Ioannina or Yannena is beautiful town in the region of Epirus in Northwestern Greece. Built at the banks of lake Pamvotida, one of the oldest lakes worldwide is a place full of history and art. Ioannina is also known as the city of silversmiths and as gastronomical paradise.
I spent 2 days in Ioannina in January as it was an area I wanted to visit for a long time.
Things to do in Ioannina
- Explore the castle town of Ioannina.
The castle town of Ioannina is the oldest byzantine fortress in Greece and is one of the few castles that is still inhabited. I was lucky enough to stay at a lovely boutique hotel inside its walls during my visit. It was built in 528 AD by the Emperor Justinian and it played an important role in the history of the town over the years.
Some important monuments inside its walls are the Its Kale Acropolis there you will see the Fetiche Mosque where you will learn about the story of Ali Pasa and the role that played in the history of the city. In front of the Mosque there are the graves of Ali Pasa and his first wife. Other sites that worth a visit are the Byzantine museum with an extensive sollection of Byzantine icons, the ammunition depot, a Byzantine silversmithing collection and a nice cafe with impressive views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.The Municipal Museum
Other interesting sites inside the castle walls are the remains of a turkish library, the Municipal Museum that is housed in the impressive Asian Passa Mosque that has a great collection of traditional uniforms of the area, silverware and guns.
Lastly don’t forget to wander around the alleyways of the old town and see the traditional houses and shops.
- Have a walk around lake Pamvotida
One of my favorite spots in Ioannina is the beautiful lake. You can have a walk around it or just sit in one of the benches and admire the view, watch the seagulls and the ducks. There are some nice cafe and resturants around the lake. Cafe Ludost at the banks of the lake is a favorite of mine as it is dod friendly. Our dog Charlie enjoyed his visit there and especially his trats and water bowl.
- Take the boat to the island
From the banks of lake Pamvotida you can take the boat to the nearby island one of the two lake islands in Greece that are inhabited. The island has one village that is very picturesque with little alleyways and souvenir shops selling local products. On the island there is the museum of Ali Pasa that houses many artifacts of the Ottoman period and some of his personal items. It was also the place where he was murdered in 1822. The boat leaves every hour in winter and every half and hour in the summer. Tickets cost 2 € each way.
- Explore Perama Cave
Located just 5 km away from the city centre, it’s one of the most rare and beautiful caves in the world. It was created 1.500.000 years ago in the heart of Goritsa hill. It has a steady temperature of 17 Celcius throught the year. As soon as you arrive you will be greeted by your guide that will show you around the cave. The tour takes around 45 minutes, during that time you will leran abouth the history of the cave and you will enjoy a great display of stalctites and stalagmites. Beware that there are a lot of steep steps inside the cave.
Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the cave.
- Visit Dodoni Sanctuary and Theatre
The archaeological site of Dodoni is located 21 km away grom Giannena and it’s home to one of the oldest Oracles of the Hellenic world. The sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus and it had an Oracle area and a theatre that are still visible today along with a Prytaneum and a Parliament. You can climb at the theatre and enjoy a magnificent view of the nature and the mountains.
- Try the local delicasies
The area of Ioannina is famous for its tasty cuisine. Things you should definitely try are different kind of pies and fish from the lake like trout, eels and frog’s legs. Another special delicacy of the area is a dessert called baklavas.
- Buy traditional products
Apart from the famous baklava other things you can take home with you from Ioannina include herbs from the surrounding mountains, an alcohol free liqueur made from fruits only available there and of course any kind of silver items like jewellery.
Other interesting sites inside in the area include the Archaeological museum of Ioannina located in the central square of the city with findings from the Paleolithic era until the post Roman years and the Pavlos Vrellis museum of Wax Effigies at the outskirts of the city. At the museum you will learn the history of the area which is reproduced by the wax effigies.
How to get to Ioannina
You can get to Ioannina from Athens through Patra by car or public bus (Ktel). The distance is 445 km and you will need approximately 6 hours. From Thessaloniki its 261 km and through the new Egnatia Highway you will need 2 hours and 40 minutes. You can alos take the public bus ktel from Thessaloniki. Lastly there is an airport in Ioannina called King Pyrros with regular flights from major cities.
Ionnina is also a great base to visit the nearby beautiful villages of Zagorohoria and Metsovo.