How to Spend 7 Days Island Hopping Around the Ionian Islands, Greece

Gaios harbour on Paxos is a common stop for sailing trips around the Ionian Islands
Gaios harbour on Paxos is a common stop for sailing trips around the Ionian Islands | © imageimage / Alamy Stock Photo
Helen Iatrou

From Corfu’s Old Town to the turquoise waters off Antipaxos, the Ionian Sea is arguably the most coveted sailing ground in Greece. But it’s not just the six Ionian islands that are worth adding to your logbook. A clutch of colourful harbour towns awaits on the mainland of western Greece, attracting a leisurely, well-heeled sailing set. Here’s how to spend seven days cruising between them.

Hire a boat for the week through Dream Yacht Charter, or rent a vessel just for the day with SamBoat.

Day One: Gouvia, Corfu

Not only is Corfu the Ionian’s most treasured destination, it’s also a brilliant jumping-off point if you’re looking to explore the region by yacht. Start from D-Marin Gouvia Marina in Gouvia Bay on the northeastern coast, a 16-minute taxi ride from Corfu airport. With restaurants, bars, shops, a supermarket, pool and even a cricket field and croquet lawn betraying the island’s strong British connection, there’s plenty to keep you occupied at this marina. Diehard fans of The Durrells can take a peek at the nearby Annemoyani villa, whose exterior is featured in the TV series tracing naturalist Gerald Durrell’s life on the island in the mid-1930s. The UK production proved such a hit that it’s credited with reviving Corfu’s popularity as a travel destination.

Gouvia marina is a popular jumping-off spot to begin an Ionian odyssey

Set sail for Mourtos, one of four uninhabited islets east of Corfu’s southernmost tip, that lie just off the fishing town of Sivota. Drop the hook at Pisina in the north and dive into exotic emerald seas. Head ashore to see a stalactite-filled cave thought to have once been a pirate’s lair. On Mourtos’ southwestern coast, there’s a swimmable, typically Ionian sea cave known as Papanikolis. Another great swim spot can be found on the western coast of Agios Nikolaos islet. This small bay also provides good shelter for an overnight stay on anchor with lines ashore. Otherwise, head to Gallikos Molos beach, where you can take the dinghy to shore and dine at one of Sivota’s fish tavernas.

Sandy beaches with turquoise sea await sailors in the Epirus region of Greece

Day Three: Sivota Islets to Lakka, Paxos

Your next destination is Paxos island, which measures just 19sqkm (7sqmi) in size. Head to Lakka Bay in the north, a boot-shaped natural harbour with aquamarine waters, made for snorkelling and SUPs. Both spectacularly beautiful and a near-perfect anchorage (thanks to the shelter it provides), expect to see plenty of fellow seafarers here. Park the dinghy at the dock and follow the trail through centuries-old twisted olive trees to a stone-built square lighthouse and panoramic lookout just before sandy Kommeno beach. Your best vantage point for sunset is the café-restaurant above Erimitis beach, where dramatic limestone cliffs turn orange-pink. For dinner in Lakka, try traditional taverna Nionios. If you’d prefer a quieter spot to overnight, conditions permitting, head for nearby Orkos.

The clear turquoise waters of Lakka Bay attract sailors from across the Ionian

Day Four: Lakka to Voutoumi and Gaios, Paxos

Sail along the eastern coast, past capital Gaios. South of Paxos is its teeny twin, Antipaxos. Heaven on earth awaits at Voutoumi beach; the water is so clear here that it looks like boats are floating in thin air. Climb the 200-odd stone steps to hill-top restaurant Bella Vista for staggering views. Head back towards Gaios, where you’ll dock for the night within a wondrous fjord-like channel formed by Agios Nikolaos islet, home to a Venetian castle and hidden chapels. Sample the local tuna and don’t depart without a bottle of Paxos’ delicate golden extra virgin olive oil.

The port of Gaios on Paxos sits at the heart of life in the village

Day Five: Paxos to Parga

To the east of Gaios lies Parga, a town which would look right at home on an Ionian island. With its pastel-coloured hillside homes trickling down to an attractive harbour, awash with fishing boats, it’s a sublime location to spend the day. Walk along the flower-filled promenade, and stop for a bite of seafood at one of the many ouzeries (a restaurant serving ouzo). Pass through Parga’s archways and scale uphill alleyways that lead to a 16th-century castle, which has its own cafe. For a quiet swim, try Piso Kryoneri. Alternatively, make a beeline for the former olive oil factory Paragae and learn about the hardy Corfiot Lianolia olive; you can take a cooking class or indulge in wine tasting. Spend the night at Skala beach, also known as Two Rocks Bay, a short sail south.

The port promenade of Parga is home to many of the area’s top eateries

Day Six: Parga to Plataria

It’s time to gradually backtrack to Corfu. The coastal village of Plataria, tucked deep into a natural harbour slightly north of Sivota, is a handy port of call. Located at the foothills of a densely-forested mountain, there are various beaches you can reach on foot or via dinghy. Sunset views from here are nothing short of magnificent, whether you’re hanging out in the cockpit or sipping on cocktails at Zanzibar beach bar. There are plenty of seafront tavernas to choose from, most of them specialising in fish and seafood. Dock at the town quay for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Day Seven: Plataria to Corfu

Rise early so you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy your last stop, namely Corfu’s Venetian capital. Dock at the enchanting Mandraki marina, conveniently situated below the Unesco-listed Old Town in the shadow of the imposing 14th-century Old Fortress. Lose yourself in narrow alleyways, stop for a coffee in atmospheric Kremasti Square and pick up a chic navy holdall bag from Salty Bag, made from upcycled sails. Save your appetite for hearty Corfiot soul food like sofrito (veal with garlic and parsley) and fish dish bourdeto at Marina’s Tavern in the old Jewish quarter. From Mandraki, Gouvia marina is a short sail north.

Sailing Boats in the Naval Sports Club marina of Corfu Town

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Ethel Dilouambaka.

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