Mikro Papigko - Drakolimni Tymfis
This is a fascinating hike to the alpine Dragon's Lake or Drokolimni on Mt. Tymfi. The starting point for the hike is the village of Mikro Papingo in the Vikos-Aoos National Park in the province of Zagori. It is a hike of about 8 kilometeres with elevation gain of over 1000 meters, lasting for about four to five hours each way. To do the hike, you have first to reach the village of Mikro Papingo and the easiest way to do so is by car. According to the legend, two dragons who hated each other used to live in the dragon lakes of Mt. Tymfi and Mt. Smolikas. Because of their grudge, they often threw big rocks to each other—many of which ended up around the two lakes.
The trail (national trail O3) first enters the forest but soon the forest gives way to a naked, open landscape dotted with juniper shrubs. As you climb higher, the landscape turns into a rocky surface with short grass. The trail is well marked with signs, red dots and arrows on rocks and trees. Along the way, there are four water taps but do not have water in all seasons. There are also some wooden benches and shelters where you can stop to rest and capture some beautiful photos.
About halfway, there is the shuttered Astraka Mountain Hut, perched at 6,398ft (1.950 m). This hut is open daily from May to the end of October and offers cooked meals and accommodation for hikers willing to spend the night on. It can accommodate up to fifty people and is very cheap to sleep and eat. The building stands on the ridge between the highlands of Tymfi and Papingo valley and offers breathtaking views on both sides. From this point starts the most difficult part of the route, lasting approximately one and a half hours. You first have to descend to Tsounami pond which is usually dry during the summer, cross the grasslands and start the final ascend. At the end of the route, the plateau at the foot of Mount Tymfi and Drakolimni reveals itself. The lake is located on an altitude of 2.050m and is home to the Alpine Newt, a striking amphibian that has been around for thousands of years and resembles to a small dragon. The lake covers an area of approximately 10.000m² and is five meters deep. The calm lake's surface reflects the blue sky and the Gamila peak. To return to Mikro Papingo, you have to follow the same route. The descent is equally painful, especially for the knees.
The 10-hour round trip has a high degree of difficulty and is not for beginners. The best time of the year to do the hike is from May to October when the weather is good. Swimming in the lake is not permitted as it can harm the living organisms, however you may see some adventurous hikers dive into the cold waters of the lake. Before starting the hike, you would better check the weather conditions to avoid taking any risks.You should also keep in mind to have plenty pf water and some snacks with you.