Ioannina is a beautiful city located in the northwest part of Greece, near the borders of Albania and Macedonia. It has been inhabited since antiquity and was founded by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. Its landscape is filled with colorful patches of land, majestic mountains, picturesque lake and grand architecture. Ioannina is known for its cultural heritage, beautiful beaches and rich tradition of fine arts. Whether you are looking for adventure or just a relaxing time in nature, Ioannina has something for everyone. Here are 10 places to visit and 5 places to avoid in Ioannina.
1. Ali Pasha Castle
The Ali Pasha Castle, also known as Ioannina Castle, is one of the most popular attractions in Ioannina. Built in the 14th century, the castle was initially used by the Ottoman Empire as a military base and later became a fortification for the local population. The castle is located at the center of the city, atop a hill overlooking Lake Pamvotida. Visitors can explore the various towers, ramparts and walls that make up the castle, and also enjoy the breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding area.
2. Ioannina Archaeological Museum
Located near the Ali Pasha Castle, the Ioannina Archaeological Museum hosts an impressive collection of artifacts, sculptures and coins from ancient Greece, the Byzantine period, and the Ottoman period. Visitors will learn about the history and culture of the region through the centuries, and can admire the workmanship of some of the finest pieces of Greek art, such as the marble statue of a priest from the ancient town of Dodoni. The museum is open daily, and admission is free.
3. Church of Agia Paraskevi
The Church of Agia Paraskevi is a 16th-century church located near Lake Pamvotida in the heart of Ioannina. Built in 1535, the church is dedicated to Saint Paraskevi, the patron saint of Ioannina. Inside, visitors can admire the stunning frescoes, which depict scenes from the life of Saint Paraskevi. Outside there are several benches, perfect for taking a break and enjoying the tranquil atmosphere of the church.
4. Acheron River
The Acheron River is a magical place located just a few kilometers outside of Ioannina. It’s believed to be one of the gates to Hades, according to Greek mythology, and the site of numerous rituals by the ancient Greeks. Today, visitors can explore the river’s banks and take boat trips along the river. It’s a great spot for nature lovers- the banks of the river are lined with trees and lush vegetation.
5. Vrellis Wax Museum
The Vrellis Wax Museum is one of the most interesting attractions in Ioannina. It was founded in 2005 by sculptor Spyros Vrellis and features wax replicas of famous Greek figures such as Aristotle, Socrates and Alexander the Great. The museum also displays wax replicas of everyday scenes from 19th-century Greek life, allowing visitors to get a glimpse into the past. In addition, the museum has a cafe and shop, perfect for taking a break and grabbing a souvenir.
6. Zagori Villages
The Zagori villages are a cluster of 46 small villages located in the mountains of Epirus. They are known for their stone bridges, traditional buildings and breathtaking natural beauty. Many of the villages are connected by hiking trails and offer stunning views of the surrounding area. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets, enjoy local cuisine and sample some of the region’s famous wines.
7. Konitsa Bridge
The Konitsa Bridge is a must-see attraction in Ioannina. It is a single-arch stone bridge located over the Acheron River and was constructed by the Ottomans in the 19th century. The bridge is a popular spot for photos, and visitors can also enjoy the view of the river and the surrounding countryside. It’s a great place to relax and appreciate the architecture of the bridge.
8. Ioannina Lake
Ioannina Lake, also known as Lake Pamvotida, is the largest lake in Epirus and one of the most beautiful in all of Greece. The lake is surrounded by mountains and picturesque villages, making it an ideal spot for swimming, boating and fishing. There are also many small islands located around the lake, which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can also take a peaceful stroll by the lakeside and enjoy the fresh air.
9. Perama Cave
Perama Cave is a fascinating natural attraction located near the village of Perama in Northern Greece. The cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and its walls are decorated with paintings. It’s one of the largest and most impressive caves in Greece and has been used as a shelter for humans and animals for thousands of years. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the cave and learn about its history and geology.
10. Lefkada Beach
Lefkada Beach is an idyllic beach located on the island of Lefkada, off the coast of Ioannina. The beach features white sand and crystal clear waters, making it an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing. Visitors can explore the surroundings, enjoy a picnic by the sea, or take a boat trip across the island. The beach is also home to a variety of wildlife, including sea turtles and seabirds.
Places to Avoid
1. Metsovo Village
Metsovo Village is a small village located near the city of Ioannina. While the village is known for its beautiful setting and picturesque houses, it should be avoided due to the presence of organized criminal activity in the area. It is best to avoid visiting this village in order to stay safe.
2. Ioannina Prison
Ioannina Prison is one of the oldest prisons in Greece, and is located in the city of Ioannina. The prison is known for its poor living conditions and inhumane treatment of inmates, and should be avoided. It is best to stay away from this prison in order to avoid any potential dangers.
3. Giannena Fortress
Giannena Fortress is a large fortress located in the city of Ioannina. The fortress is known for its harsh conditions and has been the site of numerous violent clashes between local gangs. Visitors should avoid entering the fortress in order to stay safe.
4. Grigoropoulos Park
Grigoropoulos Park is a public park located in the city of Ioannina. Although the park is usually a peaceful place, it is best to avoid it during night time due to the presence of drug dealers and other criminals. It is advisable to stay away from the park after sunset in order to remain safe.
5. Lake Mytikas
Lake Mytikas is a picturesque lake located just outside of Ioannina. Although it is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, it is best to avoid the lake due to the presence of dangerous wild animals, such as wolves and bears. It is advisable to steer clear of the lake in order to remain safe.