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Ioannina : The crossroads of civilizations

Ioannina, the idyllic multicultural capital of Epirus with its charming lake, picturesque island and Ottoman mosques is a castle town whose sensational story of Ali Pasha and Kyra Frosini remains a hallmark of the city. From the stores and cafes on Michaelangelo Street, to the entertainment arcades and numerous museums, the impressive architecture such as the mosque of Veli Pasha, Ioannina offers you an ideal choice which combines entertainment, culture and history.

If Ioannina were to have a title, it would be Silver Town, the art of the silversmith has blossomed and become established as Ioannina’s traditional craft with unique objets d’art being produced there.

The castle of Ioannina

This castle, where civilization blossomed, has clear Muslim, Jewish and Christian elements and is one of the most important landmarks in Ioannina. Associated with the infamous Ali Pasha, it functioned for several years as a centre of political and cultural activity. Within, various buildings survive including the “Soufari Sarai” Pasha’s cavalry barracks, a Jewish synagogue and the house of Pasha Kalos. One of the most well-known points inside the walls is the southeastern citadel “Its Kale” (Inner Castle) which houses the Byzantine museum, the Fethiye mosque and the tomb of Ali Pasha.

Lake Pamvotis: Ioannina’s most famous feature

The lake is one of the city’s most important symbols, associated as it is with the legendary story of Lady Frosini and Ali Pasha it is Ioannina’s number one sight. If you enjoy walking, a stroll along the lakeside path is a must. The scenery is unsurpassed while the boats sailing to the island make you feel as if you are being taken to a magical place. Don’t worry about the rain or mist, they are regular occurrences in the area. Despite this, a trip to the lake never loses its charm.

The Island in the Middle of the Lake

In the middle of the lake lies a small island untouched by time. Its hallmarks include cobbled streets, traditional buildings, small tavernas and several Byzantine monasteries including St. Nicholas of Philanthropenoi and St. Pandelaimonas in which Ali Pasha was murdered. You can also see the Ali Pasha museum where there is a wealth of material recounting the events of the Turkish leader’s life and death. If you are wondering how to get there, one of the boats moored on the lake will convey you there in a matter of minutes.

Museums

History lovers will undoubtedly be delighted. The city can boast some truly impressive collections, mostly as a consequence of the Ottoman presence, but also traditional relics from Ioannina’s rich history. Some of the most famous include the Waxwork museum, the Byzantine museum at Its Kale and the Municipal Ethnographic museum which is housed within the mosque of Ali Pasha.

A Fairytale Cave

Located in the interior of Goritsa hill only 4 km from the centre of Ioannina, this cave is 1,5000000 years old and can be considered one of the most magnificent caves in the world due to the various amazing formations created by its stalactites and stalagmites. It consists of 19 small and large “rooms” where you can see, among other things, Father Christmas, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Statue of Liberty and the Sphinx! If you are wondering what these have to do with an imposing cave, go and see for yourself!

The Eastern Influence

The Ottoman influence on the area is noticeable from the number of mosques which survive. Don’t miss a visit to the mosque of Aslan Pasha inside the castle which contains the municipal ethnographic museum and the Fethiye mosque at Its Kale next to which the headless body of Ali Pasha is buried.

An Alternative Getaway

The traditional mountain villages of Epirus, justly praised for their spellbinding views and the lush greenery which surrounds them, constitute the most popular alternative getaway for those wishing to escape from the city for a while and lose themselves in the forests of Epirus. The network of 46 picturesque villages in the area of Zagori with their stone buildings, cobbled streets and traditional tavernas, are ideal for both day trips or longer excursions. Monodendri, Megalo Papingo and Aristi are without doubt the three most attractive tourist destinations.

Gastronomy

If you visit Ioannina you must sample the syrup covered pastries. “Sker bourek” a kind of sugary pie, “baclavas” and Ioannina’s Kataifi steal the show, while the spoon sweets and liqueurs are equally famous. For the more daring, the island is known for its frog’s legs and eel as well as trout freshly caught from the lake.

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