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Ioannina is a nice and vibrant city where you will find the nicest hotels and shops in the whole of epirus besides a rich history and a wonderful lake. The city landscape is dominated by the tall fortress and Byzantine buildings that lay in front of some high mountains nearby. Ioannina is located on the western coast of lake Pamvotis where you will find a tiny island with a monastery.
Ioannina also has many structures that date back to the Ottoman occupation (the remains of a mosque, an Islamic school and a Bazaar) while on the small island in the lake you will find an old Orthodox monastery. The city is about 460 km from Athens and 290 km form Thessaloniki.
What to see in Ioannina
The first thing to see in Ioannina is the famous city by the castle (Kastro in Greek) located on a large piece of rock that faces the lake and the mountains nearby. The external bastions have many cannon balls and sculptures that date back to the Ottoman empire.
Inside the castle you will find the restored mosque of Fetiye Cami (also kno0wn as mosque of Victory), built in 1611 when the Christians were sent away from the citadel. A copy of the ornamental structure has been replaced in its original position in the last years as it was removed during the second world war.
Then there is the Byzantine museum where you will find many art pieces, coins and objects built in gold and silver that date back to the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. There you will also find some old books that were printed in Venice and even some very old silver jewel boxes. Another important place to visit in Ioannina is the archeological museum that has more than 3000 objects from all around Epirus.
Last but not least Ioannina’s main attraction is lake Pamvotida, perfect for long walks and romantic sunsets. It is particularly beautiful during autumn despite being a lot more crowded during the summer. You can also choose to rent a boat and visit the small island located in the center of the lake, there you will find a beautiful monastery, small taverns and restaurants that serve delicious traditional Greek food.
How to get to Ioannina
If you decide to reach Ioannina by car there is a road network that will take you directly to the city but be careful the first time as the road can be quite dangerous. It is 445 km from Athens going through Patra and the journey lasts 6 hours.
Otherwise you can reach it from Thessaloniki (360 km away) in two hours and a half at a decent speed. If you arrive from Igoumenitsa the journey is 100 km while if you arrive from Kastoria the road is 221 km away. You can also decide to take a bus.
Luckily in the last few years the old busses have been replaced by modern ones that guarantee a relaxing and comfortable tour. There are about 10 busses running every day that travel from Athens to Ioannina and vice versa. The distance between the two cities is 445 km and the journey lasts about 7 hours.
If you prefer travelling by plane you can choose from up to 4 flights a day. The flights connect the airports of Ioannina and Athens and the companies are Olympic airways and Aegean airlines. The flights last about 45 minutes. There are 5 flights a week during winter and during the summer planes fly on a daily basis.
Moving around Ioannina
Moving around the center of Ioannina is rather easy and practical. The distances between a town and another aren’t very large and can be covered in a short time. If you decide to move around the island by car be careful as the road is often in bad conditions and there aren’t many parking spaces around the cities.
Most parking places can be found in Orfeas, Sarka, Stoa and Aravantinou. You can also easily move around Ioannina by taxi. These are dark green and can be found in any city at all time. There is also a radio taxi station that offers a direct service to anyone that contacts them.
Last but not least you can also use the local transportation services. This is the cheapest option to choose from but remember that these don’t always travel on time. The local busses are white and blue will give you the chance to reach the villages around Ioannina and most of them leave from the city center.