Ioannina

Every year, sun-starved visitors from Northern Europe and elsewhere flood Greece’s sun-bleached islands, sandy beaches and coastal resorts. For decades, the country’s tourism has largely depended on the sunny, carefree and light-hearted face it presents to the multitudes coming to bask in its light. Unfortunately, few of these tourists will ever encounter what lies beneath Greece’s glossy surface. Fewer yet will experience the authenticity and pureness that a place such as Ioannina has to offer. And yet ironically, it is this unawareness among the masses who visit the country that has allowed Ioannina to keep its rich cultural identity and traditions intact.

Ioannina could be considered the dark, brooding and mysterious alter-ego of the sunny, happy-go-lucky ambivalence that prevails throughout the country’s more well-known tourist destinations. It’s a land dominated by thick forests, jagged mountain peaks, wild rivers and treacherous ravines. From the tribal clashes of the pre-historic era, to the violent battles during the Greek Revolution, down to the successive wars of the 20th century, brutality and bloodshed have shaped Ioannina’s fate just as much as its rivers have shaped the landscape. Its natural resources, culture and beauty have attracted tribes and nations for millennia.

A history of oracles and emperors

Archaeological excavations have unearthed artefacts which suggest that the region was inhabited as far back as the Palaeolithic Era. The first people to call Ioannina home were most likely members from the Mollosian tribe who settled throughout the wider Epirus area and later fought against other tribes such as the Helians, Thesprotians and Pelasgians for control of the area. The region’s abundance of fresh water, fertile valleys full of wild game and numerous caves were exactly what these pre-historic tribes were searching for.

One of these tribes, (most likely the Thesprotians) was responsible for the foundation of the sacred oracle at Dodona sometime during the second millennium BC. It would eventually become a revered source of wisdom, second only to Delphi throughout the ancient world. Today a well-preserved theatre and foundations to various buildings stand where the oracle bestowed wisdom and guidance so many centuries ago. However, Ioannina’s reputation as a centre of wisdom and knowledge was destined to live on.

The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I built the castle of Ioannina in 528 AD to fortify the empire’s defence system and to act as an administrative centre of the region. In the centuries to come, Serbian, Albanian, Venetian and finally Turkish rule would claim the city as its own. Nonetheless, Ioannina grew to become a cosmopolitan centre of knowledge, thanks in part to its numerous libraries and schools which were founded by the highly successful members of its diaspora who had found fortune throughout Europe, mainly during the 18th and 19th centuries. They came from all corners of the region which excelled in metallurgy and jewellery making, masonry, tapestry, carpentry and several other types of craftsmanship.  Ioannina reached such fame that it prompted the famous scholar Neofytos Doukas to claim that “During the 18th century, every author of the Greek world was either from Ioannina or was a graduate of one of the city’s schools.”

Seeing the past in the present

This cultural and cosmopolitan legacy is still palpable today throughout the streets and alleyways of the city of Ioannina. The region’s metal-working industry is still alive and well, as seen in the numerous jewellery shops throughout the town. The lively stoes are full of shops, cafes and restaurants which give the city a vibrant energy that abounds throughout its young student population. Ioannina’s famous castle dominates the area, as one of the few places within the country and throughout Europe which has a permanent population living within its walls. Strolling through the narrow alleyways and imposing mosques, harems, mansions and dungeons creates an ominous feeling of mystery and intrigue that’s almost tangible. From the castle houses of Aslan Pasha, visitors can enjoy mesmerizing views of Lake Pamvotida, around which the city was built.

It was here that the legendary Turkish ruler of Ioannina, Ali Pasha had his son’s Greek mistress Frosini and other promiscuous women throughout the city tied up in sacks and drowned after his daughter-in-law complained of her husband’s adultery with Frosini. Although tragic, it was but one of several dramatic twists within the scandalous history of Turkish rule that has left its mark culturally, architecturally and historically throughout the city. It is this poignant mixture of culture that gives the city an added flair and spice.

