In the Greek midwinter: hiking around the Vikos gorge, Greece’s ‘Grand Canyon’

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Deep snow, icy pools and cosy hotels in timeless stone villages … this is a magical time in Zagori and Greece’s mountainous north

“Daisy,” I say, eyeing the snowy peaks rising heroically before us. “I’ve a feeling we’re not at sea level any more.” The little terrier sniffs at a biting cold wind. Imposing peaks called the Towers of Astraka dwarf the small hamlet of Papigo, which is perched at roughly 1,000 metres and reached by a road of hairpin turns.

The 2,400-metre ridges are part of the Tymfi massif in the mighty Pindus mountains, which extend south-east like a sturdy backbone from Albania to central Greece. We’re in Zagori in northern Greece: known as “the place behind the mountains”, it has been nominated for Unesco cultural landscape status, and it’s easy to see why. A scattering of tiny traditional towns cling to slopes and teeter over gorges, all linked by ancient pathways and lovely old stone bridges. And today, it’s Christmas-cake white.

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