Ionian Islands - Island Diversity with Venetian Charm
Despite their shared culture and history, each Ionian island has its very own character. During their holidays in this sunny destination, travellers will discover what makes each of them unique.
Geography - The seven islands at the Greek west coast
The Ionian Islands (also called "Heptanese", i.e. the "Seven Islands") are a geographical region in the west of Greece, which extends from the coast of Albania in the north to the Peloponnese in the south. It consists of seven main islands and several small, mostly uninhabited islands. The region's capital is the city of Corfu (also called "Kerkyra"). The region has an overall area of about 2,307 km², which makes it the smallest geographical region in Greece. Despite its small size, the region has a population of over 207,000 people. The seven main islands are Corfu (Kerkyra), Kefalonia, Ithaca, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Paxos and Kythira. The latter, however, is a long distance away and, politically speaking, it belongs to the region of Attica. It differs from the other Ionian Islands regarding landscape and culture. The climate is Mediterranean. The Ionian Islands are among the sunniest Greek islands but it rains relatively often in winter, which is reflected in the islands' lush vegetation.
Nature - Subtle fragrances which make you dream
The Ionian Islands have a very diverse vegetation. Depending on on which of the seven islands you are, you see a sea of olive groves, orange and lemon gardens, cypresses, stone pines and acacias, which fills the air with their pleasant fragrance. The landscapes are diverse too and range from long sandy beaches to forests, limestone cliffs and mysterious grottoes to lower mountain ranges. Due to the heavy showers of rain and the humid and hot summers, Kythira is particularly green. On Zakynthos you find one of the most beautiful beaches in this region, where you can watch the loggerhead sea turtle (Careta caretta).
Culture - Of Venetian towns and fascinating monasteries
When Corfu became part of the Greek cultural sphere in 734 BC, the Ionian islands of Lefkada, Ithaka, Kefalonia and Zakynthos were already permanent features of the early Greek Mycenaean culture. These six islands share their history, culture and architecture, while the seventh main island, Kythira, differs considerably due to its geographical distance. Today, Corfu is one of the most popular travel destinations in Greece and has a lot to offer with regard to culture. Kerkyra's old town, for example, is part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Other attractions on Corfu are Achilleion Palace, the Monastery of Panagia Mirtiotissa (Moni Myrtidion) and the Mouse Island. Ithaca is famous because of Homer's Odyssey and fascinates with its traditional and colourful villages at the seaside. A particularly worthwhile sight is the medieval Kathara Monastery. On Kefalonia, travellers see a great number of scenic villages with old town houses, simply farmhouses and the remains of an ancient city, which bears witness to a lively Roman, Venetian and Byzantine past. Visitors see interesting finds of a prehistoric settlement and tombs on Lefkada. Zakynthos was called the "Flower of the Levant" by the Venetians. Its best-known bay is the Shipwreck Bay (Navagio Bay).
Experience - Various commonalities despite preserved individuality
Travellers who visit the Ionian Islands instantly notice the many influences of the Venetians, British and French, who left their marks here. They are apparent from the scenic architecture of the towns but also from the sacred art, culture, music and from the cuisine. The cuisine of the Ionian Islands is influenced by the Italian one but is often served as original Greek food in tourist areas. The island group has a lot to offer. There are elegant towns, traditional villages, long sandy beaches as well as small bays, fascinating grottoes and caves and crystal clear sea water. If you are looking for tranquillity and relaxation, you will find it in the islands' wonderful green parks. Despite the group's common culture and history, each island has preserved its individuality.
Activities - An eldorado for water sports fans
The Ionian Islands are a true paradise for water sports and leisure activities. Travellers can be active in a number of different ways here. The Ionian Sea offers great conditions for going sailing, diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, swimming, paragliding and wakeboarding. On shore, you can go hiking, cycling, climbing and horseback riding. In addition, holidaymakers can take part in a wine tour or go canoeing and kayaking. The possibilities are nearly unlimited.
You can reach the Ionian Islands by plane or ship. There are airports on the islands of Corfu (CFU), Zakynthos (ZTH), Kefalonia (EFL) and Kythira (KIT). The harbours in Argostoli, Gaios, Kerkyra, Zakynthos and Diakofti can be reached from the Greek mainland, for example from Patras or Piraeus. In addition, there are regular ferry connections from the great Italian harbours.
No matter if you want to see cultural sights, be active or simply enjoy nature - every travellers will find the right island here.