Sailing guide to the Ionian islands

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Here are Sunsail’s top tips for the Ionian Sea, one of our most popular destinations. 

The shimmering, mystical Ionian has been calling to sailors for thousands of years. An intriguing, enchanting and sometimes turbulent history surrounds this sun-baked region of outstanding natural beauty.

Legends both mythical and real abound, from Homeric heroes through to the present day, and although much has changed, many things remain untouched by the ravages of time.

So what gives these cruising grounds such enduring appeal to today’s sailor, and what advantage does a yacht charter holiday have over the regular landlubbers’ fly-and-flop style holiday?

Here are Sunsail’s top tips for sailing in the Ionian Sea.

Southern Ionian

Skip from island to island in a protected, serene sailing ground offering an array of options of things to see and do.

Lefkas Town

Our new home from home in the Southern Ionian for a few years now, this traditional Greek village boasts a pedestrianised main street offering boutiques, places to eat and drink and a welcoming town square.

Vlikho is a short hop from our base, and is a great place to stop for your first night with a range of small waterside villages to explore once the sun goes down.

At Vasiliki, further round the Lefkas shoreline, you’ll find Agiofili beach, a great spot for relaxing where softs sands are surrounded by white stone cliffs.

Meganisi

Keen amateur photographers looking for the ultimate sunset picture can trek or cycle to the summits of Spartochori, a fine place to watch the fading light play off the Ionian while you fiddle with the settings on your camera.

A short inland excursion to the village of Katomeri will give you the opportunity to explore gift shops, tavernas, and cafes amid quaint streets and houses, while at Vathi you can snorkel over the wreckage of a sunken plane.

Abelike Bay is made for those who like things a little rustic, offering few amenities. It’s a top spot for a BBQ on the beach; just make sure you leave this seemingly untouched oasis as you found it.

Fiskardo, Greece
Kalamos, Greece
Fiskardo

A popular port on the northern tip of Kefalonia. Try the safe and scenic swimming at Foki Beach.

For those feeling slightly homesick, or perhaps unable to eat any more olives, then the tavern behind the beach serves traditional Kefalonian meat pies. It’s no Cornish pasty, but hey, when in Greece.

Kalamos

The aptly-named Kalamos Town offers the chance for a hillside trek to the ruins of an old monastery. Worth the walk, purely for the fabulous views of mainland Greece.

The deep waters off the northern shore of Kalamos are a good place to keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready for dolphin sightings.

Ithaca

The apparent home of Homeric hero Odysseus, and a place he had an awful lot of bother getting back to after the Trojan War in The Odyssey.

Luckily, you’re unlikely to come across a cylops, sirens, six headed monsters or be held captive by any type of Gods, demi or otherwise.

What you will find are the museums of sleepy capital Vathy, dedicated to the culture, folklore and archaeology of the island.

Other highlights are the typically traditional port town of Kioni, sheltered and framed by gentle hills, a truly fine choice for a long, long lunch.

ithaca_kioni_greece

Paleros

Explore the Byzantine Ruins and seek safe passage from St Dimitrios, considered the protector of Paleros. Then repair to a local tavern, where we recommend the octopus, bream and bass washed down with a good lashing of local wine or ouzo.

Varko Bay

One to save for your way back to base when chartering from Lefkas. A large, wide beach with a bar that serves cocktails and bar snacks; the perfect place to sign off the end of your charter.

 

Northern Ionian

Hop between the enchanting east coast of Corfu and the Greek mainland with a mix of short hops and blue water passages.

Sivota Mourtos

After exploring all Cofu Town has to offer, head down to the southern tip of the island before making the jump over to the Greek mainland to the Sivota Mourtos.

On the south side, drop anchor at Sand Bar Bay. Here you can get stuck into to water sports and the late night party scene, or you can retire to the shade provided by the looming hillsides to swim and relax at Karavostasi Beach.

Lunch aboard in Parga

The coastal area here between Prevesa and Parga is dotted with quaint, peaceful beaches and bays. So take your pick and drop the hook for a scenic lunch on deck in a little piece of Greece that the day trippers can’t reach the way you can.

Nikropolis, Greece
Atoko, Greece

The ruins of Nikopolis

Keep heading south until you reach the historical and cultural oasis of Prevesa. While the gulf provides an excellent spot for swimming and sunbathing, those interested in the architecture and history of the ancient Greeks should consider a short journey in land to explore the ruins of Nikopolis.

Paxos

Enjoy the thrill of blue water sailing as you head out to the tiny, yet mighty island of Paxos. Fought over by many in centuries gone by all the way back to the days of the Roman Empire, today sees no need for animosity between nations, as the Harami Beach has more than enough banana boat rides for everyone to have a turn.

To the south you’ll find the aesthetically pleasing white walls and blue dome of the Panagia monastery, mirrored by the white stone beach and clear seas of the pine-scented Kipiani beach, a great spot for lunch.

Kite surfing on Milos Beach

Ok, we’ll admit it. The Ionian is not the windiest place on earth, , though if you know where to look and plan your day well, you can benefit from the stronger afternoon winds.  Situated on the west shore of Lefkas, Milos Beach is one of many popular haunts in the region for kite and wind surfers.

 

Discover today

So there you have it, Sunsail’s ultimate guide to the very best bits of the Ionian. Click below to find out more about this sailing mecca, or check out something completely different with our review of the 8 best bits of Belize. Stay tuned for our favourite parts of the other Greek sea, the challenging Saronic and wider Aegean.

 

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