Ioannina has a population of around 80,000. It is situated on a rocky promontory which projects into the large Lake Pamvotidha/Pamvotis, and spreads around the lake's southeast shores, opposite the foot of Mt. Mitsikeli. To the southeast and east are the highest peaks of the Pindos mountains. Around the city lies a plain at 475meters which is used for pasture and cultivation of tobacco and grain. Filigreed silver jewelry is among Ioannina's products.
This city is a good base from which to explore the Vikos-Aoos National Park, the traditional Zagoria villages to the northeast, the oracle at Dodona, and the town of Metsovo.
For the last millennium, Ioannina has been an important Greek city, a center of Hellenic culture and education, a trading crossroads, and an autonomous Ipirot enclave during the 33 year reign of the cruel mini-tyrant Ali Pasha, during the late 18th century.
Not much is known about Ioannina before the year 1020. It may have taken its name and site from the monastery of John the Baptist. Refugees fled there in 1205 from Constantinople and the Morea (Peloponnese); it was fortified by Mikhalis Angelos. A bisopric was established here between 1284 and 1307; during the 14th century it was captured by the Serb leader Stefan Dusan, who was proclaimed Emporer of Serbia and Greece the following year. In 1431 it surrendered to the army of Sultan Murad II. After a failed uprising in 1618 by the fanatical Bishop of Trikkala, Dionysos 'Skylosophos' (which means 'Wise Dog'), the Christians were evicted from the citadel and their churches destroyed, though by 1666, a visitor found the town rich and prosperous. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, schools were founded here which were widely acclaimed, all of them destroyed in the fire of 1820 when the city was set on fire by Ali Pasha (see below).