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Geopark Vikos Aoos

Vikos- Aoos Geopark is one of the four Greek Geoparks to become a member of the European and Global Geopark Networks in 2010. It is located in the region of Epirus, north of the city of Ioannina, in the region of Zagori NW Greece.
It occupies the NW part of the Pindus Mountain Range and is characterized by a high rugged relief and an impressive landscape. It also includes Mt. Smolikas (alt. 2637m) the second highest mountain in Greece and Mt. Tymfi (alt. 2497m) with the two spectacular gorges of Vikos and Aoos.
Its core area consists of the Gorge of Vikos, the length of approximately 10 km. At the lower part of the gorge a rushing river flows, which becomes a permanent river (Voidomatis) at its end.
The peripheral area is larger and includes the Aoos Gorge, the area of villages of Mikro Papigo and Megalo Papigo as well as a narrow area around the Gorge of Vikos.
The Geopark covers an area of 1,200 km² and the 9,500 inhabitants reside in 61 settlements in the municipalities of Zagori and Konitsa. The territory contains several traditional settlements and monuments dating back to the 14th – 19th century including monasteries, schools, churches, chapels and arched stone bridges.
Vikos Aoos Geopark is one of the most impressive areas in Greece in terms of its aesthetic values and range of geodynamic processes. Numerous geosites within the territory are situated in landscapes of incomparable beauty. They owe their origin to a wide range of geological processes and are of excellent scientific and educational value.
In conclusion this exceptionally beautiful landscape is characterised by its high biodiversity with respect to both flora and fauna.
More than 2000 plant species grow in the area including several rare, endemic and protected ones. The territory is inhabited by approximately 300 species of vertebrates. Some species including the brown bear, the wolf, the otter, the Balkan chamois, the golden eagle and the alpine newt are protected by European Union and national legislation.
In the area, also of interest, is the small valley Laka of Tsoumani and Lake Drakolimni. Riverside forests of willow, poplar and plane trees, hard-leaved bushes and forests either deciduous and coniferous or of a heterogeneous variety occupy the area. The variety of the deciduous trees in the area of the heterogeneous forest is amazing. In the narrow, warm, wet and shady ravines and the steep slopes of the beech tree zone exist formations of Aesculus hippocastanum, Juglans regia and Fraxinus excelsior.
The area comprises one of the most significant ecosystems due to its rare flora and fauna. The geographical isolation of the area, the relative small human impact and the large variety of kinds of natural habitats and microclimatic conditions favor the growth of various plant species. Therefore, the area is a place where many rare plants are gathered and sustained. Many of these are considered endangered species.


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