Κυριακή 18 Φεβρουαρίου 2024

The giant Smolikas

This area of the Natura 2000 network includes almost the entire Smolika massif (19,975 hectares) from the Kerasovitiko river and the Vuzion peak in the north to the Aoos river in the south and from the Samarinotiko stream in the east to the Kleftis peak (1846m.) in the west. 90% of the area of this Natura 2000 network belongs to the Prefecture of Ioannina, specifically to the Municipality of Konitsa and the Communities of Distrato and Fourka, while 10% belongs to the Prefecture of Grevena.

It is characterized by subalpine meadows, extensive forests of black pine and to a lesser extent spruce, exquisite forests and stands with rombola, beech forests and at lower altitudes forests of various oak species, which gradually expand towards the now abandoned fields. This area of the Natura 2000 network preserves excellent habitats for rare species of wild fauna, such as the bear, the deer, the wild goat, some birds of prey, etc. Since 2005, Smolikas has been included in the National Park of North Pindos.
Mount Smolikas (Greek: Σμόλικας; Aromanian: Smolcu) is a mountain in the Ioannina regional unit, northwestern Greece. At a height of 2,637 metres above sea level, it is the highest of the Pindus Mountains, and the second highest mountain in Greece after Mount Olympus. The mountain consists of ophiolite rocks. During several periods in the Pleistocene the northern and eastern cirques and valleys were glaciated. The last glaciers of this area retreated around 11,500 years ago.[2] It is drained by the river Vjosa to the south, and the river Vourkopotamo (a tributary of the Sarantaporos) to the north. There is a small alpine lake called "Drakolimni Smolika" near the summit, at about 2,200 metres elevation. Nearby mountain ranges are Tymfi to the south, Gramos to the northwest, Vasilitsa to the southeast and Voio to the northeast.
Ο Σμόλικας καλύπτεται από πλούσια βλάστηση που περιλαμβάνει κυρίως μαυρόπευκο, ρόμπολο, οξιά και διάφορα φυλλοβόλα. Κάτω από την υψηλότερη κορυφή του σχηματίζεται η δρακόλιμνη. Μικρότερες παροδικές αλπικές λίμνες σχηματίζονται σε λοιπά σημεία του βουνού.
The higher elevations, above 2,000 metres, consist of grasslands and rocks, and there are deciduous and conifer forests at lower elevations. The mountain lies completely within the municipality of Konitsa, the main villages around the mountain being Agia Paraskevi to the north, and Palaioselli, Pades and Armata to the south. The town Konitsa lies 15 km southwest of Smolikas. The Greek National Road 20 (Kozani - Siatista - Konitsa - Ioannina) passes west of the mountain.
The giant Smolikas, one of the most beloved mountains of walkers, is distinguished by its dense forests, many springs and impressive alpine landscapes with peaks, meadows and beautiful dragon lakes. It is a large mountainous mass of Northern Pindos, most of which extends to the north of the prefecture of Ioannina, while a small part also enters the prefecture of Grevena. To its east, Smolikas joins Vasilitsa through the valley of Valia Kirna, to the north of the mountain flows the Sarantaporos river that separates it from Grammos, to the south the Aoos river and its ravine form the border of the mountain with Tymfi and in the to its west it ends calmly in the forested hills and the plain of Konitsa. Smolikas is the second highest mountain in Greece and is characterized by a conical shape and a direction from west to east. The Kerasovitikos river divides the mountain into the central southern part and the northern part which is distinguished by lower peaks. With the highest peak Homonymi or Geros or Smolikas at 2,631 meters, Smolikas seems to touch the sky as 14 of its peaks exceed 2,000 meters. The most important of them are Mosia (2,560 m), Laimos (2,542 m), Koutsouro (2,318 m), Captain Chekouras (2,253 m), Vouzi (2,239 m), Alogotopos ( 2,230 m.), Misorachi (2,217 m.), Paliostrougi (2,221 m.), Daliapoli (2,077 m.), Petra Gagaranza (2,045 m.), Smiliana (2,014 m.), Kirkori (1,860 m. m.), the Tambouri (1,878 m.) and the Thief (1,846 m.). A special feature of the highest peaks is the dragon lake of Smolika at 2,160 meters, the second largest in Greece, while below the peak of Mosia there is a second alpine lake. To the east of the mountain lies the wild, wooded valley of Valia Kirna, which in Vlach translates as "valley of demons" and to the north of the highest peaks dominates Vathylakos, a large amphitheater depression with an impressive waterfall. The rocks of Smolika are mainly serpentine and less limestone and in combination with the great slopes of the mountain create dozens of springs, streams and small rivers. The mountain is almost entirely included in the Natura 2000 network (19,975 hectares) and since 2005 has been part of the expanded North Pindos National Park. In the greater part of the mountain, the road network is absent and human disturbance is minimal. So here a huge biodiversity finds refuge that to meet it one will have to walk for kilometers in the dense forests and alpine meadows of the mountain.

