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

Corfu > Ithaca > Kefalonia > Lefkada > Parga > Paxos

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.
Ithaca is the next stop, it was Odysseus' home, which it's still famed for, and both then and now it's famous for the sandy bays, deep harbour and pretty, traditional villages on green mountainsides. Some of the prettiest mountain towns have been abandoned for the more modern and tourist-centric lifestyle of the coast, but their architecture is protected by law so visitors are treated to beautiful ghost towns.
Kefalonia, the largest Ionian island, and where 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' was filmed, is the next stop, for, among other wonders, Antisamos Beach. As one of the group's largest islands, Kefalonia needs some kind of transport to mount proper explorations, alternatively it's the kind of place to stay still and stay up late.
The ferry trip to Lefkada is a short and regular one, and will land you on another large island best explored on the back of a scooter. Some of the beaches are pebbly, and some sandy and framed by cliffs, like Porto Katsiki: a wedge of white cliff and blue sea that's one of the most photographed beaches in Europe. Windsurfing and sea kayaking are other good ways to pass the time on Lefkada, you could even kayak over to the next stop Parga - on the mainland, but interesting for its history.
Paxos, 20kms to the west is the final hop before going back to Corfu. After the larger, more lively islands it's nice to finish with something quieter and more picturesque – the little port towns of Paxos are nothing if not photogenic. The beaches are those ones with the large, flat, pale stones that make the water look extra aqua, but there are a few man made beaches if your feet crave soft sand. On the island’s western side the coast is a lot more dramatic, it rises and falls and opens with caves, coves and cliffs, creating the perfect setting in which to finish reading your Homer.

Ionian Highlights

Corfu > Ithaca > Lefkada > Kefalonia > Zakynthos

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.

Ionian Fortnight

Corfu > Ithaca > Kefalonia > Lefkada > Athens

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.

Get Help Booking your Ionian Island Hop

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