General Information on Ioannina
Ioannina is one of the four cities in Epirus. It is the capital of the homonymous prefecture, and a lively city of more than 100,000 inhabitants. This busy and friendly town lies at an altitude of 475m, in the middle of agricultural plains, with cereal and tobacco crops.
The city is fascinating, ideal for vacation throughout the year. Ioannina has everything; important archaeological sights; a lake and a small island in its middle, surrounded by mountains; intense nightlife; and an excquisite traditional cuisine. Ioannina still has cobblestone streets and interesting architecture, where the Orient meets the neoclassical style. In winter, the area is usually under a veil of snow. In spring, there is a feast of colours, while in summer the lake is ideal for boat trips and visits to the island.
History of Ioannina
The first indications of human existence in the area date back to the Palaeolithic period. The city of Ioannina was founded in the 6th century by Byzantine emperor Justinian I. In 1082, the city was conquered by Normans under the leadership of Bohemund. In 1204, Michael Aggelos Komninos declared Ioannina the seat of Epirus Domain, and the city started growing. In 1345, Ioannina was captured by a Serb, Stefan Dusan, who was later proclaimed Emperor of Serbia and Greece. Because the Serbs retained the privileges that the Byzantine Emperor had granted to the inhabitants of Ioannina, the city rose to a great economic and cultural level during the following centuries.
During Byzantine times, Ioannina was referred to as the “Metropolis of knowledge”. After the death of the fourth lord of the city, Serb Carlo I Tocco, Ioannina was captured by Ottomans. The Turks offered many privileges to the inhabitants in exchange for its surrender. In 1611, the city suffered a serious setback as a result of a peasant revolt, led by Dionysius the Philosopher, Bishop of Larisa. The revolt ended in the abolishment of all privileges granted to Christian inhabitants, who were driven away from the castle area. Since then, Turks and Jews started settling in the castle area. Despite that great blow, the city managed to recover. Its inhabitants continued their commercial and handcraft activities, which allowed them to trade with important European commercial centres, such as Venice and Livorno. At the same time, they maintained close economic and intellectual bonds with their birthplace and founded charity and educational establishments. These merchants later became major national benefactors.
In 1789, the city became the centre of the territory ruled by Ali Pashas, an area that included the entire northwestern Greece, Thessaly and parts of Evia and Peloponnese. He was one of the most influential personalities of the 18th century. He maintained diplomatic relations with the most important European leaders and his court was full of restless minds that evolved into major figures of the Greek Revolution. The period of his rule coincides with the greatest economic and intellectual era of the city. Despite the fact that the Greek Revolution started in 1821, the city of Ioannina was incorporated into the Greek state in 1913, after the Balkan Wars. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and the subsequent population exchange, the Turks left, and the city received Greek refugees from Asia Minor.
Towns & Villages in Ioannina
Konitsa: This city is situated 63km north of Ioannina. It is set along the densely wooded slopes of Mountain Trapezitsa and is characterised by warming architecture based on the epirotic style. Stone buildings protrude from the sides of the mountain, creating an incredible view. True ornaments of the area are the churches, bridges and monasteries. The city is also ideal for hikers wishing to explore the Pindos range, and to raft in River Aoos. The main attraction of the area, though, is its famous bridge. It is one of the biggest single arched bridges in the Balkans. It is about 20 meters high and 40 meters long. Its construction began in 1823 and was finished about 50 years later in 1871.
Zagorohoria: Zagorohoria is the collective name for a group of 46 villages at the mountains of Epirus. The landscape is really quite dramatic and the villages are among the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, in the country. Tourism has only recently started to develop here and it is still very low. The villages are famous for their natural beauty; rocky mountains, rivers, lakes, traditional houses and over 60 stone bridges in the area are few of the elements that make the Zagorohoria so special. The untouched natural environment makes you feel that time has frozen. The distinctive architecture, houses build of local grey stone, mansions, and churches, along with dark pine trees, blooming meadows and lush vegetation provide a unique experience. The area is protected and is declared a National Park, a paradise for exploring nature, long distance walking and hiking. The Dragon Lake which according to tradition, hosts the dragons of the past, is about a 7-hour walk from the village Papigo on a fantastic route through the valleys. Trekkers have the chance to rest at the shelter for nice soup or an overnight stay, before deciding whether to visit the lake or climb Mountain Gamilla for its breathtaking views. For the most courageous, a swim in the cold waters of the Voidomatis River or a crossing of the Vikos Gorge, the biggest in Europe, is a must.
Metsovo: It is a town in Epirus on the mountains of Pindos, between Ioannina and Meteora. It is famous for its local cheeses and winemaking industries. Metsovo is one of the most picturesque and traditional town in Greece. It is built amphitheatrically at an altitude of 1,156m, and is now a popular winter destination and a ski resort.
How to Reach Ioannina
Coach: KTEL coach services run several times a day between Ioannina and other major cities, including Athens and Thessaloniki.
Air: The city is served by the airport of Ioannina, 4 km away from the city centre. Several flights per week land here from Athens (45 min) and Thessaloniki (35 min).
Top 10 Destinations in Ioannina
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Map of Ioannina