At low altitudes and up to 1,000 meters, Smolikas is covered by deciduous forests consisting mainly of various types of oak with "patches" of gabrus, rowan, maple, hazel, linden, etc. From 1,000 to 1,700 large forests of black pine and smaller forests of beech and Macedonian firs grow. After 1,700 meters the majestic Robolas appear and from 2,000 meters the alpine vegetation begins with extensive meadows. The flora of the mountain is not as rich as that of other mountainous areas of our country, but it consists of rare species that are a magnet for botanists. The most important plant species of Smolika are the mountain endemics Aubrieta glabrescens, Centaurea ptarmicoides, Cerastium smolikanum, Crepis merxmuelleri, Galium ophioliticum and Taraxacum nudum. Important mountain species are also Botrychium simplex, Alyssum smolikanum, Dactylorhiza baumanniana subsp smolikana, Fritillaria epirotica, Bornmuellera tymphaea, Bornmuellera baldaccii, Noccaea epirota, Dichoropetalum stridii, Silene haussknechtii and Silene parnassica subsp pindicola, campanulas Campanula hawkinsiana and Campanula tymphaea, Aquilegia vulgaris, Aconogonon alpinum, carnations Dianthus haematocalyx subsp pindicola and Dianthus sylvestris subsp sylvestris, Pinguicula balcanica, Potentilla aurea subsp chrysocraspeda, Daphne blagayana, Haplophyllum boissieranum and Trollius europaeus. Other interesting species of Smolica are Armeria canescens, Leptoplax emarginata, Pinguicula crystallina subs. hirtiflora, Rhynchocorys elephas, Alkanna pindicola, Anthericum liliago, Arenaria conferta subsp serpentini, Gentianella bulgarica, Gentiana lutea, Narcissus poeticus subsp radiiflorus, Parnassia palustris, Pedicularis graeca, Tulipa australis, Alchemilla straminea, the fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Stellaria montana, Asyneuma pichleri, bellflowers Campanula radicosa and Campanula persicifolia, Pedicularis olympica, lily Lilium chalcedonicum, Scabiosa tenuis and violas Viola albanica, Viola dukadjinica and Viola epirota. There are also many species of orchids on the mountain, among which Epipactis palustris, Corallorhiza trifida, Platanthera bifolia, Neottia ovata, Neottia nidus-avis, Gumnadenia frivaldii, Gumnadenia conopsea and Dactylorhiza kalopissi stand out.

The avifauna consists of 120 species, which find protection in the vast forests and mountain alpines. Vultures still live in Smolika, while the majestic golden eagles, hawks, buzzards, buzzards, falcons, peregrine falcons, kestrels, diplosina and rock cranes stand out among the predators. Until a few years ago, white-tailed deer lived in the area, but now they have probably disappeared. Of the nocturnal predators, owls, tawny owls and owls live here, while there are also reports of rare eagle owls. Various species of woodpeckers live in the forests, such as the black, green, ash, white-billed, middle and Balkan woodpeckers. Many rare species live in the alpine areas of the mountain, such as the snow shrike, pyrrokotsyfa, snow ostrich, snow warbler, white shrike, snow shrike and walleye. Other species of the mountain are the petrel, the fassa, the grebe, the tree starling, the gray warbler, the grebe, the wagtail, the woodpecker, the wagtail, the brown-throated, the ash-petrel, the wagtail, the hawksbill, the pygmy warbler, the wood flycatcher, the rare pied flycatcher, the elk sparrow, the crested sparrow, the woodpecker, the eagle-owl, the magpie, the yellow-billed grebe, the crow, the jackdaw, the pyrroula, the nutcracker, the crossbill and the mountain warbler.
Among the amphibians, the two simple lakes are home to many alpine newts, while lower down there are Macedonian newts, salamanders, yellow bobbins, toads, green toads, frogs and frogs. The reptile fauna includes around 15 species, of which the Mediterranean turtles, loggerhead turtles, Roumeli's lizards, theranosaurs, prasinosaurs, wall lizards, Taurus lizards, coronets, laphiates, Asclepius' laphiates, water snakes stand out. , the rattlesnakes and vipers. Smolikas is one of the most important sanctuaries of our country for large, rare mammals. Bears, wolves, deer, and wild cats live here in healthy populations. A small population of wild goats still lives in the mountain ravines, while the mammal fauna is completed by wild boars, otters, foxes, badgers, woodchucks, weasels, hedgehogs, hares, squirrels, myoxes, mountain myoxes, etc. The fish fauna of the mountain streams includes, among others, the rare Ionian trout (Salmo farioides), the European grayling (Alburnoides bipunctatus), the eel (Anguilla anguilla), and the rare pindovin (Oxynoemacheilus pindus).

How are you going?
To go to Smolika, choose Konitsa as the starting point of your excursions. From Athens you reach Konitsa, via Rio-Antirio (510 km) or via Katara (555 km). From Thessaloniki via Egnatia and the Kozani-Ioannina National Road, the distance is 295 km. Beyond Konitsa, there are other beautiful villages around the mountain with accommodations, such as Samarina and Kerasovo. Prepare for a lot of and enjoyable walking.