Ioannina

Ioannina is the capital of Epirus in Western Greece, located by Lake Pamvotis and noted for museums and galleries, a castle, and a tradition for silversmiths.

Ioannina and Lake PamvotisIoannina and Lake Pamvotis

The slim minarets of Ali Pasha's citadel poking above the lakeside trees are a distinctive feature of this beautiful regional capital, the largest city in Epirus. Idyllically situated on the shores of Lake Pamvotis, with the Pindus Mountains on the far side beyond the delightful lake island of Nisi (the name simply means 'the island'). Ioannina is a lovely place to spend a few days or even more.

Don't miss our page with a Ioannina Walk on it.

It's wise not to make any complimentary remarks around here about Ali Pasha, the murderous tyrant who dominated the city from 1788 until his death on the island of Nisi in 1822, for even after all these years local feeling still runs high. 

Ioannina

Ioannina was under the Turkish yoke for almost 500 years, the longest and blackest spell in Greek history, and Turkish influence has survived here more strongly than in many other places. Yet the name of Ali Pasha is inextricably entwined in the city's history, whether the present citizens like it or not.

Under the Ottomans, Ioannina flourished as a center for arts and crafts, most notably for silversmiths. Even today, silver from Ioannina is considered to be among the finest in Greece, and you can still find a few craftsmen working in cramped workshops in the back streets, producing exquisite and intricate creations. 

In the Back Streets of Ioannina, GreeceIn the Back Streets of Ioannina

Mosques and Museums

Samples of some of the best silversmithing can be seen in the annex to the city's Byzantine Museum, which is inside the citadel and contains excellent and well-explained collections of Byzantine art. The nearby Silversmithing Museum includes more lovely pieces and a recreated silversmith's workshop.

The Fethiye Tzami Mosque in IoanninaThe Fethiye Tzami Mosque

Next to the Byzantine Museum is the Fethiye Tzami, or Victory Mosque, which isn't open to the public. In front of this stands the unmarked and untended grave of Ali Pasha.

Don't miss this fascinating story about the history of knife-making in Ioannina. You might want to visit the shop.

Also inside the citadel, and inside the Aslan Pasha Tzami mosque is the Municipal Ethnographic Museum of Ioannina. This is worth visiting, if only to see inside the mosque which was first built in 1619, but it also has a good collection of folk costumes, jewellery, and other arts and crafts from Ioannina and around.

Outside the citadel, the city's Archaeological Museum is an essential visit if you plan to go to the nearby archaeological site of Dodoni, which is about a 30-minute drive south of the city. Many of the best finds from the site are on display in the museum. A ten-minute walk west of the Archaeological Museum is the Municipal Art Gallery of Ioannina, which has about 500 works of art by artists from Ioannina and beyond including paintings both classical and contemporary, prints, and sculptures.

Ioannina and Lake Pamvotis

Nissi

The other essential visit when you're in Ioannina is to Nissi, the charming island on the far side  of Lake Pamvotis. Nissi, or nisi, is simply the Greek word for an island. It's reached by a regular ferry service that runs all day long, and into the evening, and leaves from the lakeshore under the citadel walls. There's one small, straggling village on the island where people make a living from fishing or tourism. 

It's a wonderful experience to sail across and have lunch or dinner in one of the excellent lakeside fish tavernas. If going for dinner, check the time of the last boat back. Note that most of the fish served in the restaurants comes not from the lake but from fish farms in the mountains. It doesn't mean it isn't top quality, but the lake could never provide enough fish to satisfy the demand. What does come from the lake and surrounding area is a dish you don't find on many Greek restaurant menus: frogs' legs. Frogs are so abundant locally that they are even exported to France.

Seagulls in IoanninaIoannina's Seagulls!

A trail goes all the way round the island, which makes for an enjoyable short walk. Because Nissi isn't developed, it's still a good place for wildlife. Walk around the island and you might see and hear nightingales, reed buntings, kestrels, a variety of water fowl... and frogs, of course!

Ali Pasha Museum

Ali PashaAli Pasha

Look for signs to the island's only cultural attraction, the Ali Pasha Museum, inside the Monastery of Pantaleimon. The monastery was built in the 16th century but the present building is a modern reconstruction, the original having been demolished by a falling tree. It was in here that Ali Pasha was assassinated but not, as you might suppose, by local Greeks. He was killed by Turks from Istanbul. Ali's own rulers had become concerned at the power and wealth he had accumulated, and his ambition to create an independent state.

