On my trip on Greece mainland from Thessaloniki to Vikos Gorge and then Meteora, Ioannina was quite a logical stop. Ioannina is the capital of Epirus, a region in the northwest part of Greece. It’s located on the bank of Lake Pamvotis at 500 m altitude. Epirus was a long time a part of Ottoman Empire and after liberation at the end of 19th century became a part of modern Greece. Ioannina is worth exploring, so here are things I did in Ioannina for your travel inspiration.
Stroll through the old town
To begin with, just stroll through the streets of the old town of Ioannina with colourful houses and enjoy its famous spoon sweets at a picturesque cafe or relax after your trip at the fashionable cafes by the lake.
Visit the castle
The castle is located in a walled part of Ioannina covering 8 hectares (20 acres) of area. The imposing castle of Ioannina was built in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece with significant influence over the history of the town that grew around it. Ali Pasha (1740 –1822), an Ottoman Albanian ruler, lived there. He served as pasha of the Ottoman Empire's European territories. He ruled over greater Epirus for 30 years. The castle is divided into four sections: the outer wall, the north western citadel with the Aslan Mosque, the southeast citadel of Itch-Kale (interior fortress) and the actual castle town - the old, walled town of Ioannina. The palace of Ali Pasha was situated in Itch-Kale in the 19th century. Today you can pay a visit to the Byzantine Museum holding a substantial collection of coins, sculptures, and other artefacts, see Fetiche Mosque (end of the 18th century) built and renovated by Ali Pasha, and make a stop by his grave. You can also stop by Agion Anargyron Church. The well-preserved building with chimneys once housed the kitchens of Itch-Kale.Then go to the lake shore to board a boat to Island.
Take a boat ride to the island
Enjoy views of the Pamvotis (the great provider) lake, one of the oldest lakes in the world. The surface area of the lake is 23 km2, with its deepest point at 5 metres. Located at the foot of Mount Mitsikeli, the lake has two main features: a dream-like peninsula with its historic castle and towering minarets, and the small island – the only island in mainland Greece to be inhabited and have no name. You enter the boat and the small trip begins.
First, you notice the ever-changing views of the surrounding mountains that come closer and closer as they are mirrored in the lake. The horizon grows; the water and the sky are deep blue.
Have a stroll on the island
It’s only a short boat ride to the Island, but once there, you’ll have to walk. With no cars at all, a walk in a charming traditional village with cobbled streets will calm your soul. The island has many tourist shops and restaurants, so it’s a good place to buy souvenirs or sip Greek coffee.Just a short walk up the hill, you'll find panoramic views of the lake that will offer you an awesome experience!
Visit island monasteries
Make sure you visit the Byzantine monasteries that all have wonderful frescoes. There are five monasteries on the island. Just remember that most of them are open only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Learn about Ali Pasha in the museum
Then take some time to learn about Ali Pasha, the Lion of Epirus. In the Ali Pasha Museum, arranged to resemble a traditional Ioannina home of the period, you’ll learn the whole story that ended with his assassination in the monastery of Agios Panteleimon. Ali Pasha with his wife Vasiliki and a few loyal servants fled to the small island in 1822. However, he was tracked down by the soldiers and killed. His head was sent to the Sultan. On the floor of the museum you can see the holes of the bullets, while its rooms are decorated with objects of that era.After your museum visit, it’s time to go back to Ioannina for a meal.
Have a meal at restaurant number 1 of Ioannina
Metsovitiki folia (Metsovo nest) offers super tasty Greek food. According to TripAdvisor, it is #1 of 165 restaurants in Ioannina. The restaurant is a traditional souvlaki place! "Souvlaki" in Greek basically means "small skewer." Souvlaki is small chunks of pork (or chicken) on a wooden stick, roasted on top of the charcoal. You can hold a stick with your hand. The small chunks can also be removed from the stick and put inside a pita. Also, try the great Greek salad and "handmade" French fries!
The restaurant is located on the roadside next to the main street, close to the main gate of the castle. If you want to try something out of the usual "tourist trap Greek restaurants", I highly recommend it!
Address Averof 101, Ioannina
After a great meal, take a well-deserved rest.
Stay at hotel Antique
It’s a small luxury hotel, housed in awesome, fully restored antique building in the historic centre of Ioannina. It is fully equipped with anything that a traveller wishes on a trip. The artworks of local artists, Persian carpets, fine Egyptian cotton linens and gorgeous bathrooms invite guests to an unforgettable stay in a place of top beauty and luxury with personalized service. The elegantly designed rooms at Hotel Antique provide guest with free Wi-Fi and smart TV, besides other things.Guests can enjoy a tasty breakfast in the inner courtyard if the weather permits that.Address: Neoptolemou 8, Ioannina
Have you been to mainland Greece? Share your impressions in the comments section.
Author: Anita Sāne
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