Kokkinopilos, the otherworldly red clay hills of Preveza
The mysterious landscape of Kokkinopilos (red clay) hills in Preveza is located between the villages of Agios Georgios and Rizovouni.
Attracting travelers from all over the world, Kokkinopilos is a complex of hills, about 100 to 150 metres high, of particular geological and archaeological interest. Researchers claim that the depression that formed the area of Kokkinopilos dates back to prehistoric times, with the sun and weather conditions leaving their indelible mark over the centuries.
The characteristic reddish tint of the hills is due to the red clay and iron oxide-rich subsoil of the area. Over time, the erosion caused by the rain and moisture created distinctive formations and a particularly photogenic scenery. Essentially, it was the changing weather phenomena that gradually transformed this red plateau (terra rossa) into a place of low red small hills and ravines interspersed with greenery. Every time it rains, the water carries away the soft red material to the plain of Stefani, giving the fields the crimson color they have when they are ploughed.
The captivating landscape, which looks like a movie set or valleys on Mars, was discovered in 1962 by a British archaeologist Eric Higgs during excavations he led with the participation of Greek archaeology professor Sotirios Dakaris.
However the area’s secrets were revealed in 1991 and 1992 after another series of excavations by American archaeologists.
A place with a rich history
Although experts say that most of the findings in the area of Kokkinopilos date to the Paleolithic Age, it is safe to say that quite few of them also belong to the Bronze Age. Among the most impressive items unearthed are a 250,000-year-old stone axe which can be viewed up close at the Archaeological Museum in Ioannina, along with other important artifacts that provide a glimpse of the everyday life of prehistoric people.
Kokkinopilos is also traversed by a 50-km-long Roman aqueduct, a feat of ancient engineering. Kokkinopilos is included by the Institute of Geology and Mining Research among the monuments of nature with significant geological value. Researchers have sought to explain the origins of these red areas, encountered in Greece, Italy and Spain. Studies have suggested that the red soil reached the southern Mediterranean in the form of dust from African continent. More specifically, strong southerly winds carried it over the sea from the wider Sahara and Sahel regions.
Kokkinopilos can be reached either by taking the Ioannina-Preveza motorway to the village of Agios Georgios and the nearby Nikopolis Roman Aqueduct. (Kokkinopilos lies west from here and in walking distance (half a kilometre).) or alternatively, by taking the Lake Zirou-Rizovouni-Stefani road and turning right onto the fourth paved road you come across. Kokkinopilos is at the end of a 2km drive followed by a 1km hike over difficult mountainous terrain. The route is very beautiful, as the road from one point onwards is surrounded by beautiful, lush forests that come in contrast with the red colours of Kokkinopilos. The second route requires slip resistant shoes and hiking equipment.