Greece is famous for its golden beaches and beautiful islands. However, mountains in Greece are also worth the visitors’ attention. In the mountainous areas of Greece, you can find hidden villages, exquisite natural landscapes, historical and archaeological sites.
One of the places worth visiting are the villages Mikro and Megalo Papingo (Small and Big Papingo), close to Ioannina City on the northwest side of Greece. The villages belong to the broader unit of villages known as Zagorochoria, and they are famous for the architecture of the stone-made buildings and the ancient stone-paved alleys.
The wild nature around them attracts lovers of outdoor activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, rafting, and kayaking. Additionally, it is considered one of the most romantic destinations for winter excursions, so many couples choose to visit the area on a long weekend.
Between the big and small Papingo are the natural rock pools, a miracle of the natural architecture. In this article, I give you the best tips for your visit to the Rock Pools.
A Guide to Papingo’s Rock Pools
Explore the Papingo Rock Pools
The pools were created by the erosion of the rocks, chiseled by the running waters. It is a complex of waterfalls and natural pools, with clear and cold running water. Τhe rocks have a smooth and round shape and create deep cavities. The altitude in the area is 980 meters which means that the temperature never gets too high, and the water is always cold.
The stream that runs through the pools is called Rogovou, and it springs from the west side of Tymphi mountain. In Greek, the pools are called ‘kolymbithres’ or Ovires Rogovou. You can walk and discover the different structures of the rocks as you follow the stream that takes you from Big to Small Papingo.
Due to its unique climate, the area has rich flora and fauna. Around the pools, there is a forest of old plane trees and willows.
These forests are the best shelter for animals like bears, foxes, wolves, deers, and birds like hawks, eagles, and other wild birds. There are also fish like trout swimming in the pools.
The pools have been famous for centuries. The historical sources tell us that Ali Pasa, the Turkish governor who once ruled the area, used to take summer baths at the Papingo Rock Pools.
How to get to Papingo Rock Pools
The best way to get to Papingo is by car. There is no public transport in these areas and hitchhiking is not that popular. Moreover, the distances from one village to another are long, so a car is necessary.
The distance from Athens to Papingo is approximately 495 km and from Thessaloniki 312 km. Once you reach Ioannina, you take the National Highway toward Metsovo, Aristi, and Papingo for 59 km.
Between the Small and the big Papingo is a sign that takes you to the Rogovo stream and the pools. You park your car at the most convenient spot, and you follow the stone-paved path for about 50 meters. Make sure you wear proper shoes because the moisture can make the path slippery. After five minutes of walking, you finally reach the rock pools. You are in paradise!
The best season to visit the Papingo Rock Pools
The landscape is magnificent throughout the year. In the autumn, the golden leaves of the deciduous trees create a mystical atmosphere.
Winter and spring are nice because there are fewer tourists, so you can enjoy the peace and focus on the sounds of nature.
Summer is the most popular season for visiting the pools, mainly because people combine their visit with swimming. They can dive at the waters, shower under the waterfalls, and play with the water. There are little frogs that jump and swim around you; they are harmless and very cute.
The water is always cold because it springs from the mountain but on hot summer days, it is such a relief to dive in it.
Things to do around Papingo Rockpools
The area has many places of interest, and it is worth visiting them once you are in the area.
First, you need to spend some time in the nearby villages Small and Big Papingo. You can stroll around and admire the architecture of Epirus. You can buy gifts in one of the few souvenir shops. They have a variety of local products and folklore art at logical prices.
The traditional taverns in Small and Big Papingo serve delicious local dishes and desserts. My advice is: do not rush your visit there; take time and indulge in the rhythm of Greek province.
The monastery of Panagia Spiliotissa is a place of interest. It was built in the 16th century in a unique location overlooking the Voidomatis River. Even though the monastery is not inhabited now, it had been, for centuries, an important spiritual center at the area of Epirus with remarkable wealth. It is testified by the precious artifacts preserved there, as well as by the imposing architecture.
The whole area of Zagorochoria has picturesque villages, which are worth visiting. The most famous ones are Dilofo, Kipoi, Vovousa, and Kapesovo.
Places with unique natural beauty are all around, for example, the Voidomatis river, Drakolimni lake, and Vikos Gorge. You can find local businesses that offer equipment for water sports, such as canoe-kayak.
In the area there are paths, for the lovers of trekking and hiking, walking in nature, and exploring the hidden secrets of the area. Many of these paths take you to old stone bridges, unique samples of architecture.
Where to stay in Papingo Rock Pools
Around the pools, there are no hotels or guest houses, but in the Small and Big Papingo, you can find very traditional accommodation. There are places for all budgets and styles. You can find luxurious stone towers and traditional family-owned guesthouses. The locals are friendly, and they always offer warm hospitality.