Ionian Islands in Greece: A Travel Guide

The Ionian islands are located on the west coast of Greece, and the most well known are Corfu, Zakynthos, and Kefalonia.

Greek Ionian Islands

Imagine embarking on a journey to breathtaking landscapes, stunning beaches, and rich history, all while basking in the warm embrace of the Mediterranean sun. Welcome to the Ionian Islands in Greece!

This captivating archipelago off the west coast of Greece offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and adventure for travelers of all types.

Ready to explore the treasures waiting for you on these enchanting islands? Let’s dive in!

Short Summary

  • Explore the Ionian Islands in Greece for stunning beauty, unique charm & rich history.
  • Experience activities like water sports, birdwatching & sailing plus traditional cuisine.
  • Visit during shoulder season to experience without crowds!

Greek Ferry Travel In The Ionian’s

Traveling by ferry in the Ionian islands of Greece is not as straightforward as island hopping in the Cyclades or Dodecanese. The reason for this, is that no ferries visit all the islands on a route. In fact, sometimes, it is easy to take a ferry back to the mainland and then get another ferry out again!

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Look at ferry hopping routes in Greece at: Ferryscanner

Discovering the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Sea, located off the west coast of Greece, comprises six archipelagos and Kthira which collectively form the Ionian Islands. With their amazing beaches, breathtaking landscapes, and rich history, these islands offer a perfect destination for those seeking both relaxation and adventure.

From the bustling Corfu and Zakynthos to the more serene Lefkada and Ithaca, each island holds a unique charm, ready to be explored. So, whether you’re seeking beautiful beaches, towering cliffs, or olive-tree-covered hills, the Ionian Islands have it all!

These islands, steeped in history and culture, showcase the legacies of the Venetian Republic, Ottoman rule, and the British Empire. The crystal clear turquoise waters of the famous Navagio Beach on Zakynthos, the lush vegetation on Lefkada, and the loggerhead turtles in the marine parks are just a few examples of the wonders that await you.

So pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey through the Ionian Islands, where countless treasures await to be discovered!

Corfu

Often referred to as the “Emerald Island,” Corfu is a stunning destination with a rich history that spans centuries. From the influence of the Venetians, French, and British to the founding of the Ionian Academy, the first Greek University, Corfu has been an important cultural hub in the region. Marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Corfu Town, stroll through the elegant streets of the Old Town, and explore the impressive Venetian castles scattered across the island.

Kanali tou Erota in Corfu

Corfu’s beautiful beaches, such as Kanali tou Erota, Paleokastritsa, offer crystal clear turquoise waters, perfect for a refreshing swim. Don’t forget to visit the Old Citadel, New Fort, Spianada Square, and the Panagia Palaiokastritsa Monastery, among many other attractions. With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, Corfu promises an unforgettable experience for everyone who sets foot on its shores.

Corfu has one main ferry port in Corfu Town. There are also some minor ferry ports, including Lefkimmi from where you can take passenger only ferries to Paxos.

Related: How to get from Igoumenitsa to Corfu by ferry

Zakynthos

Zakynthos, also known as Zante, is an Ionian gem that boasts some of the most stunning landscapes and beaches in the region. The famous Shipwreck Beach, also known as Navagio Beach, is a must-see, with its towering white cliffs and mesmerizing turquoise waters. Home to the first marine park in Greece, Zakynthos is also where the endangered loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs, making it an important destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

Apart from the breathtaking coastline, Zakynthos offers picturesque hilltop settlements, serene chapels, historic monasteries, and incredible hiking paths. The island’s capital, Zakynthos Town, is rich in monuments and museums, including Agios Dionysios Church, the old Venetian Fort on Bochali, and the Milaneio Maritime Museum.

So whether you’re in search of stunning landscapes, wildlife encounters, or cultural experiences, Zakynthos has it all.

