The Ionian which runs down the west coast of Greece's mainland, while lesser known than the Cyclades, is steeped in history and beauty, and makes the perfect destination for a luxury yacht charter. There are five reasons to go, five island jewels in the Ionian crown, each with their own distinctive landscape and cultural history, from Corfu in the north to Zakinthos in the south.
The Ionian islands in Greece are likely to come as a welcome surprise to those familiar with the starkness of the Aegean. They are lush green in colour with forested mountains covered in pine, cypress and olive trees and are encircled by a sea that turns from a milky turquoise to a deeper darker azure. With some of the most picturesque of cliff-backed beaches and colourful fields of flowers these islands are so very pretty. Influenced by the Venetians, the French and the British the architecture, culture and cuisine is also a rich mix. Here are five islands in the Ionian that we recommend for a luxury yacht charter:
Corfu, or Kerkyra (ker-kih-rah) in Greek, is a luxuriant green island with over 200km of gorgeous coastline with the impressive Mt Pandokrator in the north sloping down to green valleys and grassy fields in the south. The east-coast capital, Corfu Town is a cultured, cosmopolitan gem of a city. There are also delightful seaside villages which are great to visit while on your luxury yacht from Kouloura in the north west with a single taverna overlooking the brightly coloured fishing boats in the tiny harbour to Kassiopi, with its romantic ruined castle and pastel-coloured buildings, is one of the best diving centres on the island.
Less touristy than Corfu Lefkada (Lefkas) has some of the best turquoise-lapped beaches in Greece. The most impressive are on the west coast: Egremni and Porto Katsiki feature imposing white cliffs with water that is a transparent aquamarine. Vassiliki in the south and Ai Yiannis, Mili in the north are both beloved by kite and windsurfers. However this island has a lot more to offer with spectacular mountains, amazing waterfalls, a rich culture, ancient monastries and charming traditional villages. Lefkada is surrounded by nine smaller islands, including Meganisi, Kalamos, and Skorpios, owned by the Onassis family, which are a treat to visit while on charter.
While lacking some of the beautiful beaches of the rest of the Ionian Ithaca offers an enchanting, laidback charm. With very little tourist development and a slower pace of life the island boasts ancient ruins, tiny harbours, lush greenery and a rugged coast fringed in turquoise waters. There are some great hiking trails as well as stunning and secluded coves that make perfect anchorages. Ithaca is, of course, the mythical home of Homer's Odysseus which certainly adds to the romance of this somewhat sleepy but very special island.
Located across a narrow sea strait from Ithaca Kefalonia or Cephalonia is the largest island in the Ionian sea. It was largely underdeveloped until very recently and even now it never feels crowded here. The setting for Louis de Bernières' fabulous novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin the subsequent film adaption was also filmed here. Despite this it remains a quiet, peaceful place unspoilt by mass tourism with some very lovely beaches, soaring mountains, warm friendly people and a sense of stepping back in time with a rural charm.
Zakynthos, or Zante as it is known in Italian, is another beautiful Ionian island and one of the most popular in Greece. Most of the tourism is focused on the eastern and southeast coasts but beyond that there is a magnificent natural landscape with forested mountains plummeting down to sparkling turquoise waters; stunning beaches and green hillsides covered with flowers in spring and early summer. It's no wonder the Italians called this island "the Flower of the East". The Bay of Laganas on Zakynthos is also the nesting area for the Careta-Careta or loggerhead sea turtle and the beaches here are protected in the hope that this near-extinct species has a hope of survival.
For more details about these and other islands in the Ionain please contact us. We have a lot more information we are happy to share.