The Ionian archipelago – formed by Kefalonia (Cephalonia), Zante (Zakynthos), Lefkas (Lefkada), Ithaka (Ithaki), Corfu (Kerkyra), Paxos, and Kythira – is the third most popular island group in Greece. And though Kythira is quite isolated from the rest, off the southern shores of Peloponnese, it is still possible to enjoy an adventurous island-hopping trip. Blessed with beautiful beaches, verdant and lush vegetation, and distinctive architecture reflecting the turbulent past of the region, the Ionian Islands are ideal for an epic vacation. Many travel agencies offer island-hopping tours, but this should not stop you from creating your own itinerary. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
Since you only have a week to see everything the Ionian Islands have to offer, make things easier and fly from Athens to Corfu (or Kerkyra) (thank goodness for Olympic Airlines). Once you’re settled, go exploring. The Old Town in Corfu is a true gem, and you will enjoy getting lost while meandering the streets bordered with neoclassical houses and will surely discover something of interest around every corner. Don’t skip the Archaeological Museum, which houses a fine collection of ancient artifacts, or the Museum of Asian Art, located in the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George.
Where to stay: Bella Venezia Boutique Hotel Corfu, Napoleontos Zampeli 4, Corfu town, Corfu, Greece, +30 2661 020707
Where to eat: Anthos restaurant, Maniarizi Arlioti 15, Corfu town, Corfu, Greece, +30 2661 032522
Kamelia Lines is the family-run carrier that provides transportation to Paxos (also called Paxoi or Paxi). Depending on the boat, the ride lasts 1-1.5 hours and leaves you in Gaios, the main city. Paxos is a beautiful island covered in olive groves which produce some of the world’s finest olive oil. There are three main harbors on the island, each with their own warm and welcoming seaside tavernas. Discover the island by foot or rent a scooter and get lost in nature.
Where to stay: Paxos Beach Hotel, Gaios, Paxos, Greece, +30 26620 32211
Where to eat: Taverna Pan & Theo, Gaios Harbour, Gaios, Paxos, Greece, +30 26620 32458
Spend the day exploring Lefkada (or Lefkas). One of the most beautiful Greek islands, it has a rich history and boasts a stunning rugged coastline on the west coast, with beaches worth visiting such as Porto Katsiki, Vasiliki, and Egremni. Note that the small village of Sivota will surprise you with its architecture and serene vibe. On the other hand, Lefkada Town is perfect for an afternoon coffee or drinks with the locals.
Where to stay: Saint Thomas Village, 41 Anapafseos, Lefkada, Greece, +30 2645 025625
Take advantage of the Sea Taxi Odysseus to sail down to Ithaka from the southern port of Vassiliki, an excellent excuse to continue your exploration of the island on your way there. Legend has it that glorious Ithaka was the birthplace of Odysseus. Peaceful and green, it is an excellent getaway with impressive landscapes. Perfect for hiking and trekking, Ithaka also boasts magnificent beaches, Sarakiniko or Gidaki, where you can swim in turquoise waters.
Where to stay: Perantzada Hotel, Odissea Androutsou. 821, Vathy, Ithaka, Greece, +30 2674 023914
Where to eat: Yefuri, Platreithias, Ithaka, Greece, +30 2674 031131
While it may not be as popular as some of its counterparts in the Aegean, Kefalonia, the biggest island of the group, is brimming with charm. With its stunning beaches – Makris Gialos, Ammos, Skala, and Xi – natural beauty like the Lake Cave of Melissani, and picturesque villages, the island is a little piece of heaven in the Ionian Sea. Try to explore one part of the island today and leave the rest for the following day.
Where to stay: Emelisse Hotel, Emblissi Bay, Fiskardo, Kefalonia, Greece, +30 2674 041200
Where to eat: Irida, Akti Panormou, Fiskardo, Kefalonia, Greece, +30 2674 041343
The island is big, with a lot to explore; continue your adventure to Lixouri, and venture all the way to Kounopetra (or the Moving Rocks), or soak up some vitamin D. Later in the day, head to Pessada to take a ferry to Agios Nikolaos, Zakynthos. Zakynthos is a beautiful island packed with things to do: windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply sunbathing. Go on an adventure and discover the Blue Caves to admire this natural rock formation.
Where to stay: Blue Caves Villas, Agios Nikolaos, Zakynthos, Greece, +30 693 246 9717
This is the last day of your island-hopping trip. For your last sunbathing session, make sure to go to the Shipwreck Beach, probably one of the most iconic sights of Zakynthos, and possibly Greece.
But most of all – get some rest, you deserve it!