Greater Ioannina, an eco paradise

For those who prefer living their own adventures rather than learning about those of others, the wider Ioannina region will not disappoint. With hundreds of rivers, tributaries and streams, white-water rafting enthusiasts and kayakers will feel as though they’ve arrived in heaven, with options ranging from the 2nd-5th level of difficulty. For rock climbers, the sky is literally the limit, with dozens of mountains and gorges to set out and conquer. Paragliders can take it one step further and defy gravity while enjoying breathtaking views of Ioannina’s varied landscape below.

Back on the ground, cyclists can take advantage of the numerous organized tracks as well as several routes off the beaten path. Ioannina’s hiking scene is one of the most well-organized and diverse throughout the country, taking walkers through colourful forests, over centuries’ old stone bridges, inside deep gorges and up to remote alpine lakes.

Culture lovers will swoon over the numerous traditional settlements and picturesque mountain villages that dot the landscape. Life has changed little throughout the past decades for much of the rural population and visitors will be able to witness how traditional trades such as carpentry, metallurgy, tapestry and wine making are still carried out.

Astounding Zagarohoria and Tzoumerka

The area of Zagorohoria is a truly magical and almost fairytale environment comprised of several villages perched throughout the Pindos mountain range and around the famed Vikos Gorge, which several researchers claim is the deepest of its kind in the world. Various botanists and herbalists have come to discover what the famed Vikos doctors knew centuries before: The gorge is home to an incredible array of rare and endangered plants, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world and possess a wide array of therapeutic qualities. Walking the length of the gorge is a truly unforgettable experience; though even gazing over it from one of several vantage points is enough to keep devoted visitors and nature enthusiasts coming back year after year.

The Tzoumerka region is another such place which offers visitors raw, wild beauty along with cultural gems, such as the villages of Kallarites and Syrakko, both of which have been named World Heritage Sites. Famous for their skill in metallurgy, residents of these villages travelled abroad and gained significant wealth. The most famous of these was Sotiris Voulgaris who reached as far as Rome and opened his first shop in 1884, which would go on to found the world famous BVLGARI brand. No matter how successful the villagers were, they never forgot their roots, and used their wealth to finance ambitious public works such as the construction of roads, schools, churches and bridges.

Secrets of Konitsa, Pogoni and Metsovo

Perhaps the most famous builders throughout Ioannina were those who hailed from the wider Konitsa area known as the mastorohoria or “builders’ villages”. The hands of these famed builders went on to build some of the region’s most impressive churches, bridges and mansions. Their fame took them throughout the Balkans as well as Europe and even as far as America and North Africa. Their legacy can be seen throughout Konitsa as well as the superb villages of Pirsoyianni and Aetomilitsa, which literally sit at the top of the prefecture under the shadows of Mount Grammos.

Photo: giskou

West of Konitsa lays the fertile region of Pogoni, which acts as a grazing ground for thousands of sheep and goats that produce Greece’s famed feta cheese. Many Greeks consider Ioannina feta to be the country’s best, and Pogoni is the perfect place to sample the fresh cheese. Wine enthusiasts will also delight in the Zitsa region which produces the local white Debina wine as well as red varieties. Nature lovers will love exploring the Gormos River Valley which is a welcome respite amidst seemingly never-ending mountain ranges. The fertile valley has been supporting both humans and animals alike for millennia, as archaeological digs have unearthed a plethora of artefacts here dating back to the Palaeolithic era. They can now be seen at Ioannina’s Archaeological museum. The beautiful waterfall of the Kalamas River as well as the natural bridge known as Theogefyro or “God’s Bridge”, are two highlights easily reached by foot.

Travellers hiking, biking and driving around the region are bound to work up an appetite, and the village of Metsovo in the Eastern part of the region is a must for cheese-lovers and wine aficionados. The local Metsovone cheese can be seen hanging in windows throughout the village’s shops and visitors to region must try the smoky variety before they can claim they’ve truly experienced Ioannina. The area is makes several other cheeses as well, and its tavernas serving dishes made with the cheese as well as locally raised meet and wild boar are some of the highest-regarded throughout the region.

