Far from the ancient Hellenic ruins, the Aegean blue, and the golden beaches, Papigo is a gem away from the mainstream path of Greek tourism, nestled deep in the mountains, in the Zagori area at the north-western part of Greece. “Welcome to paradise on earth,” said George, our host and insider guide to Papigo, as provided us with all sorts of tips and recommendations for our stay. All of them tested and approved!
The villages are blessed by the surrounding nature and generous hospitable people.
Papigo was first known in the Byzantine civilization and was securely kept away from the Ottoman Empire invasion in the 15th century so it was back then given administrative privileges. After a journey through hills and forests, you can only fall in love with these small picturesque villages surrounded by incredible settings. I am saying “these” villages because Papigo is actually a combination of two villages. Megalo and Mikro Papigo (big and small Papigo) are connected by a 3km-road.
I would advise you to start with taking your mark into the village, wandering around the narrow stone streets. You would discover the traditional architecture that is abundant and minimal at the same time. The buildings in the village – houses, tavernas and shops – are all made of stone and wood. They blend nicely into the nature surrounding them. I loved stopping by the charming Rogovo shop, on the main street to discover the regional products. From jams, liquors and sweets prepared from mountain herbs and local forest fruits, to locally made handicrafts and ceramics.
During your stay here, make the most of the mountain activities, as soon as you are settled. Papigo is an outdoor lover’s utopia. From trekking, hiking through the Vikos Gorge, canoe-kayak, to mountain biking, trails along with the river and horseback riding. You could enjoy 4×4 adventures and skiing in winter or race at the annual mountain marathon that takes place in July.
If you are into hiking, you could follow the path leading from one village to the other through a network of small trails and passing several old stone bridges. You could also pass by Kolibithres, these natural rock pools carved with water. The amazing pure water is tempting to dive in. So, don’t resist! Just have in mind that is quite cold, even in summer. Adrenaline seekers should go rafting. The best experiences happen during the spring season, as the snow melts and the water feeds into the Voidomatis River.
And with all that action and adventure, comes appetite. The good news is that the village has a dozen of traditional style taverns, serving excellent local cuisine and products. Pantheon will treat you with delicious home-style regional recipes. Sit at the terrace for a stunning view of mountains or by the fireplace inside, and trust Tassos and Voula’s (the owners) recommendations.
A dinner at Astra Inn is also a memorable culinary experience in an easy-going atmosphere. Most of the ingredients you will be served come from the family’s farms. They are slowly and nicely transformed into generous flavoured dishes. The Stuffed zucchini flowers are a must!
After your meal, you could head to one of the charming little cafes to enjoy a cup of Greek coffee or liquor with a sweet treat and learn more about the region from your lovely hosts. And when the night comes, step outside and simply admire the clarity of the sky at night. Who thought a digital detox would be that easy?