Thanks to its wild and unspoiled nature and its distinctive, traditional architecture, Zagori is one of the most strictly protected areas in Greece. It falls under the Greek law for the conservation of the environment, as well as the UNESCO and NATURA regulations. The region’s settlements are also strictly supervised by the Architectural and Archaeological authorities due to their cultural value.
In 2010, the area of Zagori was included in the Vikos-Aoös Geopark, a member of UNESCO’s Global Geopark Network, rendering it an internationally acknowledged natural monument. Geoparks are well defined territories which include distinctive geological, natural and cultural characteristics. In order to be nominated as a geopark, an area must contain a certain number of geological sites of particular importance in terms of scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appeal and educational value. Archaeological, ecological and historical features are of great significance as well.
The very powerful geological and geomorphological sites in Zagori, such as the Vikos Gorge, the Voidomatis River, the Stone Forest, the glacier remnants and the karst landscapes form a unique natural environment. Besides nature’s creations, human intervention in the area is also of great importance. Human activity of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the many stone built traditional villages with their surrounding monuments (stone bridges, monasteries, watermills, cobbled paths, etc.), along with prehistoric remnants of human activity (Paleolithic hunting bases, Neolithic settlements, etc.) more than satisfy the requirements for an extraordinary and unique geopark.
Zagori is one of the largest protected areas in Greece. In 2002, the area was declared a National Park and it belongs to the NATURA 2000 network (a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union) due to its richness of flora and fauna and its great variety of endemic species. Zagori is also the area with the most rainfall in Greece; this is clearly visible in its landscape, covered almost entirely by forests, which provide habitats of great ecological value.
Zagori’s flora comprises approximately 2,100 different species, a great number of which are endemic to this particular area. In terms of Zagori’s fauna, almost all wild mammals found in Greece are present in the area (bears, wolves, deer, wild boar, chamois, etc.), with about 60 different species of mammals, 180 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles, 14 species of amphibians and 17 species of fish having been recorded over the years.
Zagori in Numbers
The area of Zagori is located in the region of Epirus, in the northwestern part of Greece, and stretches over an area of more than 1,000 sq. km with altitudes ranging between 500 and 2,500 meters, thus offering visitors a very exciting Alpine zone.
Zagori includes Mt. Smolikas (2,637m), a part of the Pindus Mountain Range and the second highest mountain in Greece after Mt. Olympus (2,918m), and Μt. Tymfi, whose highest peak is Gamila (2,496m). Other peaks include Gamila II (2,480m), Karteros (2,478m), Megala Litharia (2,467m), Goura (2,466m), Astraka (2,436m), Tsouka Rossa (2,377m), Ploskos (2,377m), Lapatos (2,251m), et al.
The area is also famous for its 46 traditional stone built villages and its 92 arched stone bridges built between the 18th and 19th centuries. The region has a population of 3,500 inhabitants.