Hotel Kastro

Ioannina, Epirus, Greece Book from Eur58

A small, charming hotel in the historic citadel of Ioannina, a bustling lakeside town in northwest Greece
Here’s a little trivia test. Which 19th-century emperor earned the nickname ‘Napoleon of the east’, ruling over an ever-expanding slice of the Balkans with a fierce will? Where was his heavily-fortified court, famed for its culture and wealth, admired by Hugo and Byron? And what was the name of the girl who rejected his advances, embraced his son’s, and ended up being tied in a sack and drowned in the lake with 16 virgins?

If you just reeled off the names of Ali Pasha, Ioannina and Euphrosyne, then congratulations - you deserve a holiday where it all happened, visiting the mosques and museums where once his court stood, taking boat rides across that mysterious lake, exploring the island where Ali met his death, and staying in a wonderful little hotel in the heart of his citadel. If you scored one or two out of three, then clearly you need a refresher course. And if you haven’t got a clue what we are talking about, then why not discover a completely new slice of European culture and landscape?

Highs

  • The central location, a stone’s throw from the lakefront, fortress and museums; but undisturbed by traffic (a true blessing in a city where teenagers buy exhaust ‘mufflers’ to make their mopeds sound louder!)
  • The rooms, fully renovated in 2011, offer really comfy mattresses, new bathrooms and free WiFi
  • Staff can give you good tips on where to eat, drink lattes and buy silver at genuinely "friendly prices"
  • The stunningly scenic Zagori region is on your doorstep, for mountain hiking, river rafting, spring flowers and breathtaking gorges

Lows

  • The 3 downstairs rooms are slightly cramped, and the only views you get are of the pavement outside
  • There are no common spaces or facilities other than the small breakfast room; think of it as a glorified B&B

Best time to go

It depends what you want to do. If you just want to see Ioannina, come in winter to explore the museums and shops when they are quiet, and with a backdrop of snowy mountains. To combine it with some hiking, come in spring (May - early June) or autumn (Sept - early Oct) - bear in mind that spring arrives later (and autumn earlier) at these altitudes. July and August are pretty hot, but at least the university students have left town, and there are plenty of rivers and lakes to cool off in (though we wouldn't recommend swimming in the lake right next to the city centre).

Our top tips

I'd recommend coming to this area for 7-10 days, starting with 3 days on foot in Ioannina (explore the citadel, museums and island); then hire a car to visit Dodona, and on your return continue driving onto one of the picturesque Zagori villages, such as Koukouli or Papingo, for 5 days of trekking, river rafting and nature watching in one of Europe's most spectacular mountain ranges.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 7
  • Breakfast only
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Within the confines of a medium-sized Ottoman townhouse, the Rittas and Zannis families have done their best at packing in 7 tastefully decorated bedrooms and a breakfast room. Fully renovated in 2011, the bedrooms come in pastel shades of green, peach or magnolia, with very comfy twin- or double beds (though a little narrow for couples, perhaps), neatly painted ceilings and wooden floors. Floral drapes and rustic, distressed wood bedside furniture add a pretty, feminine touch. There's air-con, plasma TVs and WiFi, too.

In the compact, marble-tiled bathrooms - also refurbed in 2011 - you'll find excellent, glass-walled showers with reliably hot water, good pressure and detachable shower head; plus hairdryer, towel rail and the standard sachets of shampoo and gel.

The 4 rooms off the first floor landing-salon are higher and more spacious, with tall wooden doors and windows looking onto either the city walls or the hotel courtyard. The largest can sleep three, thanks to an additional single bed alongside the double. The 3 ground floor rooms are darker and slightly smaller, with compact shower cubicles and mullioned windows opening onto a courtyard of red and white potted geraniums, or onto the carpark outside. Avoid these 3 if possible.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Phone
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The hotel can serve you a simple breakfast of bread, cake, orange juice, jams, hot drinks and – a nod, perhaps, to the Dutch and German hikers who pass through here on their way into the Pindos mountains – cold meats and cheeses. Other than that, you’ll have to wander into town for lunch and dinner – no hardship, given the abundance and variety of tavernas, cafes and restaurants.

Our favourite restaurant is Es Aei, a converted Ottoman residence with a delightful glass-covered, fountain-cooled inner court. A truly unusual selection of salads, starters and cooked dishes from around the Ottoman empire graces their menu: Cretan rusks with cottage cheese; fresh orange salad with potatoes, herbs and olives from the Mani; crunchy chick-pea balls from Sifnos; and, even though they use tinned ingredients for this, irresistible spicy grilled mushrooms. Their home-bottled Zitsa white wine is among the crispest we tasted, and excellent value.

Other recommended options include Stoa Louli, a bustling arcade in the Jewish quarter serving stylish modern Greek cuisine, somewhat overpriced wines and, in the separate gallery bar, cocktails until the small hours.

At the molos – the quay for the little passenger boats to Nisaki island – you’ll find a buzzing, shady piazza of tavernas serving everything from breaded frogs legs to burgers. Just along the lakefront is a booming waterside café from where you can observe trendily-clad university students from behind a ‘frappé’ coffee and a cloud of Assos and Karelia smoke.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the city’s walled fortress, its converted mosques and the museums of folklore and Byzantine history detailing, among other things, Ali Pasha's gruesome death.

  • Take a shuttle boat across the lake to the laid-back fishermen's island of Nisaki; visit frescoed chapels and graceful monasteries from the 16th-18th centuries, wander the car-free cobbled lanes, taste eels and frogs from the lake if you're feeling brave

  • Ioannina has some excellent silver and jewellery outlets - its historic trading forte - as well as decent leather, fabric and clothes shops (but don’t expect Armani)

  • Don't miss the ancient Greek theatre and oracle-site of Dodona, nestling in a mountain-ringed valley half an hour outside town; you'll need a car (or a friendly taxi driver), but it's one of our favourite classical sites in the whole country, and you might even have it to yourself

  • Greek history buffs can head half an hour outside town to the moderately amusing waxwork collection of Pavlos Vrellis

  • Wake yourself up with a day’s rafting along the Arachthos river gorge, or kayaking through the spectacular Voidomatis river

  • Be guided through the dark world of the Perama caves, one of the mythical entrances to Hades

  • Drive along the 1600-metre Katara (‘accursed’) road pass and up to Metsovo, a handsome mountain village of stone houses and black-clad elders gazing wrily at the ski-fashionistas from Athens

  • Look for brown bears in the forested Valia Calda valley, spot eagles and orchids in the Zagori National Park, or hike through the breathtaking Vikos gorge (just about feasible as a day trip from Ioannina if you start very early and arrange transport both ends).

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children are welcome, but no special concessions are made for them - although under 2s are free in the cot provided. A couple of rooms can sleep a child plus parents, some rooms have a folding bed, and there is an extra cost per additional person.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

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