Scattered off the western coastline of Central Greece and to the south of Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands are an island group comprising large and small islands.
Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxi (or Paxos) and Kythira are the seven largest and most popular islands of the group, while Antikythira, Antipaxi, Ereikousa, Mathraki, Othonoi, Meganisi and Strofades are lesser-known smaller islands, which have a lot going for themselves.
They are destinations attracting many visitors every year for a variety of reasons:
Their temperate climate, lush vegetation, beautiful mountains and breathtaking beaches will provide the perfect surroundings for your next holidays.
Over the millennia, geological transformations have helped shape stretches of awe-inspiring steep coastline, beautiful sandy shores and high mountains. Tectonic changes also account for the great depth of the waters in the region; the Calypso Deep reaches a staggering 5,267 m. depth, making it the deepest point in the Mediterranean Sea.
So, it’s no wonder that some of the wildest and most famous shores in Greece are located on this side of the country. Egremnoi and Porto Katsiki beaches on Lefkada Island, Navagio Beach on Zante Island and Myrtos Beach on Kefalonia Island are but a few of the award-winning must-visit destinations in a long list of spots with cool emerald waters.
Where the Venetians, the French and the British used to live.
With the passage of time the island may have changed, but we can still feel the spirit of a distant glorious past. Its rich multi-cultural heritage, its historic monuments, its stunning natural landscape, its crystal clear seas, and its excellent weather all year round explain why Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations weaving a powerful spell on its visitors.
Corfu (Kerkyra), unlike the rest of Greece, never fell under the Ottoman oppression. Due to the successive dominations of the Venetians, the French and the British over the centuries, the island has primarily become part of the Western rather the Levantine world. Their culture wielded strong influence in the city: it was here that the first Greek University (the Ionian Academy), the first Philharmonic Orchestra and the First School of Fine Arts were founded.
In the beautifully preserved Old Town of Corfu, a UNESCO world heritage site, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical “repertoire” came to be successfully applied to local artistic traditions. Palaces, fortresses, austere public buildings of the Venetian rule uniquely blend with lines of drying washing in tiny alleyways and small secluded squares. Strolling through a complex of narrow cobbled streets with stairways and vaulted passages, the so-called “kantounia”, will make you feel as if you’ve travelled to Genoa or Naples.
Discover the most beautiful spots in the city of Corfu walking through:
The most important city’s attractions bear eloquent witness to its rich history:
Call in at the city’s fascinating museums:
A sanctuary of love for gods.
Cultural village of Europe for the year 2004, Paxi (or Paxoi) is the ideal island for a peaceful holiday. Fjord-shaped beaches, underwater caves, small bays and green hills welcome the lucky visitors. According to the legend, the island would be the southernmost tip of Corfu, if the God of the Sea, Poseidon, had not broken it off with his trident when he needed a god-deserving place to live his love with the Nereid Amphitrite. Its capital and main port, Gaios (Gáios), is separated from its natural breakwater, the tiny island of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas), by a narrow channel, displaying one of the most beautiful port sceneries in Greece.
Visit the picturesque villages of Lóggos, Lákka and Oziás, tucked away in pine and olive trees. In the areas of Oziás, Yaná and Glyfáda, sulphur thermal springs offer an alternative treatment for rheumatics and other health conditions. Innumerable ravishing beaches await the fitter ones as a starting point for scuba diving into underwater caves and shipwrecks, and for top-notch windsurfing.
Antipaxoi is famous for its renowned beaches, among which Voutoúmi, with its exotic turquoise waters, is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. But travellers will cherish the place as much as the wine. Apart from the traditional methods of producing wine of fine quality and other Greek varietals (the worldwide famous “mavrodáfni” is one of them), enhanced, biological cultivations transform the local wine into a product of high nutritional value.
Although a small island, it is endowed with outstanding beauty. The island of Antipaxoi (literally meaning “opposite Paxi”) lies at just 3 nautical miles from the port of Gaios.
An island complex of the Ionian Sea located at the northwestern end of Corfu and including Ereikoussa, Mathraki, Othonoi as well as some smaller uninhabited islets.
The northernmost island of the complex is lush green and ideal for peaceful holidays. The occupations of Ereikoussa inhabitants are olive cultivations, fishing and tourism. Ereikoussa is located at 6 n.m. to the NW of cape Drastis of Corfu.
Porto: the port and main settlement of the island with a large beach with amenities.