What better way to accompany the various cheeses of Metsovo than with a glass of wine from one of the country’s top producers, Katogi Strofilia. The company’s flagship winery operates out of the eponymous hotel and offers both white and red varieties as well as wine tastings and tours.

Metsovo’s ski centres are the perfect place to burn off the food and wine indulgences of the area. With three separate centres, there are tracks ranging from beginner to advanced as well as equipment rental and ski schools.

Ioannina may not boast the golden beaches and turquoise waters of the Aegean but it offers a natural beauty, serenity and authenticity found nowhere else throughout the country. If you’re looking for something other than endless sun loungers, package resorts and picture menus, take refuge in Ioannina’s fairytale setting of stone bridges, enchanting forests, leaf-covered paths, gentle-flowing rivers and majestic mountain villages.

 

 

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Location - Ioannina

Cave of Anemotripa

This large and fascinating cave was only discovered about fifty years earlier when 2 local men were asked to investigate what seemed to be air flowing out of a hole in the ground on the outskirts of Pramanta village. (Anemotripa means “wind hole” in Greek.) What they discovered was an extensive cave system including underground rivers and lakes, waterfalls, and impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Today the cave has been divided into three sections. The upper section is the oldest but due to its ceiling having partially collapsed; it remains closed to the public. The other two sections offer intriguing paths that snake their way through the wonders of the cave. A snack bar offers concessions at the entrance to the cave where tickets are sold. The cave lies just outside the village of Pramanta in the south east corner of the prefecture.

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Perama Cave

One of the most impressive caves in Europe and the second largest in Greece is the Cave of Peramatos located 4 kilometres from the city of Ioannina. It was accidentally discovered by locals who were searching for a hiding place from the Nazis in 1940. Speleologists later made a detailed exploration into the cave and discovered some of the most spectacular examples of stalactites and stalagmites throughout Greece.

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Central Ioannina

Kapesovo – Beloi Difficulty: Average Altitude variation: 900 – 1500 m Duration: 3 hours
Short and steep best describe the route beginning in the village of Kapesovo and taking walkers alongside the top of the Vikos Gorge. Your efforts will be rewarded at the endpoint of Beloi that offers spectacular views from its lookout point of the Vikos Gorge. Hikers are also likely to spot some majestic species of large birds of prey along their journey.

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Eastern Ioannina

Aoos Lake – Tsouka Rosa – Aoos Lake Difficulty: Average Altitude variation – 1350 – 1980 – 1350 m
Duration: 6 hours
This circular trail leads followers past a small section of the beautiful Aoos Lake and continues through the mountains of Tsouka Rosa, where a spotting of wild brown bears or several birds of prey is possible. The route finishes where it started at Lake Aoos and is signposted as P4.

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The numerous lakes and rivers throughout the region as well as its proximity to the Ambracian Gulf make Ioannina a great place for avian enthusiasts. The Vikos and Aoos Gorges are protected national parks which are home to several species of birds, some of which are endangered. The mountainous areas of the region are home of several species of raptors.

Photo: Plegadis/Nikos Boukas

Aoos Gorge

The Aoos Gorge is smaller than Vikos Gorge but it still offers bird watchers some great opportunities for spotting large raptors. Aoos Gorge is navigable by foot, and those who walk through it are much more likely to spot one of the many species of eagles, hawks and vultures that inhabit the area.

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Ioannina and Lake Pamvotida

Ioannina’s location on the banks of Lake Pamvotida has made even the city a place where bird watchers can catch a glimpse of several species. The areas around the lake and on the small island across are known for types such as the Lesser Kestrel, Scops Owl, Penduline Tit, Little Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant and Whiskered Tern.

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Vikos Gorge

The spectacular Vikos Gorge is an area of mesmerising beauty and bird watchers will most likely encounter several raptors throughout. There are several lookout points that allow observers to watch without actually descending into the gorge. The best is that at Oxia, which overlooks the deepest section of the gorge. It lies just 3 kilometres outside the village of Monodendri. However, there’s no denying that bird watchers who make the trip through the gorge will be rewarded with viewing various raptors as well as many endangered species of birds.

