Vikos–Aoös National Park

11/12/2015

The Vikos–Aoös National Park is a national park in the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece. The park, founded in 1973, is one of ten national parks in mainland Greece and is located 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of the city of Ioannina in the northern part of the Pindus mountain range. It is named after the two major gorges of the area and encompasses 12,600 hectares (31,135 acres) of mountainous terrain, with numerous rivers, lakes,caves, deep canyons, dense coniferous and deciduous forest. The park is part of the Natura 2000 ecological network and one of UNESCO Geoparks and spans an elevation range from 550 to 2,497 meters (1,804 to 8,192 ft).Over 100,000 people visit the park each year and take part in activities including rafting, canoe-kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.

The core of the park, an area of 3,400 hectares (8,402 acres), comprises the spectacular Vikos Gorge, carved by the Voidomatis river. The gorge’s main part is 12 km (7 mi) long and attains a depth of 1,000 meters (3,300 ft). The Aoös gorge, mount Tymfi (2,497 meters (8,192 ft) at Gamila peak), and a number of traditionally preserved settlements form the park’s peripheral zone. The park’s remoteness and relatively small human population, combined with the great variation of biotopes and microclimatic conditions favors the existence of a rich variety of flora (1,800 species) in the area.Vikos–Aoös National Park supports a wide diversity of fauna,with a plethora of large mammals such as the brown bear, for which the park is one of the last European strongholds, and a variety of natural habitats and ecosystems that rank it among the most valuable parks for nature conservation in Greece.

The first evidence of human presence in the area is dated between 17,000 and 10,000 years ago. The area of the park has been sparsely populated throughout historical times, however from the 17th to the 19th century the local communities of Zagori acquired an autonomous status, flourished economically due to increased trade, and became a major center of folk medicine.In recent decades, ecotourism is seen as a remedy to the economic decline of heavily depopulated local settlements, while preserving the natural environment and local architecture.

 

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