Holiday Sailing Area: The Ionian Sea

What islands can you visit when doing a yacht charter in Ionian Sea. This Sailing Area in Greece is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north and is bounded by Southern Italy, including Calabria, Sicily, and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and the west coast of Greece, including the Peloponnese. All major Ionian Sea Islands belong to Greece. They are collectively named the Ionian Islands, the main ones being Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Ithaca.

MAP & INTRO

A short history and mythology

Way back in the heady days when Greek gods and goddesses roamed the earth, the beautiful maiden Io was turned into a white heifer by her lover, Zeus. The coquettish cow dashed through the Ionian Sea with Hera, Zeus’ wife, in hot pursuit – and so the Ionian Islands were named.

Homer was slightly closer to the mark when he wrote that the kingdom of Odysseus (Ulysses) consisted of the Ionian islands of Ithaki, Kefallonia, Zakynthos, and Lefkada. Homer’s legendary hero left his beloved home on Ithaki to fight in the Trojan Wars, and the island has consequently come to symbolize the end of a long journey.

Homer also wrote that the Ionian Islands were prominent in Mycenaean times, but the archaeological evidence dating from this period amounts to only a couple of tombs, with nary a magnificent palace or even a humble village emerging from the depths. Earthquakes have been a constant phenomenon for the islands’ inhabitants, so who knows what evidence lies buried beneath the foundations.

What surely cannot be disputed is the fact that a ridiculous number of foreign entities have claimed the Ionian Islands as their own. By the 8th century BC, the islands were held by the mighty city-state of Corinth and were valued as stepping-stones en route to Sicily and Italy. A century later Corfu was powerful enough to mount a successful revolt against the Corinthian stranglehold, but the ensuing Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 BC) left the island depleted and impoverished.

The Ionian Sea map

By the end of the 3rd century BC, the Ionian Islands were Roman, and they successively became part of the Eastern Roman Empire and eventually that of the Byzantine. Life on the edge of the Byzantine Empire was anything but stable, and the islands endured repeated attacks by passing Vandals, Goths, Saracens, and Normans. Finally, Venice stepped in, shaking off stubborn Norman and Angevin claims to rule the roost for 400 years. Aside from Lefkada, which was ruled by the Turks for 200 years, the Ionian Islands were the only part of Greece to escape being subsumed into the Ottoman Empire. Venice milked the islands of their wine, fruits, silk, and cotton, and transformed the towns of Corfu, Argostoli, Lefkada, and Zakynthos with the distinctive beauty of Venetian architecture. The Venetians also introduced olive trees to the islands, notably on Corfu and Paxi.

In 1350 Venice was the undisputed sea power in the Mediterranean, but by 1716 the Ionians were Venice’s sole remaining overseas possession. Venice fell to Napoleon in 1797, and the islands were allotted to France. In 1815, when the little general’s star had waned, the islands became a British protectorate under the jurisdiction of a series of Lord High Commissioners. The British employed their usual infrastructural genius, building roads and bridges, schools and hospitals, but their rule was oppressive. Calls for the islands’ political union with Greece were increasingly raised, and in 1864 the Brits finally heeded the call. To this day the islands celebrate their Day of Unification on 21 May.

Corfu and Kefallonia were invaded by Italy during WWII, as part of Mussolini’s grand plan to resurrect the mighty Roman Empire. When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, the Germans massacred the thousands of occupying Italians and sent some 5000 of Corfu’s Jewish population to Auschwitz. The troubles continued when earthquakes devastated Lefkada in 1948, and Kefallonia, Ithaki and Zakynthos in 1953. The damage was so bad that rebuilding was not an option, and the islanders were encouraged to immigrate, predominantly to Australia. In more recent times package tourism has been an equally transforming force, and nowadays it appears to be the islands’ sole raison d’être.

THE BEST WAY TO SAVOR THE IONIAN SEA

A yacht holiday provides access that can not be achieved in any other way — your floating hotel suite allows you to travel effortlessly and provides access to the finest islands, villages, beaches, and experiences.

