Welcome to Ioannina in the northwest of Greece, Epirus is the province. Here I have spent at least a few weeks every summer the last 30 years. Ioannina is our family’s home base in Greece. The city is visited by Greeks and foreigners who love nature experiences of all kinds. Here around the lake Pamvotida there are mountains, exciting landscapes, high mountain peaks, rapids, ravines and many trails to wander in. Its only 45 minutes drive to the 46 stone villages of Zagori from the city. Read about it in a separate blogpost here.
So finely last year the city got its first charter travellers from Sweden. You can now combine your trip with accommodation on the coast in Parga or Sivota and the mountains so you can get the best holiday experience ever in Greece. From here it is only one hour to Albania if you want to take your first day trip there.
Every autumn, new students come from all over Greece and Cyprus and are looking for accommodation, Ioannina is a university city. Here, it is bursting with life in the city’s cafes, bars and restaurants.
The most famous family is probably Averoff, which has its roots in the village of Metsovo 15 minutes from the city by car. Evangelos in the Averoff family were Foreign Minister and Defense Minister in Greece. He founded Metsovo’s art museum, vineyard and other cultural activities for the area. More about him and his work at the Averoff museums website.
The most famous woman in the city is Kyra Frosini, a woman from the upper class of the city from the end of the 1700s. She was immersed in the lake Pamvotida along with 16 other women by Ali Pasha, Albanian ruler who ruled over the Ottoman region where Ioannina was the capital. If it was because of political reasons or because of jealousy there are different opinions about it. At the lake’s promenade there is a landmark over her.
The city’s most famous sport is the canoe. In the Pamvotida lake, new generations of canoeists are regularly trained. During the 2004 Olympics, the games were organized here.
What to do & see
Pamvotida lake – walk down the main street Averoff towards the lake and enjoy. This is the meeting point in town with a lot of cafes, restaurants and bars. Take a walk around the lakeside or Molos as it called by the locals. A nice view of the lake and the island from above is shown in this video.
To Nisi – means the island in Greek, so here we have an island with no name. The boat trip from Molos takes less than 15 minutes. There are about hundreds of families living with fishing and tourism on the island. There are charming houses and alleys to stroll in, shops with handwork from the neighborhood and silver jewelry to watch as Ioannina is famous for its many silver smiths. Seven monasteries was built here and was once an excellent place to live as a monk. The island is most famous for the murder of the powerful ruler Ali Pasha. His home and house on the island is now a museum and attracts many visitors.
Old castle – Ioannina’s old castle is built during the Byzantine era, its the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece. The old town has charming houses and alleys, the houses are culture-marked of course. The most popular area is called Its Kale where you find nicely preserved buildings from the time of the Ottoman Empire, the area used to be Ali Pasha’s palace. A minaret, a large kitchen that is now a charming café overlooking the lake that can be seen in the pictures below. The Byzantine Museum, and a Silversmiths museum are located in the park. Concerts and other cultural events are held here often and might be on the agenda while you strolling or sit at the café.
Another impressive building is Aslan Pasha Mosque building, which today houses the Ethnographic Museum of Ioannina. Here you’ll learn about the ways of life of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims who harmoniously lived in the city of Ioannina.
Where to eat
The most famous dish in Ioannina and Epirus is Pita, which is a large pie made in the pan in the oven. Pita is often made of filo dough but not necessarily because the women in the area here have been creative and the filling is varied from spinach and cheese to sweet varieties that contain cinnamon and sugar with other greens. Ioannina has a large selection of restaurants and here are a few restaurants I have visited more than once.
- Seirioskouzina – Patriarhi Evangelidou 1. Located near the lakeside serves greek dishes with a meditarrenian touch.
- Parko Naftikou Omilou – Kanari 10 Limnopoula . Trendy restaurant by the lake with greek food and a lot of vegetarian dishes.
- Mpoukia Mpoukia – Akadimias 4. Cozy restaurant resided in a two-storied neoclassical house with a lovely garden.
- Frontzu Politia – Agia Triados Hill. If you want to have the best view of Ioannina in a classy restaurant this is your choice.
- Rakoumel – Kallari 30. Located just outside one of the entrances of the old castle. Here you will find mezedes in a cozy atmosphere, a meeting point for all ages.
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