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Camping Limnopoula

Situated just beyond the banks of Lake Pamvotis is the Limnopoula campground. Hot water is provided 24 hours a day and patrons can take advantage of the on-site mini market and restaurant as well as the sports facilities and areas for washing clothes and plates.

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Canoeing in Ioannina

Experiencing the immense beauty of the Ioannina region by canoe is a unique opportunity to fully take advantage of the numerous rivers and lakes the area has to offer. If you haven’t brought your own canoe along, there are several shops which rent boats by the day or week. A good place to look is around Lake Pamvotis.

Photo: Konstantinos Benekos

Kayaking in Ioannina

Ioannina’s rivers and lakes offer countless opportunities for kayakers of every level to experience the beauty of the region from a unique perspective! If you can’t venture far from the city of Ioannina, fear not! Lake Pamvotis is a kayakers dream, and it also offers an alternative way to visit the island across the water. For thrill seekers, the region’s rivers offer an adrenaline rush like no other!

The Ioannina region is one of the premier locations for canyoning throughout Greece. Some of the rivers flow seasonally, leaving dry river beds as winding paths that cut through sheer rock on either side. The gorges of Vikos and Aoos also provide a unique opportunity for walkers to explore the ravine and see several animals which are endangered.

Photo: jande

Aoos Gorge

Much smaller in comparison with neighbouring Vikos Gorge, this canyon has been cut by the Aoos River from where it gets its name. Unlike the Voidomatis River which flows only seasonally through a small section of the Vikos Gorge, the Aoos River has a steady flow throughout the year and runs through the entire Aoos Gorge. Additionally, the river is surrounded by thick vegetation, providing an enchanted walk for those who wish to partake in canyoning through the river.

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Vikos Gorge

As the Guinness world record holder as the deepest gorge, the Vikos Gorge belongs on every walker’s itinerary. Due to its relatively untouched natural habitat, the gorge is an area of great interest for researchers, and explorers will have the opportunity to witness several plant and animal species that cannot be found elsewhere. The route is relatively easy and takes most walkers between 5-6 hours to complete. There is a pathway leading down to the gorge just outside of the village of Monodendri. From there, walkers have the option of continuing north, passing the springs of the Voidomatis River and ends at the village of Papingo. The other option is to head south until reaching the stone bridge of Kipi. Whichever route you choose, canyoning through the Vikos Gorge is an experience not to be missed!

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Cave of Anemotripa

This large and fascinating cave was only discovered about fifty years earlier when 2 local men were asked to investigate what seemed to be air flowing out of a hole in the ground on the outskirts of Pramanta village. (Anemotripa means “wind hole” in Greek.) What they discovered was an extensive cave system including underground rivers and lakes, waterfalls, and impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Today the cave has been divided into three sections. The upper section is the oldest but due to its ceiling having partially collapsed; it remains closed to the public. The other two sections offer intriguing paths that snake their way through the wonders of the cave. A snack bar offers concessions at the entrance to the cave where tickets are sold. The cave lies just outside the village of Pramanta in the south east corner of the prefecture.

Find Out More

Perama Cave

One of the most impressive caves in Europe and the second largest in Greece is the Cave of Peramatos located 4 kilometres from the city of Ioannina. It was accidentally discovered by locals who were searching for a hiding place from the Nazis in 1940. Speleologists later made a detailed exploration into the cave and discovered some of the most spectacular examples of stalactites and stalagmites throughout Greece.

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Challenging mountain trails, winding riverside routes and leisurely village strolls are just a few of the many cycling options that the region of Ioannina has to offer. Bike rental and cycling tours are available throughout Ioannina and if you’d prefer to go it alone, there are several well-marked trails to enjoy!

Photo: argesnet.eu

Meligi – Kostaniani Distance: 25 klm

Cyclers begin their journey from the village of Meligi and continue northward towards the spectacular archaeological site of the Oracle of Dodona. The site is certainly worth a small detour and bikers will continue afterwards past the village of Mandres and onward towards Kostaniani.

