Ioannina is the largest city of Epirus and capital of the prefecture. Built on the northwest side of lake Pamvotida, Ioannina is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece, with an important course in the nation’s history.
The modern buildings and shopping centers coexist with the well preserved buildings of the beautiful old city (around Kastro), the imposing monuments, the picturesque neighborhoods, the popular-art workshops, the pedestrian walkways and the large squares.
Ioannina has a large and thriving academic community which brings a lively and creative dynamism to the city. Daily life in the city is full of intellectual and artistic events. There are also important sports events, mainly held at lake Pamvotida.
Ioannina was liberated from Turkish rule on February 21st 1913, during the 1st Balkan War. It is located 450 km NW of Athens (via Rio-Antirio) and 370 km SW of Thessaloniki (via Kozani).
Must visit: Experience a world where Jewish, Muslims and Christians have been meeting and mixing over the centuries against the breathtaking backdrop of a castle town that evokes the spirit of a distant past. Take a romantic stroll along the Old Town’s picture-perfect neighbourhoods expanding around the Castle (Siaráva, Kourmanió, Yialí Kafené) and gaze at the well preserved edifices and monuments, the beautiful squares and the folk art workshops that produce the famous Ioánnina silverware. As you enter one of the largest castle towns in Greece through its monumental gates, you will encounter two acropolises, “Epano Goulas” with Ashlan Pasha Mosque and Its-Kale Acropolis, where the Fetihé Mosque built by Ali Pashá during the Turkish occupation lies.
Take a small boat and visit the isle of Ioánnina, in the northeastern part of the city’s lake. There, a colourful settlement with traditional buildings and historic monasteries inhabited by 150 people will embrace all your senses.
Get acquainted with the modern part of the city through walking along the bustling Avérof and Aneksartisías streets. In Ioánnina there is a plethora of grand mansions (Pyrsinella, Misiou, Despoti, Tzavella) that now house museums, libraries and civil services. The art aficionados should definitely pay a visit to the Archaeological, Folk Art, Byzantine and Vrellis Greek History Wax Museums.
Let us not forget to mention that the Archaeological Museum is a candidate for the European Museum Award 2012 granted each year by the European Museum Forum (EMF). If you have some time left visit also the Perama Cave, only 3km far from the city; it was actually discovered randomly by the locals in 1940 while they were seeking shelter to defend themselves from the bombings.
Activities: Follow a romantic biking route around the lake; go rowing or trekking through an exhilarating mountain path starting from Ligkiades and ending at the peak of mountain Mitsikéli.
Taste: Don’t leave unless you have tasted the mouth-watering traditional dessert “yianniotiko” and cinnamon-infused rakí from the local Women’s Association or indulge in sweet-smelling tsípouro together with the locals. On the islet of Ioánnina you certainly have to taste the gastronomic treasures of the lake, like trout and frogs’ legs.
Accommodation: The city boasts an excellent tourist infrastructure! From family run pensions to elegant luxury hotels, a variety of lavish sanctuaries will infuse a romantic atmosphere all over you...
Hot tips for romantic couples: The serenity of Lake Pamvotida will weave a powerful spell over you… Like a stunning mirror of outstanding natural beauty, Lake Pamvotida reflects the splendour of the surrounding landscape in its waters. To take in the most breathtaking view of the lake and the city alike you have to reach the village of Ligkiádes, on the slopes of Mitsikeli, opposite Ioánnina, ideally when the sun sets. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Zayorohoria, a complex of 46 picturesque traditional villages built in a magical setting amidst pine and fir trees with a unique traditional architecture, impressive stone mansions and undulating, natural forest surroundings.
At Perama, 4 km NW, a very frequented touristy village, famous for its silver craft workshops and its popular-art shops. The imposing cave of Perama was discovered in 1940. This cave is one of the largest in the country and contains rare types of stalactites and stalagmites. The Amfithea area has many popular taverns and entertainment clubs.
At Katsika, 6 km SE from the city of Ioannina, a settlement which contains model apiculture and dairy-farm facilities. Its taverns make it a popular destination. The nearby village of Dafnoula provides a wonderful view.
At Ligiades, 12.5 km NE, a village built on mount Mitsikeli, with a wonderful view of Ioannina and the lake. You can follow a wonderful trail down to the historical monastery of Dourahani, on the eastern banks of the lake.
At the villages of Ano and Kato Lapsista, 15.5 and 13 km NW respectively, built on the dried-out bed of the Lapsista lake, with a developed aviculture. Nearby are the ruins of ancient Passarona (ancient capital of the Molossians) and the temple of Peripterou Naou tou Ariou Dios, from the 4th century B.C. Also, at the villages of Metamorfosi-Asfaka-Petsali, 19 km NW, in the Lapsista valley which was created from the exsiccation of the Lapsista morass. The villages are famous for their wine, tsipouro and honey.
At Dodoni, 21 km SW, a famous archaeological site near the village of Dodonoupoli (Mandres), on the foot of the Tomaros mountain. The famous oracle of ancient Dodoni, which was a centre of worship for Zeus, was built adjacent to one of the most ancient chthonic sanctums (the Earth was worshiped here since 2600 B.C.). The priestesses interpreted Zeus‘ oracles from the rustle of the sacred oak tree’s leaves and from the pigeons’ flight.
The renowned ancient theatre of Dodoni is one of antiquity’s largest, with 55 rows of seats and a capacity of 18,000. The theatre was built in the 3rd century B.C. under Pyrrhus, king of the Molossians, who united the Epirus tribes and brought great prosperity to the region. The theatre was used for hosting cultural events which later stopped to avoid its deterioration. A prefabricated theatre has been set up at the archaeological site in order to host the summer events of “Dodonea”.
At Theriakisio, 24.5 km S, a village famous for its mountaineering and climbing activities, built on the edge of mount Tomaros.