RV Roadtrip – Albania to the Greek Peloponnese
After leaving the camping in Gjirokastër our first destination in Greece was the shores of Lake Ioannina (or Lake Pamvotida or Pamvotis I guess, depending on who you ask?) in a town also called Ioannina.
Ioannina is a very old town. Traditionally Ioannina is dated to the 6th century when the construction of a new, “well-fortified” city by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) was initiated. But early 21st-century excavations uncovered fortifications dating to the Hellenistic period (4th–3rd centuries BC), and later reconstruction of the fortress in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. (From Wikipedia)
The main bits we were interested in seeing were the fortified old town and the castle walls. To this end we set off for a parking lot adjacent to the castle walls where we could spend the night. Similar to Kotor, this was a legit place to spend the night and even had the nightly rate posted on the entrance. I should note here that Greece is famous in the camping car circuit for all of the free camping that is allowed from marina to beach to side of the road. There are multiple resources for finding these spots but for English speakers the Peejays map is indispensable. We made a copy of that map and added in the camping sites we visited in Croatia, Montenegro and Albania. If anyone is interested, we would be happy to share it. We also reference the Our Tour blog for inspiration as well.
Crossing the border into Greece was a pretty straight forward affair, no issues other than the normal paperwork we always have to show. For the uninitiated this always includes our passports, vehicle registration and vehicle insurance; sometimes Sebastian’s pet passport is required as well. We were concerned that it might be more stringent for Sebastian this time as we were crossing from a rabies area back into the EU, but all was well. Phew!
As it was a pretty short drive (90 or so kms) and the border crossing went well we had plenty of time to explore Ioannina. Of course, getting to the parking lot was a bit tricky, the Greek roads are narrow, especially in ancient villages and I took a wrong turn just as we hit the castle walls. Also the Greeks are awfully fond of double and triple parking making it impossible to move past until they return to their cars and continue on their journey. And neither of us read Greek!
Fortunately the wrong turn road was wide enough and luckily put us directly at the parking lot we were looking for. The parking lot attendant directed us to a space large enough and we were set for the night. There are two parking lots almost next to each other but the lot we were in had overnight (sort of) attendant and there is a very clean public bathroom open 24/7 there as well. We paid €12 for our overnight.
With all of that sorted it was time for some exploring. Ioannina is a quaint little town, both inside the walls and the immediate surroundings, complete with all the bars, cafes and restaurants one could want. Of course there were also plenty of shops selling tourist tat as one would expect.
Famished from our wandering we embarked on the arduous task of finding the right restaurant. As it was the off season quite a few were closed but there were still plenty to choose from. After wandering forwards and backwards and up and down the town, we still did not find what we were looking for. (Our capacity for wandering from perfectly good restaurant to perfectly good restaurant seems to know no bounds)
We finally decided on take away from a gyro/donner/kebap/schwarma (depending on where you are, it’s all the same concept) shop. The owner was a really friendly guy and even let Sebastian chill in the shop while he plated up our meal.
One of the popular things to do at the lake is a boat ride to Ioannina Island for a visit to the churches and monasteries that are there. The oldest was built in the 13th century, to this 7 more were added even as late as the 17th century. As the weather was less than favorable, a little too chilly for a boat ride, we opted to view the island from the shore and maybe if we go back in warmer times we’ll have an island visit.
And with that, our visit to Ioannina was complete. Stay tuned as we explore the Peloponnese, do some wild camping, and visit the famous sites in Greece.