Greece

Ioannina – a beautiful gem of Northern Greece

Last Updated on 04/01/2024 by kami

I must sadly admit that until my trip I didn’t even know that there is a city called Ioannina in Greece. I found out about it only when doing researches how to get from Greece to Albania in the best way.

In past I just took the adventurous night bus from Thessaloniki to Berat but since this time I was going to Gjirokaster this wasn’t really an option as the bus was arriving there at 2am, in the middle of the night.

But then I found that there are pretty good connections from Ioannina to Gjirokastra and it takes only 2 hours. That’s how I’ve decided to visit Ioannina, Greece.

Ioannina essentials

Where is Ioannina, Greece?

Ioannina is located in the north-west part of Greece at the shore of the Lake Pamvotis, close to the border with Albania, some 70kms away from the seaside and 400kms away from Athens, the capital of the country.

It is the capital and the biggest city of the Epirus province.

In Greek standards Ioannina isn’t a very old city.

The name was first mentioned at the end of the 9th century and since then it had a troublesome history and changed the rulers couple of times.

Eventually, in 1913, Ioannina was incorporated to Greece.

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Things to do in Ioannina, Greece

To be honest there are not terribly many things to do in Ioannina but the city is pleasant enough to spend some time there.

I had a bit less than 24 hours in Ioannina and I felt I could have stayed there longer, just to enjoy the place.

I went to visit Ioannina in late summer, at the very end of September. The weather was still warm and sunny yet the city wasn’t very busy and no one seemed to hurry.

That’s definitely what I needed at the very beginning of my yet another Balkans trip.

The first place I visited was the lakeside. On the way there I passed by numerous cafes and charming lanes as well as ruins of the castle but I promised myself to come back there later.

Lake Pamvotis was amazing! So picturesque, so calm, with clear waters and surrounded by rocky mountains.

This was definitely not the holiday image we get from Greece but I admit I liked this version of this popular country a lot.

Spending time at the lakeside, sitting on the bench and looking at the landscape in front of me or just wandering around was one of my favorite things to do in Ioannina.

It was already there that I felt I really am on the holidays.

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the lakeside. There were people of all ages, doing the same as me – walking around or just hanging out along the promenade lined with trees.

It seemed like the lakeside is the place to be in Ioannina.

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

I spent most of my afternoon near the lake and only at the time of the sunset I went to the castle area.

The Ioannina castle was built in the 6th century and is the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece.

What’s unique about the place is that the castle is still an inhabited area.

Besides the old houses, you can also find there Its Kale Acropolis with Fetiche Mosque or the Byzantine museum among many others.

While the rest of the city was vibrant the castle area was tranquil and the best place to witness the beautiful sunset.

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Vibrant cafe scene in Ioannina

Ioannina is also the city of students. The center is full of numerous bars and cafes, I was actually surprised how many of them they are for the city of around 65k inhabitants.

Even if it was Thursday evening there were so many people hanging around, making the city alive until late evening hours.

Even on the next day, before noon, the cafes still seemed like a popular place among locals.

What I liked even more was that, besides charming corners perfect for Instagram pictures, there was some really decent street art around.

That definitely added up to the atmosphere of the city.

Among the bars and cafes you can find small craftsmen shops where men still use their skills.

It reminded me a bit of Bascarsija in Sarajevo where you can hear the sound of tiny hammers hitting the metal when a real masterpieces are done. And it was the same in Ioannina.

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

What to see around Ioannina

Ioannina can be also a perfect base to explore the interesting area around, something I didn’t do due to the lack of time.

The easiest trip is a ferry to Nisi island with couple of monasteries dating back to the 13th century – the boat departs often from the promenade.

Near Ioannina you can also find Cave of Perama, byzantine town of Arta or Pindus National Park with stunning views.

Ioannina is really worth more than just a short visit!

There are organized tours you can join in Pindus National Park, click below for more details:

Visit Ioannina Greece

Is it worth to visit Ioannina?

For years I was a victim of the Greek stereotype that most of the interesting places (besides Athens and Meteora) are at the islands.

I associated Greece with the typical landscape with white houses and blue doors as that’s how we always see the country. Inland Greece seems not to exist in the tourism space really.

Now I’m actually amused when I see how stupid I was.

North Greece is very similar to the Balkans when it comes to architecture, landscape and even culture and now I know very well this is my kind of place.

I’m really glad I’ve decided to visit Ioannina as it kind of opened my eyes and now I know I really want to discover more of inland and especially northern Greece.

Don’t make my mistake and, especially if you enjoy Balkans, plan your own trip there too!

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Visit Ioannina Greece

Ioannina, Greece – practical information

How to get to Ioannina

I took the bus from Thessaloniki, there are six direct departures through the day and the journey takes 3 hours and 30 minutes. I paid for the ticket around €35. You can also take the bus from Athens but it’s a long journey and will probably take most of your day. There’s also an option to fly from Athens to Ioannina.

