Braving the heights of Mount Grammos, the traditional village of Aetomilitsa literally sits at the pinnacle of Ioannina prefecture. Its fame comes not only from its altitude but also due to its prosperity, boasting flocks of over 40,000 sheep and goats at times in the past. For centuries it has been a stopping point along the route of the semi-nomadic ethnic group known as Vlachs.
They speak a language with Latin roots, stemming down from the centuries of Roman occupation. Several mountains, towns and other landmarks throughout Ioannina have two names, one Greek and one Vlach, as the ethnic minority still thrives throughout the country today. Historically, they excelled in animal husbandry and helped the Aetomilitsa region gain financial prosperity with its numerous flocks and products such as cheese, milk, meat and mountain tea. Today the Vlach population can largely be seen in Aetomilitsa only during the warm months when they bring their flocks to the cooler mountain altitudes before heading south for winter.
Though today’s visitors can marvel at its breathtaking views, Aetomilitsa’s location at the northern frontier of the country wasn’t always particularly auspicious. It was frequently attacked and sacked during numerous wars including WWII, the Greek-Italian War and most severely during the Greek Civil War. At present, the village is still a lively place during the summer and an interesting stop along Ioannina’s cultural map.