IOANNINA | MAINLAND GREECE | EPIRUS
Rich in historic memories
The whole region between Ioannina and the Albanian border is one of the most beautiful places in Greece to explore winter and summer: from Lake Ioannina and its historic island to the fascinating Perama cave, the exquisite traditional Zagorohoria villages and the Vikos gorge. If nature, tradition and history are among your passions, then you’ll be delighted with this trip. In order to do it justice, you will need at least four days, but a week would between better in order to leave time for some walks we suggest.
IOANNINA HISTORICAL INFO
The Turko-Albanian Ali Pasha was a legendary figure in Epirus and one of the enigmas of early 19th c. history. Tough, revengeful, but also just, he set up his headquarters in Ioannina. Aware that he was on a collision course with the Sultan, the brilliant vizir strengthened the fortifications around his capital. In 1820, the Turkish forces of the Sublime Porte led by Hursit Pasha besieged Ioannina. Two years later, Ali Pasha, betrayed by all his men, retreated to the island with his beloved Greek wife, Vassiliki, and was defeated after a fierce battle. He was beheaded in one of the cells of the Agios Panteleimonas monastery and his head was shipped to Constantinople.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN IOANNINA
A modern town for the most part, Ioannina is nonetheless rich in historic memories. It is built on a plateau 500 m above sea level, between the slopes of Mt Mitsikelli and the banks of Lake Pamvotis. It has 100,000 inhabitants, many lovely traditional buildings, and a university; it is also the most important business and cultural centre in the region of Epirus. The city’s name appears for the first time in historical sources in 1020. The Norman knight Bohemond conquered Ioannina in 1081 and fortified it with moats and forts. In 1204, it became the seat of the Despot of Epirus, Michael Komninos, and in 1430, surrendered to the Ottoman Turks. It was liberated by the Greek army in 1913.
THE OLD FORTRESS – THE KASTRO
Very interesting architecturally, the old fortress of the Despots would be a much more compelling attraction if the authorities were more interested in restoring it and keeping it clean.
Tel. 0030 2651039580
8 am – 17 pm, closed on Mondays and holidays
Housed in a building in the large citadel (Its Kale) within the fortress, it consists of seven rooms with sculpture, coins and ceramics from the Early Christian to Post-Byzantine period. Next to it is a Treasury with a fine collection of silver and gold objects.
MUNICIPAL ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM
Tel. 0030 2651026356
9 am – 16:30 pm, Every Day, closed on holidays
The mosque of Aslan Pasha contains exhibits from the town’s three communities — Greek, Jewish, Turkish — while under the Ottoman Empire. See the Turkish barracks to the left of the museum, the baths and the renovated library. The traditional buildings with their characteristic Epirot features can be seen inside and outside of the fortress. Their grey colour comes from the region’s stone, the dominant material used in their construction.
6, 25th Martiou Sq., tel. 0030 2651001050, 0030 2651001089
9am – 16 pm, closed on Mondays and holidays
Exhibits from the Classical period from Dodona, Monodendri, Kastritsa, Vitsa and from the Necromandion of Ephyra, an oracle of the dead. An art gallery with works by modern Greek painters shares the space.
THE CLOCK (ROLOI)
A work of Periklis Melirrhytos, this clock tower dominates the main square. The building was constructed in 1905 under Osman Pasha.
THE PERAMA CAVE
Tel. 0030 2651081521, 0030 2651081650, 0030 2651086202
9 am-17 pm, closed on holidays
An astonishing cave, one of the country’s largest and richest in terms of amazingly shaped stalactites and stalagmites (19 types, including a unique cross-shaped stalagmite). The visitors’ path covers only 1,100 m, while the entire cave system has a total area of 14,800 sq. m. Dedicated to Pluto and Persephone, it was discovered by chance in 1940. It consists of many corridors and chambers, extraordinary formations and lakes. Teeth and bones of prehistoric bears were found here.
IOANNINA LAKE ISLAND
Connected daily with the city by little boats that make the 10 min trip every half hour from early morning till midnight. You can walk around the island in about two hours. Located in the northern sector of Lake Pamvotis, the island covers 350,000 sq. m and is home to some 120 families. Its charming traditional village, with its flower-filled courtyards and cobbled lanes, is surrounded by a small pine wood.
The monasteries are open from 9 am until 1 pm.
MONASTERY OF AGIOS PANTELEIMONAS
In the NE of the village; its 16th c. cells have been converted into a Museum of the Prerevolutionary Period with weapons, documents, uniforms, objects of every day use, jewellery, weavings, lithographs and engravings.
Built in 1292, it is full of wonderful late and post-Byzantine frescoes, including depictions of seven ancient philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, Apollonios, Solon, Plutarch, Thucydides and Chilon, in the narthex.
MONASTERY OF AGIOS NIKOLAOS
There are more fine frescoes here.
MONASTERY OF AGIOS NIKOLAOS (GOUMATON)
Its 15th c. icon of the Virgin Eleoussa is said to be able to work miracles.
MONASTERY OF AGIOS IOANNIS PRODROMOS
With interesting 18th c. frescoes.
PAVLOS VRELLIS MUSEUM MUSEUM OF GREEK HISTORY
Tel. 0030 2651092128
10 am – 16 pm Every Day closed on holidays
The museum of the sculptor Pavlos Vrellis is housed in an 18th c. Epirot urban fortified dwelling. Founded in 1938 and completed in 1994, it is Ioannina’s answer to Madame Tussaud’s. Pavlos Vrellis has made life-sized sculptures in wax of scenes and personalities famous for their revolutionary acti-vities before, during and after Greece’s War of Independence. All the costumes, expressions and objects are completely accurate.
8 am-15 pm, closed on Mondays and holidays
Visit the ruins of the Oracle of Zeus at Dodona, 22 km south-west of Ioannina. This was the oldest oracle in Greece; the priestesses used to utter their prophecies based on the rustling of a sacred oak tree. There are weekend performances of music and drama in the ancient theatre from 10 June to 10 September.
This colourful village of stone houses is worth a visit. Situated at the foothills of Mourgana, 68 km NW of Ioannina, it became known from the book Eleni by Nicholas Gage. See the historic Gouras spring where Kosmas Aetolos taught, the church of Agia Paraskevi with three icons by the folk artist Theophilos and the ruins of the ancient acropolis built in the 3rd c. BC by Pyrrhos, king of Epirus.
IOANNINA TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO IOANNINA
There’s no question that you’ll enjoy this excursion more if you have your own car or motorcycle.
But if you don’t want to drive all the way, you can always fly with to Ioannina and rent a car when you get there.
By air from Athens, El. Venizelos airport, with Aegean Airlines.
From Thessaloniki, Makedonia airport, with Aegean Airlines.
By intercity bus (KTEL), 100 Kifissou Ave., Athens, tel. 0030210 5129365.
By intercity bus (KTEL) from Thessaloniki, tel. 00302310 595442.
HOW TO GET AROUND
You’ll have to have your own or rented transport. Make sure you have the right footgear.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT IOANNINA
In Ioannina the city’s best tastes are its cheese pies (tiropittes) and custard pies (bougatses).
While visiting the island (Nissi), try the fried frogs legs and baked eel.
IOANNINA USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Ioannina Town Hall 00302651079921
Ioannina Tourist Police 00302651025673
Ioannina Police 00302651065920
Ioannina Hospital 00302651099111
Ioannina Taxis 00302651046777