The islet of Ioannina
The small island is probably the only inhabited island on the world without a name. Therefore, it is called "island of the lake" or the "island of Ioannina". It is located near the northern shore of Lake Pamvotida and it has one village with around 250 inhabitants, most of whom are engaged in fishing. The "island of Ioannina" is the second inhabited lake island in Greece along with Agios Achilleios in Mikri Prespa Lake. It covers an area of 200 acres, having maximum length 800 meters and maximum width 500 meters. Most of the area is covered with pine trees, while its west side is swampy.
The little village is built around the small natural port, at the northern end of the island and has been listed as traditional as it is an important sample of traditional Epirotic architecture with stone houses and slate roofs. The island is a place of incredible natural beauty and historical significance. It is home to seven monasteries that form the third largest monastic state in Greece, after Mount Athos and Meteora.
According to tradition, the first people to settle on the island, came from Mani, Peloponnese in the 17th century. Historical reports state that the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos of the Philanthropists was the first one to be built in the 13th century. Around the same time, the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Dilios (or Stratigopoulos) was founded. The monastic community reached its peak in the 16th century with the foundation of two more monasteries while during the next century the last three were founded. Most of the monasteries were built with the sponsorships of important Byzantine families.
During the reign of Ali Pasha, the Island experienced a rapid decline due to the heavy taxation imposed on its residents, whereas its monasteries were almost abandoned. In 1820, the clash of Ali Pasha with Sultan Mahmud II resulted in Hurshid Ahmed Pasha turning against him and besieging the city of Ioannina. The Island was protected by a garrison of a thousand Albanians, thus Hurshid launched a bombardment that caused extensive damage. Realizing his imminent defeat, Ali took refuge on the island in January 1822. He was ultimately killed in the Monastery of Saint Pantaleon. You can still see the holes on the floor of the bullets that killed him. The monastery now houses the museum of Ali Pasha. Among the exhibits, there are local costumes and documents of this era and many personal belongings of Ali Pasha.
Wandering around the cobblestone streets free of cars, you will find quaint stone houses with courtyards decorated with flowers, mansions and folk-art shops selling handmade products of local craftsmen. You can sit in one of the tavernas and taste traditional dishes such as frog legs or fresh eels, drinking tsipouro. Follow the whitewashed streets that lead to the monasteries, stroll around the island or walk up the hill to enjoy panoramic views of the lake. Although it is such a small place, there is so much to do and see.
To visit the island, you have to take one of the boats that leave from Molos, in the city of Ioannina. The boats run regular intervals and it is only a 10-minute boat trip to get to the island.
The seven monasteries are:
- Filantropinos Monastery or Saint Nicholas: It is built in 1291 or 1292, it is the oldest monastery of the island.
- Saint Nicholas or Ntiliou Monastery: It was built short after this monastery and it is visitable.
- St Eleousa Monastery: Initially, the monastery was named Monastery of Agios Nikalaos Methodatos. It was built possibly in 16th century.
- Prophet Elias Monastery: It is located in the highest point of the island and it was built possibly during 17th century in place of one oldest church.
- Transfiguration of Jesus Monastery: Built possibly at the beginning of the 17th century.
- Prodromos Monastery: Built at the beginning of 16th century.
- Saint Panteleimonas Monastery: Ali Pasha was murdered in this place.