IONIAN ISLANDS
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  One week

 

IONIAN ISLANDS

Lefkada - Kefalonia - Zakynthos - Ithaca - Scorpios - Nydri - Lefkada

 

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Lefkada

Our starting point is the modern marina of Lefkada, the island that surprises visitors with its variety of landscapes and scenery: its calm eastern side which has seen touristic development; continental-facing, mountainous Lefkada, lush and picturesque; the west coast with its naturally untamed beaches, spectacular waters and vibrant young energy. We climb up to the Monastery of Faneromeni to gaze out at one of the island’s most stunning vistas from up high and then visit the monastery itself, the island’s largest and most important. We then head towards the west with its sandy beaches and deep turquoise blue waters and make a beeline for the beach of Egremni and the world-famous, top-10 beach of Porto Katsiki, with its incredible cliffs that dive straight down into the crystal-clear waters below. We return to the island’s east coast to discover its secluded little beaches that are inaccessible by land, without forgetting to visit Mikro Yialo, yet another of the exquisite beaches that the island boasts.

Kefalonia

We purchase a bag of the island’s famed Eglouvis lentils, some local salami and sausages and depart for Kefalonia: the island of Greek fir trees and black pines in the Mount Ainos national parkland; the island loved by Hollywood stars; the land of good wine and great hiking; Greece’s very own “emerald isle”. We drop anchor in Sami, the island’s main harbor and the location for the filming of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, and take our first dip in Antisamos against a backdrop of lush green. We visit the island’s capital, Argostoli, with its church of Agios Spyridonos and impressive stone bridge of Drapano which crosses the bay. From there we head to Lixouri, the second largest town on the island and then towards the north, so we can anchor in Fiskardo, the Ionian Sea’s most picture-perfect harbor, from where we will surrender ourselves to the magic of the spectacular beach of Myrtos. The island is literally ringed with beautiful, exotic beaches with turquoise blue water, each competing with the others in terms of crystal-clear waters, clean white sand, smooth pebbles and lush green surroundings. In Kefalonia, we get a taste of heaven as well as a taste of the heavenly local cuisine which is so rich and varied. Before our departure, we make a stop to get mandoles: the island’s famed sugar-coated, Rombola-wine soaked roasted almonds.

Zakynthos

Next, we sail towards Zakynthos with its intense blue seas: the welcoming land that gives refuge to Caretta-Caretta sea turtles each year, the “Fior di Levante” “(flower of the east” as the Venetians called it), the land where the national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, wrote the Greek national anthem. Our circumnavigation of Zakynthos begins with the island’s most famous “landmark”, the Shipwreck: a practically inaccessible beach with the shipwrecked hull of an illegal cargo carrying boat called “Panayiotis” sitting among the sand; a beach which also boasts the Monastery of St. George of the Cliffs and its promontory directly above, offering a spectacular view down on the cove and the shipwreck. For divers, there are the majestic blue grottos, while nature enthusiasts will enjoy Askos Stone Park: the 500-hectare natural habitat to dozens of free-roaming wild animals, from goats to turtles, raccoons to llamas. Before leaving Zakynthos behind us, we take a dip in the refreshing waters of Gerakas with its natural clay sculpture-like shapes, and at Limnionas, well-known by divers for its underwater caves, and make sure to stock up on pasteli (naturally delicious sesame-honey candy bars), fritoures (semolina pancakes) and on the fruity local wine.

Ithaca

We next arrive at the island of sailors, the island of Odysseus, the island celebrated by the Greek poet Cavafy, fabled Ithaca: a favorite of many for its tiny coves, deep greens, smooth pebble beaches, stunning neoclassical homes and traditional settlements. Of the dozens of spots of historical importance, we focus our attention on the village of Stavros, believed by some to be the site of the palace of Odysseus, as well as on the Monastery of the Virgin Kathara with its panoramic views of the entire island. Our sailboat affords us the privileged opportunity to reach Gidaki, one of the island’s most magnificent beaches as well as Aspros Yialos and the lonely coves we meet between Frikes and Kioni.

Nydri - Lefkada

We return to Nydri, the fishing village that has become an Ionian destination de rigueur for VIP visitors and tourists from around the world, and from there head across to the island of Scorpios, one of the small lush islands that dot the sea around Ithaca. An island that became synonymous not only with the opulence and glamour but with the tragedy of the powerful family of tycoon Aristotle Onassis as well. We swim in the blue-green sea surrounding Scorpios and then return to Nydri, with its crystalline waters and delightful fish tavernas serving the freshest of fish, seafood and fish-based soups. For the trip back to the marina of Lefkada, we make sure to have soumada (a sweet bitter-almond based drink), avgotaracho (“botargo” or salted cured fish roe) and wine with us. Our journey may be over, but it has also just begun, with images and memories unfolding in our minds until the next time.

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