Lefkada

Lefkada, the only Ionian island directly connected to the mainland, offers a perfect blend of convenience and natural beauty. With its dramatic rolling mountains, lush green landscapes, and stunning beaches like Egremnoi, Porto Katsiki, and Mylos, Lefkada is a paradise for beach lovers and adventure seekers alike. The island also boasts popular resorts, such as Vassiliki and Nydri, perfect for those seeking a more organized vacation experience.

While on Lefkada, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the island’s rich history and cultural landmarks. Visit the lighthouse at Cape Lefkada, Sappho’s Leap, and the Faneromeni Monastery to immerse yourself in the island’s fascinating past.

For those interested in water sports, Lefkada offers snorkeling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and scuba diving, making it an ideal destination for thrill-seekers.

Kefalonia

Kefalonia, the largest Ionian Island, is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. Its picturesque villages, such as Assos and Fiskardo, are perfect for leisurely strolls and offer a glimpse into the island’s rich past. Kefalonia’s stunning beaches, like Myrtos, are not only breathtaking, but also home to the rare caretta-caretta sea turtle and monk seals.

While on Kefalonia, be sure to visit its impressive historical attractions, including Saint George’s Castle, Assos Fortress, and Agioi Theodoroi Lighthouse. Additionally, explore the island’s natural wonders, such as the Drogarati caves and the mesmerizing Melissani underground lake.

With its vibrant cultural heritage and pristine beaches, Kefalonia is an island that promises unforgettable memories for all who visit.

Ithaca

The legendary homeland of Odysseus, Ithaca is a rugged island with a rich history and a myriad of outdoor activities for nature lovers. From rock climbing to hiking, there’s no shortage of adventure on this lesser-known Ionian Island. Ithaca’s secluded bays and coves, along with its pristine beaches, make it an ideal destination for those seeking a more intimate connection with nature.

While on Ithaca, don’t miss the chance to explore its ancient ruins and historical sites, such as the Arethossa Spring, Cave of the Nymphs, and ancient Alalkomenae near Vath. The island’s unique charm and captivating history make it a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the Ionian Islands off the beaten path.

Paxi and Antipaxi (Paxos and Anti-paxos)

Paxi and Antipaxi, (sometimes called Paxos and Antinpaxos) are the smaller siblings of the Ionian Islands. They offer a more laid-back and intimate experience compared to their larger counterparts.

Paxi, recognized as the Cultural Village of Europe in 2004, boasts stunning beaches, underwater caves, small bays, and green hills, while Antipaxi is known for its beautiful beaches and wine production.

The legend of Poseidon and Amphitrite lives on in Paxi, where it is said that the god used his trident to break off the island from Corfu. While visiting these charming islands, be sure to explore the Grahves Caves on Paxi and the turquoise waters of Voutomi Beach on Antipaxi.

These lesser-known Ionian gems promise a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the larger islands. You can travel to Paxos from Igoumenitsa ferry port and Corfu.

Related: How to get to Paxos

Activities and Adventures in the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands offer a wide range of activities and adventures for visitors to enjoy. From water sports like snorkeling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and scuba diving to walking and cycling trails that weave through breathtaking landscapes, there’s something for everyone.

For those seeking a more serene experience, the islands are home to stunning waterfalls, incredible birdwatching opportunities, and even a golf course. For sailing enthusiasts, Antipaxos, Kioni on Ithaca, and Fiskardo on Kefalonia offer excellent opportunities to explore the Ionian Sea.

Meanwhile, conservation-minded travelers can visit the marine park on Zakynthos, home to the endangered loggerhead sea turtles and Monachus Monachus monk seals. With so much to see and do, the Ionian Islands promise a truly unforgettable adventure.

Ionian Island Cuisine

The Ionian Islands offer a rich culinary experience that reflects their unique history and culture. Traditional seafood dishes like Bianco, a creamy fish stew, and Bourdeto, a piquant fish stew, are must-try delicacies for any seafood lover. Enjoy the flavors of the sea while dining in one of the many charming tavernas that dot the islands.

