“Wonderful gorges, rock towers, rivers, stone bridges, traditional architecture and thermal baths”
Vikos - Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the region of Epirus, Ioannina, northwestern Greece. It occupies the NW part of the Pindus Mountain Range and is characterized by high rugged relief and an impressive landscape. It includes Mt. Smolikas (2,637 m asl), the 2nd highest mountain in Greece, and Mt. Tymfi (2,497 m asl), and the two spectacular gorges of Vikos and Aoos.
Vikos - Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark is made of deep sea sedimentary rocks that, 20 million years ago, due to the collision of African and Eurasian plates, were folded and faulted by the powerful compressive movements that prevailed in the Greek area. Part of the UNESCO Global Geopark is belonging to an ophiolitic complex. The masses of rocks of oceanic origin (ophiolites and accompanying sediments) are thrusted onto the sediments of the Pindos zone and which are in turn thrusted on the sediments of the Ionian Zone. The present-day landscape reveals a 2500-metre-high elevated karstic field, which was sometimes covered by glaciers during the Pleistocene. The alternating glacial and interglacial environments, and the geodynamic processes which created fast ascendant movements, combined with the tectonic – karstic phenomena, resulted in favorable conditions for intense erosion, giving the relief of the area its present form. On the other hand, the large amounts of water released have flown amid the discontinuities caused by the faults and have deeply carved the limestone blocks, creating deep gorges. These deep gorges reveal the stratigraphic column of rocks making up the geological structure and history of the area. Mt. Tymfi with its calcareous bedrock is associated with steep, rocky slopes and cliffs, deep gorges, glacial lakes, springs, streams and rivers with pure water. Evergreen shrubs, deciduous oak woods, sub-Mediterranean conifers and beech forests cover the area, whereas the higher altitude zone is characterized by Balkan pine woods, sub-alpine pastures, bare rocks and screes.
The UNESCO Global Geopark is located within the administrative boundaries of Konitsa and Zagori municipalities, in which 62 settlements or small towns are located. The territory also contains several traditional settlements and monuments dating back to the 14th - 19th centuries including monasteries, schools, churches, chapels and arched stone bridges.
Agriculture is taking place mainly at the rich soil of the plain of Konitsa, while forestry at the thick forests of the mountains of Zagori and Konitsa. Livestock keeping is taking place everywhere and a significant part of it is characterized by the traditional transhumance pattern.
Tourism is one of the main economic factors and several hotels and hostels as well as 3 popular mountain refuges exist in the area. Hiking, climbing, rafting, kayaking are the most popular recreational activities. The Pindus National park staff (70% of the UNESCO Global Geopark surface overlapped with the NP) and the Environmental Education Centre of Konitsa, having their base in the UNESCO Global Geopark, participate constantly in education activities. The 2 information centers and 5 open interpretive routes as well as the 2 Pindos National park information centers support the awareness of both locals and visitors. In addition, workshops, events and educational courses about the UNESCO Global Geopark values are organized for the locals and schools. The leading agency of the UNESCO Global Geopark, the Epirus Development Agency, is focusing on sustainable development of the rural areas, using the UNESCO Global Geopark as a model.