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Surrounded by high mountains, deep gorges, clear streams and traditional, grey rock villages, Ioannina is punctuated with reminders of the long-term Turkish occupation of the area.
Within the fortifications of the Kastro &endash; the citadel of the former sultan, Ali Pasha &endash; lie a number of fascinating attractions that can be easily explored on foot. History buffs should pay a visit to the archaeological museum just off Plata Dhimokratas.
The Municipal Museum, housed within a well-preserved Greek mosque dating back to 1618, displays an impressive conglomeration of jewellery, Epirot costumes, guns, and synagogue rugs and tapestries. The so-called Muslim wing contains a splendid walnut and mother-of-pearl suite. Still clearly visible are the painted decorations in the dome and mihrab &endash; the niche indicating the direction of Mecca.
There is a collection of shops opposite the citadel selling typical gifts and jewellery, while slightly more unusual silver, jewellery and antiques can be found at George Minos Moschos. Biking is popular in and around Ioannina and is an excellent way to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Additionally, kayaking is also popular in the region.
Ioannina is the perfect jumping-off spot for an excursion to some of Europe’s largest caves, found at Prama. Slightly farther afield and shrouded in mystery is the Oracle of Zeus, located at Dodona.
A national road links Ioannina to Athens, via Livadia, Amphissa, Messolongi and Arta (445kms). Buses from Athens reach Ioannina in about seven hours, while from Thessaloniki the trip takes about five hours. Olympic and Aegean Airways fly to Ioannina Airport from both of these cities.