Zagori is a distinct residential, historical and cultural region made up of 46 villages located in the northern part of the Ioannina basin, at the north-western tip of the Pindos mountain range. Its natural boundaries are formed by Mt Mitsikeli to the south, the Aoos river to the north, the Lingos Mountains to the east and the Mt Tymfi to the west.
The name “Zagori” originates from the Slavic preposition “Za”, meaning “back” and the causative of the essential “gora” which means mountain or area beyond the mountain. It is a translation of the ancient name of the region, “Parrea”, which means “beyond the mountain”, originating from Slavic genders that descended in the area in the 6th century.
Zagori is divided into three geographical areas: Central, Western and Eastern Zagori with 20, 10 and 16 villages respectively.
The passage of the Slavs during the early Byzantine period is testified to by numerous placenames.
The “Koinon of the Zagorisians” (“Koinon” means Common, “Commons of the Zagorisians”) was formed after the treaty of 1431 with Sinan-Pasha. At that point, the arrangement that granted local autonomy was called “Voiniko”. The autonomy guaranteed non-interference in the local affairs by the Ottoman overlords. Zagori (which then only consisted of 14 villages) “bowed the knee”, which meant in practice that there were obligations between delegations of the two sides and a sum in tax was agreed upon in exchange for very considerable privileges such as independence, autonomy, freedom of religion, tax exemption, school buildings, preservation of assets and a ban on Ottomans crossing the borders into the area. Another obligation was agreed upon to maintain a number of attendants to the Sultan’s stables. The Zagorisians maintained a small armed force of Sipahi cavalry.
During the 18th century schools for both boys and girls were built and the traditional medicine flourished in the form of “Vikos doctors”, who gathered herbs for their preparations from the Vikos gorge.
Zagori was liberated in 1913 during the Balkan Wars. Following the union with Greece after the Balkan Wars, emigration to the Greek urban centres depopulated Zagori. During the Second World War several of the villages of Zagori were burned in German reprisals. The area became almost deserted during the Greek Civil War of 1946–49.
The culture of Zagori is still very much alive, as seen in its famous feast-day celebrations and the variety of cultural events organized by local associations and authorities.
Villages are built around a central square, also called mesochori (village centre) with a large church, a plane tree and a public fountain. Cobbled streets and footpaths interconnect the rest of the village. Each individual neighbourhood has a smaller church.
The economic prosperity of its past is reflected today in the built environment, through its imposing mansions, churches and schools.
You can reach Zagori from the city of Ioannina.
Located in the North-western part of the country, Ioannina sits in the centre of a valley, amongst enormous mountains near a wonderful lake, just an hour from the sunny Ionian Sea beaches. The town was built on the famous Egnatia Odos, the road that connects Europe with Asia, one of the most ancient routes in history, once used by the Persians and ancient Greeks.