Due to the proximity to Albania Ioannina is also connected with this neighbouring country. There are two buses per day, departing from Ioannina to Gjirokastra at 13:15 and 18:00 and the ticket is €8. It takes around 2 hours to get to the final destination, that includes the border crossing.

Where to stay in Ioannina

I stayed at Kentrikon and I can definitely recommend this place. It was within a walking distance to the center and the lakeside, my room was spacious, clean and comfy. With ratings of 8.8/10 on Booking I can see I’m not the only one who enjoyed the place. Click here to check more details and see the current rates.

Other recommended Ioannina hotels:

Where to eat in Ioannina

Most of the best cafes and restaurants are located in the center and close to the lake.


Travel Resources

You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Ioannina

Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Greece here.

I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.

Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.


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  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Greece too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!

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Visit Ioannina Greece


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16 Comments

  • Reply
    anjci @ ANJCI ALL OVER
    08/12/2018 at 00:16

    What a nice perspective on Ioannina! Of course, Greece is so much more than islands (which I, admittedly, adore). Greece has mountains, lakes, caves, stunning villages and, ahem, ugly, built-up modern cities – as we say in Russian, Greece has everything! ???

    • Reply
      kami
      06/01/2019 at 09:49

      Indeed! Unfortunately I don’t know Greece as well as I’d like to but I hope to give it more and more chances soon! I especially would love to visit the islands! Which ones would you recommend?

  • Reply
    Rashed
    09/12/2018 at 11:42

    Great Article! An amazing writing did by you. I read your article. You explain your topic nicely. When the reader read your article, they will stay here for more time. This post really helpful and useful. It’s a great post for the traveler, those who like traveling. Finally, I would like to thanks to you for an awesome post.

    • Reply
      kami
      06/01/2019 at 09:49

      Thank you.

  • Reply
    Isaiash 00
    19/06/2019 at 12:38

    I also visited there and get great experience there.

    • Reply
      kami
      26/06/2019 at 02:15

      glad to hear that!

  • Reply
    Lara
    28/07/2019 at 15:49

    Hi there! Great read! I’m looking at visiting Ioannina on my way to Gjirokaster.
    You’ve said there are buses but I can seem to find any online. Will there be travel agents/bus stations where I can buy tickets from in the town?

    Thanks

    • Reply
      kami
      31/07/2019 at 12:16

      When I visited there were at least 2 buses from Ioannina to Gjirokaster so I’m sure you will find something. When I was there I took the bus at 13:30 but there was one more at 18:00. If, for some reason, you can’t take the direct bus there are a few more connections to the border and from there you will catch another mode of transport to Gjirokaster.

  • Reply
    Ismini Vasileiou
    09/10/2019 at 11:50

    Hello there,
    I visited Ioannina this year and i have to say that is was spectacular.
    Generally, you have to visit many more places and town in Greece.

    • Reply
      kami
      06/11/2019 at 21:57

      I’m glad you liked Ioannina. Greece has so much to offer, I would need weeks to see all the best places there!

  • Reply
    Princess
    10/10/2019 at 11:28

    Thanks for the infos! I’m visiting Ioannina but only for a day. Can’t wait to check out the places which you posted too.

    • Reply
      kami
      06/11/2019 at 22:17

      I hope you will enjoy Ioannina as much as I did!

  • Reply
    Costas P.
    22/10/2019 at 12:31

    Ioannina (or Giannena as most Greeks will refer to it) is indeed a very charming destination in one of the most hospitable regions of Greece, the North-West of the country that is. Different landscape, but the same Greek fun you can always depend on! Full of young people from all over Greece because of the very lively University there, superb food and a full blown night-life! A place to fall in love with or maybe to fall in love in! ; ) Only Thessaloniki can be better, but then again, I’m from there, so maybe I’m prejudiced… ; ) (I don’t think so though… ; )
    PS The Ionian sea seaside isn’t very far of and the village of Parga is not to be missed! The town of Preveza and Nicopolis are also very worth your while! You’ll love them!

    • Reply
      kami
      06/11/2019 at 22:46

      Thank you for your recommendations! I will try to check them out next time I’m in Greece! :) There’s still so much to see there for me!

  • Reply
    Todor
    06/09/2023 at 11:47

    Hi! Love your guide! ;-)
    Could you please tell me where this is located exactly: https://www.mywanderlust.pl/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/visit-ioannina-greece-38.jpg?
    Thanks!

    • Reply
      kami
      11/09/2023 at 12:32

      Hello. I can’t find the exact street name but it was somewhere in the bazaar area not far from the lake. I’m sorry I can’t help you more :(

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