There is no place like the beautiful Greek Ionian Islands. The Mediterranean is not only renowned for its ancient history and civilization. But also the islands of the Greek archipelago; are its crowning jewel. These islands crowd the northeast part of the Mediterranean, sparkling in the sun. There are 3000 of them, yet only 140 of these islands have inhabitants. Most the islands are in the Aegean. The sea that lies between Greece and Asia Minor. But many also lie to the west, set between Italy and Greece.
Beautiful Greek Islands History
The rich and ancient history of the islands stretches back over four thousand years. Spanning countless generations and several unique civilizations. All the islands are beautiful, but each one has its own charm and history. Almost all have a natural beauty, with lazy coastlines and dazzling white beaches. The blue sea that sits along their coastlines ruffled in the summer by the cooling wind. There are villages, gazing at the sea from on high. Also castles, churches, and even monasteries are on many of the populated islands. The natural beauty is not the only draw to these islands, however. Another is the kind-hearted residents who welcome you in their melodious voices. Allowing you to experience their culture and bask in their world.
Cruise the Ionian Islands
Corfu, Paxoi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Kythera. The Ionian Islands (or Heptanesos, the Seven Islands) have stood apart since the days of old. With fertile land, mild climate, and forested mountains. They have being drawing in people for thousands of years. Archaeological finds have shown that the first inhabitants came there in the Stone Age. Their lofty white cliffs that stand above a blue and tranquil sea. The beautiful snow-white beaches below, have helped bring people from far and wide.
The area flourished in the Mycenaean period. Then the Greeks went off for the Trojan War. The Ionian Islands came under Roman rule in 146 B.C. and later Byzantium. Venetians occupied them in 1386 and stayed for 400 years. Venetian occupation ended in 1797. After the triumph of Napoleon and the islands where occupied by the French. In 1799 the Russo-Turkish fleet took the islands from the French. Several treaty’s where then signed and the islands where under a British protectorate. An earthquake in 1953 destroyed three of the island civilizations: Zakynthos, Cephalonia, and Ithaca, but the islands where rebuilt.
Many travellers have visited the island of Corfu and spoken with enthusiasm about its natural beauty. Also the politeness and culture of its inhabitants. Furthermore, Corfu has gone from being an island with a population of farmers. To an international tourist centre. Corfu also owes its development to its geographical position, and its natural beauty. On the north west coast of mainland Greece. Which is opposite the coast of Epirus and Albania? It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. With an area of 592 sq. km, a coastline of 217 km, and a population of over 97,000. The highest mountain is Pantokrator at 906 meters. It commands the northern section of the island. Saint Spyridon is the patron saint of the island Corfu. It is a tradition that on the island the first son in every family is name Spiro after their saint.
If you are looking to stay in Corfu, either before or after your yacht charter holiday then contact Prestige Villas.
Covered in olive trees, this is a beautiful little island. It has idyllic coves and picturesque harbours. There is over 300,000 olive trees on the island. At only 25 sq kilometers it is one of the smallest Ionian Islands – that’s impressive. The island is so small that its tallest peak. Ayios Isavros is only 250 meters high. It is just 7 miles south of Corfu. 32 nautical miles from Corfu town harbour, and 12 nautical miles from Parga on the mainland. The inhabitants of Paxoi, of which number around 2,500. Most of them are working at producing Olive oil, or fishing and tourism. There are four main anchorages on the island: Lakka, Longos, Gaios (the main harbour) and Mongonisi. The rugged west coast has no safe anchorages. Although in calmest conditions, it is a pleasant sail around there to see the steep cliffs and caves.
Just south of Paxoi is the small island of Antipaxoi. It covers 5 sq. km. and has only 120 inhabitants. It has the most beautiful sand beaches, the brightness blue sea and clearest water.
White cliffs sit along the whole western coast of this island. Which is how it got the name Lefkada (“The White One”)? Lefkada has seas in shades of turquoise and some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, according to a recent internet poll. On the eastern coast is the well know islet of Skorpios which belonged to the Greek shipping magnet Aristotle Onassis. On the south side of this islet you can see the small beach villa, which Jackie Onassis had built as a place to get away from it all.
Joined to the coast of Western Greece, Lefkada was a peninsula until the 7th century B.C., when Corinthian colonists dug a channel and separated it from the mainland. Connected now by a floating swing bridge, which opens every hour to allow the many charter yachts to pass by.
