© Nick Chappell

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A Spectacular Drive on the Katara Pass

Situated on the borders between the regional unit of Ioannina in Epirus and the regional unit of Trikala in Thessaly, the Katara Pass, else known as Metsovo Pass, is one of the most dangerous mountain roads of the Balkans. Katara Pass is a mountain pass of the Pindus Mountains, which forms and divides the river basins of Aoos and Peneus rivers. Perched at an altitude of 1,705 meters, Katara is one of the highest mountain passes of the country. Although the majority of the drivers choose to follow Egnatia Odos, the new motorway that passes through tunnels, lovers of adventure tend to still drive through Katara Pass owing to the challenging driving experience and the outstanding views to the countryside of Epirus. Else known as Metsovo Pass, this challenging driving opportunity is surrounded from magnificent natural sceneries. The Katara Pass carries the sole high-altitude asphalted road across the mountains of central Pindus, and it distinguishes as one of the most spectacular drives in the country. This centuries old route zigzags through folds in the enormous peaks rising more than 2300 meters around the traditional village of Metsovo. From mid November up until the beginning of April, the pass is snow ploughed, and only the adventure junkies drive through the Katara, as Egnatia expressway with its enormous tunnels now smoothly flows all the way to the west coast. Beyond all, the Katara, which literally translates to the cursed pass, is infamous for being the most dangerous part of the old road network across the northern part of the country. Indeed, the websites warning the travellers for the dangerous roads in other countries have been rated Katara as a scary one. This mountain is serious and requires attention, especially in the winter, as the weather changes are intense and unpredictable. It is difficult route of 18 kilometers in a narrow uphill and downhill road, where the driver is impossible to find his way in severe winter conditions. At an altitude of 1.699 meters, in the Katara neck, the snow in winter reaches two meters where the nightmarish conditions make the passage even more difficult due to the high winds from whichever direction. You might even watch the dancing devils show up there from your fear. Reaching upon the top of the pass, blending with the whitewashed clouds, the wonderful views of the valley and the surrounding mountains will fill you with authentic moments of the Greek countryside. Tradition has it that the pass took its name from a despot of Ioannina who wanted to cross this dangerous pass with a destination to the city of Trikala in the 1800s. The despot couldn’t bear the route until he arrived in a glade, locally known as the valley of the despot, where he died and cursed the place. Since then, legends and traditions wrap the story of the passage of Katara. Iced asphalt, snow-covered trees and dark shadows promise the most exhilarating driving experience in Greece. The choice of whether you want to drive through this cursed pass is entirely yours! Though, adventure junkies would never regret, and do it again and again! Grab the opportunity to enjoy the fabulous views and the intoxicating pure mountain air; however, keep in mind that you have to be advised from a local authority before entering this pass in winter, as many times this pass has confirmed its name!