The Ionian Islands are the only west coast Greek island group, and are an easy sail from Brindisi on Italy’s southern tip. Each island has its idiosyncrasies of culture and cuisine and differing dollops of European and British influences. Their surfeit of charms include mountainside monasteries, Venetian campaniles, unspoilt villages, ancient olive groves, famous wines, white sand beaches and ludicrously heavenly blue waters.
PATRA is the capital of the region or prefecture. It owes its name to Patreas, chief of the Achaians. The city is among the most important in Greece, and the largest in the Peloponnese. It is also a major transportation center, linking the country with Italy and the Peloponnese with the Ionian Islands.
The old city, at the foot of the castle still has quite a number of attractive neoclassical houses, while the lower city has many mansions, such as those housing the Municipal Theatre, the Odeon, etc. The city’s innumerable pastry shops, its quiet little cafe’s, its wide range of tavernas, its lively streets thriving with locals, foreigners and transient travelers complete the picture of Patra as a lively bustling port-center much celebrated thought out Greece.
St Andrew ‘s Church is regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in the Balkans. The ancient Odeon is second in fame only to the Irodio (Odeon) of Athens. The Castle is an impressive place, where both the Temple of Panachaida Athina and the Artemis Temple used to be. The museum of Patra is one of the most important museums of Greece with fabulous treasures of national and international significance.
ZAKYNTHOS is the third largest of the Ionian Islands and there are fertile plains in the southeast which merge gently into peaceful bays and golden beaches. The western side of the island is mountainous with steep cliffs along its coasts. The mild, Mediterranean climate and the plentiful winter rainfall present the island with dense vegetation. Olive oil, currants, grapes, citrus fruit are principal products. The capital, which has the same name as the prefecture, is the town of Zakynthos – apart from its official name it is also called Chora.
Zakynthos is the green island of poetry, of song and of love. There are a great deal of cultural activities on the island -especially in the summer season, including frequent theatrical performances, concerts and recitals, lectures and exhibitions. A sightseeing must are the blue caves. These maritime caves are situated in Aspros Vrahos of Krimnos, on the Skinari cape, which is the most northern part of the island.
The biggest of the caves is the Blue Grotto whose entrance was discovered in 1897. Navagio, a renowned beach at the eastern part of the island, is situated near the village of Anafonitria. Crystal clear waters break on a white sandy beach, where a rusting hull lies half-buried. Imposing cliffs, eroded by wind and sea, descend behind in completing a spectacular picture. The wreck happened in 1983 and the cargo onboard was contraband cigarettes. The beach is only accessible by boat.
KEFALLONIA, the largest island in the lonian, is a land of contrasts. Just for starters don’t miss the view from the castle at Assos. Of the old, immensely attractive capitalcity of Argostoli, that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, very little remains; one or two houses, the arched bridge stretching across the lagoon and the obelisk at its centre, which commemorates the date of its construction. Visit the interesting Archaeological Museum and the Folk Art Museum. Lixouri, Kefallonia’s second largest town, has a peaceful atmosphere, a lovely l9th century mansion turned museum and vestiges of the ancient city of Pali.
FisKardo is one of the most picturesque ports of the Ionian, founded by the Norman Robert Guiskard.
LEFKADA is a hilly island marked by karstic action, lying off the Playia Peninsula in Acarnania. It is now linked with the mainland by a causeway and a ferry. A range of hills rising to a height of 1158 m in Mount Stavrotas and running southwest to end at Cape Doukatou occupies most of the island. It was from this Lefkadian rock of gleaming white limestone that Sappho was supposed to have thrown herself for love of the handsome Phaon. Off the southeast coast of Lefkada is the beautiful unspoiled island of Meganisi, with sandy beaches and famous sea-caves. One of the most famous beaches on Lefkada, Porto Katsiki is situated at the extreme southern end of the West Coast The beach catches the sun during the afternoon. In Lefkada’s market, one will find beautiful hand-made embroidery, oil, wine and sausages and salami of local production, lentils from the village of Eglouvi, fruits and garden products form Vassiliki, as well as nuts from the village of Agios Petros. A must see when in the area are the waterfalls at Nydri and the island of Scorpios which happens to belong to Aristotol Onasis.
Take the time to visit the archaeological museum of Nicopolis, which contains collections of architectural parts and sculptures from the Ancient City and offerings from the cemetery of Nicopolis. Agricultural products produced in Preveza are citrus fruits, vegetables, corn, rice and cotton. Its industry processes fruits and fruit juices. One of Europe’s last remaining colonies of silver pelicans survive in the Tsoukalio lagoon, an enchanting Ionian city located at the entrance of the Amvrakikos gulf. The Hot Springs of Preveza are located within the city of Preveza near the seashore and offer hydrotherapy for rheumatics, arthropathy, meta-traumatic stages, rachitis, neuralgia, and dermatological and gynecological complaints.
MEGANISI is the Greek Island of everyone’s dreams – small, unspoiled and absolutely beautiful. So perfect is Meganisi that when you arrive in the enchanting little port of Vathi, where pretty pastel-washed fishermen’s houses line the deep and beautiful bay, and settle down to an ouzo and plate of ‘mezes’ by the quayside, you have to pinch yourself to make sure that you are not actually dreaming.
A trio of quite magnificent bays notches the northern coast, each headed by a beach and enclosed on either side by wooded hillsides. As yacht anchorages, these almost hidden bays cannot be bettered, which is one of the reasons why Meganisi was a pirate stronghold right up to the present century. There are interesting and beautiful caves, Papanikolis is one of them, named after a submarine sheltered during World War II.
From Spatohori, perched on a bluff above the sea, the view over the water to the little islands of Madouri and Skorpios is superb.The village is enchanting – a maze of alleys and lanes, along which can be found half a dozen tavernas and several shops – as in the bay of Spilia below which has three waterside tavernas.
This rare combination of land and sea together with the natural and virgin beauty of the islands is unique in Greece. Here are to be found the three picturesque villages and main settlements Vathi, Katomeri and Spartochori, each one having kept it’s own character and loveliness. Their traditional architecture, the picturesque harbors with the fish taverns, the captivating view, the bright green scenery and the crystal clear sea will make you remember times that have gone. Tourism hasn’t left it’s evidence here yet. The hospitable people, their peaceful way of living, the interchange of the scenery, pleasure and the special food create an ideal place for vacation.
ITHAKI is famous as the island of Odysseus and corresponds closely to the descriptions in Homer’s Odyssey. The interest though of the archeologists is focused on the period when the king of the island was Odysseus at around the 12th century BC. It was during that period that the Greeks were off to conquer Troy. It is worth pointing out of the role which it played during the struggle of the Greeks against the Turks. Prominent citizens of Ithaki participated in the secret “Filiki Etairia” (“Society Of Friends”) which was instrumental in organizing the Greek Revolution of 1821, and Greek fighters found refuge there. In addition, the participation of Ithacans during the siege of Messolongi and the naval battles with Turkish ships at the Black Sea and Danube was significant. The “Aetos” hill rises majestically above the Pissaetos port. The classical walls belonged to the ancient city of Alalkomenes, where, according to tradition, Odysseus was born.
Itinerary: Ionian Island Cruise
Day 1- Patra – Kefalonia (52miles)
Day 2- Kefalonia – Lefkas (36 miles)
Day 3- Lefkas-Antipaxi-Paxi (35 miles)
Day 4- Paxi – Corfu (33 miles)
Day 5- Corfu – Parga (33 miles)
Day 6- Parga – Meganisi (42 miles)
Day 7- Meganisi – Ithaki (19 miles)
Day 8- Ithaki – Patra (52 miles)