Tzoumerka, Kakarditsa and Peristeri, three of Greece’s most imposing mountains, are truly captivating. Their deep ravines are breathtaking, while the sound of the waters that debouch into the Arachthos River echo throughout the area.
In this beautiful corner of northwest Greece, the villages of Syrrako and Kalarrytes are nestled amid the rocky terrain, shimmering brilliantly in the light. The two villages were built in the 14th and 15th centuries by Vlach pastors. The villages’ Vlach inhabitants, having secured special privileges and the protection of the Valide sultan (“mother sultan” of the Ottoman empire) and thanks to their sharp business acumen, helped the villages grow through the trade of not only agricultural products but also the particular goods in which they specialized: waterproof cloaks in Syrrako, silversmithing in Kalarrytes (the Nessi and Bulgari families originated from here).
Today, Kalarrytes and Syrrako are two of the most beautiful villages of Greece. Kalarrytes has more of a “village” feel, while Syrrako is considered more “scenic.” Both villages, however, boast beautiful stone bridges, cobbled roads, stone houses with traditional schist roofs, old stone drinking fountains and watermills – every aspect carefully studied and designed – projecting a feeling of seclusion, which may also be due to the villages’ very few inhabitants and minimal development.
Enter Syrrako on foot through the traditional Lefka stone gate. From the moment you enter the village you can see two small bridges, the Fantanitsa spring and the watermill. A stroll through the village reveals beautiful traditional country houses with arched entrances, old stone drinking fountains made from stone and the Goura spring with its arched back panel.
You can also visit the Church of Aghios Nikolaos with its wood-sculpted iconostasis made by craftsmen from Metsovo and Russian “epitafios” (embroidered cloth depicting the body of Christ) that is interwoven with gold, as well as the home of the Greek poet Kostas Krystallis that hosts an interesting exhibition on folklore.
Take a walk along the cobbled streets of Kalarrytes, with its restored (other times dilapidated) stone houses and many old stone drinking fountains (Goura, Nessi, Baltas, Gontrou and others). Enjoy a pleasant atmosphere in the village square with its traditional coffee shop, while you can also visit the 15th century Church of Aghios Nikolaos, adorned with wooden sculptures made by craftsmen from Metsovo and ecclesiastical items made by local silversmiths, located at a prominent point at the village’s entrance. Everybody, however, ends up at the famed Napoleonta Zagli coffee shop–general store–guesthouse for a delicious meal and a bit of chit-chat and a few songs (Tel. (+30) 697.226.59610).
Take a walk along the cobbled road that joins Syrroko with the village of Kalarrytes, through the ravine of the Kalarrytikos River. Another trail that starts from Kalarrytes leads to the bridge and then to the Kouiasa watermill, with its waterfall and plunge pool. This is the road the inhabitants of Kallarytes used to go to the city of Ioannina until the 1990s, at which time the new road was constructed.
The Holy Kipinas Monastery
The Holy Kipinas Monastery is an aerie (eagle’s nest) that was built in 1212 in the recess of a rock in the Kalarrytikos Gorge. Once you cross the small moveable bridge that once protected the Monastery from bandits and attackers, you will see in the dim light of the decorated main church building (katholikon) with its elaborate iconostasis. You can also visit the monk’s cells and beautiful guest quarters (open daily 10:00-17:00).
For those who love adventure, there are many unpaved hiking trails on Mount Kakarditsa and Mount Peristeri. The one that starts from Syrrako and leads to the Church of Aghioi Apostoloi has an incredible view of the city of Ioannina and ends at the base of the Tsoukarela peak of Mount Peristeri. You can also trek to the Monastery of Viliza (from the villages of Kalarrytes or Matsouki) or hike to the Vlach village of Matsouki with its waterfall and fulling mill, or head towards the Arachthos River, the four-arched stone bridge of Politsa – the starting point of the rafting route – until you reach the historic stone bridge of Plaka (Active Nature, Tel. (+30) 693.766.77990).
Syrrako is 52km from Ioannina, while Kalarrytes is 67 km away.