by Cliff Blaylock
The Ionian Islands are a well-known group on water-bounded landmasses located along the western coast of Greece. Easy to reach and full of all the attributes holidaymakers crave, they rank highly alongside other Greek holiday destinations; such as Athens and Crete. However, with seven main islands to choose from, how do you decide which one to visit?
Zante is known for a lot of things — such as it’s nightlife, beaches and turtle population — which makes in one of the most exciting islands to visit in Greece. Popular with the under 30 age group due to its array of clubs and bars, Zante is a great place for an action-packed holiday, but for a calm week away, you might better off somewhere else. That isn’t to say Zante is a crazy, party island, all the time, however. It also plays host to stunning cave networks and beaches for relaxing during the day, just don’t expect too much sleep if you’re staying near any of the town centers.
Verdict: A Little bit of something for everyone, although life on Zante is catered towards the more energetic holidaymakers.
Cephalonia is a gorgeous island with a lot of natural beauty. Being the largest of all the Ionian Islands, its spread out nature means it is also one of the quietest; great for people looking for a relaxing getaway. To add to the pristine, quiet, nature of this island, the most popular leisure activities include hiking, horseback riding, canoeing across its beautiful shores and visiting the local beaches. It’s also home to the legendary Melissani Cave, which is well worth a visit no matter who you are, or what sort of activities you are into; the sight of this underwater beauty is simply awe-inspiring.
Verdict: Full of sleepy villages and relaxing days lazily sleeping in the sun, Cephalonia is great for those not looking to push themselves on their time away.
Paxi is a rustic island with immaculate beaches, serene bay views and lushes wilderness. It is particularly popular with sailing enthusiasts given its protected mooring areas and diverse cultural scene that mixes modern and traditional Greek life. However, possibly the biggest selling point of this island is not on the island at all but is, in fact, its neighboring island, antipaxi. Antipaxi is a smaller, uninhabited island found just beneath Paxi, hence the name, and offers up an even wider array of natural elements and beaches for travelers to enjoy.
Verdict: Small, quiet, beautiful; Paxi is a great escape for people looking to enjoy the natural world around them.
Ithaca is an island of great importance to Greek mythology. It is on this island that the great king Odysseus lived; the brains behind the Trojan horse. Things have settled down in the thousands of years since then, however, and the island is now packed with quaint villages, picturesque hiking trails and gorgeous views. Its setting, combined with its sense of epic history, make this a popular island for couples on romantic getaways.
Verdict: Ithaca is a quiet and refined island, it is a perfect romantic location for a couples holiday, but can also be a nice place to visit with friends looking to take in some traditional Greek sights.
Unlike the other members of the Ionian Islands, you won’t actually find Kythira on the western coast of Greece, rather on its southern tip. Still technically in the Ionian Sea, just, Kythira is the most distant and, therefore, often found the be the least tourist bound destination of all the islands. Like all the islands, it has great beaches, however, it’s most unique feature is its Venetian architecture as well as its stunning hillside views and sleepy towns.
Verdict: Kythira is a great island to visit if you aren’t going for the beach scene. It’s architecture and wilderness offer up a taste of the Greek islands in a unique setting.
If you want a tropical paradise, then look no further than Lefkada. Of all the islands, this is the place to go if you want to experience a Caribbean-like setting. Known for its stunning beaches and great food, it’s simply the perfect holiday destination for people with nothing but sun in mind.
Verdict: For those people whose idea of a perfect holiday is a sunhat, a sunlounger and a good book.
Saving the most well-known for last (we’ll let you be the judge of best), we have Corfu. Due to its location and history, Corfu has a very strong connection to many European countries and, as a result, is the most visited island out of all those found in the Ionian Sea. Being a tourist hotspot, it has a vast variety of resorts and activities to get involved in and is a lot less traditional than many of the other smaller islands. Which can be good or bad depending on what you are after. Overall, Corfu is a place that offers an exciting time for holidaymakers, but if you look hard enough, is also home to some incredible examples of ancient Greek architecture.
Verdict: Tamer than Zante, with a lot of the family friendly fun, Corfu is perfect for those looking to experience the Greek Islands without being thrown headfirst into their culture, or just for those who don’t like to sit still for too long.
Byline: If you want to experience every one of these islands, and pick a favorite for yourself, a trip with Deep Blue Yachting might just be the holiday you’ve been looking for.
Holidaymakers Guide to the Ionian Islands
by Cliff Blaylock