Which Ionian island is right for you?

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Mary Novakovich

Mary Novakovich

With 277 inhabited islands in Greece, it's tough enough to whittle down your choice for a holiday unless you want to do some serious island-hopping.

Which Ionian island is right for you? © Balate Dorin - Adobe Stock Image
Which Ionian island is right for you? © Balate Dorin - Adobe Stock Image

Even if you just stick with the six main Ionian Islands* along Greece's west coast, there's so much variety that you might need some help picking your next holiday spot.

Getting to the Ionian Islands: check out the latest deals on holidays to these Greek islands and more with TUI*.

Corfu

The best-known of the Ionian Islands, Corfu* is the most developed as a tourist hot spot. But it's easy to find quieter parts of the island, the sort you would recognise from watching The Durrells television series.

Before you hit the beaches, get to know Corfu Town, a fascinating mix of Byzantine, Venetian and British history culminating in two hulking great forts. Its narrow, colourful lanes are stuffed with shops and cafés.

If you want to find yourself in parts of Corfu that Gerald Durrell would still find familiar, head to Kalami on the northeast coast. In the village you can see the White House where Lawrence Durrell lived, now a taverna and an apartment to rent.

Kalami Bay Corfu, where Lawrence Durrell lived © Sangriana - Adobe Stock Image
Kalami Bay Corfu, where Lawrence Durrell lived © Sangriana - Adobe Stock Image

This stretch of indented coast harbours little coves and beaches including Kouloura, Agni and Agios Stefanos, all equally delightful to explore by boat.

Outdoorsy types might want to tackle some or all of the 200 km-long Corfu Trail, which snakes along the entire island, passing some of Corfu's highest peaks and loveliest beaches.

Kefalonia

The biggest of the Ionian Islands also has some of the most dramatic landscapes, with rugged limestone cliffs towering over sandy beaches.

Kefalonia*'s lively capital, Argostoli, is in the southern part of the island, which is also where you'll find the most popular resorts including Lassi, Skala and Poros.

The port of Sami might ring bells for anyone who's seen the film version of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which was set in Kefalonia. And the nearby beach at Antisamos, wedged in between two headlands, is one of the loveliest on the island.

Head north to find an altogether more relaxed atmosphere. The finger of land that ends in the attractive town of Fiskardo harbours numerous beautiful beaches, notably Myrtos Beach beneath sheer limestone cliffs, and Agia Kiriaki.

Paxos

Tiny Paxos* and its minuscule neighbour Antipaxos give the impression that little has changed on these islands for decades. It helps that development has been kept in check; you won't find high-rise hotels and resorts here, nor any nightclubs.

Instead, its laid-back, Venetian-style fishing villages, terraces of olive groves and dozens of pebbly beaches squeezed into its indented coastline all add to its allure and sense of timelessness.

Yachts in the harbour at Gaios, Paxos © Olena Korol - Dreamstime.com
Yachts in the harbour at Gaios, Paxos © Olena Korol - Dreamstime.com

Sailors love the deep harbour in the northernmost village of Lakka, while pretty Loggos is full of charm and pastel houses lining its harbour.

Gaios, the capital, has a pleasant buzz and is the place to jump on a boat to Antipaxos. That's the cue for a lazy day of cruising along the coast, nipping into caves and dropping anchor for a swim here and there before pottering over to the sandy beach at Antipaxos.

Lefkas

Lefkas* (also known as Lefkada) is one of the more unusual Ionian islands, starting with the fact that it's attached to the mainland by a pontoon bridge and a long causeway that meanders past a lagoon.

You immediately hit Lefkas Town, where you can walk to sandy beaches around the lagoon including Agios Ioannis and its picturesque windmills.

Pefkoulia Beach, Lefkas © Netfalls - Adobe Stock Image
Pefkoulia Beach, Lefkas © Netfalls - Adobe Stock Image

For real drama, carry on further down the west coast, whose sheer cliffs rise majestically over some of the most gorgeous beaches in the Ionian Islands, among them Kathisma, Avali, Megali Petra and Gialos.

Over on the east coast, the port of Nydri is the place to catch boats to Kefalonia, Ithaca and Lefkas's satellite island of Meganisi, whose west coast is quite breathtaking.

Zante

Navagio, Zante's poster boy for Greece's beaches, is the epitome of a seductive castaway cove. Sparkling turquoise waters, jaw-dropping limestone cliffs, even a shipwreck obligingly perched on the smooth white pebbles, all accessible by boat only. How romantic can you get?

But there's much more to Zante*, also known as Zakynthos. If you're in the mood for a non-stop party, join the revellers in the clubs in Laganas in the south of the island.

The drama of Navagio Beach, Zante © Sokoban - Wikimedia Commons
The drama of Navagio Beach, Zante © Sokoban - Wikimedia Commons

For something quieter, head further south to Vasilikos and nearby Gerakas Beach. To see some of Zante's greatest wonders, take a boat trip from Zante Town that slowly goes around the island, stopping in Navagio for a swim and exploring the vivid depths of the Blue Caves.

Ithaca

The mythical home of Odysseus is an alluringly sleepy, untouristy place separated from its bigger, busier neighbour Kefalonia only by a narrow channel, but it seems like a world away.

You won't find as many beaches as on the other islands in the chain, but the pebbly coves squeezed into Ithaca's strangely shaped coast are wonderfully chilled-out places to swim in incredibly clear waters.

The main town of Vathy is agreeably mellow, its deep bay within a bay making the harbour feel even more cocooning and sheltered.

If you're on two wheels and love the thought of careering on hair-raising hairpin turns, follow the squiggling road along the isthmus that connects the northern part of the island. It's even wilder and more remote up here.

Weather in the Ionian Islands

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

The above guide shows the weather in Kefalonia, however, you can find out even more about conditions across the other Ionian Islands in our complete weather guide to Greece.

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Mary Novakovich

Mary Novakovich
Posted on Saturday 22nd January 2022 in: Beach Europe Excursions Summer

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