For us, traveling is all about connecting to people. It is a completely different experience when you hangout with a local or simply have a piece of travel advice from somebody that understands the local culture in a deeper level. It will save you a lot of time and open up your eyes to appreciate the true colors of a place that many times are hidden in between tourist traps. For this reason we interviewed Mark, he lives in Ioannina, Greece. He is a writer, world explorer and very passionate about his hometown. This is what Mark has to say about his city.
WHERE TO STAY
The main attraction of the town I live in is the lake. So, any hotel near the lake front has amazing views to wake up to. At one side across the lake you’ve got a majestic mountain swallowing you whole with its enormous size and colors, and on the other side the lungs of the city spread covering around the city and woods. Getting a room on a hill by the forest or down by the lake would be an amazing privilege. Being secluded from the rest of the town, is a necessity every now and then, and Ioannina is all about that vibe. Getting in touch to your inner-self and getting the ability to not just breathe but truly live. Away from pollution, noise, traffic jams, subways and an asthmatic pace of life.
“Ioannina is a very safe city to travel and wander around in. Criminality is at a minimum rate and no hate crimes have been recorded so far.”
WHEN TO GO
During the Greek carnival season, Ioannina has to offer a very unique experience.
Ioannina wears so many masks throughout the whole year. From the beautiful season of Autumn where the forest changes it’s dresses to something more gloomy to Spring when everything blossoms and streets are filled with the scent of flowers and smiling people, Ioannina is a seducer. The best time of the year for someone to visit is during Carnival season. Winters here are kind of heavy, and rainy (statistically in Ioannina it rains more than in London). Hence the saying “In Ioannina it only rains once. It starts in October and ends in May”. During the Greek carnival season, Ioannina has to offer a very unique experience. Bonfires all over the town are lit and people that are dressed up in different costumes take over the streets, dance around the fires until the very late morning hours when the flames have stopped blazing. To me, it’s one of the most majestic traditions to have lived while being here. There’s something really amazing about the sense of freedom this festival has to offer to those you choose to experience it.
WHERE TO EAT
“Some of the most traditional Greek sweets originate from the Byzantine empire time and have their roots in Ioannina.”
Ioannina is the place where people know how to eat and drink, a lot. There are quite a few traditional dishes that people should try while being here, to name a few: kontosouvli which is a special way of cooking meat on a stick, kind of like the world known souvlaki, and a place to enjoy that would have to be “Metsovitiki Folia” a traditional restaurant in the city centre. The region is known for it’s delicious pies, spinach pies, chicken pies, cheese pies but amongst them there’s one you can only have here and it’s a god sent really, called “kasopita” kind of like a cheese pie, but there’s no way of describing it that would make it justice. Instead of sheets of pies, it’s made out of flour and can be enjoyed with sugar on top of it.
My all time favorite place in Ioannina would have to be the ” Cafe Saligaros” where truly time seems to have stopped. From it’s vintage decor to their handmade sweets, entering another era is inevitable. It’s the most gay friendly place in the city probably and a definite MUST.
WHERE TO PARTY
Ioannina is a traditional city that’s governed by the elderly yet because of it’s University and the many departments it has, it’s ruled by youngsters. Students from all over Greece come to Ioannina to study and so the city is truly vibrant with youth and places to have a good time. Even so, the gay scene is quite limited in the sense that there are no openly gay clubs and shops, there are friendly places one can hang out with their partner.
Because of the many university students the town has, it really has quite a few places to have fun at. The nightlife is vibrant and especially on the weekends, the party finishes at the early hours of the morning. People who enjoy bars would definitely have to try out “Blue Gin”, “Circus” or the city’s disco “Tayga”. Also the city’s club “LT” as well as the hundreds of wine and tsipouro (special local alcoholic drink) bars.
WHERE TO SHOP
Ioannina is known as the city of great Silversmiths mastery. It has tons of shops with handmade silverware jewellery that are great as a remembrance of the city. Also, tsipouro, as well as the city’s amazing sweets. Some of the most traditional Greek sweets originate from the Byzantine empire time and have their roots in Ioannina. All of the sweets that have honey syrup such as baklavas, saraglakia and kadaifi, are made with great artistry in the local sweet shops.
THINGS TO DO
Ioannina has been recently connected through the local airport to many other countries as a touristic attraction and for people to live the full experience I recommend visiting the Silversmith Museum (built in 2018) and the Wax Museum. Also the Island in Ioannina’ lake is one of Europe’s few inhabited lake islands, the only inhabited one on the world without a name! Ali Pasa’s museum is a small yet interesting museum as well as the castle standing strong through the passage of time near the lake round about.
DAY TRIPS FROM IOANNINA
This is the most exciting thing about Ioannina. It’s strategic location. While staying here you can be alike to some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece in about 2 hours driving time, as well to some of the most mesmerizing mountain villages simultaneously. To be specific, getting your amazing snaps at the sapphire blue beaches of the island of Lefkada all you need is a 2 hour drive to get there. At the same time, the acclaimed amazing villages of Zagorohoria are about 1-1,5 hours away. There you can eat amazing traditional food, go canoeing in the freezing cold rivers and even mountain climbing or hiking at the amazing Drakolimni (Dragon lake). Drakolimni is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the blessing to witness. It resides at an altitude of 2050m, every step getting there is totally worth it when witnessing the breath taking landscape. In the lake formed by glaciers, a special kind of blue lizard lives there, and has adapted to weather conditions. In the shape of a dragon, loaning it’s name to the lake (dragon lake). On the other direction, a more wild side of the Epirus region unfolds at the Tzoumerka Mountain line where the landscape is amazing and the ancient bridges, symbols of Ioannina have been standing tall and strong for centuries now. The port of Igoumenitsa is 45’ away and from there people can travel to the amazing island of Corfu in about 2 hours and wonder off at the Venetian architecture streets and alleys.