Activities : Swimming at Porto and Brangini,Harpoon, Hiking
The southernmost and smallest island of the complex is the paradise of harpoon lovers, with beautiful reefs and rock-islets and a rich seabed. Plakes, the port of Mathraki where you will find a tavern, is connected by boat with the town Corfu, Aghios Stefanos Avlioton and Sidari. Mathraki is located at 4.5 n.m. west of cape Kefali of Corfu.
If you’re someone who loves isolation and privacy, Mathraki is the perfect destination for you! This little island boasts a beautiful setting as it is carpeted with lush vegetation and is dotted with traditional houses that ooze charm in abundance.
Given that Mathraki is a destination off the beaten tourist trail, it doesn’t have many facilities and is visited by a few tourists. Mathraki is a nice destination for a day trip from Corfu as well as for campers who seek isolation.
Fyki, the old port which is located on the west coast. The seabed behind cape Katergo is ideal for fishing. The church of Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity) with its old stone-built belfry.
The rock-islets of Karavi, Leipso and Plaka.
The biggest island of the complex is located at the westernmost part of the Greek territory. It has a wonderful natural environment comprising of the ruins of Venetian castles, traditional houses and old churches. Ammos is the port of Othonoi. Othonoi is located at 12 n.m. to the W-NW of cape Drastis of Corfu.
The cove of Ammos: from here you can take a boat, reach the green-water beach and see the cave where, according to the legend, Calypso hold Ulysses captive.
The rock-islets of Kastrino and Ostrako.
The enchanting settlements of Dafni and Chorio.
Zákynthos (Zante) is a verdant island endowed with fertile valleys and a temperate climate (area: 406 sq. km; coastline: 123 km). Its landscape diversity has resulted in different types of beaches: there are sandy beaches in secluded coves where the tranquil waters are deep blue on the island’s southeastern part; yet, if rugged cliffs and an interesting underwater world are to your liking, try the western part of the island.
The Venetians, who ruled Zákynthos from 1484 to 1797, called the island “Fioro di Levante” (flower of the East) as there are over 7,000 species of flowers on Zákynthos. The third largest island of the Ionian Sea, after Corfu and Kefaloniá, is internationally known as “Zante”. Zákynthos is said to have been the island’s first inhabitant and the ancient acropolis is attributed to him. He was the son of Dardanos who ruled the ancient kingdom of Frigia. A Venetian fort was built at later times on the site.
The Venetian architectural influence has left its stamp on Zante despite the damage sustained due to the seismic activity in the area. After the ravaging 1953 earthquake and the ensuing fire, a number of historical buildings and churches burned to the ground. Consequently, the significant treasures these buildings were housing perished. The town was rebuilt according to a plan where strict anti-seismic specifications applied and, to a large extent, respecting the town’s former architectural structure.
On Zante, great care is taken to protect two endangered animal species, namely the caretta aretta sea turtle and the monachus monachus seal.
A traditional town crier goes around the island proclaiming the program of the Carnival festivities. On the last Sunday of the Carnival is the procession of the Carnival King. The festivities end with the “Mask Funeral”. Litany and artistic events in the memory of Aghios Dionysios on August 24th and December 17th.
The Holy Week in Zakynthos has its own character with ancient customs and an exceptional rite as far as the religious ceremonies are concerned.
The celebration of Holy Week on Zakynthos Island is considered to be unique and unforgettable both for locals and visitors to the island. At noon, on Good Friday, crowds of worshippers take part in the procession of the Crucified through the town.
In the early hours of Holy Saturday morning and starting from the “Saint Nicolas” Cathedral Church the epitaph procession takes place in accordance with the local ancient custom, while the Bishop announces the Resurrection at sunrise.
At the first chime of the bell, the Bishop lets white doves free while from the bell tower clay vessels are thrown onto the road just as is done by all the inhabitants of the island out of their windows.
Take a tour around the city and visit Solomos Square, Post- Byzantine Museum of Zante, Aghios Markos square, Museum of Solomos, Venetian Castle , Aghios Dionysios , Panaghia Pikardiotissa at the outskirts of the castle.
