Pindus Mountains Photography and Travel

Zagori – Greece

This is a short blog to coincide with my Meteora blog (read here or via the link at the foot of this blog), though ready for an update as I head back, deep into the Pindus Mountains at the end of Autumn 2019. 

Epic!! Would be somewhat of an understatement for a description of this incredible region.

Unfortunately, my last visit was only for a day/night October 2018 on the way to Igoumenitsa port from Santorini. I spent it at Papingo to try and nail a Milky Way shot that had evaded me on my previous visit, again, it didn’t happen. Mountain weather during the changeable months, and gambling with locations for night photography that don’t guarantee clear skies, though that’s the fun of it, and it’s far-flung from the cliche night photography locations of the world.

My visit prior to that dates back to March 2016, and both times traveling solo, I was put off undertaking certain night shots due to the local wildlife (brown bears and wolves).  I say “certain”, it didn’t completely stop me, and I knew all about the fact the area was brown bear territory way before I made the journey.

In fact, I identified the region as somewhere extremely dark, with no astrophotography images to be found taken within the area; combined with my love, and experience, of travelling and photographing Greece, it ticked all the right boxes.  As with any inland mountainous region, you do pick up light pollution from larger, distant towns, especially the more elevated you are.

It’s an area that many claim to be Europe’s last wilderness, I’m not so sure. There are some fairly remote places in Romania and Bulgaria, the most remote areas are actually on the Albanian side of the Pindus Mountains, but I will, however, state it’s certainly one of the most remote places I’ve ever visited in Europe, and a place I am longing to return to.

The Bridge of Kokori

 

The Stone Bridges of Zagori 

The Bridge of Kokori, also referred to as Kondodimos Bridge spans the Voidomatis river in the Zagori region of Ioninnia in Epirus.

The Zagori area is famed for possessing an abundance of traditional old rainbow bridges, and the Bridge of Kokori backdrop is exceptional with its deep gorge for landscape, and astrophotography.   Early hours (around 4 am) of the morning in spring, the Milky Way lines up nicely across the gorge; you can also see more of the core in Greece being closer to the equator than the UK, often making life easier with regards to competition. 

Sunrise and Sunset

Although this visit to Epirus was somewhat of a night photography quest, shooting the occasional sunrise en-route home, I still enjoy general landscape photography, without stars!!

The nature of the beast (the Milky Way) in spring is pretty harsh going, as it requires you to be out shooting in the early hours, a time to which I favour staying awake for as opposed to getting up at silly o’clock.   The Bridge of Kokori was around an hour from my accommodation, and I had been too tired to hang around for sunrise during my astrophotography shoot there, though what I had noticed during the planning of the shoot, was that the sun was also rising across the gorge at this time of year.

A cloudy night saw me hit the pillow around 2 am one night, and I awoke around 6 am unfortunately, my mind was then racing envisaging this shot, thus stifling any chance of getting back to sleep, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Bridge of Kokori Sunrise
The Milky Way – Vikos Gorge 

For the Love of Astrophotography 

In a very dark spot high on the mountainside, above Monodendri, lies the Oxya Viewpoint looking over the Vikos Gorge.

I had already given myself the creeps (about bears) wandering around “The Stone Forest” and because of a slight nervousness, failed to achieve any decent results, before making my way up to this viewpoint in the pitch black, breaking my golden rule of “always do a prior daytime reconnaissance if you are unfamiliar with the area”.

I came to the end of the trail, and even in such darkness I could see the depth of the spectacular gorge, I stood there in awe for a moment in the frigid mountain air, before a huge gust of warm wind channelled down the gorge; the sound was haunting, but at the same time comforting, such an awe-inspiring wilderness. 

Oxya Viewpoint – Vikos Gorge

The next day I returned to Oxya Viewpoint overlooking the Vikos Gorge, it’s a dead end, to most!  A shear drop down into the deep gorge below, the deepest in the world (Guinness Book of Records).  You can, however, go a little further, along the goat paths, and finally, come to a dead end with a rock platform and sheer unprotected drops into the gorge.

Vikos Gorge – Pindus Mountains
The Milky Way arcing over the Vikos Gorge – Pindus Mountains 
Aristi to Papingo Road – Pindus Mountains

There’s nothing like a good mountain road with multiple hairpin bends, and not as much fun in the little two-door thing I was rolling in, though I still had a pop at a bit of Colin McRae on the switchbacks a couple of times, couldn’t help myself.   

Anyway, this side of the gorge is just as spectacular, and also the start of one of the main hiking trails that takes you down into the bottom gorge and along the crystal clear emerald river that winds along one of its channels, a beautiful walk. I was blessed with 23/25 degree temperatures and snow on the mountain tops on this occasion (March 2016), although locals stated I was lucky and had just missed winter.

Vikos Gorge from the Papingo side  – Pindus Mountains

Papingo Rock Pools

The rock pools at Papingo are something quite special, though unfortunately, it was overcast both times I visited in the day, and at night.

The river runs into a series of pools and falls surrounded by unique rock formations which are of an emerald colour on sunny days.

My two previous visits to the Pindus Mountains in spring and Autumn have left me with a feeling of underachievement, I’m longing to get back, and will be passing through en-route to Santorini in September, though this may be another solo trip so unsure on the amount of hiking that will be undertaken. I then aim to return for a few days (namely to the bridges and the Vikos viewpoints) with my workshop team in November; weather permitting this time of year.  

So much of the area has such a true feeling of wilderness and isolation, it certainly retains a lofty position amongst any area claiming to be a “last wilderness of Europe”.  

To be continued, sign up to my newsletter at the foot of the page for news on recent blogs, workshops, publications, and most other roaming with camera equipment antics I undertake.

Star Trails through the LP – Meteora 

15th – 21st November 2019

Meteora Photography Workshop and Tour, taking in the awe-inspiring Eastern Orthodox monasteries and unique rock pillars.  Visit the spectacular Pindus Mountains and explore one of Europe’s last wildernesses, Vikos, and the ancient bridges of Zagori.

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Where to stay in the Pindus Mountains

The traditional mountain villages are beautiful in the Pindus Mountain region, and you cannot go wrong when staying in most of them, most having photogenic locations within hiking distance.  My three favourites to date are Monodendri, Aristi and Papingo.

Monodendri – Konstantinou & Elenis Traditional luxury guest house.

Aristi – Aberratio Boutique Hotel  Stunning luxury stone mansion with an amazing view.

Papingo – Mikro Papigo 1700 Hotel & Spa Who doesn’t like a mountain spa!

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By |2019-06-21T21:13:00+00:00June 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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