High in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece, far from the sun-baked shores of the Aegean Sea, leafy forests of beech and chestnut grow in lieu of the characteristic olive groves of the south, and sparkling alpine lakes are framed by soaring—and sometimes snow-capped—peaks. This is a side of Greece that eludes most, but captures the imagination and the hearts of all who journey here. It’s a place of vibrant landscapes and storybook villages, with a rich cultural heritage that stems from the days when Ottoman traders passed through on their way from Constantinople to the rest of Europe. This is Zagori, and at the heart of this gorgeous and untamed region is Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas.
Perched above the town of Aristi, the lodge’s traditional stone exteriors reflect the character of the region, while the elegant interiors provide a soothing sanctuary after a day of adventuring. Aristi is a magnificent base for hiking, rafting, and horseback riding through the dramatic Zagorohorian landscapes, but it also serves as the prime podium from which to view them. The spectacular Vikos Gorge is almost ever present—you can gaze at this natural wonder whether you’re enjoying northern Greek fare in the restaurant or relaxing in the spa. But the scenery shines brightest from the terrace at sunset, when the valley’s presiding cliffs light up in brilliant shades of pink and violet.
Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas was designed to celebrate Zagori’s timeless culture and intriguing history, providing a truly authentic experience that reflects the region’s multilayered past. In order to preserve the character of the area, Aristi has been instrumental in establishing a network of local businesses to encourage sustainable development. Its efforts are also helped along by regional building regulations that restrict commercial development and maintain traditional stone architecture.
Guests can set out from the lodge and explore this untouched area much like the locals have for hundreds of years, accessing mountains and gorges via stone mule paths and Ottoman-era bridges, and discovering villages that remain mostly unchanged from their trading-post heyday. The surrounding landscapes, including Vikos-Aoos National Park, provide an ideal setting for ecotourism activities. The rivers here are reputed to be among the cleanest in all of Europe, and nearby forested mountains shelter some of the most rugged spots in Greece. Zagori’s distance from Athens and the highly trafficked Greek Isles allow the region to fly under the radar of mainstream tourists, making the region one of the country’s best kept secrets—and Aristi a true hidden gem.
The owners of Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas have access to a special key that unlocks the door of a nearby 16th-century monastery. Guests who book their stay through National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will be granted exclusive access into this incredible church. Gaze at stunning frescoed walls and climb the charming bell tower as you learn about the monk who founded this small hermitage hundreds of years ago while seeking the solitude of the surrounding mountains.
To maintain and support the authenticity of the region, lodge owner Vasilis Iosifidis co-founded the Zagori Excellence Network, an association of local business owners committed to developing area tourism in a sustainable way. Members of the association range from hiking guides to chefs who forage ingredients in the surrounding wilderness, and they support one another by procuring needed goods and services from network businesses whenever possible. For example, Aristi sources produce for its restaurant from its own gardens and greenhouse, as well as from free-range and organic farms in the area. Nature guides encourage "Leave No Trace" practices on hikes with guests, while introducing them to native flora and traditional herbal uses, as well as to the cultural sites encountered along the way, from tiny frescoed chapels to cliff-hanging monasteries. Aristi's strong relationships with other local businesses support community development, while also providing guests with the opportunity to engage more deeply with the region's natural and cultural heritage. Each guest of Aristi is invited to contribute one euro to the Donate to Nature Program, a charity sponsored by the Zagori Excellence Network. Proceeds from the program fund local conservation projects, including the preservation of the area's historic churches and monasteries, as well as the protection of the Vikos-Aoos National Park ecosystem.
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