Two small and isolated islands, known as Strofadia or Strofades, emerge from the waters of the Ionian Sea at 45 km SW of Zante and 78 km to the west of cape Katakolo of the Peloponnese. During the ancient times they were known as “Plota Nisia” (floating islands), because it really looks as if they were floating. The bigger of the two is known as Stamfani, while the smaller one is Arpyia (Arpina). A ledge links the two islets together. In Arpyia you will find the majestic Metamorfoseos monastery (13th century) surrounded by high walls. The patron-saint of Zante Aghios Dionysios lived here.
This green island with its breathtaking beaches and crystal clear waters of greenish-blue colours will take your breath away. Kefalonia a gem in the Ionian Sea. It carries a rich history in cultural tradition. It’s the biggest Ionian Island and the green of its mountains blend with the blue of the water making it truly unique and a beloved destination. Pine, cypress and olive trees cover Mt. Ainos’ peak, while at its foot you’ll come across vineyards where the popular Kefalonian Robola wine variety is produced.
If you happen to love snorkeling or diving then the seabed around the island will definitely satisfy you. You might even get the chance to encounter the rare, caretta caretta, sea turtle that take refuge here, as well as the monk seals monachus monachus. Kefalonia’s culinary tradition, history, traditional villages, upbeat nightlife and pristine beaches will make you fall in love with the island.
Argostoli : The biggest town and capital of the island is Argostoli. It is a town built around a hill, with a city-like life, filled with various types of entertainment: shops for you shopping lovers, cafes to sit back and relax, bars and beaches nearby.
Lixouri : The westernmost of the two peninsulas of Kefalonia is the one of Paliki. The houses here were gravely damaged in the earthquake of 1953 but were rebuilt from scratch, taking into account traditional architecture. It is the second biggest town of the island, however it is a peaceful town that is ideal for those who love peace and quiet.You can enjoy your coffee, your pastry sweets and the local cuisine at the port and at the square with the famous ficus plant.
Fiscardo : Fiscardo survived the destructive earthquake of 1953. Most of the buildings preserve their traditional local colour that travels you back in time: the grand mansions with their elegant balconies, the old two-storey houses, the dark red tiled rooftops, the green mountainsides, the blue of the sea and the overall scenery is enchanting. This picturesque village is the home town of the Greek poet Nikos Kavvadias who usually wrote about the sea.
The Cave Lake of Melissani : The cave lake of Melissani is a wonder of nature and one of the most impressive sights on Kefalonia which is located in Karavomylos, an area close to Sami town. Melissani was discovered in 1951 and following construction works in order to make it accessible it has become one of the most famous tourist attractions. The magic of the landscape is partly because of the roof that has collapsed and you have a view of the sky while being in a cave. If you visit during the day when the sun is high and the sunshine drops on the lake it makes the light blue waters shine giving off a magical soothing feeling.
Assos: At the north part of the island, picturesque Assos village is built alongside of cliffs, among pine trees and cypresses. Sparsely built with traditional color, in an impressive landscape, Assos fascinates with the peace and simplicity it depicts. Apart from the wonderful waters of Assos, at a nearby distance don’t miss Myrtos beach as well as many other picturesque small bays that wait to be discovered.
Kourkoumelata: The most passionate mention it as the most wonderful village of the Balkan area. The village is called Kourkoumelata and lies at the southwest part of the island. The earthquake of 1953 ruined Kourkoumelata, as it ruined most areas of the island, however, the way that this area was rebuilt is the feature that makes it stand out. This resettlement has occurred abiding by both to modern rules of city planning and to the preservation of neo-classic features. You can’t miss this!
Drogarati Cave: The grandiosity of nature has created here a unique work of art. Once inside the cave, the visitor is instantly captivated by this remarkable workshop of the earth, where stalactites and stalagmites have been forming for thousands of years. The reflection of sunlight on the stalactites creates an unrealistic atmosphere. The cave contains a 44-m-long descending passageway that leads to a chamber of 30 x 40 m. The latter, decorated with multi-hued stalactites and stalagmites, is renowned for its excellent acoustics and is prearranged for concerts on a special platform which is along the back wall of the cave. Its domed roof is intact and is of a unique, magical formation. The Drogarati Cave is a rare geological phenomenon and attracts thousands of visitors.
Lefkada is surrounded by a total of 24 islets – Aristotle Onassis’ Skorpios being one of them. It connects to the opposite coast of Central Greece via a floating swing bridge (length: 50 m). The bridge offers easy access to Lefkada to visitors from all over Greece. On Lefkada you will find noteworthy sights, churches and monasteries, picturesque villages, lush vegetation, idyllic coves of transparent, turquoise waters, busy and secluded beaches of stunning beauty, a significant cultural heritage and hospitable locals.
