Located deep in the Tymfi mountains, the Dragon Lake is a place where alpine mountains filled with amazing wildlife hide a natural wonder. In this guide you will find everything you need to know about one of the most famous and scenic hiking trails in Greece, the hike to the Drakolimni of Tymphi.
What is Drakolimni?
The Drakolimni of Tymfi, also known as Drakolimni or Dragon Lake, is an alpine lake located in the Tymfi mountain range in the Pindus mountain range of northern Greece. Specifically, it is situated in the Vikos–Aoös National Park. The name “Drakolimni” translates to “Dragon Lake” in English.
This lake is the last stop of one of the most famous hiking trails in the country, known for its stunning natural beauty. Just imagine being surrounded by rocky peaks and panoramic views of the mountainous landscape. The name “Dragon Lake” was given because of the small lizard-like reptiles, called dragons, that live and swim in the lake.
The Lake is a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. However, reaching Drakolimni involves a challenging trek, but the reward is truly breathtaking.
Is Drakolimni Safe to Visit?
Drakolimni, like Greece in general, is a very safe place to visit. Crime is almost non-existent, and locals are as friendly as it gets.
One of the first things that has to come to your mind when planning a trip is insurance.
Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance is one of the best options available out there. With a maximum coverage of 365 days, they are a great option whether you are a Nomad or not! They offer very low rates, but excellent coverage and immediate support (in a few minutes!). The best part? Nomad Insurance can be purchased even if you have left your home country already.
Lastly, they also cover extreme sports, something that can come in very handy if you are an adventurous soul.
Where Should I Stay Before my Hike?
My suggestion would be to arrive a day or two before your hike and stay at the village of Mikro Papingo, located in the heart of the Zagori region. It is known for its beautiful stone houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and stunning views.
We stayed at Hotel Papigo. We had an amazing stay there. The rooms were spacious, clean and cozy. The location was awesome, the views incredible, the hosts amazing, and the food godly. I cannot recommend them enough!
Alongside the hike, you can take your time in the village to enjoy a peaceful walk through the village, visit the traditional watermills, and taste the local cuisine in one of the traditional taverns.
Getting to Mikro Papingo
The most common (and easiest) way to reach Mikro Papingo is by road. Here are some general directions; please note that road conditions and transportation options may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check for the most up-to-date information:
- From Ioannina:
- Ioannina is a major city in the region and is often used as a starting point for trips to Mikro Papingo
- Drive northeast on the E65 road towards Konitsa.
- After reaching Konitsa, take the road towards Aristi and then Mikro Papingo.
- From Thessaloniki:
- If you’re coming from Thessaloniki, head west on the E65 toward Ioannina.
- Follow the directions above from Ioannina to Mikro Papingo.
- From Athens:
- If you’re coming from Athens, the route is (a lot) longer. Take the E65 north, passing through Lamia, Trikala, and Kalambaka.
- Continue north to Metsovo and then head toward Ioannina on the E65.
- Follow the directions from Ioannina to Mikro Papingo.
By Public Transportation:
- Buses operate from Ioannina to various villages in the Zagori region, including Mikro Papingo.
- You can find the bus schedules to Ioannina (and then Mikro Papingo) from all major Greek cities through this website.
- Check the bus schedule at the Ioannina bus station or at their website. Keep in mind that schedules may change, so it’s a good idea to check in advance.
Is the Hike to Drakolimni Difficult?
The hike to Dragon Lake of Tymphi can be considered moderate to difficult, requiring a certain level of physical fitness and hiking experience. You should be prepared for steep and rocky sections, as well as some exposed areas along the way.
The difficulty of the hike also depends on the weather conditions. The trail can become more challenging during rainy or snowy weather, as it may get slippery and muddy. Furthermore, as we’ll discuss later, it involves a long duration, and that’s something to always keep in mind.
What is the Weather Like at Drakolimni?
The weather at Drakolimni can vary depending on the time of year. In the summer months, from June to August, it is generally mild and pleasant. The temperatures during this time range from around 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).
During the spring and autumn months, the weather at Drakolimni can be more unpredictable. Temperatures during these seasons can range from around 5 to 20 degrees Celsius (41 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit). It is not uncommon to experience sudden rain showers or even snowfall during these months. You should be prepared with appropriate clothing and gear to handle changing weather conditions.
In the winter months, from December to February, Drakolimni is covered in snow and the weather is cold. Temperatures can drop below freezing, with average temperatures ranging from -5 to 5 degrees Celsius (23 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit). Hiking during this time requires specialized equipment and experience, as the terrain can be challenging and the weather conditions harsh. It is important to check weather forecasts and consult with local authorities before attempting a winter hike to Drakolimni.
So, What is the Best Time to Hike Drakolimni
The best time of year to hike Drakolimni is during the summer months, from June to September. During this time, the weather is generally mild and the trails are more accessible. The snow has melted, allowing you to navigate the paths more easily.
The days are longer, providing infinite daylight for hiking and enjoying the stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. It is important to note that the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, so it is always advisable to always check the forecast before starting your hike.
If you prefer to avoid crowds and have a more peaceful hiking experience, I would recommend you to visit Drakolimni during the late spring or early autumn. During these times, the trails are less crowded, and you can enjoy a more serene atmosphere.
What should I pack for my hike to Drakolimni?
When preparing for the hike to Drakolimni, it is important to pack the right gear and essentials. Firstly, make sure to bring suitable hiking boots. The terrain can be challenging, so having proper footwear is crucial for a comfortable and safe hike.
Additionally, pack lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing to keep you hot and dry during the hike. Layering is key, as the weather can change quickly in the mountains. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof jacket and pants in case of rain or unexpected weather conditions.
