Greece - Ionian Islands

Classic Ionian Odyssey

With 9,000 miles of coastline and more than 2,000 islands, the yacht charter options in Greece are virtually boundless. Places like Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes resonate with historical significance and the variety in location, scale and character of the various island chains offers a bewildering choice of diversions.

Do you opt for the Saronic Islands in the gulf of the same name? The Cyclades and Dodecanese, which are so closely packed that an Aegean charter itinerary is almost a hindrance? Or the Ionian chain off the mainland’s west coast with the mountainous peaks of Kefalonia at its heart? From uninhabited hideaways to bustling holiday resorts and from beaches and seascapes to history and hedonism, a well-chosen Greek yacht charter has the capacity to satisfy your demands like few other destinations.

With a near perfect climate to match its famous fertility, this dramatically mountainous island is a renowned walking destination as well as a hub for beachgoers and a treasure trove of archaeological remains. If Kavos provides the all-night party scene, Corfu Town provides a pleasant blend of old and new. You get a vast marina, some great restaurants and a selection of high-class shops, alongside old cobbled streets, a pair of fortresses and a resident population impressively unmoved by modernity.

The compact islands of the Paxi archipelago rarely feature on Ionian charter yacht itineraries but their dramatic caves, intimidating limestone cliffs and glorious beaches make them some of the most memorable cruising grounds in the entire region. Paxos, the main island, offers the lovely Mongonissi Beach, plus plenty of sheltered coves so you can explore the rock formations or anchor up for some watersports; and Antipaxos, the second largest island, is a renowned hotspot for local wines.

Though connected to the mainland by a long spit with a swing bridge, Lefkas feels very much like an authentic island retreat. Here, butted up close to Greece’s western shore with excellent shelter form the swells of the Ionian Sea, the new marina at Lefkas Town has opened up a fresh level of marine tourism – and the supply of shops, bars and restaurants is growing to meet that demand. Head to the open sea coast for superb beaches and visit Nydri and Vassiliki for watersports.

A short hop south of Lefkas, Meganisi is a pristine and untouched time capsule of a destination. The marina at Vathy Bay is the only one on this compact island and there are only a handful of small villages, but what it lacks in manmade attractions it makes up for with empty bays, cradled between cosseting, deepset headlands, creating sheltered anchorages on every section of shoreline. Lots of places claim seclusion and tranquility but nothing in the Ionian Sea can top this.

 

Just between Kefalonia and the mainland, Ithaca (or Ithaki) is a pair of landmasses joined by a central spine. Famed as the island of Homer’s mythical hero, Odysseus, this unspoiled yachting haven enjoys good hiking, proper tavernas, a fine beach at Gedaki and plenty of opportunity for diving and sea kayaking.  The sheer cliffs and rocky landscapes periodically give way to verdant olive groves and Igeri in Frikes is a traditional Greek restaurant at the very top of its game.

Kefalonia is radically beautiful. From Myrtos Beach and the steep sea cliffs of the northwestern quarter to the Melissani Cave in the east, and the sheltered elbow of the lower west coast, this is a place of clear, clean waters, picturesque villages and landscapes of near biblical majesty. The capital city and main port, Argostoli was rebuilt in the 50s after an earthquake but the island retains plenty of historical sites and the variety and calibre of bays and beaches means huge flexibility for the visiting yachtsman.

The renowned Ionian island resort of Zakynthos is a classic Greek cocktail of hedonistic party venue, untouched coastal paradise and authentic island lifestyle. The liveliest nightlife is to be found at Laganas, where the long strip of bars and clubs draws international partygoers in their thousands; for seclusion, the west coast is ideal; and for somewhere in between, Alykanas in the northeast is a great place to perch in a comfy waterfront taverna, munching on souvlaki and sipping cold beer.

TOP TEN IONIAN ISLANDS ATTRACTIONS

  1. Take a SCUBA dive among the steep rocky shorelines of Kefalonia.
  2. Hunt swordfish, tuna and dorado in the waters off Zakynthos.
  3. Anchor in a secluded cove in Paxos and enjoy a private snorkel.
  4. Scale Kefalonia’s highest peak for astonishing Ionian views.
  5. Take a sea kayak into the spectacular Melissani Cave in Kefalonia.
  6. Visit remote and inaccessible Eggremni Beach in Lefkas by tender.
  7. Join the throng on a loud night out at the neon strip in Laganas.
  8. Visit ‘Shipwreck Beach’ on the northwest coast of Zakynthos.
  9. Stroll the ancient cobbled streets of Corfu Town’s old quarter.
  10. Sample some top class seafood at Ageri in Frikes, Ithaca.

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