The biggest sultana of Ioannina has spread its charm in the heart of Epirus. Known as the lake of Ioannina, it is the watery mirror of the mountainous tumors Mitsikeli and Tomarou that embrace it. Any time of year you visited it, you will be fascinated! It’s a frozen painting in the winter, a flowery vision in the spring, an idyllic romantic lady in the summer, a cupric beauty in the autumn. Get off the main touristy walk under the city’s castle and ferret around for its secrets and history by following the lakeside drive of 30km. You’ll be impressed with what you find.
LAKESIDE CIRCULAR DRIVE
Before we get into the car to start our lakeside eco-adventure, I will place you geographically to get an insight into the route we’re going to follow. Here’s the map to help you!
The beginning and end of our journey is the famous Mavilis Square, the reference point of Ioannina.
We move left, exiting the city towards Perama. If you have not visited the cave of Perama it is a good opportunity to do so. Worth seeing this rare and historical find. Just after the village Amfithea, hit the brakes and make a stop. On your right is a small, self-drawing harbor, a breath from the islet of Ioannina. Among the dense reeds and on the aquatic vegetation, the colorful punts of the locals emerge timidly. The Lakes punts, as they are called with their special fusiform shape and their flat bottom, put their touch on this beautiful scenery. This little strip of land always reveals me the most beautiful pictures and I always enjoy my time here.
At about 500 meters below, the dark Drabatova emerges; it is the largest source that feeds the lake. It is located to the left of the entrance of the homonymous restaurant under a black Rock. The truth is that it looks a little scary. The story that is linked to the specific source proves it. It is said that no one had ever penetrated the inner pit of the spring until Ali Pasha visited it and forced his chohantaris( Officer of Ali Pasha) to explore it. He hesitated in front of the view of the cave and Ali threatened to take his head. When he came out fearful he addressed the Ali Pasha by saying to him «Cut me my best pasha, rather than put me in this black hell “.
Many such stories with little or much truth or with a lot of imagination, has to tell us this place. Myths and legends of the past are kept alive over the centuries, and surely something has taken your ear too: for Kyra Frosini, Ali Pasha, Kyra Vasiliki.
Epirus has an amazing cuisine and this is not a myth! Who has not tasted the famous pies? The flowery courtyard of the Drabatova Restaurant invites us to enjoy a wonderful gastronomic journey next to the lake with an equally beautiful view of the islet.
The thread of our drive continues to unfold with a visit to the Durahan Monastery. We will gaze from above the irresistible charm of the lake and its surrounding life. But we will experience a moment of peace and tranquility in the precinct and in the interior of this beautiful monastery. It is a wonderful and special monastery, as its history is unique.
Durahan Monastery is dedicated to the birth of the Virgin Mary and is built next to the lap of the lake at the foothills of the mountain Mitsikeli. It is said that it was built in 1434 by Durahan Pasha, Bey of Roumeli during his war mission in Gjirokaster. According to the story, Durahan Pasha who was born of Christian parents stopped to light a candle in the small winged altarpiece where today is the monastery. Leaving for his destination he passed with his army over the icy waters of the lake, without having any loss. He realized exactly what had happened when he stepped on land. On his return from Gjirokaster and while he had won the battle, headed in the winged altarpiece and in its place built the monastery. Α legend or a true story? For most of us, it’s the most prevailing version.
Leaving behind Durahan Monastery, we find space and park to walk by the lake, among the reeds. Τo our surprise we fall upon the permanent protagonists of this habitat, a herd of wild ducks. They respond to our call and we ourselves in their own hospitality.
Approaching the Lake Meadows reveals all the beauty of the pond’s ecosystem. In this wonderful marrying of liquid element and land graze carefree cows and horses and find sanctuary rare bird species. And we find time to play.
The landscape, the animals, the sky all contribute to a dreamy setting!
Driving towards the village of Logades, this journey of the senses continues. My gaze spreads in the calm waters of the lake and touches the steaming mountaintops. Put the top down and let the last images overflow you, because the landscape as we reach the Logades starts to change. In front of you unfold the fertile flatland of Ioannina with its blond meadows and its gangly maize. The soil has life, has scent. Sup this green energy.
CITADEL OF KASTRITSA
We cross a few kilometers between grain fields and ploughed fields, passing the village of Vasiliki and we drive towards the village of Kastritsa to reach its hill. The reason for this small detour is the fortified citadel of Kastritsa, which is identified with the ancient city Tekmona, where Olympias lived, the mother of Alexander the Great. We preferred to follow the alternative route from the provincial road Ioannina-Kastritsa that leads to the monastery of St. John the Baptist. The monastery is built within the Acropolis around the 11th to 12th century and today it is inhabited by nuns. The spot offers an excellent panorama to the great meadow of the Ioannina that as a virgin green net unfolds to the shores of the lake.
From here they begin paths of thousands of years, follow them and travel through the centuries. Some important finds inhabit here from the 3rd century B.C. It is one of the largest and most important archaeological sites of Epirus. The tour is interesting, enjoyable and refreshing as it combines intensely the natural element, as well. It could very well be a wonderful archaeological park. In the foothill, to a point visible from the road is the homonymous cave which witnessed human activity from the Stone Age.
Somewhere here, after 30km, our lakeside travelogue comes to an end. Passing through Katsika and Anatoli we return back to the city of Ioannina. We re-catch the thread of our journey to the captivating Dionysios Philosopher who leads us to the beginning of our end: in Mavilis Square.