Ionian Islands, Greece – the Final Information for First-Time Guests

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Ah, Greece! This fascinating nation that boasts a lot historical past, tradition, and pure magnificence. Like so many others earlier than us we fell in love with it proper from the beginning. A lot so, that quickly after our highway journey within the Peloponnese we went again to go to the islands within the Ionian Sea.

Limnionas Beach on ZakynthosLimnionas Beach on Zakynthos
Limnional Bach in Zakynthos

This was one of the profitable holidays we ever had, but it surely took us months to arrange for it. So upon our return, we determined to place collectively a information that can present a whole lot of helpful data for these all in favour of visiting these islands. So, in case you are planning a visit to this area, here’s what that you must find out about it.

The place Are the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands – often known as the “Eptanisa” in Greek – are a mesmerizing archipelago situated alongside the western coast of mainland Greece. Consisting of seven essential islands and quite a few smaller islets, this group types a surprising cluster within the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea.

Ionian Islands map with ferry portsIonian Islands map with ferry ports
Map of the Ionian Islands in Greece

The most effective identified and most visited Ionian Islands are: Corfu, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, and Lefkada. The much less well-known, however equally lovely are the islands of Ithaca, Paxos and Kythira.

All these islands are famend for his or her pure magnificence, wealthy historical past and fascinating tradition. What all of them have in widespread are idillic seashores with golden sand and turquoise waters, lush inexperienced vegetation, historical ruins and unbelievable native cuisines. Nevertheless, every island possesses its personal distinctive attraction, persona and attract which is why visiting every one might be a really totally different expertise.

Visiting Lefkada IslandVisiting Lefkada Island
Visiting Lefkada

How Do the Ionians Differ from the Different Greek Islands

While you consider the Greek islands, almost definitely the Cyclades first come to thoughts. The white washed homes with blue window frames, the cobblestone streets and the windmills turned virtually a logo of the Greek islands. However though each teams are superb, they couldn’t be extra contrasting.

Architectural landscape of the CycladesArchitectural landscape of the Cyclades
Architectural panorama of the Cyclades

The Cyclades not solely have a really totally different architectural fashion than the Ionian Islands, however in addition they have a a lot drier local weather and subsequently much less vegetation. In distinction, the Ionians function a a lot greener panorama, which in distinction with the cobalt-blue waters makes them look flawless!

Green landscape and blue sea, characteristic for the Ionian IslandsGreen landscape and blue sea, characteristic for the Ionian Islands
Inexperienced panorama attribute for the Ionian Islands

One other appreciable distinction is proven fact that the Ionian Islands have a robust connection to Italy, each traditionally and culturally. That is significantly seen in Corfu city which has a really distinct Venetian aptitude.

architecture in Old Town Corfuarchitecture in Old Town Corfu
Structure in Outdated City Corfu

Additionally, these islands are usually bigger than the Dodecanese or the Cyclades, so you may simply spend 7-8 days on every one.

Methods to Attain the Ionian Islands in Greece

Ionians are nice and really numerous islands, however aren’t very straightforward for island hopping. Connecting amongst them typically requires returning on the mainland and touring to a special port. They’re nevertheless simply accessed by aircraft, in contrast to the Cyclades which require a cease in Athens and a ferry crossing within the Aegean.

Aegean planeAegean plane

There are direct flights from many European capitals to Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Corfu. However if you wish to attain the smaller islands like Paxos or Ithaca, you’ll have to fly to the closest massive island and get a ferry connection.   

The Ionian Islands can be accessed by ferry from mainland Greece. There are a number of ports on the western coast of Greece, like Patras, Kyllini, and Igoumenitsa. From Kyllini you will get to the island of Zakynthos, or to the city of Poros, on Kefalonia. The ferry experience takes roughly 1.5 hours.

ferry crossing in the Ionian Islandsferry crossing in the Ionian Islands
Ferry crossing within the Ionian Islands

From the port of Igoumenitsa which is farther north, you’ve ferries that go to Corfu. The rides can take anyplace from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, relying on the kind of ferry you select (hydrofoil, or common ferry).

image of Levante ferry lineimage of Levante ferry line
Levante Ferry line

There are additionally ferry routes from the port of Patras to the city of Sami in Kefalonia, or to the port of Pisaetos on Ithaca. Nevertheless, these experience takes longer (about 3.5 hours to Sami, or 4 hours to Pisaetos), so they aren’t a handy possibility. 

