Trekking in the Valli Cupe, one of Europe's largest canyons

Hike in the "Valli Cupe" Regional Nature Reserve
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© M. Guzzo

Sport and nature

Feb 16, 2024 8:52 AM

We are not in Arizona or in the centre of the Grand Canyon, but in Calabria, in the Valli Cupe gorge, where one of the largest canyons in Europe is located.

More precisely, in the enchanting "Valli Cupe" Regional Nature Reserve, municipality of Sersale, an integral part of the Sila National Park on the Catanzaro side.

Immersing oneself in this green, lush and unspoilt paradise (with or without a specialised guide) means encountering real natural monuments, such as the so-called Giants of Sila, breathtaking geological formations and gorges, extremely rare animal and plant species, waterfalls with a large drop in which to bathe, and the remains of ancient, rural settlements.

"Valli Cupe" Regional Nature Reserve

At the foot of the Sila Plateau, the Valli Cupe represent one of the most fascinating natural sites in Calabria. The area was established as a Regional Nature Reserve in 2016 and it is a treasure trove of hidden treasures.

Any peculiarities? Its morphology is characterised by gorges and precipices that drop sheer for hundreds of metres; monoliths, which together make up a small universe of stone; a flora composed of numerous monumental trees of the Silan primeval forest; waterfalls and canyons that alternate, with niches of precious biodiversity; villages that tell ancient legends and stories of brigands.

Valli Cupe
Regione Calabria

From a geomorphological point of view, the "Valli Cupe" Reserve consists of 3 distinct bodies, which can be visited in one long hike or in stages, with separate treks:

  • Fosso Valli Cupe, which includes the canyon and acrocorus of Monte Raga
  • Torrente Campanaro, with a tour of the waterfalls
  • Crocchio River, with the canyon and waterfalls of the same name, the monolith and monumental trees.

Ready to discover these natural wonders with a trek in the Valli Cupe? Backpack on your shoulders, off you go!

Trekking through canyons and waterfalls

Let's line up in single file and get ready to converse with the majesty of one of Europe's largest canyons, overlooked by its sedimentary walls and narrow gorges that introduce us to the most precious secrets of the Presila of Catanzaro.

The "Grand Canyon of Calabria" is a breathtaking discovery, opening up at the end of a dark, narrow gorge crossed by a stream. Here one is fully aware that one is in the presence of an intact and very ancient ecosystem, so much so that it contains a rare species of prehistoric fern (Felcetta lanosa and Pteride di Creta) and a series of niches of biodiversity of great biological importance.

The Valli Cupe Canyon, which gives its name to the entire Regional Nature Reserve, is a rare stratified geological formation, whose walls, sculpted by the erosion of millennia and the burrows of small animals, create a true natural setting, "gloomy" only because of the half-light. All around, in fact, a perfect harmony emanates, regenerating body and mind through the scent of Mediterranean plants. If we look up, we find kites, owls and even vultures in the canyon's recesses to keep us company.

Valli Cupe
Regione Calabria

Leaving the canyon, the second tour route takes us along the Campanaro stream, fed by the waterfall of the same name. The Campanaro Waterfall is not the only one in the reserve, which boasts several, up to 100 metres high.

The Inferno Waterfall is one of the most impressive, set in a narrow gorge with a very deep pool. Of particular naturalistic value are the Rupe Waterfall, with its spectacular waterfall carved into a granite rock, and the Gole del Crocchio Waterfalls in the mountain section of the Arocha River, where it is possible to admire the Royal Fern, another precious and very ancient species.

Zagarise Cascate
Regione Calabria

Along the route of the Crocchio Gorge, we encounter the peculiar Silan monoliths. Arranged in the surroundings of the town of Sersale, these geological monuments constitute a small universe of stone. Standing out among them is the Pietra del Ruvazzo (dialectal name for robin), an authentic ecomuseum that "exhibits" dozens of engravings from the 1600s linked to the history of brigandage, and the Petra Aggìallu, about 18 metres high.

Also of gigantic proportions are the famous "Giants" (the Good Giant, the Giants of Cavallopoli and the Silan Giant of the Olive Trees), which, together with the Bread Tree, form a cathedral with a colonnade of trunks.

Our trek in the Valli Cupe Reserve ends with a visit to the ancient Silan villages near Sersale.

The must-sees? The village of Zagarise, where you can admire the Norman Tower, the Church of the Rosary and taste the prized Calabrian PDO Olive Oil; the small town of Cerva, with its Chestnut Museum and Ceramics Museum, and places rich in legends such as Borgo Marcaglione, the "Santi Tre Fanciulli" Monastery, with the remains of a real "lost city", and Barbaro.

Regione Calabria