IOANNINA - NATURE AT ITS BEST
The Prefecture of Ioannina is one of the four prefectures of Epirus. Ioannina is the capital with the famous lake Pamvotida while most of them cover mountains, plains, valleys, gorges such as Aoos and the ravine of Vikos. There are also smaller lakes, such as Zaravina, the artificial lake of Aoos and the Drakolimnes of Gamila and Smolikas create a unique natural beauty. Well-known rivers of the prefecture are Arachthos, Aoos, Voidomatis, Kalamas, Louros and Acheron. For the protection of the rare fauna and flora of the area there is the national park of Vikos-Aoos.
It is one of the largest cities in Greece with a rich cultural tradition and the characteristic island of the lake in which there is a small settlement and various monuments and attractions, such as the last residence of Ali Pasha. It is one of the oldest lakes in the world and the second oldest in Europe. It belongs to the European network of Natura 2000 protected areas due to the important and rare species of flora and fauna. It is also known for the tragic story of the drowning of Mrs. Frosini by order of Ali Pasha. The lake with the island hosts rowers while around there are fishermen who are often a cultural piece in works of art, poems, photographs and songs.
The Clock of the architect Pericles Melirritos was built by order of Osman Pasha and is a meeting point. The architecture characterizes the area and some of the buildings that stand out are the Papazogleios Textile School, the Kaplanios School, the ‘Despotis House’ and the mansion of Missios. The castle was built in 528 AD. from the emperor Justinian, however, became known in the time of Ali Pasha where it was the administrative center of western Greece. The Litharitsia fortress was built by Ali Pasha and was a bastion, significantly strengthening its fortification. An important point of reference is the churches and monasteries of the area that attract many visitors.
The archaeological museum includes findings from all 4 prefectures of Epirus. The castle contains the Fethiye Mosque, the Tomb of Ali Pasha, the Byzantine Museum and the Exhibition of Silver and Gold. The Municipal Museum is housed in the Aslan Mosque, and contains local costumes, textiles, wood carvings, silverware and the sword of Georgios Karaiskakis stands out. The Museum of Silversmithing is a thematic museum of the history and technology of silversmithing in Epirus. The Municipal Gallery includes paintings, drawings, engravings, icons and sculptures. In the ancient theater of Dodoni of the 3rd c. e.g. Naia was held every four years, poetic struggles while during Roman times it was used as an arena.
Dodoni was one of the most important oracles of the ancient world to which they came to ask for an oracle. Today in the area is the Bouleuterion, the Rectorate, the stadium and the Acropolis at the top of the hill. In the village of Perama is the cave of Perama that was discovered by the inhabitants a miracle of nature on the hill Goritsa which is one of the most beautiful in the Balkans. The cave of Anemotripa also offers a route of 250 meters, has three levels and an underground waterfall of 2 meters. The Museum of Greek History of Vrelli has exhibits from the Greek History of the Pre-Revolution, the revolution of 1821 and the Second World War.
The area is famous for its bridges with the most famous being that of Voidomatis, a single arched stone bridge of 1953. The bridge of Konitsa is the second largest single arched bridge of the ravine of Aoos river. The view from the bridge is magnificent as the wild natural beauty in combination with the gorge of Aoos form a real work of art. The bridge keeps under its arch the bell that warns of strong winds. The bridge of Plaka with its round arch reaches 20 meters and is the largest of its kind in Greece and perhaps in Europe. The bridge of Plakidas or Kalogeriko with its shape referring to a caterpillar ,bridges the banks of Voidomatis.
Metsovo built on the slopes of Pindos is one of the most picturesque settlements in Greece with an impressive landscape and is an ideal destination for all seasons. One of the most important sights is the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos. It has a number of monasteries and churches, authentic Byzantine monuments of great importance and twenty traditional fountains, which have unique quality water. The artificial lake of Aoos is a real gem for the area. The Averofian garden is an ideal destination for getting acquainted with all the species of trees of Pindos, including pines, firs, beeches, holly and many other species of plants and shrubs in the area.
