There are seven main Ionian islands, which gives the group its Greek name of Eptanisa, which literally means 'seven islands'. There are also one or two smaller islands such as Antipaxos and Antikythira too. Six of the main islands are in the Ionian Sea, tucked between Greece and Italy, while the seventh, Kythira, stands on its own at the foot of the Peloponnese, not really logically in any of the main Greek island groups.
Corfu and the other Ionian islands have been holiday destinations since at least Roman times, being conveniently located just a short boat ride across the Ionian Sea from Italy. Visitor numbers today are rather higher, especially in resorts such as Kavos and Benitses on Corfu, which opened the floodgates to mass-market cheap tourism aimed at young Europeans who want to party all night, but this aspect of the islands is restricted to a handful of places leaving everywhere else for other people to enjoy.
There is plenty to enjoy. Anyone who has only previously visited the hot Aegean islands will be astonished at just how green the Ionians are. They are incredibly fertile, and vast stretches are buried beneath whole swathes of olive groves, vineyards and citrus trees. This does of course mean they receive more rain than the Aegean islands, and even in summer there can be short showers, while autumn storms are more common than in the Aegean.
When winter disappears, however, the springs here are glorious and recommended to anyone who loves walking amid carpets of wild flowers, perhaps looking for the many species of orchid that grow here.
As with every other group of islands, the Ionians provide enormous contrasts and every kind of traveller ought to be able to find plenty to enjoy. Visit the largest town in the group, Corfu Town, and you will see how much more cosmopolitan it is, more in tune with other European Mediterranean cities thanks to the influence of the French, Venetians and British, who have all ruled here.
Yet an hour or so away from the southern tip of Corfu is little Paxos, with just three small towns and a cluster of little inland communities, and the island where the best olive oil in Greece is said to be made. The next smallest island is Ithaca, but one with a big history as the legendary home of Odysseus.
The other main Ionian islands are all quite large – Lefkada, Kefallonia and Zakynthos – providing variety from mountains to beaches without even leaving their shores. Kythera has historically been one of the Ionian islands, but today it is grouped with the Argo-Saronic islands for administrative purposes, and tucked away on its own at the end of the Greek mainland it is popular with Greek visitors but less known to those from overseas. Those who do venture there will find yet another Greek island adding its individual character to the mix.
We especially love Corfu, though, as we've each written a guide to the island, and we've also written two together: Spiral Corfu and Corfu and Beyond.
Click on the picture or text links below for more information about the individual Ionian Islands.
Hotels on Santorini, Greece, in the Cyclades, range from luxury choices to good cheap accommodation in Fira, with caldera views.
What is Metaxa? Metaxa is an amber Greek spirit combining brandy made by distilling wine, sweet wine from Samos and a secret recipe of Mediterranean botanicals.
The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA), on Monday issued a new Covid-19 aviation directive (NOTAM) with rules for passengers traveling on domestic flights to all destinations in Greece.
All unvaccinated people in Greece from Monday, September 13, will be allowed to board all means of transport for domestic travel between regions (airplanes, ferries, intercity trains and KTEL buses) o…
Greece is among the European countries that have not followed an EU recommendation to curb nonessential travel for visitors from the United States and has kept its borders open for American tourists.
It’s a quiet Tuesday lunchtime when we pass through Eleftheroton Square in Chalandri, one of Athens’s northern suburbs. Anyone living in the surrounding areas knows that this boisterous neighborhood i…
The easternmost part of Crete is full of surprises. Add these spots to your list of things to see and do (map included).
Athens museums, cultural spaces and all forms of art take the spotlight as part of the “Art on the Road” campaign launched by the municipality together with advertising firm Interbus. The initiative d…
The interest of international holidaymakers for Athens has grown stronger during the last few months, with online searches for the Greek capital picking up pace in July compared to the previous months…
The Region of Central Greece agreed on Tuesday to release 40 million euros for the reconstruction of Evia, devasted for over a week earlier this month by wildfires. Funding will go towards anti-floodi…