Located in the Νorthwestern part of the country, Ioannina sits in the center of a valley, amongst enormous mountains. The town was built on the famous Egnatia Odos, the road that connects Europe with Asia, one of the most ancient routes in history, spanning over 2000 years, once used by the Persians and ancient Greeks. From the Stone Age, the ancient Greek civilizations, the Roman magistrates and the Byzantine despots through to the Ottoman pashas and the modern Greek democracy, the history trail leads to the unmissable attractions of today’s multicultural Ioannina: six amazing museums, a unique primordial cave, art galleries, twelve churches, one synagogue, sixteen monasteries, twelve well preserved Muslim monuments, and an array of townhouses and public buildings of architectural interest.
But that’s not all. The simplest experiences turn into something magical in Ioannina! A walk or even a bike ride around the lake Pamvotida offers breathtaking views. Some experiences that you do not get to live everyday! Walk in the town and wander in the silversmith shops. You will find the legendary craftsmen whose work and creations are known all over Europe. The local cuisine of Ioannina will satisfy the appetite of even the most demanding visitors. The local pastries of Ioannina are known all throughout Greece. Every last bite is a mouthwatering reminder why Ioannina is a culinary crossroad between Europe and the East. Ioannina is the city that never sleeps. And how can it sleep with more than 15,000 students living here? The nightlife options are countless, especially during the summer season. The bars and clubs by the lake make for unforgettable fun under the star lit night sky. Summer is also the time of year when dozens of cultural events and promotions of local products take place as well as the famous village fairs. No matter whether you are looking for an adventurous trip or want to enjoy the beauty of nature, Ioannina has something for everyone!
What gate you walk through to enter the castle, does not matter. By entering into this, the city bustle stays outside. A traditional settlement is scattered through the Ottoman buildings like Soufari Seraglio and Aslan Pasha mosque, which houses the municipal museum and the Jewish synagogue. A crossroads of cultures and religions. And high above, the Kale, the Acropolis: a cultural park with small museums and collections. In summer this is the area of cultural heart of the city, with concerts and other events that take place.
A four season destination
There are a lot of ideal vacation destinations, depending on the time of year you choose to travel, but it is rare to find a place that offers exceptional options all year around.
Ioannina Natural Beauty. Ioannina is that place. The city owes its uniqueness to its natural beauty, with the triple combination of lake, mountains and sea.
During the winter months, you can indulge with a hot coffee in the Castle or a Greek meze in a tavern by the lake, overlooking the mountains. You can take a tour of the snowy mountain of Mitsikeli, or one of the countless villages on Tzoumerka Mountains. You can try some extreme sports like snowmobiling or you can go skiing in one of the three ski resorts in the area of Metsovo and Vasilitsa.
In spring everything blooms. The trademark beauty of the natural environment of Ioannina reaches its peak. The flowers and blossoming trees make the city look like a real life painting. The melted snow fills the rivers making walks through the paths of the Vikos-Aoos National Park priceless. Combine those walks with passes over the traditional stone bridges and you will make an unforgettable memory. Nature celebrates with a feast of colors, smells and sounds. It is the best time of year to hike the Vikos Canyon!
Summer is Magic
After the vibrant smells and colors of spring, comes summer. In Ioannina the summer takes on two different forms. You can choose the traditional Greek summer down the Ionian coasts at Sivota and Parga, or, if you are the adventurous type, you can find a secluded beach and camp out, where you can have the sun, sand, and the sea all to yourself! The second type of summer is a cool one in the city of Ioannina and the surrounding mountains. You can walk around and tour the sights, go for a boat ride in the lake, visit the island, or if you feel bold go for a swim in the rivers of Aoos, Voidomatis, Arahthos and Kalamas. Not for the faint of heart, you should know that the water temperature is around 4 degrees Celsius all year around! And of course dozens of local traditional “panigiria”, feasts during the summer months offer a once in a life time opportunity to have fun and dance the night away under the stars, especially if you are lucky enough to be there on August’s Full Moon.
If there is a season that fits Ioannina the best, it’s fall because that is when the city’s mystery reaches its full glory. The rain and fog around the lake is combined with a rug of fallen leaves and make the city resemble something out of another era. The dominant colors are orange and purple and if you think the city is colorful, you should see the mountains! Spend an autumn night in a motel in the Big or Small Papigo and you will never forget it!
No matter which season you find yourself in Ioannina, the only thing that’s certain is that it will capture your heart and enchant you…
Delicious food. Great wines.
Eating out is one of the great pleasures of life and one of the greatest joys of travel. Ioannina is a unique place for food fans with an appetite for genuine Mediterranean cuisine and traditional home cooking. Talented chefs, superb local products, great value are the ingredients of Ioannina Gastronomy, one of the tastiest food scenes in Greece. There is nothing in a new city like visiting new restaurants and having new culinary experiences. The local gastronomy you can sample almost everywhere in town and in nearby taverns includes cheese and meat from hilltop farms (don’t miss the smoked Metsovone, semi-hard PDO cheese), herb flavored pies, fish and game, fine local wines and tsipouro.
Have a glass of wine. Or three!
Ioannina produces a small but significant amount of Greece’s total wine production. Zitsa and Metsovo have put Ioannina on the winemaking map. Wine cultivation in Ioannina dates back to the 16th century. Did you know that Lord Byron, the famous poet, was one of the many enthusiasts of Zitsa’s signature wine? You must try this semi – sweet rose wine, known for its subtly spicy flavour. Zitsa, thanks to the tradition and reputation it had in wine making from old times, has been characterized as an area with “Appellation d’ Origine de Qualite Superieure” wines. The composition and relief of the terrain, the elevation between 600 and 700 meters, the wheather conditions and the uniqueness of the white variety of Debina grapes give to the renowed wine of the region a rich and fine aroma, a smooth and pleasant taste. In addition to the local Debina variety, two other red varieties-the “Vlachico” and the “Bekari” are also cultivated. The red to white grape ratio is approximately 9 to 1. Ioannina is a must-visit place for all wine lovers!
Time For A Dessert!
With the world famous gianniotiko baklava you are in for a real treat: the local genre bridges the oriental dessert traditions with the less-sweet-tooth Europeans: an icon of the Ioannina culture!
By Plane: There are two flights from Athens to Ioannina Airport per day offered by Aegean-Olympic Airways.
By Car: The town is 410 km. from Athens. Egnatia Motorway, a modern motorway of international standards connects Ioannina to Thessaloniki (270 km).
By Coach: Ioannina is connected by coaches to Athens and Thessaloniki several times a day. All the villages and the coasts of Epirus are connected by coaches to Ioannina.
By sea: Igoumenitsa’s Port is currently the third port in size in Greece but considered as no1 as far as the country commercial access. It is situated in the northwest part of mainland Epirus, opposite Corfu Island (18 nautical miles) and very close to the borders between Greece and Albania. It lies 92 km. (half an hour) away from Ioannina. The geographical position of the port turned the city of Igoumenitsa into the most important commercial harbour of Northwest Greece.