Lake and island, Ioannina
Nisaki (small island) is definitely a must do while you are at Ioannina. There are some small boats that come and go every 30’ (but less frequent in winter) so it’s an easy fun thing to do (the boat tickets is only 2e anyway).
There is only one village on the island, dominating the area that the boat stops. The first thing you notice are the row of several taverns, some of them having nice dishes with fishes (trouts etc) from the lake but they are also famous for some strange local dishes (some of them are fried frog legs, snails and eels)!
People from Ioannina also like to visit the island on sunny Sundays so you’ll see many locals apart from tourists. The village of the island has no more than 300 inhabitants and hopefully it not allowed for others to build a house there. I can’t imagine this small paradise packed with new modern buildings. The village has tiny stone alleys among the traditional houses. Of course as expected the main alley if full of small touristic shops, the merchants are a little pushy trying to convince you to buy something but take a look and check some of the items, some are really nice and check also those that offer local desserts and drinks.
My favorite activity on the islandis to take a walk around it! The road isn’t more than 2,5km so even with slow and relax walking you will return back in 60’. I always liked that, going round, seeing the monasteries, the small rowboats of the fishermen, the flowers and the forest and eating figs on the way (when I was kid in early 80s with my father)
In the heart of the village we visited the church of Kimisi Theotokou but don’t forget the island was a monastic site for centuries and some of the monasteries are:
-Agios Nikolaos (built in the 13th century), Eleousas, Agios Ioannis the Baptist, Filanthropinon (built in 1292 with a strange fresco showing ancient philosophers!) etc
You can also visit the monastery Agios Panteleimon that houses the museum about Ali Pasha’s life with paintings and other items of his era. It’s the place where the Turks killed him after the Sultan Murat II’s order to do because he wanted to stop the lawlessness of some commanders in the Ottoman region.
Ali Pasha(1744 -1822), the monarch of Ioannina didn’t want to give his treasures to the Sultan. The Sultan sent Hursit Pasha to take them, Ali Pasha knew about it and he threatened that he blow up the treasures with dynamite. Hursit pretended that he wanted to negotiate with Ali but he killed him at the monastery of Agios Panteleimon when he moved there to hide. They supposed to shoot him below the wooden floor (there is a spot on the floor that supposed to be the hole from the bullet!!)
Pic 1 picture of the island taken on our way to Ligiades
Pic 2 aerial view of the village of the island
Pic 3 alley inside the village
Pic 4 walking to Kimisi Theotokos church at the heart of the village
Pic 5 treet at Giafa-Ganaviari square. It was named after G-I. Giafas and K.Ganaviaris that fought for Ioannina liberation (1909-1912)
To get to the isle you'll take a regular boat service from Ioannina, the boats usually anchor near the entrance to the castle, so if you'll follow the Old Town Walls you can't miss it. The ticket costs 2 EUR one way and it can be purchased on the boat.
Once quiet Nisaki is rather a tourist place now. There are several small monasteries, but people mostly visit the St.Panteleimon monastery which houses a small museum. This is where betrayed Ali Pasha was killed. It's a 10 minute walk from a small harbour where you'll disembark, unless you'll let the local shopkeepers stop you and make you try their local goodies (made by the Union of Women of Epirus and the Union of Women of Ioannina). At the latter you'll come across the famous Mrs Antonia who is difficult to escape from as she will make you try some of the sweets, or recommend remedies. And make you choose a fruit liquor... And... people, she really can sell. At least take a short lesson of selling skills.
And, to not to omit an important gastronomy experience, people usually come to savour frog legs or freshwater fish on the square of Nisaki.
Lake Pamvotis has always been a popular fishing place. And Nisaki isle a quiet place for monks. But in the period of Ali Pasha's rule, the lake also became witness to his cruelty, when he ordered drawning of Kyra Frosini (whom Ali's son had an affair with), together with 17 maids of Ioannina unfoundedly sentenced as adulteresses.
The island is very picturesque with approximatel 100 families living here.
Have a walk around and see the traditional small houses and beautiful gardens and walk through the paved alleys.
Buy souvenirs from the many shops with their exhibits. Here you will find plenty of silver jewels.
Try the frog legs in the restaurants which are very popular, or ells.
Ok, I have to admit it! The reason I love this city is the lake! It’s located at the foothill of Mitsikeli mountain and there’s no way for the visitor not to walk near the lake, at Molos where the edge of the castle is and the cafes and taverns of course. I love to walk along the promenade or at the periphery road and the view is always great at the other side of the lake. Every time I see something different depending the period of year, the colors are so different between spring and autumn, or the snow over the mountains during the winter. It’s really peaceful going there, relaxing at a bench and watching the gulls come and go like the small boat that goes to the little island.
There are some interesting legends about the lake. The most famous is the one about Kyra Frosini, a young beautiful girl that pushed her parents to let her get married with a greek trader from Venice so to avoid being one of the Ali Pasha’s girls at his harem (she was only 12 year old). One day, when her husband was away, Muhtar (Ali’s son) felt in love with her although he was married too (ho, ho, ho). It seems that they had good time together but Ali Pasha liked her too so he sent Muhtar abroad for a military mission and try to get close to her. She denied so he acused her for prostitution (!) and he ordered to kill her (with other 16 girls) at the lake! It was the year 1801. The story of Kyra Frosyni is so popular that many taverns, cafes and the boats of the lake are named after her.