Aoos Lake Distance: 32 klm

Photo: argesnet.eu

This route nearly encircles the artificial lake of Aoos and takes riders on a unique journey through some of the area’s most scenic parts. The path begins and ends at two locations along the main road connecting Metsovo to Milias.

Vasiliko – Kefalovriso Distance: 17.5 klm

Thrill-seekers will appreciate this route up through Mount Douskon until the village of Pogoniskos. From there the trail turns southwards down through the Gormos valley until reaching the town of Kefalovriso. Along the way, bikers may spot one of several species of large raptors as well as the occasional wild boar or two.

Like the rest of Epirus, a large part of Ioannina’s local cuisine consists of scrumptious, hand-made pies known as pites. And Ioannina is known as the pita-making capital of Greece, with families passing on recipes from generation to generation. While the younger inhabitants of the region still incorporate it into their diets, the time-consuming tradition of hand-rolling dough made from scratch is unfortunately dying, and Ioannina is one of the last places that you can savour home-made pites made this way. And believe us; that crispy golden crust cannot be replicated from store-bought dough! If you’re looking for authentic pites, Ioannina is the place to go!

Photo: www.visit-ioannina.gr

Though Epirotes throughout the area have found a way to stuff pita with just about any filling, Ioanninans have a preference for hortopita (pie filled with wild greens), tiropita (cheese pie) and the sweet pies known as galatopita (milk pie) and karidopita (walnut pie).

But Ioannina’s cuisine is so much more than the pies that it’s famous for. The pastures and valleys of the region are full of sheep and goats which produce the milk that makes some of the best Feta cheese in the world. Greece’s two top-selling brands (Epirus and Dodona) are based from the region and dominate the market, being regarded throughout Greek households as the country’s best Feta.

Photo: www.visit-ioannina.gr

Another well-known cheese within Greece yet almost unheard of elsewhere is Metsovone cheese originating from the picturesque village of Metsovo in the eastern section of the region. This delectable cheese has a distinctive smoky flavour and can be seen hanging in several shops throughout the village.

The village also makes other varieties equally worth trying such as Metsovela, Graviera and Batzisi.

The region’s clean mountain air and fertile soil have blessed the local cuisine with dietary staples such as apples, walnuts, chestnuts, and wild mushrooms. Older generations perfected the art of preserving fruit in the form of jams and jellies as well as spoon sweets in order to enjoy them throughout the year. Fresh garden vegetables also become a year-round dish by the popular tradition of preserving them in vinegar and producing the pickled veggie treat known as “toursia”. Local honey producers provide the pure ambrosia that adorns local deserts such as “diples” or crunchy fried pastries drizzled with honey and nuts as well as the pastry “sker bourek” highlighting the region’s Turkish influences.

Photo: www.visit-ioannina.gr

The hardy locals keep warm and in good spirits with the popular distilled drink known as Tsipouro which is made from fermented grape skins and tastes a lot like ouzo. Take advice from its experienced devotees that it is not a drink to be overindulged in! Those looking to imbibe in something lighter will delight in the region’s homemade liqueur known as Crano and made from the tart Cornelian Cherry that grows throughout the area.

When it comes to eating in Ioannina, the problem isn’t finding something delicious, but choosing from all of its rich and delectable tastes. Though the region may be full of treacherous mountain trails, wild animals and roaring rivers, going hungry in Ioannina is one thing you’ll never need to worry about!

The renowned gorges of Vikos, Vikaki and Aoou, as well as its numerous rivers, forests, and picturesque villages, make Ioannina one of the country’s premier hiking destinations. The national park of Vikos and Aoos along with several areas throughout the region that belong to the Natura 2000 initiative have ensured that hikers will witness some of the country’s most pristine and untouched beauty. The myriad trails that snake through the area vary greatly in terms of difficulty, providing an opportunity to exercise and experience nature for people of all ages and abilities. The following trails have been conveniently divided into areas throughout Ioannina region.

