A. Nikolopoulos

Mountain biking in Epirus

Epirus is the region of Greece with steep and imposing relief, criss-crossed by mountains and rivers ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts. Going from north to south, the mountain ranges are interrupted by fertile plains and valleys. The forests and highlands of Epirus are an ideal setting for cross country biking excursions. The pristine Mt Tymphe with its sprawling, untrodden forests, the mountain lakes and the vertical mountain slopes is ideal for mountain biking in landscapes of breathtaking beauty.

Its highest summit Gamila stands at 2,497 meters (c. 8,200 feet) and hosts very interesting flora and fauna in its high alpine meadows. This mountain range becomes even more imposing with the Vikos gorge (with Voidomatis River) sharply defining its southwestern face, while the large ravine of Aoos river flanks its north-northeastern face. The Vikos gorge is a trench about 15 kilometres - 9 miles long, with almost perpendicular rock faces about 1,000 meters - 3,300 feet high. The Vikos-Aoos national forest reserve is established in order to protect the unspoiled natural environment of the Tymphe mountain range as well as the two deep river ravines that enclose it. The nature reserve encompasses many altitude zones, creating many different micro-climates allowing for a huge variety of plant species to flourish in the relatively small area of the reserve, attracting also many animal species that find safe refuge there.

Mountain biking is considered environmentally friendly and it is permitted within the nature reserve area. The starting point for all spins into the reserve is the town of Konitsa. It is a charming small town with stone houses and narrow alleys, a meeting point for all nature lovers (beginners and experts alike), since it is near the National Forest Reserve of Vikos-Aoos, which encompasses a large area around the Vikos and Aoos ravines. One of the most spectacular mountain biking trails starts in the village Gannadio at an altitude of 800 meters (c. 2,600 feet) and makes a 42 km (c. 25 miles) circle to Konitsa. Exceptional landscape, stunning vistas, verdurous surroundings offer the biker an unprecedented experience.

The difference in altitude from the lowest to the highest point of that biking trail is 1,700 meters (c. 5,600 feet). Soon after you leave Gannadio, you get into the forest, marvelling at the many varieties of trees from plane and hazelnut trees, to cedar and fir, from beech to lowland pine and black pine. Pedalling along in this everchanging kaleidoscope of tree forms and colours, the biker experiences nature with all senses.

The ideal seasons for mountain biking in Epirus are spring and autumn. During the summer it is best to avoid the midday heat and sun exposure.

A variety of fully equipped hotels within the confines of Konitsa is ideal for mountain bike fans, whereas experienced guides are always available to introduce visitors to the magic of a mountain bike outing.

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