NOTE: There are not any passenger ferries departing from Athens.

The Greatest Time to Go to the Islands

The height season within the Ionian Islands is in summer season: June, July and August. That is once you’ll get virtually everlasting sunshine and just about no rainfall. However that is additionally the busiest and hottest time of the 12 months, when temperatures can attain 100ºF (39-40ºC).

In case you are searching for good climate to do some climbing within the mountains of Lefkada or Corfu, spring is your greatest guess. From April until the tip of Might there’s much less threat of storms and the temperatures are nice for strolling and sunbathing. Nevertheless, the water will not be heat sufficient for swimming. Till June the typical sea temperature is 65ºF (18ºC), which can appear chilly to some individuals.

image depicting wild flowersimage depicting wild flowers
Spring within the Ionian Islands

Autumn then again affords the most effective of all worlds. Temperatures are nonetheless heat, costs are decrease, and the herds of vacationers are gone. Individuals who journey recurrently to Greece take into account the interval between mid September to mid October the best time for visiting the Ionian Islands. At the start of October you may count on each day highs as much as 82ºF (28ºC) and 10-11 hours of daylight per day.

beach weather in the ionian islands in the fallbeach weather in the ionian islands in the fall
The water is heat sufficient for swimming within the fall

Though it’s thought-about the shoulder season, fall in Greece feels extra like an “Indian Summer season. It’s a interval of abnormally heat climate with clear skies and funky nights. The solar remains to be shining and the ocean is pleasantly heat for swimming. Though you mai count on some rain, the typical rainfall in October doesn’t exceed 5-6 days in Greece.

Methods to Transfer Round When Visiting the Ionian Islands

By Automobile

Essentially the most environment friendly method to go to the islands is clearly by automobile. There are automobile rental businesses on every island. However in case you plan to do some island hopping, it’s cheaper to hire a automobile and maintain for your complete journey length. Then transfer between the islands by ferry.

driving in a small village in Ithakadriving in a small village in Ithaka
Driving in a small village on the island of Ithaca

By Scooters/Bikes/Quads

Another choice is to make use of scooters, bikes, or quads. The minimal age to hire a scooter in Greece is eighteen years. You’ll additionally should possess a sound driving license and an Worldwide Driving Allow certifying the classes of automobiles you’re allowed to drive. 

imagine depicting quads for rentimagine depicting quads for rent
Quads for hire in Greece

The overwhelming majority of ental firms will solely lease you a automobile in case your driving license contains one of many following classes: AM, A1 or A. These qualify you to drive mopeds/scooters and light-weight bikes and quads, mostly between 50 to 125 cc.

How is Driving within the Ionian Islands?

Driving on the Ionian Islands is harder than driving on the mainland, the place you’ve toll roads and motorways. Whereas the most important roads are nice on the islands, you’ll additionally should drive on many rural roads. These are typically winding, steep, and slim. That’s very true within the mountains, the place you’ll come throughout sharp turns with blind spots.

driving on a narrow road in Corfu islanddriving on a narrow road in Corfu island
Driving on a slim highway in Corfu

One other drawback it’s possible you’ll encountered is with Google Maps. For us, the app labored nice more often than not. Nevertheless, as a result of it tends to decide on the shortest routes, it usually took us on poorly maintained roads. Ultimately we might get to wherever we would have liked to get, however with issue!

The chance of accidents is fairly excessive within the Ionian Islands, so in case you are renting a automobile make sure that your contract features a Collision Injury Waiver. If it doesn’t, it’s price paying the additional cash to purchase one.

By Public Transportation

When you don’t wish to drive, you should utilize public transportation (native busses, taxies, non-public transfers, or organized excursions).

