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Prefecture of IOANNINA - the unspoilt Greece

Prefecture of Ioannina: authenticity, calmness & adventure

General info about Ioannina Prefecture (regional unit)

Culture and history, mountains but close to the sea, flavors and products, activities and adrenaline, castles and villages, ancient theaters and stone bridges. In Ioannina, everything blends together along with the excellent hospitality of the local people. Ioannina (but also Epirus as a whole) is a genuine wonder of spectacular nature and impressive history. Dominated from the mountain range of Pindus at the East, Ioannina gives to the travelers the opportunity to discover its million beauties through its wonderful arched bridges. Favoured from nature lovers, Ioannina is a land of mountains with authentic villages, flowing rivers, beautiful lakes and picturesque bridges.
Two out of the ten national parks of the country, aka Pindus and Vikos, beautify the entire region with their verdurous vegetation and wild landscapes.

In Ioannina Town, one of the most beautiful cities of the country, you will cross the spectacular Lake Pamvotis in order to reach the Island (Nissi) , so that you could feel the mysterious atmosphere of the great capital of Epirus. To the east, enchanting paths reveal the 46 beautiful stone villages of Zagorohoria, with captivating sceneries. Glorified for its authentic spirit and its traditional character, Metsovo will enslave you from the first moment. Beautiful Konitsa and Arahthos River are for adrenaline seekers and unknown Pogoni to the north for its remoteness, are all must-visit… not to forget Vikos-Aoos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world in proportion to its width (from the Guiness Book of Records), is just an spectacle that you should not miss.

** adopted from:


Iоаnninа (County or Prefecture) is а lаrgе mоuntаinοus rеgiоnal unit οf Grеесе, аlthоugh lаndlοсkеd. It liеs in nоrth Еpirus, the northwestern Region of Greece, οссupiеd mоstly bу thе Pindus mοuntаin rаngе that cover the eastern part of the regional unit. The main subranges of the Pindus are from north to south: Gramos, Smolikas (2,637 m, the highest of the Pindus), Tymfi, Lygkos, Lakmos and Athamanika. The lower Xerovouni mountains are situated in the south, and the Tomaros in the southwest.

Actually Ioannina is one of the largest regional units (prefectures) in Greece and occupies approximately half the area of ​​the Region of Epirus. It borders to the north with Albania (with the Prefectures of Koritsa and Argyrokastro with strong Greek communities), to the west with the regional unit of Thesprotia , to the south with the regional units of Arta and Preveza and to the east with the regional units of Grevena and Kastoria (of Macedonia Region) and Trikala (of Thessaly Region).

Thе саpitаl оf Iοаnninа County is Iоаnninа Town, οn thе shоrе οf lаkе Pаmvоtis, the largest lake of Epirus; Ioannnina Town is a vibrant city of 114.000 people, out of the 168.000 prefecture’s inhabitants and the 320.000 Region’s total population. Several major rivers have their source in the Ioannina regional unit, including Aoos, Arachthos and Acheron. however, thе rеgiоn is mοst fаmоus fοr thе аrеа Zаgоri, аlsο саllеd Zаgоrοсhоriа – it inсludеs 46 villаgеs with stοnе strееts аnd hоusеs in thе typiсаl fοr thе rеgiоn’s аrсhitесturе.


The Dorians invaded the Peloponnese through Epirus and Macedonia at the end of the 2nd millennium BC. (around 1100 to 1000 BC), but the reasons for this movement have not been clarified. While many inhabitants of the region migrated south, at that time Epirus’ three main tribes appeared,  Molossians being the one in the center, in the area of Ioannina.

In contrast to the rest of the Greek races that were modeled after the city-state , such as Athens , Sparta and Corinth , the Epirotes lived in small villages. The region was at the edge of the Greek world and the mainland tribes often had to deal with invaders from the north. However, the area was of special religious importance for the ancient Greek world, due to the presence of the Oracle of Dodoni, the 2nd most important after that of Delphi.

The Molossians allied with the powerful, at that time, Macedonian kingdom, and in 359 BC the Molossian princess Olympias, niece of King Aribba of Epirus, married King Philip II of Macedonia and she would give birth to Alexander the Great. In the 3rd century BC, Epirus remained countable, united under the Common of Epirus as a federated state with its own common of representatives (or Congress as it was referred to). But it found itself at the center of the wars between Macedonia and the rising power: Rome. The public of Epirus remained neutral in this dispute, but in the Third Macedonian War (171-168 BC) the Molossians sided with the Macedonians, while the Chaones and Thesprotes sided with the Romans. The consequences were disastrous for Ioannina and central Epirus, the Molossians were subdued in 167 BC. and 150,000 inhabitants became slaves. The area was so heavily plundered by the Romans that 500 years had to pass for life to return to Epirus.

With the Roman conquest, the independence of Epirus also ended. In 146 BC became a Roman province and later it became part of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) when the empire was divided in 395 AD. When Constantinople fell to the Crusaders in 1204, Michael I Comnenus Duke occupied Epirus and established the independent Despotate of Epirus. 

The Ottoman period was extremely painful for Epirus, the arable lands were given to the Muslims and many Epirotians were forced to leave the region, for a better life. The area was the land of rebellions, the main one being that of Dionysios the Philosopher, who suffocated in blood in 1611. Since the 17th century, many merchants from Ioannina , Metsovo , Zagori and other areas contributed with benefits to the spiritual recovery of the place, by building schools and libraries. Epirus was one of the regions that strongly cultivated the ideas of the Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment.

