Built on the banks around Lake Pamvotis is the capital of Epirus, Ioannina Greece, also known as Yannena. It is a historical town that promises unique culture experience, great food and friendly people. If you are looking for outdoor activities where you can step back into nature or a religious journey then Epirus region is your place.
Depending on what you want from your next trip, whether it be a weekend or a weeks holiday. It is fair to say that many tourists associate Greece with the ancient buildings of Athens and the white and blue houses of the islands. However, there is so much more to this beautiful country, especially in the Epirus region.
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What to do in Ioannina
Ioannina Greece is the largest city in the Epirus region with a population of around 90,000. Located in northwestern Greece, it is a multicultural city that combines the ancient and modern world together. You can explore the castle of Ioannina built in 528AD to wandering around the many modern Museums. I think the hardest part is deciding what to do.
⇒ Do you require a visa for Ioannina Greece before you go? You can check and see if there are any requirement.
Take a walk around the city
Take a walk around the city taking in such sites as the Municipal Ethnographic Museum and Archaeological Museum of Ioannina, while stopping off at many of the cosy cafes for delicious baklava or even a bottle of local wine.
You can start your walk from the clock of Ioannina making your way around the city streets before finishing up at viewing point of Lake Pamvotida (or also commonly known as the lake of Ioannina). Here you can take in the views while watching the sun go down with a drink or meal at one of the many restaurants scatted around the lake.
One such a restaurant along the Lake Pamvotida that I recommend is Parko Naftikou Omilou
Explore Ioannina Castle and its outer walls
Located in the southeastern part of the city, overlooking the beautiful Lake Pamvotida is The castle of Ioannina. Believed to be built around 528 AD by the Emperor Justinian, it is known to be the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece. It has had significant influence over the history of the town of Ioannina which has been built around it and at one point, during Ali Pasha’s ruling, Ioannina was a major educational, political and cultural hub.
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Once you go through the gates of the castle below Ali Pasha’s coat of arms, you can explore various sections: the outer walls, the clock tower at the main gate (which you can walk through), the Aslan Pasha Mosque (now a museum), ruins of the Ottoman Bath, the palace kitchens, the southeastern citadel Itch-Kale and finally the Silversmithing museum.
- Entrance Fee – Free to walk around
- Opening Hours – The grounds are open 24hrs but not the buildings inside
- Duration – 30mins
The Silversmithing Museum
If you are visiting Ioannina castle and you have the time, then a visit to The Silversmithing Museum is a must, as it is within the castle grounds. The old building has been restored to create a museum and a multipurpose hall that is used to display temporary exhibitions and hosts organised events.
The museum was created to educate the public on the knowledge of silversmithing and about its technology focusing principally on silversmithing in the region of Epirus. The museum includes interactive digital games, displays of silver crafts that have been made, tools of the trade and many other things.
It is a really interesting museum with nice surroundings and a great view from the castle grounds when you venture back outside. Everything is clear making it easy to understand and don’t worry if you don’t speak Greek as it is all translated into English. Once you have finished, there is also a nice restaurant/cafe that a good spot to visit.
Suggestive reading Inscriptions in the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine History and History of Art
- Entrance Fee – €4.00 per person and reduced ticket €2.00 per person (Discount for group bookings)
- Opening Hours – Mar-Oct Daily 10:00am – 18:00 Oct -Feb 10:00 – 17:00
- Closed – Tuesdays
- Duration – 30mins- 1hr (depending on if you go into the museum)
Explore some of the Villages of Zagoria
Visiting the beautifully remote villages and stone bridges of Zagori Epirus is one of the most popular things to see and do while staying in Ioannina. Set high up in the Pindus mountains in central Eprius is the Zagori (or Zagorochoria or Zagorohoria) region about an hour’s scenic drive away from Ioannina. It is well worth making a day or two to explore the area, as there is plenty of things to do and discover.
The Zagori region Epirus comprises of 46 traditional stone and slate villages perched in the mountainsides across 1,053 square kilometres. You will feel like you have stepped back in time when wandering around these villages with their traditional architecture and cobbled streets. While at the same time meeting local people, enjoying local food and learning about their culture.
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I visited two of the villagers in Zagori Epirus, Monodendri and Elafotopos in a day. In Monodendri we drank coffee visited the Monastery of Aghia Paraskevi and took in the stunning views of the Vikos Gorge Epirus.
In Elafotopos we met with locals at Rokka hostel and learned the traditional culture of daily life. Some of the other popular villages that tourist go to are Papigo, Aristi and Asprangeloi.
Monodendri is one of the most popular villages that tourists visit in Zagori Epirus and this is due to the very impressive, steep canyon known as Vikos Gorge. We wandered around for a bit, sat for a coffee in the morning sun before venturing to the Monastery of Aghia Paraskevi. Here we were able to take in the stunning views of the Vikos Gorge from the viewing point.