Ali was besieged in the citadel in Ioannina but somehow managed to escape to the island in the lake, taking refuge in the monastery. Unsympathetic locals gave away his hiding place, and with Ali hiding upstairs the Turks shot up through the floorboards from downstairs to kill him. The bullet holes can still be seen. Ali was then beheaded and his head sent to the Sultan in Istanbul to prove that the mission had been accomplished. It is a violent past, in stark contrast to the peaceful nature of the lake and the island today.

Other Western Greece pages

  • The Zagorian Villages and Vikos Gorge in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece are popular for hiking, and for their scenic beauty and historical traditions.

    Zagori and the Vikos Gorge

    The Zagorian Villages and Vikos Gorge in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece are popular for hiking, and for their scenic beauty and historical traditions.

  • Western Greece includes holiday resorts like Parga, the Pindus Mountains and Zagorian villages, hiking in the Vikos Gorge, historical Ioannina, and Dodona.

    Western Greece: Travel Information and Advice about Western Greece

    Western Greece includes holiday resorts like Parga, the Pindus Mountains and Zagorian villages, hiking in the Vikos Gorge, historical Ioannina, and Dodona.

  • The resort of Parga, in Epirus in Western Greece, is one of the most popular along the Ioanian coast, with several beaches and waterfront seafood tavernas.

    Parga

    The resort of Parga, in Epirus in Western Greece, is one of the most popular along the Ioanian coast, with several beaches and waterfront seafood tavernas.

  • The town of Metsovo stands at Greece's highest mountain pass, between Ioannina and the plains of Thessaly, and has historic mansions and a distinctive cuisine.

    Metsovo

    The town of Metsovo stands at Greece's highest mountain pass, between Ioannina and the plains of Thessaly, and has historic mansions and a distinctive cuisine.

  • Messolonghi (or Missolonghi) is a town in Western Greece which played a big role in the Greek War of Independence and is where the British poet Lord Byron died.

    Messolonghi

    Messolonghi (or Missolonghi) is a town in Western Greece which played a big role in the Greek War of Independence and is where the British poet Lord Byron died.

  • This walk in Ali Pasha's Ioannina also takes in the city's main museums, the citadel, and a ferry ride to the island of Nissi to visit the Ali Pasha Museum.

    Ioannina Walk

    This walk in Ali Pasha's Ioannina also takes in the city's main museums, the citadel, and a ferry ride to the island of Nissi to visit the Ali Pasha Museum.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. Spetses: The Ultimate Autumn Guide

    Timeless hangouts, useful addresses and cool tips for an unforgettable weekend on the Saronic island of Spetses, just two hours by ferry from Athens.

    Read More

  2. Recipe: Soumada, the Drink of Happiness

    Traditionally served at happy occasions, this sweet almond drink scented with orange flower water is easy to make, and a wonderful treat for guests.

    Read More

  3. Samothraki: Another Greece, Forgotten by Time

    With its rugged, untamed beauty and rich history, Samothraki in the northern Aegean doesn't fit into any of the familiar molds.

    Read More

  4. 8 Excellent Athens Restaurants for Sharing Food

    These restaurants in the heart of Athens celebrate the quintessentially Greek tradition of bringing people together to share plate-loads of delicious food.

    Read More

  5. The Best Hotels in Athens

    Greece Travel Secrets gives its choice of the best hotels in Athens from budget and moderate options through to 5-star luxury choices.

    Read More

  6. Athens listed as a Top 10 most beautiful city for the second time

    Greece has not stopped breaking one record after another in recent years - from tourism to important economic indicators that testify to the enormous dynamics that the country has developed in recent…

    Read More

  7. Jet2 Adds New Routes to Greece, Increases Seat Capacity to 1.3 Million

    UK airline and tour operator to Greece Jet2 on Tuesday announced that it was expanding its 2023 program for the country even further with the addition of new routes, increase of seat capacity and seas…

    Read More

  8. Ultra-runners to Set Off for the 40th Spartathlon from the Acropolis on Friday

    Nearly 400 super athletes from across the globe will set off from the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday, September 30, morning to run 246km (153 miles) to the Peloponnesian town of Sparta for…

    Read More

  9. ‘Athens Full of Tourists’ as Greece Extends Tourism Season

    International travelers are still visiting Greece in the shoulder season which validates the Tourism Ministry’s efforts to extend the season and keep visitors coming into the fall and winter, said Tou…

    Read More

  10. A Walk around Kolonáki

    This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

    Read More