The sapphire waters of the Ionian Sea welcome you to paradise. Kefalonia, Corfu, Zante, Lefkada, Ithaca, and Paxi. All of these holiday destinations are wonderful. The major islands of the Ionian lived for centuries under Venetian rule and it shows in their castles and churches. Carpeted with olive trees, pines and vineyards, they are fertile and green, a stunning setting for their award-winning white-sand beaches and peacock-blue waters. You’ll also find that the hospitable citizens have music in their souls. On land, you’ll want to explore the monasteries and mountain villages and seek out waterfalls, hiking trails and scenic routes by car or motorbike. Nature lovers can retire to the wetlands for birdwatching or the marine parks for glimpses of elusive monk seals and Loggerhead turtles. As for sailing or cruising, there’s no better place than the Ionian, where the winds are favourable the anchorages safe. Kite and windsurfers already regard the Ionian as THE prime location for their sports.
Celebrated exotic beaches Award winners, the stunning beaches of Lefkada – Engremni, Porto Katsiki, Kathisma – and the Shipwreck beach on Zante are famous the world over. Voutoumi and Vrika on Antipaxi are beloved by boat owners, while Schinos on Ithaca is where the elite meet. Myrtos, on Kefalonia, appears on many posters, its white crescent lapped by milky blue waters and framed by towering cliffs. Then there’s Kaladi on Kythera, and of course Corfu’s much-photographed Paleokastritsa. The Ionian islands have countless other large and small beaches, with a full range of facilities and watersports.
Lands of myths and colourful traditions Mediaeval castles and monasteries, storied buildings and excellent museums – testaments to the rich culture and history of the Ionian islands. On Corfu, Homer’s kingdom of the Phaeacians, popular sights are the city’s Old and New Venetian Forts, the Achillion palace built by Sissy, empress of Austria, and Mon Repos. Outstanding museums include the Asian Art collection in the Palace of St Michael and St George, the Archaeology Museum, the Municipal Gallery and others. Also famous are the island’s marching bands in full regalia, their unusual Easter customs and the processions in honour of patron Saint Spyridon.
On Lefkada you will find one of the most impressive mediaeval buildings in Greece and the island’s most significant attraction, the sturdy 14th century castle of Santa Maura, which guards the entrance across the lagoon from the mainland. Throughout the main town, you’ll notice wonderful examples of 17th and 18th century Ionian baroque churches. Kefalonia too has impressive attractions, such as Venetian fortresses, Mycenaean tombs, Roman mosaics and baroque churches, while Argostoli’s Corgialenios Museum and Library are among the best in Greece. On Zante, the basilica and bell tower of Agios Dionysios remind one of Venice, and the monastery of Agios Georgios ton Gremnon above Shipwreck bay is beautifully preserved. Fans of Byzantine architecture will also want to venture to the Strofades islands, 37 nautical miles off Zante, to see the impressive 13th century monastery fortress there.
Enjoy windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing in the Ionian islands The larger Ionian Islands are champions when it comes to watersports. Every year Lefkada draws more and more wind- and kitesurfers who find their nirvana at the beaches of Vasiliki and Myli, ranked by some as the best in the Med. Sailors based in Nydri, set off for the nearby smaller islets of Meganisi, Kalamos and Kastos. North of Corfu, the Diapontia islands are very popular destinations with sailors who then make the round of Corfu before heading south to Paxi. Antipaxi, Kioni on Ithaca and Kefalonia’s Fiskardo are beloved destinations for sailing in the Ionian. Indeed, the whole of the Ionian is truly a boon to sailors all summer long. And for those who love to walk or cycle, each island has well-marked trails through green mountains and varied scenery, including the fabulous, 220 km long Corfu trail. Corfu also boasts an 18-hole golf course at Ermones, in the Ropa valley, which besides being challenging and fun, is also one of the biggest in Europe.
Unique cuisine and dishes that have the aroma of the Ionian Sea The Ionian islands will surprise you with their wealth of culinary experience. These islands stand out for their cosmopolitan and sophisticated flavours that characterise their unique cuisine. The most famous dishes from the Corfiot kitchen are sofrito (slow-cooked veal with garlic and parsley), bianco (fish in a white sauce), bourdeto (piquant fish stew) and pastitsada, a rich ragout of veal or chicken with thick pasta. Keep a look out for ginger beer and kumquat liqueur, exclusive to Corfu. In Lefkada and Zante, dinners are frequently accompanied by strolling musicians, who fill the air with delightful Italian-sounding cantadas. On Kefalonia, the piece de resistance is a rich meat pie with lots of extras, on Zante it’s salsa, meat stew with cheese. Here the locals will also offer you a local nougat delicacy called mantolato – and if they don’t, just ask for it!
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