Another story is about Ntourahan Pasha from Rumeli. It was a cold night of 1434 and he tried to find a place to camp with his army. There was fog everywhere so they stopped at a big flat area. In the morning, after the fog had gone he realized that he was standing over the frozen lake! For that reason he built the monastery of Nturahan at the other side of the lake.
After a small research I was impressed by a local that told me that he had seen the lake frozen and people walking on it!! It happens rarely (4 times during the 20th century) but it’s really a weird phenomenon.
The mornings are really peaceful here, with locals going to walk, other cycling or jogging, people trying to catch a fish from the lake (pic 1) etc What tops it al is the sound of the birds of the lake, the gulls and the mallards. The perimeter of the lake is about 32 km and the depth is no more than 13m. The water comes from the foothill of Mitsikeli mountain.
Some days you can see canoe cayak teams (pic 2) racing at the lake, the local team is a good one but the people of Ioannina are still very disappointed from the fact the canoe cayak races for the Olympic Games of Athens in 2004 took place in Athens and not here.
There are a lot of benches along the promenade (pic 3) so you can rest for a while but beware of the birds above you when there are trees around! The birds use the bench as their toilet you know… lol
The periphery road is called Dionysiou Filosofou (known also as Skilosofos). It’s the name of the 70 year old man that made the unsuccessful rebellion against the Ottomans in 1611. It was the first time since occupation of the city from the Ottomans in 1430. He had about 500 men with him but he had to fought against many more. He caught and died in a small cave that is supposed to be located somewhere there in the periphery road. His body carried around the empire for emulation and because of his act the greek people banished outside of the castle.
These photos were taken from the small road leading from Ioanina to Longades and overlooking the lake.
The first photo shows Ioanina in the background, the northern tip of the island with its hamlet in the middle and in the foreground, marshes that are home to plenty of birds, fishes and frogs.
The second photo is a close up.
The third photo is even closer and shows the boats that makes the connection between the island and the city
Small boats propose trips to Nisaki Kyra Frosyni (islet of Kyra Frosyni), shorten as “Nisaki”, (little island) by locals. Departures are every 30 minutes from 6:30 AM to midnight. The trip is about 12 minutes.
Living on the island is a privilege and nobody can establish other than the families that have always lived there. They own the restaurants and shops for tourists but are also fishermen.
In the busy restaurants, you will find plenty of sea-food, sorry, lake-food : freshly caught fish, mainly eel and carp, bathrakos (frogs), karabedi (cray fish) and others.
Several Monasteries stand on the island.
One of these is the Monastery of the Prodhromos (St. John the Baptist) to the east of the little island hamlet. Its most ancient parts (13C) are the katholikon and the east aisle. It was restored in the 16th and its the 18th frescoes in the 19th.
Ali Pasha was killed on 17 January 1822 in neighboring Monastery of Pantaleimon, dating from the 16th.
Another monastery is Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Philanthropenon.
The whole island is registered by the Greek Archeological Service as a place of archeological significance.
Ioannina stands on the western shore of Limni Pamvotis (Lake Pamvotis), a large body of water, l0-ll km long, average 3km across and covers an area of approximately 23 km2. It is a shallow lake with reedy shores and maximum depth is 8 m, mean depth, 5 m. Commercial fishermen are over 50. They catch carp, tench, barbus and eel. Most of them live on the small island in front of Ioanina. Some of these fishes are also grown in fisheries in what is named Lapista lake, actually, the northern part of Pamvotis.
The Lake is incredibly beautiful, particularly if you come by early in the morning or towards the evening. Part of the shore north of the Kastro is a sort of amusement park/café stretch. There is, however, an entrance to an undevelopment part of the lakefront from the Kastro near the Its Kale. You must go through a sort of portico and you come out to a promenade where there are people fishing and walking in a relatively quiet atmosphere.
Walk around the lake!
You never get tired by doing this!
The lake is so nice and relaxing that the last time I had visited Ioannina I have spend more than one hour by sitting down and watching the lake without noticing the time!
Also go for a "lake round" with the small boats there. You will hear interesting stories and myths about the place and the lake!
Ioannina’s lake (Pamvotida) lies at the foot of mountain Mitsikeli and its surface area is about 20 square kilometers.
There is a legend connected with this lake. The tragic story of the drowing of Lady Frossini with 17 other young girls by the notorious Ali Pasha.
It is said that Ali Pasha was in love with Frossini, a beautiful greek woman of Ioannina. But she was having an affair with his eldest son, Muhtar and that made Ali furious. He sent his son away and had Frossini drowhed in the lake...
The island of Ioannina, located in lake Pamvotis, is a traditional settlement .
This little island has been a centre of monastic life. Monasteries, decorated with remarkable frescoes, were built during the 13th century.
The Island, can be reached by boats leaving regularly from Ioannina lakefront .The journey takes about 10 minutes. The island has restaurants, serving eel, trout and other local specialties.