Lefkada is the fourth largest of the Ionian Islands and has an area of 803 sq. km. and a coastline of 117 km. with a population of 23,000, who work at farming and tourism. A mountainous island, with the highest peak being Mt. Stavrota at 1,158 meters. The islands main products are olive oil and wine. It is the largest wine producer of all the Ionian Islands. Many of the visitors to the Island of Lefkada come back to visit the island again year after year. Drawn by some irresistible romantic force which pulls them back.
The Inland Sea
The Inland sea is the area of water enclosed by the Greek islands of Lefkada, Cephalonia and Zakynthos on the West and the mainland on the East. Other islands are in and around the Inland sea and to some extent it resembles a huge lake with land on three sides. It is a wonderful cruising area, one of the best in Greece. So it should be no surprise, it is a popular cruising area for yachts. Despite the number of charter boats here. There are so many harbours and anchorages all around the inland sea. That there is always enough room for one more.
Known throughout the world as the island of Odysseus. The hero of Homer’s The Odyssey. Who after fighting for ten whole years at Troy. Needed another ten to return to his kingdom and his wife Penelope who was waiting for him. Ithaca is a small island in the Ionian Sea with an area of 96 sq. km. and a coastline of 101 km. It lies northeast of Cephalonia and a strait, 3-5 kilometers wide runs between them. It is a mountainous island, green, with lovely deep bays. Mt. Merovoulos, 552 meters high dominates the south section with both rocks and greenery. Covered in Arbutus trees and the Monastery of Kartharon is Mt. Neritos, in the north at 806 meters high. The 3,200 inhabitants work in farming and fishing. Its main products are olive oil and wine.
Cephalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands with the highest mountain, Mt. Ainos (1,628 meters). 35,800 people call the island home, most of whom are fishermen. Cephalonia is a wealthy and fertile island, famed for its wine, called Robola. Producing Robola cannot keep up with the popular demand. Also known for its honey and soft cheese, Myzithra. The island has an area of 781 sq. km. and a coastline of 254 km.
Since days of old, this island has exercised a great charm on visitors. The Venetians called it Zante, the Flower of the East. The number of visitors to this island increases by the year. They go to the island to admire the icons and the beautiful wall paintings, also to visit the museums. But above all, visitors enjoy the marvelous sandy beaches, the dream like caves and the incredible colour of the sea.
Zakynthos is 8 nautical miles south of Cephalonia. Covered with olive trees, citrus trees and vineyards. It has an area of 402 sq. km. and a coastline of 123 km. Its 45,000 inhabitants, work in farming and tourism. The eastern section of the island is flat, including many sandy shores. The western side is mountainous with exceptional views. Also rocky coasts which descend into the sea. The highest peak is Mt. Brachiosaurus (756 meters.)
According to mythology Kythera, which is an island unknown too many, is the birthplace for Aphrodite. The goddess of beauty and love. One thing that is clear, and that is that Kythera is not only addressed to those in love but also to all those who are seeking a quiet shore to relax on. The approximate 3,500 inhabitants live off of animal husbandry, cultivation of vegetables and olive trees. It has an area of 278 sq. km. and a coastline of 52 km. Covered with low mountains, the highest of which is Mermygaris, and it does not exceed 500 meters.
The vegetation and climate go hand in hand with the geographic diversity of Greece: the variety of vegetation is extraordinary. As a matter of fact over 6000 indigenous plants are recorded to date. This impressive quantity results from the geographic positioning of Greece, between the continents of Europe and Africa. The trees for example are of medium size where you will find various species of pines, oaks, olive, fruit and palms in abundance.
The most prevalent characteristic of the climate in Greece is the ever present sunshine. There are over 3000 sun hours per year. The heat in the summer can be very strong, in the southern islands, with water temperatures reaching 28 °C. Greek people are lucky enough to enjoy mild winters, but they still get a fair bit of rain. ‘Meltemia’ is a seasonal breeze which cools the boiling, dry Greek summers.
Greek wine is a source of a mystery to most western oenophiles. Few have ever encountered before so many grape varieties, found in Greece. The production is so inconsistent that wines vary from year to year. Storing wine is unknown and most wine is new wine. Until 1969 there was no real government control of wines of a specific origin.
In particular, Greek oenology is on the mend. Also given the climatic conditions and the interesting grape varieties. Furthermore, a few of the wine producers are now getting excellent results. They have imported new wine-making technology and nurtured their product. Making, the future of Greek wine making good. We are seeing a renaissance in Greek oenology that may well return to its ancient elevated status. Vines for wine-making have been growing in Greece for many a millennium. In fact, before anyone in France or Spain had ever seen or heard of the plant or its production. Greek viticulture, established sometime around the 13th to the 12th centuries BC. Try these 6 Ionian Islands wines.
© Clifford Blaylock, Deep Blue Yachting, 2020