- Set sail on a relaxing Greek islands sea cruise and discover the best Ionian islands to visit, including Ithaca, Kefalonia and Lefkas
- Head off the beaten track to explore secluded coves and unspoilt villages with our guide to cruising the Ionian islands
- Swim in tranquil bays of crystal-clear water, dine in pretty harbourside tavernas and discover the best Greek islands for beaches
A Greek holiday could be on your agenda for a whole host of reasons. Perhaps you’ve visited Greece before and want to see more or photos, a film or book have inspired you. Maybe the country has always been on your bucket list. Whatever your reason, it’s easy to be lured by the picture-perfect beaches, turquoise water, charming villages, and deliciously tasty food found on Greece’s 227 inhabited islands.
And, there’s no better way to explore Greece’s many islands than by sea. Greek island sailing holidays, aboard a wooden-hulled, twin-masted schooner, offer an exciting adventure at sea. You can watch the wind filling your gulet’s sails, feel the water’s spray on your face and witness the natural beauty of these green isles from your boat’s deck.
The Ionian Sea islands, located along the west coast of the mainland, are among the most beautiful Greek islands. Ithaca, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Meganissi, Kalamos and Kastos are six stunning destinations you should visit while on an Ionian island cruise.
Ionian island holidays are certainly a unique experience – a new sailing world awaits just a three-and-a-half-hour flight away from the UK. It’s a chance to unwind, appreciate the simple pleasures of azure skies and turquoise seas, and spend a while in towns and villages seemingly untouched by time. An Ionian Island Odyssey venture is unforgettable.
Cruising the Ionian islands: Ithaca
According to Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, Ithaca was the island home of the mythical Greek king and hero Odysseus and his beloved wife, Penelope. Ithaca remains one of the best Ionian islands to visit and a highlight of a holiday to Greece. Peaceful and undiscovered, the idyllic retreat has charming villages, secluded coves and a mountainous spine that runs some 18 miles from top-to-tail. This natural feature has prevented large-scale developments and allows this enchanting island to retain an old-world feel.
Vathy, Ithaca’s capital, has a picturesque harbour built around a deep sheltered bay. While earthquakes destroyed many of its original buildings in 1953, locals reconstructed homes and restored the Metropolitan Cathedral – the wooden iconostasis inside is worth a look. The maritime and folklore museum provides an insight into the island’s naval history, and when it’s time to eat, there’s a choice of enticing seafood restaurants.
Cruising the Ionian islands: Kefalonia
A holiday hotspot and Greece’s sixth-largest island, Kefalonia is also the backdrop of another famous work of fiction, this time Louis de Bernières’ novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Considered the best Greek island for beaches – the golden sandy beach at Antisamos featured in Hollywood’s 2001 film on the book – the bays at Myrtos, Skala and Lourdas are also rather special.
In the north sits Fiscardo, an attractive harbour town full of mansions and villas. Frequented by the yachting fraternity, the small bay is renowned for having top-notch tavernas. Make sure you try the Robola white wine, and Kefalonia’s much-loved meat pie may even tempt you. Eat with tzatziki and a Greek salad.
At the opposite point of the island, Assos is populated with pastel-coloured houses and dominated by a sprawling 16th-century Venetian fortress. A worthy contender for the Ionian islands’ most photogenic location, the horseshoe-shaped bay boasts enchanting emerald water. Approaching by sea after passing high limestone cliffs, the scene is simply breath-taking.
Cruising the Ionian islands: Lefkas
While on an Ionian island holiday, sailing around aboard a schooner, you’ll get the chance to soak up some magnificent scenery. And Lefkas (which is linked to mainland Greece by a small bridge) will stand out for some remarkable reasons. Covered in verdant green hills, seafarers will spot high white cliffs on one side of the island and a myriad of tiny coves and bays on the other. Indeed, Lefkas has some of the most protected harbours in the region.
Nidri, on the east coast, is a popular spot for yachts and the perfect place to moor up to enjoy a meal in one of the town’s many restaurants. You’ll find supermarkets and souvenir shops here too. Visit in spring or after a rainy period and walk up to the Nidri waterfalls – although only 12 metres high, you’ll discover a series of pretty cascades, and you can swim in a natural pool below.
Cruising the Ionian islands: Meganissi
Six kilometres south of Lefkas lies Meganissi, an oddly-shaped elongated island that you’re sure to fall in love with. A sleepy secluded haven, the perfect place to relax and enjoy dinner by starlight – which all adds to Meganissi’s natural beauty. A small village, Vathy, has a few tavernas lit by twinkling fairy lights in the evening. There’s no better place to unwind and gaze up to the stars. During the day, drop anchor and head to a beach – Fanari and Spilia are delightful places to swim.
En route to Meganissi boats sail pass Skorpios, a private island once owned by Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. He married Jackie Kennedy, former First Lady of the United States, here in 1968. Over 200 varieties of trees were planted to keep his home well hidden, and his body now rests in an Onassis family plot. A Russian billionaire is said to be the owner today.
Cruising the Ionian islands: Kalamos and Kastos
Sailing the Ionian islands is a dream come true, especially as it opens up access to dazzling destinations that are well off the beaten track. The small twin islands of Kalamos and Kastos are just that – two places where tourists rarely visit. Cruise to their untouched shores and wondrous sights will welcome you. On Kalamos there’s lush vegetation. Pine, bay and olive trees grow among rocks and extend down to the sea. Low-lying Kastos has an indented coastline and is home to several windmills, some of the best-preserved on the Ionian islands.
As for quiet beaches, many only accessible from the sea, Myrtia, Pefki, Kedros and Kefali are options for a lunchtime swim on Kalamos. If sailing to Kastos, Fyki, Vali and Agios Aimilianos are ideal – at the latter there’s a small cave known as Fokotrypa or Seal Hole. No prices for guessing the animal that used to shelter here.
If you’re keen to enjoy a different kind of holiday next year, why not consider a Greek island cruise 2020? Visiting tranquil and rustic destinations, much-loved for their natural beauty, an Ionian Island Odyssey adventure will introduce you to the joy of sailing, in a charming part of the world.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.