Bus

All of the Ionian Islands have a KTEL public bus system. The busses embody routes to probably the most touristy locations on the islands. You should purchase your ticket earlier than departure on the bus stations, or on the small kiosks subsequent to the primary stops.

Cabs

You may also use taxies to get from one place to a different. Cab fares on the islands are a lot decrease than elsewhere in Europe and are usually set by the federal government. That implies that every journey has a set fee primarily based on mileage. Because of this, it’s common for the cab driver to cease and get extra passengers if there’s room within the automobile.

Organized Excursions

When you desire to discover the islands with the assistance of an skilled native information, you’ll have loads of excursions to select from. Every island affords its personal tailor-made excursions, so you may search for the native vacationer cubicles or select one thing on-line.

Greatest Islands to Go to within the Ionian Sea

Ideally you must go to all of the Ionian Sea islands as every one in every of them affords a special expertise. After spending virtually a month transferring between these islands, we consider those listed beneath seize the essence of this area. So here’s what you may count on when visiting them.

Zakynthos (Zante)

Zakynthos is the southernmost of the Ionian Islands. That’s in case you exclude Kythira, which is even farther south, reverse the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. After Corfu, Zante (because the locals name it) is undoubtedly probably the most visited island of the archipelago.

the Blue Caves in Zakynthosthe Blue Caves in Zakynthos
The Blue Caves in Zakynthos

It’s a really unique place with rugged white cliffs coated in vegetation and extremely picturesque seashores. A real paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving. There’s a purpose why the Venetians known as it “the Flower of the East!”

From historical ruins, castles, church buildings and monasteries, to pure parks and caves you’ll discover a wealth of points of interest on Zakynthos.

Shipwreck beachShipwreck beach
“Shipwreck” Seaside

However the two websites that made this island well-known are the Blue Caves and Navajo Seaside, often known as the “Shipwreck Cove.” Each these locations will be visited on a ship tour.

Kefalonia (Cephalonia)

Kefalonia sits proper between Lefkada and Zakynthos and has common ferry hyperlinks to each of these islands. With its unique seashores, magical underground caves and inexperienced forests, this island is a favourite amongst nature lovers.

Kefalonia IslandKefalonia Island
Kefalonia Island

As a result of it’s the biggest of all of the Ionian Islands it by no means appears to be like too crowded, not even in summer season. There may be all the time sufficient room to stretch out on the seaside, or discover an empty desk on the village taverna.

Largely unspoiled by overdeveloped tourism, Cephalonia provides you with a way of peace and tranquility. Life right here has a slower and calmer tempo. Individuals make a dwelling by elevating goats, rising crops, or taking care of their olive timber. Everywhere in the island you’ll discover small family-run cafés that lure you in with their native dishes.

Sadly, the 1953 earthquake destroyed practically all of the buildings on the island. Even the church bell towers had been destroyed. Since then Kefalonia has been rebuilt, however the great thing about the unique buildings was misplaced within the rebuilding. Solely a handful of villages like Assos and Fiskardo survived. They’re the one ones that also preserve the genuine character of previous Kefalonia.

Kefalonia has loads of points of interest, from Mycenaean tombs, Byzantine ruins and Venetian castles, to unspoiled seashores and unbelievable caves. Essentially the most well-known are Drogarati Cave and Lake of Melissani Cave.

Melissani CaveMelissani Cave
Melissani Cave

However one of many island’s most recognizable landmarks is De Bosset Bridge in Argostoli, that connects the capital city to the other mainland of Kefalonia. This pedestrian bridge is the biggest stone bridge ever constructed on a seawater physique.

Ithaca (Ithaki)

Ithaca is only a 45-minute ferry experience from Kefalonia. With its hidden coves, tall mountains and historical ruins, Ithaca is a a lot smaller model of its nextdoor neighbor. It’s also a lot quieter and completely unspoiled. A tremendous place to go to in case you are searching for a extra stress-free vacation, away from the busy nightlife of the opposite islands.

Ithaca was house to one of the well-known Greek heroes, Odysseus (Ulysses) of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. However other than its legendary fame, the island has unbelievable pure magnificence. It’s coated with lush inexperienced vegetation and surrounded by unique seashores with emerald inexperienced waters.

