Ionian Islands information and history
The Southern Ionian Islands – the most popular sailing destination in the Mediterranean for Yacht Charter Holidays.
Sailing in these waters, we find secluded coves, quiet beaches and fabulous, uncrowded sailing days. What a better to explore the Ionian Islands than by a yacht.
BASE – LEFKAS, NIDRI
On the East coast of Lefkas, Nidri (sometimes spelt Nydri) is the island’s main tourist resort. Situated halfway between Lefkada Town (21km north) and Vassiliki (21km South) connected by a road bridge to the mainland. There is a ferry connection to Keffalonia, Nidri has its own ferry port with ferries to Meganisi, Kefalonia, Fiscardo, Frikes and Vassiliki to name but a few.
There are plenty of shops and banks, restaurants and entertainment for the whole family including water sports such as water-skiing and pedalos as well as a 24 hour cash point at Arnies (the expat bar). The local area is quite flat and excellent for gentle cycle rides and walks through the olive groves. Visit the waterfalls near Rahi Village (approx 4km) where you will pass a welcome taverna/grill house (the chef used to work for a Sheik)!! The whole trip takes about 2 hours there and back – or walk around Vlicho Bay which will take you about 45 minutes, further along the road you will reach the Church of Agia Kiriaki on the headland of Geni (Yeni ). Although the white church is opposite Nidri and only a few hundred metres by sea, the journey is about 8 km by land and will take you a good 1 and ½ hours to walk. If you feel energetic, there are walks into the surrounding hills where the spring time flowers and trees are simply beautiful.
Nidri village has a large range of bars and restaurants to suit all tastes. The nightclub is open throughout the summer months only. The gently shelving beaches are pebble and shingle. There is no current in the Ionian Islands and the water warms up quickly during summer.
Sailing into Sivota harbour, you will notice a small, exceptionally beautiful harbour with pretty gift shops, bars and tavernas only a 30 minute road trip from Nidri. Protected by the rugged mountain ranges of the northwest, it is very quiet and peaceful. The hills covered in olive groves above the whitewashed village centre, offer beautiful views across the Ionian Sea overlooking the island of Paxos and the southern tip of Corfu.
On the South side of the island, starts a rural route which includes the abandoned Vrachona traditional settlement taking about 50 minutes to walk. From here you will enjoy beautiful views of islands and even Corfu in the background. The deserted village mingles within the rocky scenery. Olive and almond trees cling to the hillside.
The main beach is not far from Sivota’s village centre, where the soft sand leads to gently to a shelved sea shore and shallow waters. If you are looking for a quiet place to sunbathe, then this is it. South of Sivota lies the beautiful natural park of Acheron River Valley, which has remained unchanged for several centuries. Ancient legends state that Achilles’s mother immersed her son in this ice-cold river to make him immortal and the Acherondas Springs certainly retain a mystical atmosphere.
Port Kalamos is a delightful small village on the east coast of Kalamos that serves as the island’s capital. It is a sleepy little place that depends for its existence on summer business that comes from visiting holidaymakers to the Ionian Islands. There are a few tavernas that open only in the summer months. Family-run, these are restaurants are where you can taste delicious and authentic local food. They will typically greet you on arrival and assist you on berthing your vessel if needed.
The name Kalamos means reed in Greek. Its population was 543 at the 2001 census. The land area is 24.964 km2 (9.639 sq mi) and its highest point is 754 m (2,474 ft) above sea level.
The village of Kefali, also known by its Venetian name Porto Leone was abandoned following the 1953 Ionian earthquake, which destroyed the water supply, but its church is still in use.
The supplies for Port Kalamos still come across from the mainland in a caique, the traditional trading boat of the Ionian islands that is now almost a thing of the past. Visiting Kalamos gives you an opportunity to visit a village that has changed little in decades and to get a feel for the simple life of a traditional Greek island.
Fiscardo is located on the northern tip of Kefalonia in an area so beautiful that the Greek government has protected it by law and is classed as an Ionian Islands favourite for many guests. Around Fiscardo, dense forests reach down to many small coves where pebble beaches meet crystal clear water.
Uniquely in Kefalonia, Fiskardo retains the architecture and ambience of a by-gone era – a time when the Venetians ruled Kefalonia.
The picturesque harbour is surrounded by Venetian-style houses painted in pastel colours, in summer the harbour is filled with vessels from small sailing boats to large yachts all nestled together a few feet from pavement restaurants and cafes specialising in traditional Greek cuisine.
The Town of Stavros – About 17km from Vathy. Altitude – 110 m. Stavros is the capital of northern Ithaca and the main link to the villages of the surrounding area. It stands at the foot of mount Neritos and overlooks the Bay of Polis, the channel and the neighbouring island of Kefalonia. Stavros also contains the small settlements of Pilikata and Kalyvia. The inhabitants of the mountain villages of Anoghi and Exoghi founded the town in the 16th century after pirate attacks on the island stopped.
KEFELONIA, AY EUFEMIA
Ay Eufemia (Aghia Efimia or Agios Euphemia ) is reputed to be one of the most beautiful seaside villages in Kefalonia and was once the main ferry port on Kefalonia island, but after an earthquake in 1953 the town of Sami was developed in its place. Ay Eufimia still has all the facilities you are likely to need on a visit and it is worth venturing ashore and finding the caves which are situated on the road to Sami.