Metsovo is ideal for extreme sports such as kayaking, rafting, snowmobile, mountain bike, horse riding, skiing and hiking. In the area there are two ski centers, the Ski Center Politsies or Profitis Ilias and Aniliou. The Ski Center Politses or Profitis Ilias has an altitude of 1360 meters to 1620. It has two sliding lifts with a length of 700 and 550 meters respectively and a baby lift of 150 meters. The Ski Center has slopes for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, as well as the possibility for downhill in deceptive snow. It includes a two-seater lift of 800 meters, two sliding 280 and 300 meters, two baby lifts of 80 and 120 meters as well as two snow vehicles. Snow lovers can enjoy endless descents at an altitude of 1850 meters.
Zagorochoria is a network of 46 beautiful villages with traditional architecture that are an important winter destination. The place name Zagori comes from the Slavic "Za Gora'' which means "the place beyond the mountain". The villages are characterized as traditional settlements by the decree of Zagori. East Zagori includes Vovousa, Greveniti, Doliani, Myliotades, Tristeno and Flampourari. West Zagori, Ano Pedina, Aristi, Vikos, Vitsa, Elafotopos, Kato Pedina, Monodendri and Mikro Papigo. The central Zagori, the Asprangelos, Vradeto, Vrysochori. In the northern part are Mastorochoria, Pyrsogianni, Vourbiani, Gorgopotamos, Drosopigi, Kastania, Plagia, Plikati and Chionades.
At 30 km from Ioannina is the gorge of Vikos, one of the most famous to nature lovers as it offers unique routes. The Vikos-Aoos National Park was designated in 1973, with an area of 1,600 acres. The flora of the area numbers about 1700 species that are found exclusively in the gorge, while twelve do not exist anywhere else in Greece. The fauna is also rich as wolves, deer, bears, weasels, wild cats, etc. There is a record of the ravine of Vikos in the Guinness records of 1997, as the deepest ravine in the world with a depth of 900 meters and an opening of only 1100 meters. Some of the activities that you can enjoy are hiking, horse riding, climbing, mountaineering, rafting, canoeing / kayaking and mountain biking.
Konitsa, which borders Albania, is said to have taken its name from Slavic origins, meaning horse market. It has become a capital of alternative tourism among unique natural beauties. In the villages of the plain of Konitsa the main productive activity is agriculture. For the fans of tsipouro there is a workshop 15 km, outside the city where one can attend a tour. One of the most famous sights is Drakolimnes Gamila - Smolika where according to tradition, two dragons lived. It is an area ideal for activities such as mountaineering, cycling, hiking, horseback riding, canoe kayaking and rafting.
Bourazani Environmental Park is home to many species of animals such as deer, Cretan goats and rare plant species. The park is visited by organizations that observe butterflies and dragonflies such as the British ecologists of Green Tours. The area dominated by the Park attracts nature lovers and those who love "mountain" sports. The thermal baths of Kavasilon have infrastructure for spa treatments where the waters are suitable for rheumatic, skin, orthopedic, gynecological and respiratory diseases. Outside Iliochori are the "Balta di Striga'' waterfalls, three consecutive waterfalls with the largest height of 25 meters, which form natural pools.
Elati is a built area of Mount Mitsikeli, overlooking the mountains of Tymfi. Syrrako is a picturesque settlement with a rich history and the characteristic gorge that separates Syrrako with the village of Kalarryta. Megalo Papigo is located in a unique position below the top of Astraka in the Vikos-Aoos National Park. Mikro Papigo offers trails for those who want to climb Tymfi and walk to the mountain refuge of Astraka. Monodendri stands out with its mansions, cobbled streets and churches, while in the central square is the church of Agios Athanasios.
The gastronomic tradition is based on the use of pure local products while the meats are cooked with traditional recipes. The sourdough bread, the pies, the famous cheeses and the wines of the area, compose the tradition of Ioannina. Meat in the hull, homemade noodles but also for fish lovers, local recipes with frog legs and trout. It is worth trying the famous local tsipouro or barrel wine and for dessert the famous sweets of Ioannina, such as baklava, kadaifi, but also various other cakes. The raw material is fresh Greek sheep and goat milk, pure products of high standards are made such as feta, kefalograviera, dry mizithra, smoked Metsovone cheese and galotyri.