While exploring the Ionian Islands, be sure to sample some of the traditional drinks unique to the region. Sip on Corfu’s ginger beer, a non-alcoholic beverage with a spicy kick, or try the sweet kumquat liquor, produced from the locally grown kumquat fruit. And, of course, no visit to the Ionian Islands would be complete without a shot of Ouzo, the iconic anise-flavored Greek spirit. Cheers to your Ionian adventure!

Historical Sites and Cultural Experiences

The Ionian Islands boast a rich history that spans from Homeric times through Venetian rule to British occupation and eventual annexation by Greece. This storied past is evident in the architecture, monuments, and cultural experiences that can be found throughout the islands. Visit Arethossa Spring, Cave of the Nymphs, and ancient Alalkomenae near Vath on Ithaca, or explore Cape Lefkátas and Sappho’s Leap on Lefkada.

The medieval monasteries and castles, such as the 13th-century Venetian Castle on Kythira, offer a glimpse into the islands’ rich past. Experience the modern-day re-enactment of the Greek hang-gliders tournament at Cape Lefkátas, held every July, or attend one of the numerous cultural festivals that take place throughout the islands.

With so many historical sites and cultural experiences to explore, the Ionian Islands promise an unforgettable journey through time.

Island Hopping Itineraries

Island hopping in the Ionian Islands is made easy with the local ferry line that connects all the islands, allowing travelers to experience the unique charm and beauty of each destination. While Kythira remains relatively off the beaten track, it’s worth considering for a more secluded experience.

A popular itinerary for island hopping includes combining a visit to Lefkada with Zakynthos, Ithaca, and Kefalonia. Alternatively, Lefkada can also be combined with Corfu, Paxos, and Antipaxos for a different island experience.

Regardless of the itinerary you choose, the Ionian Islands offer a diverse array of experiences, from the bustling tourist hubs of Corfu and Zakynthos to the tranquil, lesser-known islands like Ithaca and Antipaxi. With so many islands to discover, your Ionian adventure awaits, promising a lifetime of memories.

Tips for Visiting the Ionian Islands

The peak season in the Ionian Islands runs from the end of June to the end of August, when the islands are bustling with tourists and prices are at their highest. However, despite the crowds, it’s worth noting that the Ionian Islands are less crowded than the smaller Cyclades islands, such as Mykonos or Santorini.

To avoid the crowds while still enjoying warm weather and open tavernas, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, from late April to early June and mid-September to the end of October. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the Ionian Islands at their best, without the hassle of peak season crowds.

Summary

From the bustling streets of Corfu to the tranquil shores of Ithaca, the Ionian Islands offer a rich tapestry of experiences for travelers of all types. With their stunning beaches, breathtaking landscapes, and fascinating history, these islands provide a captivating destination for those seeking both relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re basking in the sun on the pristine beaches of Lefkada, exploring the historical sites of Kefalonia, or island hopping through the archipelago, the Ionian Islands promise an unforgettable journey.

It’s time to embark on your own odyssey through the enchanting world of the Ionian Islands. Immerse yourself in their unique culture, tantalize your taste buds with delicious local cuisine, and create a lifetime of memories as you explore the hidden gems of this captivating region. The treasures of the Ionian Islands await your discovery!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 7 Ionian Islands?

The seven Ionian Islands are Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxi and Kythira. Each of these islands offers its own unique attractions, ranging from historical sites and stunning beaches to picturesque landscapes and a vibrant culture.

Whether you’re looking for an idyllic holiday spot or an exciting adventure, the Ionian Islands have something for everyone.

What are the Ionian Islands famous for?

The Ionian Islands are renowned for their stunning beauty and delightful seascapes. From their picturesque villages, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, lush vegetation, and unique culinary traditions, these islands have something to offer everyone.

Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, these islands provide the perfect backdrop for your getaway.

Which is better Ionian or Aegean islands?

For those looking for a relaxing vacation, the Ionian Islands offer peace and serenity. For those seeking a bit more adventure, the Aegean Islands have plenty of excitement, from the strong winds to the lively nightlife.

So whether you want to relax or explore, both areas offer a great holiday experience.