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Ionian Islands - Greece



 

Ionian Islands

Just to the west of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands have an air of the mysterious etched into their rugged mountains, patchwork farmland, shimmering olive groves, and pristine beaches, all surrounded by an endless expanse of green or blue sea. Covetous invaders have conquered and re-conquered these isles: Venetians, British, French, and Russians have all left cultural and architectural fingerprints behind. Today the islands are a favorite among Western Europeans and ferry-hopping backpackers heading to Italy. Multicultural for millennia, each of the Ionian Islands possesses a unique identity and singular beauty.

Homer first sang Corfu's praise, writing of its "honied fig," "unctuous olive: and "boisterous waves"; since then, Goethe, Wilde, the Durrell brothers, Sisley, and Lear have all thrown in their two cents about Corfu's perfection. Handed down from the Franks to the Venetians to the British to today's tourist hordes, Corfu (also called Kerkyra) has captivated them all. As in most of Greece's beautiful places, those who stray from the beaten path encounter unspoiled, uncrowded beaches. Try the less frenetic resorts at Pelekas, Kalami, or Agios Stefanos, or make Corfu Town your daytripping base. Even party-central Corfu holds hidden mountain villages and traditional coastal towns, where olive groves blanket the hills and you can hear the leaves rustle in the absence of rumbling tour buses.

Thucydides reports that Lefkada was part of the mainland until 427 BC, when the inhabitants dug a canal and made their home an island. A modern bridge now con¬nects Lefkada to the mainland, just 50m away; it only recently replaced an archaic chain-operated ferry built by Emperor Augustus. Modern Lefkadians are devoted to the business of tourism. Souvenir shops and overpriced restaurants abound, especially in Nidri, which is mostly composed of tourist traps and a profusion of liquor stores. Still, miles of white-sand beaches and astonishing natural beauty remain; with a little effort, you can skirt the patches of tacky tourism and find the island's unspoiled secrets.

The least touristed and perhaps the most beautiful of the Ionian Islands, Ithaka retains a close-knit feel and is happily Greek amid heavily-touristed neighbors. Those who discover Ithaka delight in the island's undeveloped pebbled beaches, rocky hillsides and terraced olive groves. Tiny villages packed with colorful homes surround the many natural harbors on the island, where the ambling pace of local life creates a much more relaxing and quiet atmosphere than that found on nearby Kephalonia or Lefkada. Ithaka was the kingdom that Odysseus left behind to fight in the Trojan War (and to wander ten years on his way home). His wife Penelope faithfully waited 20 years for his return here, while crowds of suitors pressed for her hand-and Odysseus's kingdom. A glimpse of one of the isle's sparkling azure bays from the winding mountain roads makes it clear what all the fuss was about.

Massive mountains, subterranean lakes and rivers, caves, dense forests, and more than 250km of sand-and-pebble coastline make Kephalonia a nature lover's paradise. Its beauty has been fought over by the Byzantine, Frankish, Ottoman, Venetian, Napoleonic, and British Empires. During World War II, after Italy had abandoned the Axis, 9000 Italian soldiers occupying the island fought their exallies for seven days, as Germans invaded and killed all but 33 Italians. In 1953, a disastrous earthquake forced the island to rebuild, leaving only relatively undamaged Fiskardo with the Ionian pastel neoclassical look. Today, Kephalonia's beauty draws a diverse crowd, from the upscale yachting set to budget-conscious backpackers. Inconvenient bus schedules and a number of attractions make Kephalonia perfect for a longer stay.

The varied landscapes and seascapes of Zakynthos (also known as Zante) comprise an exceptionally subtle palette of colors-white cliffs rise from turquoise water, sun-bleached wheat waves in the shadow of evergreens, and magenta flowers frame the twisting streets. Known as the greenest of the Ionian Islands, Zakynthos is home to thousands of flower and plant species, some of them unique to the island. The island is also the home of a large population of loggerhead turtles, a source of pride to the islanders. Still, in Zakynthos Town or its neighboring beaches, you'll see the sweaty backs of other tourists more than the beauty of nature. Set out for the countryside to appreciate Zakynthos's natural sights, like its famous blue caves in the north. Those who venture there will understand why the Venetians christened it Fior di Levante-the flower of the east.