Lefkada town: Lefkada is the island’s capital and port town. The town planning is a very particular one and resembles a “fish backbone”. There are picturesque alleys, small squares, traditional houses, elaborate belfries and paved pedestrian zones that give this town its character. The city is surrounded by a canal and a lagoon, while, farther north, lies Gyra, a thin stretch of a sandy beach forming a circle, dotted with windmills and scant vegetation. If you stay in Lefkada town, you can swim at Kastro, Gyra, Myloi, and Agios Ioannis Antzousis. You will discover there are amazing beaches almost everywhere and to the island’s east you will find numerous beautiful, wooded isles.
Visiting the sea caves. Kalamos and Kastos isles are within a short distance and can boast beaches and sea caves of great beauty.
Bicycling; the town of Lefkada as well as the nearby coastline are ideal for a bicycle ride. Go round the lagoon, following the exceptional scenic route: Agia Mavra – Gyra – Myloi – Ai Giannis – Lefkada.
Marina: it is located at the town’s east side, and is considered to be the best equipped marina in Greece.
Visit also :
Kariotes, a seaside village with modern tourist facilities, lying on the island’s east shores. At “Spasmeni Vrysi” location there is a well equipped camping site.
Nikiana, a picturesque fishing village, built at the foot of Mount Skaros near a forest of age-long oak trees.
Nydri: The island’s biggest tourist resort can boast an intense nightlife and an ultra-modern marina. Nydri faces Prigkiponisia (i.e. Madouri, Cheloni, Skorpios, Skorpidi and Sparti islands). There is a ferryboat service running to Meganisi, Ithaca, Kefalonia and Central Greece. You can go scuba diving; try one of the local scuba diving centres that organise underwater explorations. You can also opt for other water sports such as sailing or choose mountain biking, hiking, even swimming at the waterfalls cascading in Dimosari ravine.
Poros, the southeastern Lefkada’s “balcony” offering a fine view of Arkoudi, Oxies, Ithaca, and Kefalonia islands. Swim in the crystal-clear waters of Mikros Gialos, where you can also find a well-equipped camping site.
Vasiliki is a place with abundantly flowing waters and a vibrating nightlife. Take the ferry for a visit to the captivating Porto Katsiki beach, Agiofylli beach, Kefalonia and Ithaca. Vasiliki bay is a destination widely known for the particular climate conditions and favourable winds that make it very popular among windsurfing fans. You will also find horse riding farms that organise outings on horseback in the country.
The lighthouse (within a short distance from Athani village) and the ruins of Apollo’s sanctuary in cape Doukato (Lefkata or Cape Kyra). That breathtaking location of rugged cliffs and magnificent sea view is also known as “Sappho’s Jump”; legend has it that this was the spot where Sappho, the lyric poetess of antiquity jumped off from, taking her own life.
Agios Nikitas, a beautiful seaside village.
Karya, a well known mountain village with a picturesque plane tree shaded square. The exquisitely crafted traditional “karsanika” embroideries have won the place a fine reputation.
Egklouvi, another beautiful traditional mountain village. It is famous for producing delicious lentils that are one of the top varieties in Greece. Other cultivations include chickpeas, broad fava beans, and a rare grape variety called “vertzami” possibly introduced to the area by the Venetians in 1684.
Meganisi: Ferry runs connect this green island to Nydri. There are three traditional villages, namely Katomeri, Vathy and Spartochori. Visit Giovani’s Cave and Papanikolis Cave, (accessible only by sea).
Meganisi is a beautiful little island located between Lefkada and the western coasts of the Greek mainland. Thanks to its proximity to Lefkada, Meganisi is the perfect destination for day trips from Lefkada. Untouched by international tourists, Meganisi is one of those Greek islands that boasts an unspoiled beauty, so it is perfect for relaxing holidays!
The island’s beaches are secluded and unorganized. Some of them can be reached on foot while others can be accessed only by boat. Agios Ioannis, Spilia and Barbarezou are the most popular beaches of Meganisi.
Vathy, where the port of Meganisi also lies, is the most picturesque village of the island. Stroll around the beach promenade in Vathy, taste the local delicacies at one of the many fish taverns… Adapt yourself to the slow rhythm of the island!
