Ionian Island Hopping Options
The Ionian Islands are anchored in the sunshine and bright blue seas off the western coast of Greece, but with their olive groves, vineyards and sophorific scent of jasmine, their colouring is more the warm flavour of Tuscany than the crisp white of the other Greek Islands.
The Ionian lifestyle has been influenced by the island's former rulers, including the British, French and Venetians, as well as by the characters from Homer's Greece; the ferries run to Corfu out of Venice as well as Athens, and the time tables have an archaic look of having been influenced by too many hands - a look that the islands themselves seem to have escaped. The islands blend their style: offering cricket on one, Parisian boulevards on another, and Hellenic and Byzantine ruins on a third, but the ferry links are less seamless; it's tricky to get between the northern and southern islands, but there's a service between Kefalonia and Zakynthos, and Corfu and Paxi, and the southern islands of Ithaca, Lefkada and Kefalonia have a good service between them. Different companies run services on different routes, the trick is to be patient and plan ahead. Which is what these itinerary suggestions offer: Three ways to see the best of the Ionian Islands.
The Long Way Round: Three Weeks Plus
Each of these itineraries begins in Corfu, which, as well as being one of the most famous and most popular islands, also has some of the best transport links. This green island was Odysseus' final stop on his way home, which is probably where people first got the idea that its cypress trees, olive groves, wildflowers and sandy beaches would make it a nice place to visit. It is popular with tourists, so plan carefully if you'd like to have Corfu Castle, the Corfu Archaeological Museum, and the beaches and pretty old town to yourself.
This itinerary is a shortened version that visits the big name Ionian islands, finishing with Zakynthos, famed for the rocky sights above and below the waterline. Above ground there are all sorts of natural rock bridges and craggy peaks, underwater these translate into breathtaking diving terrain.
This is the abridged Ionian hop, finishing with a bus trip of all things, across the land bridge between Lefkada and the mainland. You should be able to get around this itinerary in a comfortable two weeks, including hiring a car or scooter on one or more islands, and maybe a day trip or two out to sea to some of the tiny rocky atolls surrounded by all that lovely, inviting blue.
Corfu, Kefallonia and Zakynthos all have airports, and Lefkada has one very nearby on the mainland.
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