 
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 Thalassa Boutique Hotel Opens in new window Thalassa Boutique Hotel Opens in new window    
Lassi ? Show on map
Thalassa Hotel is 820 ft from the sandy beach of Makris Yialos. It features a lovely swimming pool and rooms boasting beautiful views of the Ionian Sea from their balconies. more...
 Nobelos Seaside Lodge Opens in new window Nobelos Seaside Lodge Opens in new window    
Agios Nikolaos ? Show on map
Situated 50 metres from the beach, this boutique hotel features suites with a balcony and views of the Ionian Sea. There is a sea-facing terrace and a tavern-style dining room with stone walls. more...
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Karavomylos ? Show on map
Villa Kostoula is a villa with a garden, located in Karavomylos. The property features views of the garden and is 1.5 miles from Sámi. Free private parking is available on site. more...
 Condo Hotel  Poros Beach Opens in new window Condo Hotel Poros Beach Opens in new window    
Mikros Gialos ? Show on map
Just 50 metres from the white pebbled Mikros Gialos Beach in Lefkada, Poros Beach features a restaurant with Ionian Sea views and a pool with sun terrace. more...
 Glyfada Beach Hotel Opens in new window Glyfada Beach Hotel Opens in new window    
Glyfada ? Show on map
Glyfada Beach Hotel is located just 100 ft from the sandy Glyfada Beach. It has a sea view and it is surrounded by hills covered with olive and pine trees. more...
 Villa Ioli Opens in new window Villa Ioli Opens in new window    
Lefkada Town ? Show on map
Featuring free WiFi and a sun terrace, Villa Ioli offers accommodations in Lefkada Town, just 28 miles from Árta. Free private parking is available on site. more...
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Vasilikós ? Show on map
Featuring free WiFi and a patio, Vrysoula is a villa, located in Vasilikós. The property features views of the sea and is 3.5 miles from Zákynthos Town. Free private parking is available on site. more...
 Balcony Hotel Opens in new window Balcony Hotel Opens in new window    
Tsilivi ? Show on map
Located in Tsilivi in the region of Zakynthos, 2.5 miles from Zákynthos Town, Balcony Hotel features a sun terrace and views of the sea. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. more...
 Villas  Joya Luxury Villas Opens in new window Villas Joya Luxury Villas Opens in new window    
Kypseli ? Show on map
Located in Kipséli, Joya Luxury Villas features a garden, barbecue, and sun terrace. Zákynthos Town is 5 miles from the property. Free private parking is available on site. more...
 Villa  PanoPlagia Villa Opens in new window Villa PanoPlagia Villa Opens in new window    
Agios Nikolaos ? Show on map
Featuring a garden with an outdoor pool, PanoPlagia Villa is a detached villa located in Agios Nikolaos in the region of Zakynthos. more...
 Villa  Country Style Villa Christina Opens in new window Villa Country Style Villa Christina Opens in new window    
Pouláta ? Show on map
Featuring free WiFi and a terrace with mountains views, Country Style Villa Christina is a villa, located in Pouláta. The property features views of the pool and is 1.6 miles from Sámi. more...
 Balhambra Suites - Adults Only Opens in new window Balhambra Suites - Adults Only Opens in new window    
Fiskardo ? Show on map
The boutique-style Balhambra Suites is centrally located in Fiskardo and features a charming courtyard with fountain surrounded by olive trees and lavender bushes. more...
 Villas  Villa Hera - The Luxury Holiday Place Opens in new window Villas Villa Hera - The Luxury Holiday Place Opens in new window    
Nisaki ? Show on map
Villa Hera is a detached villa featuring a garden with an outdoor pool, located in Nisákion. The property is 7 miles from Corfu Town and free private parking is featured. more...
 San Nicolas Resort Hotel Opens in new window San Nicolas Resort Hotel Opens in new window    
Mikros Gialos ? Show on map
San Nicolas Resort Hotel is a newly built resort in the area of Poros, overlooking the beach of Mikros Gialos and the neighboring islands of Kephalonia, Ithaca and Arkoudi. more...
 Apartments  Passas Studios and Apartments Opens in new window Apartments Passas Studios and Apartments Opens in new window    
Benitses ? Show on map
Featuring free WiFi and air conditioning, Passas Studios and Apartments is located in Benitses. Corfu Town is 6 miles away. Free private parking is available on site. more...


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