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 a unique cultural 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.
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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Table of Contents
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.
What to do in Ioannina Greece
In Ioannina, you can wander around the castle, explore the Perama caves or do one of the many water activities on Lake Pamvotida. If you have longer spend a day is the Zagori visiting the beautiful remote villages and stone bridges. Love outdoors go hiking in the spectacular Vikos Gorge.
Your options are limitless and I think the hardest part is deciding what to do while in Ioannina Greece. Here is a list of suggestions of things to do in Ioannina and within the Epirus region.
⇒ Do you require a visa for Ioannina Greece before you go? You can check and see if there are any requirement.
1. Take a walk around the Ioannina
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 the 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 restaurant along the Lake Pamvotida that I recommend is Parko Naftikou Omilou
2. Lake Pamvotida (Pamvotis)
After exploring the city, spend some time at Lake Pamvotida or Pamvotis. This beautiful lake is the largest in Epirus. Located right next to the Ioannina, it is easily accessible when visiting the city.
Lake Pamvotida is a popular spot with many activities on and off the Lake.
You can take a walk, go cycling, and partake in numerous water sports like sailing and kayaking. Or you can enjoy one of the many cafes and restaurants situated on the lake.
3. Explore Ioannina Castle and its outer walls
Located in the southeastern part of the city, overlooking the stunning Lake Pamvotida is The castle of Ioannina
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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Highlights of the castle of Ioannina
Once you go through the gates of the castle below Ali Pasha’s coat of arms, you can explore various sections like the outer walls and the clock tower at the main gate (which you can walk through).
As well as the Aslan Pasha Mosque (now a museum), ruins of the Ottoman Bath, the palace kitchens. Then check out 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
4. The Silversmithing Museum
If you are visiting Ioannina castle and you have the time, then a visit to The Silversmithing Museum is a must. Which is also located within the castle grounds. The Silversmithing Museum displays temporary exhibitions and hosts organised events in a multipurpose hall.
As well as an exhibition on the knowledge of silversmithing making and the technology focusing principally on silversmithing in the Epirus region. You will use interactive digital games and see displays of silver crafts, tools of the trade amongst other things. It is a really interesting museum and everything is both Greek and English.
Once you have finished in the museum, head outside and taking in the great views from the castle grounds.
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)
5. Explore the Perama Cave near Ioannina
If you love caves then you can’t go past exploring Perama cave, it’s one of the rarest in the world. The great thing is that it is only located just 5 km away from the city centre.
This cave was discovered by accident during WWII when the villagers were trying to find shelter against bombardments. Today, it has been converted into a tourist attraction for everyone to enjoy.
The guided tour should take around 45 minutes where you will learn the history of the caves. Pictures are not permitted inside Perama cave by the public.
Make sure to wear appropriate footwear as there are a lot of steep steps inside the cave.
- Tickets prices per person: 7 € Full Price 3.50 €. Reduced
- Opening hrs: Daily 09:00 – 17:00
6. Take a day trip to the Zagoria region from Ioannina
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.
Driving from Ioannina to Zagoria
It is an easy drive from Ioannina to the Zagoria area and exploring the villages and bridges. The roads are well maintained, wide enough and there is no steep ascents or descents.
Don’t forget your maps for getting around Zagori villages though.
7. Explore the Villages of Zagoria
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.
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.
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8. Monodendri Village
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. I was intrigued with his studio and artwork and it’s definitely something you don’t see every day.
9. 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.
10. Rokka Guest House – Elafotopos
Situated in the charming small village of Elafotopos in the Zagori region is the Rokka guest house. A family run guest house, where you can learn about daily life through their Agritourism business.
We were taught how to make traditional flour pie (known also as alevropita). As well as shown how the weaving process is done to create colourful wall coverings that decorate the Rokka guest house.
While we waited for our lunch we took in beautiful views from the terrace with homemade tsipouro. The family provided the perfect, authentic Greek experience with a delicious meal made from local produce.
11. 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 that looked even better with the autumn colours and the morning reflection on the water.
Here are some other bridges to see in Zagori;
- Bridge of Plakidas or Kalogeriko, a three-stringer bridge situated near the villages Kipoi and Koukouli.
- Vovousa Bridge located in the centre of Vovousa village. An important bridge, connecting two sides of the village.
12. 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.
13. How to get Ioannina Greece
There are two main ways you can get to Ioannina from a major city either by car or by public bus. From Athens it is a distance of 445 km, however, Thessaloniki is closer at 261kms. You can also come from the neighbouring country of Albania.
Catch a direct bus from Thessaloniki to Ioannina
The cheapest way of getting to Ioannina is by public bus. There are buses from Thessaloniki and Athens throughout the day to Ioannina. From Thessaloniki, it should roughly take you around 3 hours and 30 minutes one way.
Ktel is the public bus that services the route from Athens and Thessaloniki.
Closest airports to Ioannina
Ioannina (known as King Pyrros) airport is the closest to the city. It is 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.
I know that Easyjet does some reasonably priced tickets from London to Thessaloniki
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.
14. Where to stay in Ioannina
You have a generous selection of where to stay in Ioannina Greece especially near the Lake and the old town. Most of the accommodation will be within walking distance of most of the tourist attractions.
I stayed at The Lake Hotel, located only 100 meters away from the popular Lake Pamvotitha. This luxury hotel had a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a shared lounge. They even offer a bike hire service if you feel like cycling around Lake Pamvotitha.
I stayed in a standard room that was very spacious with two large beds with all your modern cons. The continental breakfast offered in the morning was a great way to start the day.
Here are some other recommendations available on where to stay in Ioannina hotels on booking:
- Kamares Boutique Hotel & Spa, situated in the Historic City Centre (Guest rating 9.6)
- Hotel Antique, located near the castle of Ioannina (Guest rating 9.7)
- Kastro Guesthouse located within the castle walls (Guest rating 9.6)
15. Top tips before visiting 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,b while exploring the city and its surrounding areas.
- Heading to Athens as well? How about getting an iVenture Athens Unlimited Attractions Pass (1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 Days) to save money.
- When walking around town also check out the culture at Technohoros
- The currency used in Ioannina is euro’s
16. Ioannina Information:
⇒ For more information on Ioannina or Eprius area about what to do and where to stay, visit: Epirus Tourism site.
⇒ Looking to discover other parts of Europe? Then feel free to head to my European page
⇒ Make sure that you have the right travel insurance for Ioannina Greece. You can compare and check the best holiday insurance for FREE
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 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.