The Ionian Islands stretch southwards from the Albanian coast towards the southern tip of the Peloponnese, lying off the west coast of mainland Greece. Scattered in the Ionian Sea, which on some charts is also called the Adriatic, the main islands of the chain, from north to south, are Corfu, Paxos, Levkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia and Zakynthos.
The climate here is very different from the stark barrenness of the Cycladic isles and this makes chartering a superyacht in the Ionian Islands much more enjoyable, with mild winds, crystal clear blue waters and predictable weather patterns that create perfect sailing conditions.
The above-average annual rainfall results in a green, lush landscape, with mountainsides carpeted in orchids and wildflowers, interspersed with olive groves and cypresses in the springtime. Winters are mild and wet, but the summer months can be extremely hot as the islands do not receive the meltemi wind that cools the Aegean Islands.
Day 1: Corfu
After you fly in to the International Airport, your crew will bring you to your waiting yacht in the NAOK yacht club on the south side of the Old Fortress. You might like to take a drive to Corfu Town, the capital, which is beautifully situated on a promontory on the east coast, dominated by the Neo Frourio (New Fortress).
Your lunch stop is likely to be at Garitsa Bay, and in the afternoon you can go ashore and visit the ancient city further south, then take a drive on the road running above the seafront that passes the old royal palace. Another attractive excursion is to the villa of Akhillion, further south.
This Italian-styled Renaissance building is situated in the hills and offers panoramic views from its magnificent gardens. The remains of a Roman villa lie further south in the charming fishing village of Benitses. The island has something to offer everyone from the lively nightlife of Kos to the excellent sandy beaches and the rugged mountains.
Chartering here offers you the opportunity to view loggerhead sea turtles in Zakynthos, party the night away at Corfu’s notorious Pink Palace complex, enjoy walking trails and traditional mountain villages on Levkas, and relax on any number of beautiful unspoiled beaches or follow in the footsteps of Homer’s Odysseus on Ithaca.
Levkas boasts one of the top windsurfing resorts in Europe, while Cephalonia’s magnificent Myrtos Beach is widely regarded as being the loveliest in the Mediterranean. The two best-known islands in the chain are Corfu and Cephalonia, which unwittingly acquired an army of fans worldwide after the publication of the book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the subsequent movie. Each of the Ionians has its own distinct character – between them, they provide the perfect playground for a superyacht charter.
Breakfast will be served during a pleasant morning cruise to Anti Paxos, a tiny island with a great anchorage. Sheltered waters make this an excellent spot to launch the water toys and have some fun in the sun. Later you may take a relaxing stroll to enjoy the beauty of the serene shoreline. Take advantage of the soothing atmosphere and spend the night here.
The next morning, you’ll head southwards 30 miles towards the mountainous island of Levkas with its stretches of golden beach. The island lies off the Playia Peninsula in Acarnania, from which it is separated by a shallow lagoon. A range of hills, the largest of which is Mount Stavrotas, dominates the island and runs in a southwest direction, ending at Cape Dhoukatou.
In Greek mythology, it was from this location, on a promontory called Leucadian Rock, that Sappho flung herself for love of the handsome Phaon. With yacht docked in Lefkas town or Nydri you will enjoy a lazy day here – it’s a gorgeous spot for sunbathing on the beach and enjoying the water for the afternoon.
It’s hard to leave Cephalonia, which is perhaps the most beautiful of all the stunning Ionian Islands, but you must in order to head north and visit yet more lovely islands… Your destination is Paxos, an island so tiny and packed with trees and shrubs that it almost seems as if you’re are wandering through a garden as you walk up the hill to tour the Venetian castle that dominates the island.
At the end of the charter you’ll head back to Corfu; it may be one of the most popular Greek islands yet it’s still possible to find many places still untouched by mass tourism and the accompanying crowds. Before heading to the airport, pick up a few souvenirs in busy Corfu Town.
7 days in the Ionian Islands on a luxury yacht
About 50 miles away from Zakynthos, Kephalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, yet has only 32,000 residents who work in the tourist trade and farm the limestone mountains that rise to the 5,341 foot Mount Ainos. Despite the annual influx of visitors, the island is so big it’s still possible to get away to places where you are unlikely to meet a soul for days.
In a catastrophic earthquake in 1953, entire towns and villages were destroyed, more than 600 people died and thousands where injured. If you’re interested in archaeology, there are excavations of Mycenean graves that shed light on a civilization developed thousands of years ago.
For those who do not share this passion, take a tour of the island to take in the peaceful town of Lixouri, the beaches on the south side and the sociable capital of Argostoli.