Sailing in the Ionian, escape to sunny Isles for the perfect sailing holiday in Greece.
There are so many reasons why the Ionian sea is a top sailing destination that it was hard to pick just five. This location is great for families, beginners and experienced sailors alike. Between the stunning scenery, delightful culture, and the ideal sailing conditions, sailing in the Ionian should be on every charterer’s bucket list!
While the Ionian Sea is a sight to behold all on its own, the real gems are the islands that dot the coast of eastern Greece. This archipelago is made up of seven main islands, like Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Ithaca, Paxi and Lefkada, which is why it is called the Heptanese. However, there are a number of smaller isles, like Meganisi, Antipaxi, Othoni, to be explored. These all have a beautiful natural landscape that varies widely and will make all your stops enjoyable and engaging.
Scattered throughout the islands you will find deep greenery from the forested mountains, as well as turquoise sea caves that are hidden along the coastline. If you visit Papanikolis cave on Meganisi, you can swim where a World War II submarine was once hidden. Next, stop by Kefalonia to hike Ainos Mountain, which is the tallest mountain on the islands. Ainos is also the smallest National Forest in Greece, where you can see the rare Kefalonian fir trees. On Ithaca, you can visit the Cave of Nymphs, which is said to be mentioned in The Odyssey.
Between the sea caves, coves and bays there is a plethora of activities, such as swimming and snorkeling, during the day and plenty of anchorages, where you can spend the night. Bay-hop through all the islands as you make your way through the Ionian sea.
If being amidst nature is not your ideal holiday, no problem! The Ionian Islands are well populated and have plenty of little villages and cosmopolitan towns to visit during your time ashore. On Corfu, you should visit the town of Corfu which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll see a mix of European influences in the monuments, public gardens, town squares, and other architecture. On Ithaca, you can anchor in Vathy, the capital, where you’ll find one of Greece’s safest natural harbors. This is a great seaside spot to relax and enjoy the cafes set against the sea.
On mainland Greece, you could include Parga in your sailing itinerary, a small town with a famous castle nestled high above the port. There are also many beaches, which are shaded from the sun and have clear blue waters. While you’re here you can also explore a classic greek labyrinthine, or take a Parga Tour Train for all-ages fun! Because sailing the Ionian is a popular yacht charter spot, many towns have a strong nautical culture with plenty of facilities and local watering holes. While visiting, you can take advantage of facilities or socialize with charterers.
Also, be on the lookout for the rise of Skorpios Island! Bought by Aristotle Onassis in the 1960s, and used as a private family residence for generations, the island has many remarkable features, such as beaches with sand imported from Salamina and about 200 different types of trees. As this is a private island, it is not accessible to the public. You can get close to the shore, and have a nice view of the luxurious villas, beaches and island scenery from your boat!
For history buffs, the Ionian islands are a dream and even for those who simply enjoy an interesting past, the islands are a fascinating study.
The Ionian Islands are a great example of classic Greek culture. Their name is thought to be derived from the goddess Io, who passed through the Ionian Sea while fleeing Hera. The islands, such as Corfu and Lefkada, are frequently mentioned in Homer’s epics. The island of Ithaca is the home of Odysseus - the hero of the Odyssey.
As a result of passing hands over the centuries, the islands have a mixed culture that is reflective of their history. Since the 2nd century BC, the Ionian Islands have been occupied by the Roman Empire, the Venetian Empire, the French Empire, and the British Empire.
On the islands, note the many different styles of architecture. Also, the food has a distinct flavor, highly influenced by Italy. With so many uniquely Ionian offerings, this blend of cultures will make your time ashore nothing short of extraordinary!
One of our favorite things about the Ionian is that all sailors can enjoy a holiday on these idyllic islands. With short sailing distances and line-of-sight navigation, sailing the Ionian is easygoing. It is one of the less challenging destinations, with steady reliable winds in the early afternoon for exhilarating sailing, and lighter breezes at dusk for easy mooring. The Ionian is also a great spot for families with small children thanks to the plethora of islands, islets and anchorages. We recommended a two-week charter so you can enjoy sailing and time ashore equally.
The Ionian Islands are also known for their fun atmosphere! Zakynthos is a huge hub, with plenty of bars and clubs. On Zakynthos, the town of Laganas is one of the most popular spots for a bar crawl, with its long strip of bars and clubs. Corfu will also have a great selection, and here you may enjoy seaside bars and restaurants as well as busier clubs.
Meanwhile, on the other islands, nightlife takes a different form. Kefalonia and Lefkada are much more lowkey, but you can still enjoy a night out! Lounge bars are popular here, and most will stay open until the early morning hours. Generally, on the smaller islands, nightlife consists of a long dinner by the sea. With good food and good drinks, this is certainly a great option!
Does sailing in the Ionian seem like something you’d like to add to your bucket list?
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