Melissani Cave, Cave of the Nymphs
During the first exploration in 1951, an ancient lamp, which is now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, was found in the cave. The excavations of 1962 were made by S. Marinos and found a few but important relics of a former Minoan culture on Cephalonia. Oil lamps, plates and figures show the god Pan and several nymphs. This is where the cave acquired the name Cave of the Nymphs. The lake was also named after one of the nymphs, Melissani. The lake is surrounded with trees and forest, and is located east of the mountains of Evmorfia and Agia Dynati. The bottom of the lake is covered with stones and plants grow around the opening of the cave. This area is really worth a visit.
Meganisi (Greek: Μεγανήσι, literally “big island”) is a Greek island and municipality immediately to the east-southeast of the island of Lefkada. The municipality includes the offshore islands of Skorpios and Sparti. Its total population was 1,041 at the 2011 census. This island has a small population and limited tourist development. Some of the beaches can only be accessed by boat. Vathy is one of the most picturesque villages in the area and well worth a visit.
Kioni is a picturesque bayside village and well known for the 3 windmills and its spectacular bay views. Neolithic finds in the north of Ithaca date it’s earliest inhabitation back to at least 3000 BC. According to it’s infamous mythology, the island was named after either Ithacus, son of the sea-god ‘Poseidon’ or Ithacis, the son of a Kefalonia king who settled there. It’s earliest settlers lived in the north of the island, but by 1500 BC, southern Ithaca was also inhabited. During the Mycenaean period, Ithaca became the power seat for the Kefalonian state which embraced all the Ionian islands and parts of the Arkarnanian mainland. Ithacas rock formations are made up of mother of pearl and limestone. The island suffers, as do the other Ionian islands, from frequent earthquakes and tremors. There has been no serious earthquake however, since 1953. Ithaca produces it’s own wine and olive oil, cheese, yogurt, free range eggs and goats meat. There is currently no industry for any of the produce grown on the island other than being sold locally to inhabitants restaurants and personal use.
Distance from Vathy – 20 k . The name Frikes is said to have originated either from the ancient god Frikon or from the pirate Frikon who used the bay of Frikes as his base.
The area was uninhabited during the Middle Ages due to the presence of pirates until the end of the 16th century when inhabitants of Exoghi and Stavros felt less threatened by pirate invasions, making mountain living less imperative and coastal living more attractive. They founded Frikes, cultivated the small valley and used the bay for fishing. With the port of Frikes being the closest to the mainland, the island of Lefkas and other smaller islands, Frikes became the port for trade and merchandise supply.
Atokos (Greek: Άτοκος), is a small island off the coast of Acarnania and is one of the most westerly and perhaps remotest of the Echinades islands. It is situated 9 kilometres (6 miles) northeast of Ithaca and 8 kilometres (5 miles) southwest of Kastos and lies just to the north east of the main shipping and ferry Channel between Brindisi in Italy and Patra on the Peloponnese. From larger vessels you can get a reasonable view of the southwestern end (narrow aspect) of the island and its steep cliffs. To approach it and land, requires a private boat and safe anchorage is advisable only in calm weather at one of its two key anchorages; One House Bay on the east coast and Cliff Bay on the south coast. The former being the preferred option as it shelters boats from the prevailing NW winds and has better access to the island via a pebbled beach. It is administered by the municipality of Ithaca but is a private island owned by the shipping magnate Panayiotis Tsakos. For most of the time the island remains uninhabited except for a few goats that roam freely around the island. Visitors are allowed to land if they wish. A must see in the Ionian Islands!
The island has only one village, the homonymous Kastos, located on its east coast. It has a population of about 80, involved mainly in fishing and tourism services. Surrounded by opal seas and beautiful lush green hills, empty beaches, two quiet harbours makes this island a ‘must’ to visit. Just 8 kms long and at its widest, only 1,200 mtrs across, Kastos has a huge appeal to all forms of boating and yachting enthusiasts. Port Kastos, the main harbour, offers safe mooring and has several tavernas. To the south of Kastos there are bays and inlets that are perfect for nautical exploration and overnight mooring alike.
The Ionian Islands are there to be explored by you – Book now – Click here
“We came back for the sixth time to sail with Activity Holidays Greece and loved the chilled out end of season atmosphere. As always the holiday was a fabulous combination of sun, sea and sailing with the bonus of meeting old friends and new for dinner and drinks in the evenings. The Greek islands were stunning Ben and Shannon were skilled people skippers - learning is tailored to your own level of ability and how involved you want to be. - Cath Gregson”
“My best ever holiday. So cool. Great for teenagers and families. I got to spend loads of time with my dad, mates, learning to sail, swimming, sunbathing, snorkelling, diving, surfing on the SUP board etc. Sleeping on deck was brilliant and we stayed somewhere new every day. Superb from start to finish, and I've told dad we should only ever go with Ben”
- H Mitchell
“Awesome week sailing on Sandy G with Ben and my new ship mates.
As a solo traveller Activity Holidays provide the perfect environment to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. This was my third visit this year and the best so far. The skippers know my level and encouraged me to build on my skill and grow in confidence, also some great banter on-board and plenty of laughs during the process.
Under Ben's watchful eye, we did some really technical stuff including friendly racing, goose winging down channel and sailing on and off anchor. Thanks dude, can't wait until next season, I will be back!”
- Grant Stallard