Sarakiniko Beach in IthacaSarakiniko Beach in Ithaca
Sarakiniko Seaside in Ithaca

Though not as fashionable as the opposite Ionian Islands, Ithaca has a selected attraction that makes you fall in love with it proper from the beginning. It appears to be like extra genuine and laid again than the opposite islands, with effectively preserved villages scattered alongside the coase and on the slopes of the mountains.

There may be lots to see and do in Ithaki, however because the island will not be very huge most individuals go to it as a day journey from Kefalonia, like we did. Nevertheless, when you uncover its attraction you understand that at some point will not be sufficient for this pure paradise!

image of Vathi, Ithacaimage of Vathi, Ithaca
Memento store in Vathi, Ithaca

The island’s most lovely city is Vathi, an previous settlement with a pronounced Venetian character. The city has fairly homes with tiled roofs, imposing mansions and picturesque stone-paved alleys.

Lefkada (Lefkas)

Situated between Corfu and Kefalonia, Lefkada is the one island within the Ionian Sea that’s linked to the mainland by a bridge. As a result of it’s accessible by automobile, Lefkada sees extra guests per 12 months than the opposite islands.

The island can be a giant hub for these coming to choose up their yachts and sail across the Ionian Sea. Nydri, Lefkada’s essential port, appears to be like extra like a forest of masts with lots of of sailboats docked subsequent to one another.

Yachts docked in the port of Nydri, LefkadaYachts docked in the port of Nydri, Lefkada
Yachts docked within the port of Nydri, Lefkada

Like all the opposite Ionian Islands, Lefkada has spectacular surroundings, a lot of vegetation, picturesque villages, church buildings and monasteries. Sadly its recognition makes it look very crowded, particularly round Nydri the place many constitution flights from the UK land.

Porto Katsiki Beach in LefkadaPorto Katsiki Beach in Lefkada
Porto Katsiki Seaside on the Island of Lefkada, Greece

From our expertise Lefkada (Lefkas) has many various “faces,” relying the place you go. So if you need much less crowds and pristine seashores, you must head to the northern or southern a part of the island, to cities like Vasiliki and Agios Nikitas.

Corfu (Kerkyra)

Corfu is a great distance north of the opposite Ionian Islands and thus harder to hook up with. Reaching it will contain a prolonged journey each on land and by ferry.

Corfu Old FortressCorfu Old Fortress
Corfu Outdated Fortress

Nonetheless, the island has so much going for it: golden seashores with crystal clear waters, enchanting pine forests, previous church buildings and monasteries, and even Byzantine and Venetian castles. Corfu is a traveler’s paradise that caters to all kinds of tourists, from seaside and nature lovers to metropolis wanderers.

Paleokastritsa Beach in CorfuPaleokastritsa Beach in Corfu
Paleokastritsa seaside in Corfu

What makes Corfu very totally different from the opposite Ionian Islands is its structure, which appears to be like extra Italian than Greek. That’s the results of 400 years of Venetian occupation after Corfu was separated from the Roman and Byzantine Empires.

Corfu town in the eveningCorfu town in the evening
Corfu city within the night

Corfu is undoubtedly one in every of probably the most lovely and well-known islands in Greece. The island has a fame for being over touristy, particularly after serving because the filming location of the favored TV collection “The Durrells in Corfu.” However whereas there are certainly busy and overdeveloped areas (like Corfu city, Sidary, or Kavos), you may nonetheless keep away from them by heading to the inside of the island.

A Last Phrase

So which is the most effective of the Ionian Islands? What island(s) to decide on and what island(s) to go away out?

We had been fortunate to have been capable of go to 5 of those superb Greek islands, however selecting between them could be actually tough. They’re all superb and but so totally different from one another!

Nevertheless, if I had been to pick out solely three of those islands for a household journey to Greece, I’d in all probability select Corfu, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. In my view, these three supply a mixture of unbelievable pure magnificence and distinctive cultural heritage. Visiting them creates an eternal attraction that can depart you eager for extra.



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