Question: Where in the world is the deepest gorge on Earth, crisscrossed by arched stone bridges and hidden mountain villages?
Answer: Vikos Gorge, Greece
Tucked into the northwestern corner of Greece, Vikos Gorge is a rare geological miracle that surpasses the size of some of the world’s most well-known gorges. This massive ravine is located among the Pindus Mountains and is the centerpiece of Greece’s Zagoria region—an off-the-beaten-path locale isolated from much of Greece. Here, verdant slopes and rocky outcrops make for picturesque views and a wonderland of outdoor activities.
Carved out over millions of years from the Voidomatis River, the gorge plummets 2,950 feet down while spanning 3,600 feet from rim to rim. This impressive depth-to-width ratio is why many categorize it as the world’s deepest gorge, including the Guinness Book of Records. Even though some contest this feat, the canyon majestically sprawls about seven miles in length with craggy rock faces and rounded buttresses.
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Greece, Albania, Macedonia & Serbia with OAT
Visit small villages atop towering rock formations in the Pindus Mountains, learn how to make savory meat pies with a Greek family in their taverna, and take a scenic boat ride through remote Macedonian villages alongside 20-time traveler William C. Thorton.
Vikos Gorge, or “the Vikos” as is it called locally, is located at the heart of Vikos-Aoos National Park, a UNESCO Geopark, in the region of Zagoria, Greece. The park is a paradise for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rafting, and kayaking in the turquoise river that flows through the bottom of the gorge. It’s also a haven for endangered species and roaming wild boars, brown bears, deer, foxes, and rare species of birds. In the summer, the floor of the gorge is covered in colorful wildflowers.
Throughout Zagoria, there are 46 different Ottoman-era villages nestled upon the Vikos and the Pindus Mountain ledges. These charming cliffside towns are connected to one another by traditional arched bridges that crisscross the gorge. The stone bridges were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and while some are no longer in use due to safety reasons, they still appear like something out of a fairytale in the canyon.
There are several lookout points along the edges of the gorge from which to take in the scenic view. There’s also a set of stairs that date back to the 17th century and zigzag to the bottom of the gorge. However you choose to experience this natural wonder—whether by hiking, rafting, or simply soaking in the stunning views—you can’t go wrong.
9 More Facts About the Mountainous Region of Zagoria, Greece:
- The name Zagoria comes from the Slavic words meaning “behind the mountain”.
- Zagoria is one of the least densely populated areas in Greece with 3,700 residents or about four residents per square mile.
- The region boomed economically and intellectually during the Ottoman rule of the 19th century. During this time, many of the slate houses and stone bridges were constructed by skilled craftsmen to replace older wooden bridges.
- The region is considered to have some of the best-preserved villages in all of Greece. Due to its isolated location, the region was cut off from the rest of the country for decades, and during the years of occupation, Zagoria was able to preserve its unique cultures and traditions.
- No modern roads existed in the area all the way up until the 1950s. Before that, the villages were connected only by primitive mountain roads and bridges.
- Each village has its own distinct characteristics. Some buildings are decorated with intricate wood carvings while others have 19th-century paintings and frescos on the sides of the buildings.
- There are also many Byzantine-era monasteries nestled into the mountains. One of the most notable ones is an abandoned monastery known as the Monastery of Saint Paraskevi which dates back to the 15th century.
- Zagoria is home to the Sarakatsani people who are a small ethnic subgroup native to northern Greece. Traditionally they were shepherds in the Pindus Mountains, but today most have abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and assimilated into modern Greek life.
- Vikos Gorge isn’t the only striking natural beauty in Zagoria—the region is also home to many snowcapped mountains. One of the most notable mountains is Mount Tymfi in Vikos-Aoos National Park. Here there is a collection of lakes called Drakolimni which are shrouded in folk legends of dragons.
Raft on the crystal clear waters that flow through Vikos Gorge during an optional excursion on Northern Greece, Albania & Macedonia: Ancient Lands of Alexander the Great.