to Metsovo village for the night.
We reached Metsovo at around 7.30 pm and the sky had already darkened. Driving around Metsovo we realised that it was not small village but a town, there were lot more houses, hotels and restaurants. It was definitely a touristy place.
I pulled out my handphone and searched for accommodations in the town. There were definitely a lot more choices than that of Papigo. We wanted a hotel near town center and at a reasonable rates. I thought Hotel Galaxis looked good, it rates was €35 a night for a double room. After out unhappy experience with Hotel Byzantio at Ioannina city we decided not to book the hotel online but to visit the hotel first.
Hotel Galaxis looked good from the outside but the rooms inside looked dark, dingy and the air smelt stale. It could be that Metsovo did not get many tourists in October and the hotel was sort of in a “non operational mode”. Only the restaurant on the ground level was still open for business, as for the rooms on the upper level none was occupied and the rooms that we were shown were cold and dark. We left without booking any room.
Hotel Kassaros was on a road just behind Hotel Galaxis less than 200 metres away. We chanced upon it when we drove round Hotel Galaxis trying to return to the town center. Hotel Kassaros looked very pretty and inviting with its light shining bright from within. We went in and found the hotel very well furnished and maintained. The charge was €60 for a double or twin room which include breakfast. The hotel owner was willing to drop the room rates to €50 when we asked for a discount.
Our rooms were so luxuriously furnished with a high tech shower facility in the bathroom. This €50 was absolutely worth it.
Dinner at Apokentro
Once our luggage were settled into our rooms we were all ready for a good dinner. Our hotel host recommended Apokentro Restaurant to us. We just had to walk down the same road for about 40 metres to reach the restaurant. The night was cold so we were so glad to enter a nice warm restaurant. The food was great and the potato was great.
A very interesting fact about potato. Whenever we walked into a restaurant in Greece, the staff always emphasized that their restaurant served only real local potato. Coming from a country that did not grow potato I always wondered the significant of local potato versus imported potato. Does imported potato imply inferior quality?