In a Nutshell: What We Love About the Ionian Islands

Seven islands with unique natural landscapes, beaches, caves, waterfalls, and rich, historical traditions. These are the reasons we love the Ionian Islands.

Lefkada: Porto Katsiki and Egremni

As cliché as it sounds, you cannot come to Lefkada and not see the famous beaches of Porto Katsiki or Egremni, at the foot of impressive cliffs. Before setting out, keep in mind that a visit to Porto Katsiki may be a cause for inconvenience since you can rarely find room for your towel – especially if there are waves in the sea. In contrast, Egremni is a very large beach and, even though you have to descend 300 steps to get there, it is worth the trouble. Be sure to stay until sunset and, if you can, spend the night – there are no words.

Read more about Lefkada here.

Zakynthos: The house with its “coloro” 

The village of Exohora dates over five centuries. Many structures still stand following the earthquakes, including an old house with its original “coloro” intact. This is the name of the deep red color they used to paint the outer walls of buildings on the island. They say that the color was the result of mixing horse manure and wine mud from the deep red local wine called Avgoustiatis, and, according to folklore, it protected buildings from the relentless humidity of June. This hue was even used in colored cement, but the last remaining examples of it are gradually disappearing.

Read more about Zakynthos here.

Corfu: The Liston and Spianada Square

From the narrow “kantounia” streets to the wide pavements, and from Spianada to the pedestrian street of Liston, reminiscent of San Marco square in Venice, the city of Corfu offers limitless visual appeal for those visitors who are keen to look into its history. The church of Agios Georgios in the Old Fortress may be Orthodox today, but it used to be an Anglican church. This explains why it was built in the neoclassical style, so visitors can admire an Orthodox church that looks like an ancient Greek temple. The ceiling of Agios Spiridon has nothing to do with Byzantine iconography as it is more like a Renaissance painting, while the Douglas Obelisk, dedicated to the high commissioner Howard Douglas, is a reminder of the time when the island was part of the British empire. Adorning the base, the monument is decorated with an elegant bronze plate depicting a semi-nude woman holding a Cornucopia (horn of abundance).

Read more about Corfu here.

Kefalonia: The beauty of its caves

Due to its close proximity to the Hellenic arc (the most tectonically active region in Europe), Kefalonia has a special geology that includes chasms, sinkholes, dolines and many caves. One example is the Zervati cavern, the collapsed roof of which has created a debris cone in its center, dividing two lakes with brackish water. Drogaratis, with its phantasmagorical, ornate stalactites that make the cave look like a royal theater, is another. However, the most well-known cave of Kefalonia is the one at Melissani. This cave/doline is located in a lake, 20 meters below the ground, where several thousand years ago the most destigmatized of the gods, the goat-like Pan, was worshiped. Archaeologist Spiros Marinatos was involved with the excavation at Melissani where, among other artifacts, a figurine of Pan and a plate with dancing nymphs were found.

Read more about Kefalonia here.

Paxos: Its enormous footprint

An enormous footprint is one of the most well-known artworks in this year’s Paxos Biennale. The FOOTPRINT installation that looks like a giant footprint is located near Mogonissi, spreading over an expanse of 1,000 square meters, and was created by Greek artist The Krank in 15 days. In the spirit of the age, the artist uses the natural landscape as a canvas, which is “sullied” by a human footprint, emphasizing our blatant abuse of nature. The Biennale includes various contemporary artworks such as sculptures, photographs, murals, and installations, which both locals and visitors can enjoy for free.

Read more about Paxos here.

Ithaki: Homer and Agios Nikolaos

Ithaki (or Ithaca) is the island of the stoic queen who, in ancient Greek epic tradition, was renowned for her patience and fidelity. It is the home of nostalgia, departure and reunification, a land that is more of an ideal rather than a tangible place, nestled in the heart of every philhellene who ever studied and loves Homer. The island is a destination that you must visit at least once in your life. In addition to the rich mythology that surrounds it, it is ideal for hiking (with or without a guide), as well as for a visit to Agios Nikolaos of Xenon (of the Foreigners), in Vathi. This is where you will find the icon of “Jesus Elkomenos” depicting scenes from the passion of Christ, visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. It is attributed by many to Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) or to one of his students.

Read more about Ithaki here.

Kythira: The waterfalls and traditional festivals

Here, everyone finds what they are looking for. Sightseeing in the Castle and Hora, in Mylopotamos and the waterfalls. Beach hopping around Avlemonas and Kaladi, as well as the “tougher” western beaches. People watching and nightlife in Kapsali, with hangouts lined along the seaside promenade. Nights on the beach with music and beers for those who opt for camping on one of the coastlines. With strong connections with the land and its traditions echoed in the summer panigyria (traditional festivals), the well-known ladopaximada (olive oil rusks), the small cafes in the villages and in the market selling traditional products every Sunday at Potamos, Kythera literally has something for everyone. 

Read more about Kythira here.

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