Invalid Displayed GalleryLocated 30 km north of Ioannina, the Vikos gorge is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Greece. Its length is around 12 km- or 24 if you also count the Vikaki gorge, beginning next to Monodendri village. The gorge is part of the 12,600 hectares Aoos-Vikos national park, designated as such in 1973. Surrounded by steep mountain tops, its dense forest consists mostly of deciduous trees, with about 1700 plant species and subspecies- including five local endemic ones and twelve that are not found anywhere else in the country. The park’s fauna is equally rich and includes wolves, does, brown bears and wild cats. Bear footprints are not often observed in the gorge, but they remain a far-from-rare sight in the surrounding mountain slopes, especially on melting snow during the springtime. Unfortunately, and despite the area’s protected status, illegal hunting continues to pose a serious threat, having already pushed certain species near extinction. The limestone formations, extending up to a height of 1700 meters, date back to 37- 150 million years ago. Rains are a quite often phenomenon during the summer, while in winter the temperature in low. The abandoned Monastery of Agia Paraskevi, near Monodendri, offers captivating views of the gorge. Not far from here is the Megali Spilia cave, accessible through a narrow path. The area’s numerous one-, two- and three-arched bridges were constructed in the 18th and 19th century to link remote villages, long before roads were opened. The entire Zagori region flourished during and after the years of the Ottoman rule, thanks to increased trade, while the so-called doctors of Vikos- herbal practitioners who used the gorge’s herbs to heal all sorts of aliments- were famous throughout Greece.