Two of the three founding members of the Society of Friends who prepared the ground for the Greek Revolution, were from Epirus, Nikolaos Skoufas and Athanasios Tsakalov (from Arta and Ioannina respectively). At the end of the Revolution (1830), Ioannina and Epirus did not become part of the newly established Greek state. But the contribution of the local benefactors to the strengthening of the State was particularly strong, such as Georgios Stavros, founder and first director of the National Bank of Greece, Georgios Averof, founder of the National Technical University of Athens etc. The first prime minister of Greece (as a constitutional monarchy) was Ioannis Kolettis from Sirrako, a mountainous village of Ioannina prefecture.


The richness of the folk tradition of Epirus, and especailly of Ioannina, certainly constitutes a special chapter in its cultural history. Local folk songs, which display a musical idiosyncrasy due to their polyphonic character and pentatonic scale, have been associated with the ancient Greek tradition. Painting experienced a special development, especially after the second half of the 16th century, since until then it was practiced by itinerant painters. After 1542, the so-called “School of Ioannina” developed, which determined the character of hagiographic art until the 18th century. At the same time, guilds of painters are developed, which usually come from rural areas with the painters from the village of Hioniades in Konitsa as a typical example. Also an important group of local painters during the 19th c. are the painters from Kapesovo, in Zagori.

Architecture also develops a completely recognizable character based on elements of popular tradition. The typical villages (Metsovo, Zagorochoria etc.) owe their aesthetic perfection to the use of domestic materials that harmonize perfectly with the environment. The stone-built houses with wooden ceilings and stone-paved cobblestones, where special channels provided for the channeling of rainwater, are now synonymous with traditional Epirus architecture, mainly from Ioannina and Arta; after all, the local builders were famous for their art throughout Greece – and beyond. One of the characteristic elements of the region’s landscape is the numerous bridges, since the rivers of Ioannina run through steep gorges and their rough waters make it impossible to cross in any other way.

Finally, we should mention the traditional arts and crafts that had a guild character. Gold-embroidery, silversmithing and metalwork experienced exceptional growth in the last centuries, mainly in Ioannina (and Arta). In addition to the production of ecclesiastical utensils and vestments, the artisans produced jewelry, gold-smoked weapons and of course the famous gold-embroidered folk costumes.

** main sources: and “OXE: Ancient Theatres of Epirus

Local Products & Gastronomy

The regional unit of Ioannina has a rich culinary tradition, based on the use of pure products. Meats cooked in a special way, delicious pies, sourdough bread, frog legs, game, but also famous cheeses, traditional sweets such as baklava, lots of wine and tsipouro, make up a tasty menu that combines tradition with charm.

The area is particularly well-known for its pies; the famous “Ioannina pies” have created a legend around their name: mushroom pies, potato pies, grass pies (with weeds) and more. The traditional list is long, much larger is the audience that looks for them on their visits to Ioannina and mountainous Epirus.

Tradition is carried through the various forms of pasta, made of pure grain, milk, butter and eggs, without any other materials, with predominant trahanas, tart or sweet: cooked with tomato and cheese, with mushrooms, sausage, or goat meat, it is also served as soup etc. Greek noodles (“hylopites“) wake up memories of grandmother’s food, eaten plain with butter and cheese, or accompanied with red sauce, or complementing savory meat soups.

With fresh Greek sheep and goat milk from pure raw materials, superior diary products are offered such as fresh pasteurized milk, natural healthy yoghurt and fresh butter. But the most dynamic products in the region are feta, kefalograviera, dry mizithra, smoked Metsovone cheese and galotyri. Well-known are particularly the products from Metsovo and Dodoni, such as cheeses, wines, boiled goat and sausages represent a small part of the rich taste of the region.

You will find excellent quality meat also at Katsikas, where cooked options for all tastes have been added to the menu. The range of local, delicious, juicy and top quality meats are classic dishes of Ioannina and of course of Epirus: Juicy mutton kontosouvli (sheepskin), spicy kokoretsi, delicious roast mutton, hot sheep and goat soups, roasted lamb, “stealer” (“kleftiko”), pot roast, lemony goat on the rind with honey in the oven, fried pork, beef stew and other traditional delicacies such as tripe. Of course, the hunts also have a special place in the local tradition: hare stew or salmi (ragout), wild boar with quince, and honey or salmi, deer or deer stew, pilaf with blackbirds, grouse, partridges ragout.

But those who love fish in Ioannina will find local recipes with frogs, eels and trout. For trout, turn to the experienced hands of the residents of Vouliasta, who specialize in specific flavors. Highlights of the local cuisine are of course the ells, the myth says they are born in the Sargasso Sea and pass through Acherontas to reach here, cooked in a peculiar way in a tile flavored with laurel and pepper, or smoked, or baked in the fireplace passed to cane or wine. And our famous frog legs with porridge, fried, accompanied by grilled vegetables and tsipouro, with their taste acrobats between chicken and fish (recommendation: Try the fried frogs legs and eels on the Island in the Ioannina lake – Pamvotis).

See also “Epirus Cuisine” in Northern Greece– section “Gastronomy of Northern Greece” and “Products & Dishes of Epirus” in Northern Greece– section Products & dishes of Northern Greece

** main sources for this post: and

More info about Ioannina Prefecture can be found in numerous sources:

A number of independent guides and agencies give you a full range of options on what to see and what to do in Ioannina:

Accomodation / Hotels

Hundrends of hotels, mansions and Rooms to Rent are available in the wider region of Ioannina, providing all types and levels of hospitality.

The Union of Hoteliers of Ioannina is our official patner in the area, participating in our Project Local and Branded“, promoting the innovative certification mark. For a choice of local hotels, please check the Members’ list on their webpage.