I was not expecting to see a priest doing services in the tiny little church, as well as painting pictures in gold. It is definitely something you don’t see every day and I was intrigued with his studio and artwork.
Vikos Gorge Epirus
At 900 meters deep Vikos Gorge Eprius was recorded in 1997 in the Guinness book of records to be the world’s deepest canyon. Once you walk through the church to the end, there is a small viewpoint area with a railing, where you get some impressive panoramic views.
I certainly was blown away when I saw Vikos Gorge Epirus for the first time and understood why it was so popular to see. Especially in the autumn colours and with snow capped mountains far off in the distance. There are other viewing points where you can see the gorge which is accessible via hiking.
- If you are a hiker, apparently some of the best hiking routes start from Mondendri to explore Vikos Gorge. Make sure that you have good Walking Shoes though, as the paths can be uneven in some parts.
Rokka Guest House – Elafotopos
Rokka guest house is situated in the small village of Elafotopos in the Zagori region Epirus. It was the second village that we visited to meet with the family of the guest house and to learn about daily life through their Agritourism business.
We were shown how to make traditional flour pie (known also as alevropita) while enjoying the beautiful views from the terrace with homemade tsipouro. As we were taking in the smells of our lunch being cooked, Lena (the daughter-in-law) showed us the weaving process and how she produces her colourful wall coverings that decorate Rokka guest house.
Not only did the family provided the perfect, authentic experience but we also got to enjoy a feast made from local produce.
Driving in Zagoria is convenient, roads are well maintained, wide enough with no steep ascents or descents. Don’t forget your maps for getting around Zagori villages though.
See the Stone Bridges of Zagori
While exploring the villages of Zagori, make sure to stop off at some of the picturesque stone bridges that surround the area, they are definitely one of the hidden treasures of Epirus Greece. These stone bridges were mostly hand built during the 18th and 19th centuries by local master craftsmen using local stones. They certainly reminded me of something straight out of a fairytale movie.
Situated between the villages Koukouli, Dilofo and Kipoi in Zagori was the bridge of Noutsos also known as Kokkoris. We had a quick stop here to see this single arch stone bridge. It was an impressive bridge which looked even better with the autumn colours and the morning reflection on the water.
Other bridges to add to your list are Bridge of Plakidas or Kalogeriko, a three-stringer bridge situated near the villages Kipoi and Koukouli. Also, Vovousa Bridge located in the centre of Vovousa village and considered to be an important bridge, connecting two sides of the village.
Points of Interest
- Walk around the old town of Ioannina
- Lake Pamvotida
- Ioannina Castle
- Museum of Silver craft
- Exploring Zagori Villages ( Monodendri and Elafotopos)
- Stone Bridges
⇒ Do you require a visa for Ioannina Epirus Greece before you go? You can check and see if there are any requirements.
Getting to Ioannina
Closest airports to Ioannina
The closest airport is Ioannina International located only 4kms away. However, there are limited flights especially when it is off peak. Alternatively, you can also fly into Thessaloniki International airport, which is larger and has more frequent flights.
The best way to get around Ioannina to see the stone bridges and or the Zagori villages is to hire a car. There are numerous companies that you use, especially from the Airport. You should be able to hire a Sav Nav too to get around Ioannina and the surrounding area.
⇒ If you like to get a FREE, easy and fast comparison of hiring a car, then try out Skyscanner’s car comparison site.
Top tips for visiting Ioannina
- If you have time, visit Perama Cave in Ioannina
- Remember that you need to get some good Walking Shoes
- Ioannina Greece use European adaptors
- Head here for more amazing activities in Epirus before you go.
- Take a sports water bottle to keep you hydrated, while exploring the city and its surrounding areas.
- When walking around town also check out cultural at Technohoros
- The currency used in Ioannina is euro’s
Other places to visit in Europe
If you are interested in discovering more historical cities within Europe, feel free to read the following articles.
- Top Things to do in Oludeniz – Oludeniz, Turkey
- 48hrs in Lake Garda –Brescia and Lake Garda, Italy
- A village Preserved in Time – Edam – Netherlands
- Best things to do – Chambery, France
⇒ Make sure that you have the right travel insurance for Ioannina Greece. You can compare and check the best holiday insurance for FREE
⇒ I stayed 2 nights at The Lake Hotel during my time in Ioannina Greece, in a standard room. It is located 100 meters away from Pamvotitha lake.
⇒ For more information on Ioannina or Eprius area about what to do and where to stay, visit: Epirus Tourism site.
Thank you for reading this article ‘A guide on things to do in Ioannina Greece’. I hope it helped you to decide what to do while in Ioannina Epirus. It is such a beautiful place to visit, full of history and amazing cafes.
Have you been to Ioannina Epirus Greece before? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below or if you know any other places to see?
Disclaimer: Even though I was invited by Epirus Tourism. All views are my own and based on my own experience.