With so much to see and visit, we recommend you allow at least two weeks to explore this paradise or opt for the extra costs of a one-way trip starting or ending in the middle of the Cyclades.

WHEN TO VISIT THE IONIAN SEA

The islands are at their best in late spring, early summer (starting mid-May) when the landscape is still green, although the sea has not yet fully warmed up for swimming, and when the tourist crowds have yet to arrive. The season in the Ionian Sea is a bit shorter than in the Dodecanese, starting mid-May and ending end of September. Of course, there is always a way of starting and ending the season earlier and later.

In July or August, the Ionian Sea might be a bit overcrowded, but with good planning and maybe a bit less docking in the ports and marina’s its still an enjoyable period. If you don’t like crowds must holiday at these times we will be happy to recommend to visit other boating destinations. Towards the end of  October, many facilities close and storms are possible.

DESTINATIONS IN THE IONIAN SEA

When sailing the Ionian Sea you have three main choices to start from; Lefkada, Corfu and a third option is to start from Preveza.

The larger Ionian islands of Corfu, Kefallonia and Zakynthos have their own airports, while for Lefkada it is a short drive to/from Preveza (Aktaion) airport on the mainland. All four of these islands are connected to each other by Sky Express (www.skyexpress.gr), and with Athens by Olympic Air (www.olympicair.com), and all also welcome direct flights from Northern Europe. Kythira has direct flight connections with Athens only.

Scattered off the western coastline of Central Greece and to the south of Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands are an island group comprising large and small islands. From north to south, Corfu, Paxi (or Paxos), Lefkada, Ithaca,  Kefalonia, Zakynthos, and Kythira are the seven largest and most popular islands of the group, with Ereikousa, Mathraki, Othonoi, Antipaxi, Meganisi,  Kalamos, kasyos, and Antikythira the lesser-known smaller islands, which have a lot going for themselves.

Besides the Ionian Islands there are also some interesting places to visit on mainland Greece, like: Sivota, Parga, Astakos, and Messolongi.

They are destinations attracting many visitors every year for a variety of reasons: Their temperate climate, lush vegetation, beautiful mountains, and breathtaking beaches will provide the perfect surroundings for your next holidays.

Greek Island yacht holidays provide the best access to the islands of the Ionian Sea.

You’ll be surprised at how reasonable your private floating hotel suite (yacht with captain and cook/host) is.

Contact us now for a quotation on your magical Ionian Sea yacht holiday.

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SAIL AND STAY

Some of our clients like to extend their Yacht Holiday by staying a few days before or after their cruise in Corfu, Lefkada or on one of the other Ionian Islands.

A few days in Corfu, for instance, can be a great holiday starter, and if your group is flying in from different or distant countries this allows you time to catch up and recover from jet lag before your cruise. If you’re interested in history and art you may enjoy a visit to the Old Fortress of Corfu and the Archaeological Museum of Corfu, or just book a walking tour through Corfu Old town.

We are happy to recommend great places to stay, dine, explore and shop and can book your hotels and arrange airport and port transfers for you.

If you plan to spend some days on one of the islands, here is a brief overview of tourist numbers you can expect to encounter.

TOURISM IN THE IONIAN SEA

The Ionian Sea has been popular with visitors for centuries.

The three main islands are dominated by tourism season:

  • Corfu – with its teeming old town, sophisticated restaurants, clubs and hotels is a very popular island in the Ionian Sea
  • Paxos and Antipaxos – with their prestine white beaches and chrystal clear waters they attract lots of toursist, both staying on the island as daily visitors with one of the many daytrippers from mainland Greece.
  • Zakynthos – white beaches, sea turtles and a party atmosphere make Zante or Zakynthos a favourite holiday destination in the magical Ionian Sea.

Lefkada, Ithaca, and Kefalonia are popular and their beaches and main towns are busy at the height of season.

Erikousa, Orthonoi, Mathraki, Kalamos, Kasos, and Meganisi remain relatively low in tourism.

