Ionian islands (Corfu, Ithaca, etc.), Greece
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Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know…?
- The waters around the Ionian islands are the deepest (up to 14,455 feet) in the Mediterranean.
- Britain’s Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born on Corfu (1921).
- Odysseus (aka, Ulysses), hero of Homer’s “Odyssey,” was the legendary king of Ithaca.
- Levkas is surrounded by 24 islets, including Aristotle Onassis’ Skorpios.
- The movie, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” was shot on Cephalonia (2001).
Deep and cool waters
The Ionian islands sit in the Ionian Sea to the west of the Greek mainland. The group’s largest islands are Cephalonia, Corfu, Ithaca, Kithira, Levkas, Paxos and Zakinthos. Kithira is some distance south of the main Ionian archipelago, at the foot of the Peloponnese.
They are loved for a temperate climate, the deep and cool Ionian waters, their mountains and rugged landscapes, countless well-equipped beaches plus a cross-section of historical monuments, fishing villages and charming town centers that date back centuries.
They boast a well-developed hotel infrastructure, eateries serving traditional foods and local wines, engaging museums and annual cultural events of touristic interest.
- Cephalonia, the largest, boasts the only national park in the Greek islands, a mountainous destination good for hiking. A Venetian citadel is a key landmark. The island offers rugged coastal scenery, a good selection of water sports and beautiful beaches.
- Corfu is noted for rugged mountains, millions of olive trees, miles of sandy beaches and its hidden coves. Highlights include wandering the narrow alleys of the historic center in Corfu Town, visiting the monastery and its museum at Paleokastritsa and chilling at one of the outdoor cafes.
- Ithaca is a relaxing destination with pleasant villages, good snorkeling and a cave worth a special trip. It is the Grotto of Nymphs; in antiquity, its lake was a place of worship.
- Kithira’s capital Chora features a medieval castle, historic churches (including one in a cave) and the Archaeological Museum.
- Levkas has one of the largest marinas in the Ionian islands. Levkas has the requisite churches and monasteries, picturesque villages, idyllic coves and sandy beaches with plenty of water sports. It also is linked to the mainland via a floating bridge.
- Paxos is a quiet island with olive groves and vineyards. Sailors making rounds in their yachts like to drop anchor in its sheltered bays.
- Zakinthos is known, in part, for the endangered sea turtles that nest on a popular beach. The fact this was once Venetian territory is still obvious in the architecture. Top attractions include a museum of religious art, the church of St. Dionysos and the Venetian citadel, which overlooks the sea.
Things to do for Venturers
- Because of wind conditions in the Ionian Islands, many of the group’s beaches have windsurfing centers. Choose one.
- Come for Carnival on Corfu, an event heavily influenced by the Venetians, former overlords. Corfu is unique in Greece for never having been taken over by the Ottoman Turks.
- Make appropriate use of the mountain biking trails on Ithaca. Hiking and scuba diving are options, too.
- Choose Corfu or Levkas as the starting point for a sailing tour in the Ionian Islands. Sample the nightlife on these islands, as well.
- On Levkas, go kite surfing at Myloi Beach or paragliding over Kathisma Beach.
- Taste tsitsibira, a kind of beer made only on Corfu. Ingredients are lemon juice, natural lemon oil, freshly grated ginger, water and sugar. Or help with an olive harvest on Cephalonia or Kithira.
Things to do for Centrics
- Hike on Mount Ainos, on the island of Cephalonia. Take note of small, semi-wild horses in this area.
- On Zakinthos, look for and watch out for the endangered sea turtles at Laganas Beach while taking care not to disturb nesting areas. Also, visit the island’s Museum of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Religious Art.
- Choose Ithaca for your snorkeling.
- Attend the International Folklore Festival on Levkas in August. Time this to see the reenactment of a traditional wedding in the village of Karya around the middle of the month.
- Or, make that a timed visit to Corfu for one of four remarkable annual religious processions, during which the body of the island’s patron saint, St. Spyridon, is carried through the streets. The city’s philharmonic bands accompany the processions.
- Stay at a guesthouse on the grounds of a vineyard or in a nearby village and get acquainted with local wines. The largest islands all have grape-growing areas.
Things to do for Authentics
- In Corfu Town’s Spianada Square, watch a cricket game or attend a musical concert.
- Include the museums on Ithaca. In the village of Vathy, consider the Maritime and Folkloric Museum or the Archaeological Museum.
- On Cephalonia, the largest island in the Ionian Sea (302 square miles), celebrate the local wine at a festival in the village of Frangata (third Saturday in August). Take time for the view from the Venetian citadel at Assos.
- Nod in the direction of all those olive trees on the islands with a visit to the Corfu Olive Museum.
- Relax on any of numerous beautiful beaches found among these islands. Examples are Makris Gialos and Myrtos Bay on Cephalonia or at Paleokastritsa on Corfu.
- In Corfu Town, stroll through and admire the Venetian quarter. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For more information, consult the Greek National Tourism Organization at www.visitgreece.gr