Kalamos: Kalamos Island is covered with pine trees, especially the north part. There is a ferry connection with Mytikas, Central Greece. Visit Episkopi, Kastromonastiro and Porto Leone, a small scenic bay.
Kastos: Kastos is an elongated isle covered in olive trees. It provides safe anchorage for boats sailing the Ionian Sea. There are very few roads on the island, so there are no cars. Sarakiniko, the island’s west natural bay has a small jetty that allows mooring even during bad weather. There is a small shuttle boat service running to Central Greece. Visit Kastos village, Fokotrypa and Agios Aimilianos country chapel.
When Odysseus set off for glorious days in Troy, his beloved wife, Penelope, was left alone to unwittingly excite the appetite of men for a gorgeous queen. Before long, the palace was brimful of odious suitors who would flirt with the queen persistently. What is more, they made Penelope promise she would marry one of them. To keep them at bay, she came up with a devise: she promised she would come to a wedding with the best of them when she would have finished weaving a shroud. So, she spent the daytime weaving it and the nighttime unweaving it. Thus doing, she managed to stay clear of the suitors for 20 whole years, until Odysseus returned to Ithaca.
Worldwide famous as the home of Odysseus, Ithaca symbolises the return to the haven, the discovery and the fulfillment. Despite its proximity to Kefalonia (Cephalonia) (2km northeast) it is much more peaceful, quiet and undiscovered from it, thus being an ideal place for alternative activities and a holiday living up to the standards of the most demanding ones amongst us. With its 27-kilometre long and 6.5-kilometre large mountainous surface, it boasts plenty of hiking as well as mountain bike trails in a sequence of blue and green alongside the coast and through olive, cypress, pine, oak, arbutus and carob trees up on the hills.
Scuba diving and sea kayaking are some of the options too, while the Cave of the Nymph will give you the chance to combine an exciting visit with a myth: Odysseus had hidden there the gifts he had brought along from the land of the Phaeacians.
Vathý: Marked by the features of the local architecture, it is the capital of the island and home to the Maritime and Folkloric Museum as well as to the Archaeological Museum of Ithaca. Vathý is built on a bay the center of which is decorated by the tiny little island of Lazarétto, a former sanatorium and prison.
The beach lovers will take pleasure in a multitude of choices covering all tastes, from sand to pebbles, from rocky to green-clad backgrounds, from peaceful to busy ones. Some of them are: Lootsa, Filiatró, Sarakínniko, Dexá, Minnímata, Yidáki, Aetós, Áspros Yalós, Afáles, Kourvoólia.
Find out everything about your holidays in Kythira on our travel guide! Kythira is a beautiful island located on the southern side of Peloponnese. Although Kythira island belongs to the Ionian islands complex, it lies far from the rest of its Ionian neighbors, so it is rather one of the most secluded Greek islands.
The island’s architecture is strongly influenced by the Venetians, who had ruled the island during the Medieval age. On a hill above Chora, there’s a Medieval Castle, a vestige of the Venetian era, which boasts an incredible view of the Aegean Sea. It is the best spot for sunset gazing!
The most touristy places in Kythira Greece are Kapsali, Agia Pelagia, Avlemonas, and Diakofti, while a drive around the island will get you to wonderful Kythira beaches, picturesque monasteries, and even ghost (!) villages, like the abandoned town of Paleochora.
Kythira Greece is a beautiful island located in the southern part of Peloponnese. Kythira (or Kythera) stands out for its Medieval architecture, secluded beaches, and wonderful natural setting.
The most touristy places in Kythira are Avlemonas, Agia Pelagia, Chora Kythira, and Kapsali. Nevertheless, if you fancy some more secluded places to explore, a drive around the island will bring you to cliff-top villages, abandoned places, hidden beaches, and monasteries. You’re going to discover many surprises! One of the most iconic sites in Kythira is the Venetian Castle above Chora Kythira, the island’s capital. This castle boasts a panoramic view of the Aegean Sea and the southern coasts of Peloponnese, so it makes a great spot to watch the sun going down.
Apart from the Medieval Castle, don’t miss to visit the monasteries of Agia Moni, Agia Elesa, and Myrtidiotissa, as well as the church inside the cave of Agia Sofia. They will steal your breath with their beauty!
Another experience you need to have during your stay in Kythera is a stroll around the ghost village of Paleochora, followed by a plunge at the beach of Lagada below. You can thank us later!
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