Another essential item to pack is a backpack that is large enough to carry all your belongings. Look for a backpack with a capacity of at least 25-30 liters, as this will allow you to comfortably carry your water, snacks, extra clothing, and any other necessary items. It’s also a good idea to bring a smaller daypack or waist pack for shorter hikes around the lake once you reach your destination.
Water is essential for any hike, so make sure to pack enough to stay hydrated throughout the day. Depending on the length of your hike, aim to carry at least 2 liters of water per person. You can either bring a hydration bladder or multiple water bottles. It’s also a good idea to bring a water filter or purification tablets, as there are natural water sources along the trail that you can refill from.
Snacks and food are important to keep your energy levels up during the hike. Pack lightweight and nutritious snacks such as trail mix, energy bars, dried fruits, and nuts. For longer hikes, consider bringing a packed lunch or sandwiches. It’s also a good idea to bring some extra snacks in case of unexpected delays or longer breaks along the way.
Other essential items to pack include a headlamp or flashlight in case you end up hiking in low light conditions, a first aid kit with basic supplies, sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays, insect repellent to ward off bugs, and a whistle or signaling device in case of emergencies.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack a camera or smartphone to capture the stunning views and memories of your hike to Drakolimni.
Can I bring my dog on the hike to Dragon Lake of Tymphi?
Yes, you can bring your dog on the hike to Dragon Lake of Tymphi, but there are a few things to consider. First, make sure your dog is physically fit and capable of handling the hike. The trail to the lake can be steep and challenging, so it’s important that your dog is in good health.
Additionally, keep in mind that the hike is quite long, so your dog should have the stamina to handle the distance. It’s also a good idea to check the weather conditions before heading out, as extreme heat or cold can be dangerous for your dog. Finally, be mindful of other hikers and wildlife during the hike, and keep your dog on a leash to ensure their safety and the preservation of the natural environment.
I would recommend you to bring a collapsible water bowl for your dog to drink from. Additionally, pack some snacks or food for your dog to keep their energy levels up during the hike. Remember to clean up after your dog and dispose of any waste properly to maintain the cleanliness of the trail and protect the ecosystem. Bringing a first aid kit for your dog is also a wise precaution in case of any injuries or emergencies.
If your dog is easily frightened or aggressive towards other animals or people, it may be best to leave them at home to avoid any potential conflicts or disturbances during the hike. Finally, always prioritize your dog’s safety and well-being. If at any point during the hike your dog seems tired, overheated, or in distress, it’s important to take breaks, provide shade, and consider turning back if necessary.
The trail to Drakolimni offers a unique and breathtaking experience. It starts from the village of Mikro Papigo and is well-marked, making it relatively easy to follow.
The trail initially passes through a forest, offering a peaceful atmosphere. As you ascend, the landscape changes, and you will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Along the way, you will encounter several natural springs, providing fresh water to refill your bottles.Your first stop will be the Astraka Refuge.
The one-way distance from Mikro Papigo to the Astraka Refuge is around 8 kilometers. From the Astraka Refuge, you will continue your journey towards the Dragon Lake of Tymphi. If you want, you can stop at the refuge for a beverage, lunch, dinner, and even stay overnight to continue your hike on the next day.
The distance from the refuge to the lake is approximately 3 kilometers. However, the terrain can be challenging and steep in some sections, which may require additional time and effort to navigate.
As you approach Drakolimni, the final stretch of the trail involves some scrambling and requires careful footing. However, the effort is well worth it once you reach the turquoise-colored lake, located in a glacial cirque. The lake is surrounded by towering peaks, creating a dramatic setting.
Take your time to take photos, videos, or even enjoy a picnic. However, if hiking on the summer Months, be careful of the insects. At the time we were hiking, there were thousands of flys at the lake, making our stay a little unpleasant. However, this shouldn’t discourage you, as it might have been the wrong day. The hike is well worth it.
The estimated hiking time is between 4 to 6 hours each-way, depending on your pace, the weather conditions, and the number of stops. I would recommend you start early in the morning to allow enough time for the hike and to avoid the midday heat.
Can I swim in the lake?
While the idea of swimming in Drakolimni may seem tempting, and there are people doing it, it is important to note that swimming is not allowed. Drakolimni is a unique and fragile ecosystem that needs to be preserved.
The lake is home to various species of plants and animals (including the dragons!), some of which are endangered. Swimming could disturb the delicate balance of the ecosystem and harm the wildlife that relies on the lake for survival.
What wildlife can I expect to see around Drakolimni?
During your hike to to Drakolimni, you can expect to encounter a diverse range of wildlife species. The region is home to various bird species, including golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and alpine choughs. These majestic birds can often be seen soaring through the sky, adding to the awe-inspiring atmosphere of the area.
In addition to birds, Drakolimni is also known for its population of wild goats. These agile and sure-footed animals are well adapted to the rocky terrain of the Tymfi mountains. Keep an eye out for these creatures as they gracefully navigate the steep slopes and cliffs surrounding the lake. Observing them in their natural habitat can be a truly memorable experience for any nature enthusiast.
As you explore the trails around Drakolimni, you may also come across other wildlife such as foxes, hares, and various species of rodents.
Lastly, Drakolimni also supports a variety of aquatic species. These fish thrive in the cold, clear waters of Drakolimni and add to the ecological richness of the area. While being there don’t forget to spot the dragons, the small and playful lizards swimming inside the lake.
The hike to Drakolimni was definitely one of the best ones I’ve ever done! This majestic lake perfectly combines an amazing trail and stunning views of an untouched environment. A visit to Drakolimni guarantees a memorable experience, leaving you with a sense of awe and the beauty of the greek wilderness. I would definitely recommend to add the hike on the top of your list!