Vikos–Aoos National Forest & Geopark
Vikos–Aoös National Park (Greek: Εθνικός Δρυμός Βίκου–Αώου Ethnikós Drymós Víkou–Aóou) is a national park in the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece and one of four Greek UNESCO Geoparks. It became a member of the European and Global Geopark Networks in 2010. 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 spans an elevation range from 550 to 2,497 meters (1,800 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.