Photo: www.visit-ioannina.gr

Central Ioannina

Kapesovo – Beloi Difficulty: Average Altitude variation: 900 – 1500 m Duration: 3 hours
Short and steep best describe the route beginning in the village of Kapesovo and taking walkers alongside the top of the Vikos Gorge. Your efforts will be rewarded at the endpoint of Beloi that offers spectacular views from its lookout point of the Vikos Gorge. Hikers are also likely to spot some majestic species of large birds of prey along their journey.

Find Out More

Eastern Ioannina

Aoos Lake – Tsouka Rosa – Aoos Lake Difficulty: Average Altitude variation – 1350 – 1980 – 1350 m
Duration: 6 hours
This circular trail leads followers past a small section of the beautiful Aoos Lake and continues through the mountains of Tsouka Rosa, where a spotting of wild brown bears or several birds of prey is possible. The route finishes where it started at Lake Aoos and is signposted as P4.

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Northern Ioannina

Palioseli – Smolikas Difficulty: Average Duration: 4 hours
From the village of Palioseli, hikers will continue for a half hour on the path marked “Drakolimnes” until they reach the mountain refuge. From there it’s an uphill hike of two hours to Greece’s second highest mountain and the alpine lake.

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Southern Ioannina

Sistrouni – Souli Difficulty: Average Altitude variation: 500 – 600 m Duration: 4 hours
Hikers following this route will begin in the village of Souli, known for its strong resistance and fighting against the Turks during the Greek War of Independence. The path continues through the foothills of Mt. Souli and walkers may catch a glimpse of one of the few herds of wild, free ranging horses in the region. The trail passes the remains of an ancient acropolis dating back to the 4th century BC, just outside the village of Sistrouni.

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With mountains dominating the skyline in just about every corner of the prefecture, it isn’t hard to believe that Ioannina is a rock climber’s playground. Experienced climbers can scale several peaks throughout the mountains of Tzoumerka, Mitsikeli, Tymfi, and Smolikas among others.

Cave of Anemotripa

This large and fascinating cave was only discovered about fifty years earlier when 2 local men were asked to investigate what seemed to be air flowing out of a hole in the ground on the outskirts of Pramanta village. (Anemotripa means “wind hole” in Greek.) What they discovered was an extensive cave system including underground rivers and lakes, waterfalls, and impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Today the cave has been divided into three sections. The upper section is the oldest but due to its ceiling having partially collapsed; it remains closed to the public. The other two sections offer intriguing paths that snake their way through the wonders of the cave. A snack bar offers concessions at the entrance to the cave where tickets are sold. The cave lies just outside the village of Pramanta in the south east corner of the prefecture.

Find Out More

Perama Cave

One of the most impressive caves in Europe and the second largest in Greece is the Cave of Peramatos located 4 kilometres from the city of Ioannina. It was accidentally discovered by locals who were searching for a hiding place from the Nazis in 1940. Speleologists later made a detailed exploration into the cave and discovered some of the most spectacular examples of stalactites and stalagmites throughout Greece.

Find Out More

Central Ioannina

Kapesovo – Beloi Difficulty: Average Altitude variation: 900 – 1500 m Duration: 3 hours
Short and steep best describe the route beginning in the village of Kapesovo and taking walkers alongside the top of the Vikos Gorge. Your efforts will be rewarded at the endpoint of Beloi that offers spectacular views from its lookout point of the Vikos Gorge. Hikers are also likely to spot some majestic species of large birds of prey along their journey.

Find Out More

Eastern Ioannina

Aoos Lake – Tsouka Rosa – Aoos Lake Difficulty: Average Altitude variation – 1350 – 1980 – 1350 m
Duration: 6 hours
This circular trail leads followers past a small section of the beautiful Aoos Lake and continues through the mountains of Tsouka Rosa, where a spotting of wild brown bears or several birds of prey is possible. The route finishes where it started at Lake Aoos and is signposted as P4.

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Weaving, embroidery and other handicrafts are among one of the most evident local traditions passed down through the centuries within the Ioannina region. Hand-made rugs, tapestries, blankets, clothing and just about anything made of fabric decorate the homes, hotels and public buildings throughout the villages which have been making a visible effort to preserve this traditional art.