 

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ANTIQUITIES

Greece’s western coastline has been shaped both by local seismic geological and supraregional historical forces. Tectonic activity along a coastal fault-line wrenched the Ionian Islands from the mainland millions of years ago, resulting in a dramatic and picturesque seascape. And over the last three thousand or so years powerful historical events that had their foci elsewhere in Europe further shaped and created a cultural landscape. And today there are all manner of attractions that bear testimony to the comings and goings of powerful dynasties, republics and empires. Hardly surprising then that this region has some of Europe’s more popular island destinations.

Homer wrote that the Ionian Islands were prominent in Mycenaean times, but the archaeological evidence dating from this period amounts to only a couple of tombs, with nary a magnificent palace or even a humble village emerging from the depths. Earthquakes have been a constant phenomenon for the islands’ inhabitants, so who knows what evidence lies buried beneath the foundations.

What surely cannot be disputed is the fact that a ridiculous number of foreign entities have claimed the Ionian Islands as their own. By the 8th century BC the islands were held by the mighty city-state of Corinth, and were valued as stepping-stones en route to Sicily and Italy. A century later Corfu was powerful enough to mount a successful revolt against the Corinthian stranglehold, but the ensuing Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 BC) left the island depleted and impoverished.

By the end of the 3rd century BC, the Ionian Islands were Roman, and they successively became part of the Eastern Roman Empire and eventually that of the Byzantine. Life on the edge of the Byzantine Empire was anything but stable, and the islands endured repeated attacks by passing Vandals, Goths, Saracens and Normans. Finally Venice stepped in, shaking off stubborn Norman and Angevin claims to rule the roost for 400 years. Aside from Lefkada, which was ruled by the Turks for 200 years, the Ionian Islands were the only part of Greece to escape being subsumed into the Ottoman Empire. Venice milked the islands of their wine, fruits, silk and cotton, and transformed the towns of Corfu, Argostoli, Lefkada and Zakynthos with the distinctive beauty of Venetian architecture. The Venetians also introduced olive trees to the islands, notably on Corfu and Paxi.

In 1350 Venice was the undisputed sea power in the Mediterranean, but by 1716 the Ionians were Venice’s sole remaining overseas possession. Venice fell to Napoleon in 1797, and the islands were allotted to France. In 1815, when the little general’s star had waned, the islands became a British protectorate under the jurisdiction of a series of Lord High Commissioners. The British employed their usual infrastructural genius, building roads and bridges, schools and hospitals, but their rule was oppressive. Calls for the islands’ political union with Greece were increasingly raised, and in 1864 the Brits finally heeded the call. To this day the islands celebrate their Day of Unification on 21 May.

PLACES TO VISIT

 

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REVIEWS

02-09/07/2016

Dear Captain Peter, Andriana, and beautiful Malena…from the very first moment stepped on Malena you have treated us very lovely and since then the time has flown, and here we are on our last night on board. We would like to thank you for all the good memories and your hospitality. Peter, you are a great Captain with a big sense of humor, you were always been available for us and you did your best, to make all have an unforgettable time. With your guideless, we ‘ve seen beautiful places, dined at wonderful tavernas, swimming in amazing waters. It was an unforgettable week for us and we would definitely come back to explore new places and to live a new adventure with you if possible. From now on you have a family in Istanbul and we know that we have a friend in Greece! Thank you again for the unforgettable journey!

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  • A fantastic week sailing! | Erik
    We are a family of 8 and wanted to sail for a week on the Greek islands. As we are not advanced sailors, we chose to hire a skipper. We had the luck to get Walter as a skipper in the Piraeus Marina, where we started for our week in the Saronic Sea. Arriving on Saturday, we started our sail ...
  • Sailing the Argo-Saronicos in July 2017 | Melissa
    My two daughters and I sailed with Walter and Aleka in the Argo-Saronic in July and couldn’t possibly have had a better experience. From the planning stages, it was a pleasure. He was helpful finding a sailboat that fit our needs and budget. We were very inexperienced in sailing, so his input led to the right boat and the right ...
  • Thanks to Ocean Nomads! Highly recommended!
    I had one week on board of “Argo”. Yacht is good, clean, and it is very easy to sail. Walter is an owner, and he assist with all issues. Great man and experienced skipper. Highly recommended! Stas Blokhin