Carpet Craft School of Delvinaki

Housed in the former village school, today the Carpet Craft School of Delvinaki is keeping the local textile tradition alive and well, offering lessons and employment to the residents. Housed in the former village school, today the Carpet Craft School of Delvinaki is keeping the local textile tradition alive and well, offering lessons and employment to the residents of the area as well as selling its fine products to customers all over the world. Visitors to the village have the opportunity to purchase hand-made rugs and other crafts.

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Rizareios Craft School

Founded in memory of two of the wealthiest patrons of the Zagorohoria Manthos and Giorgios Rizaris, this school offers free lessons in several subjects to local girls aged 14 -20. Here, students can learn weaving, hand and machine sewing and tapestry as well as home economics, foreign languages and physical education. Products from the school can be purchased from the tapestry shop in the central square of Monodendri, where visitors can also watch the process of rug-weaving.

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Ioannina has served as a bona fide melting pot of religion and culture over the past two millennia. Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities lived side by side before, during and after the nearly 500 years of Ottoman Rule. Evidence of the centuries of Muslim influence can be found in several areas of the region and this peaceful presence of churches, synagogues and mosques adds a distinct flavour of culture and history throughout the prefecture.

Photo: bibos

Panagia Labovou

Epirus / Ioannina
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With a tumultuous past filled with glorious prosperity, foreign conquerors and bloody revolutions, Ioannina’s surviving castles, mosques, bridges and historical buildings tell the region’s story better than any book could.

Castle kitchens

Epirus / Ioannina
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Clock Tower

Epirus / Ioannina
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Dolo Bridge

Epirus / Ioannina
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Fetiye Mosque

Epirus / Ioannina
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Kalouta Bridge

Epirus / Ioannina
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Kokori Bridge

Epirus / Ioannina
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Konitsas Bridge

Epirus / Ioannina
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Potamaki Bridge

Epirus / Ioannina
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Soufari Serai

Epirus / Ioannina
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Tyria

Epirus / Ioannina
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Zermas Bridge

Epirus / Ioannina
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Ioannina’s diverse landscape and remote mountain peaks and refuges have made it a natural sanctuary for several rare and endangered plant species. The abundance of lakes and rivers throughout the region support a delicate ecosystem which is difficult to find elsewhere throughout the country.

The untouched beauty of Ioannina’s mountains, forests, rivers and lakes provides an invaluable haven for dozens of species of animals, some of which are endangered or cannot be found anywhere else. Unfortunately, illegal hunting is still a problem, even throughout several of the region’s national parks. Local efforts and education have taken big steps over the years to protect and conserve the area’s wildlife.

Ioannina is one of the last places where brown bears can be found throughout the country, though their numbers have dwindled due to hunting and road accidents. They have been spotted throughout the entire region, though pose no real threat to hikers or other outdoor enthusiasts. What is more likely to attack if provoked is the wild boar which is also widely hunted for its meat, though their numbers have remained steady over the past few decades. Deer roam the forests and mountain areas of the region and the Balkan Chamois, which is a rare kind of mountain goat, thrives throughout the mountain ranges of the area. Other less frequently seen species include the grey wolf, wildcats and otters. Wild horses can also be spotted roaming the mountainous areas of Souli and are a truly magical sight to witness.

One of the creatures with the biggest reputation throughout Ioannina is ironically one of the smallest. The Alpine Newt or Triturus alpestris can only be found within the two alpine lakes of the Pindos mountain range. The appearance of this small amphibian (which admittedly does bear resemblance of a dragon) is what led to the alpine lakes being referred to as drakolimnes or “dragon lakes”. While modern residents of the area and visitors may chuckle, local legend supports the claim that centuries ago the local population believed that real dragons haunted the peaks which overshadowed their villages.

Compared with the country as a whole, Ioannina produces a small amount of Greece’s total wine production. However, the picturesque area of Zitsa in the region’s northwest as well as Metsovo’s well known Katogi Strofilia have put Ioannina on the winemaking map.

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