Greek Island Hopping: sailing the IONIAN
Zakynthos (or Zakinthos) is the trademark Greek island with the renown Navagio, or the Relict beach you see on most of the postcards of Greece, and is part of our Ionian Islands sailing route. This archipelago is amongst the top sailing destinations in the Mediterranean due to the islands’ perfect combination of sheltered bays and the mild strength of the wind that makes sailing ideal. However, only a minority of sailors are familiar with and know the existence of the routes that are off the mass tourism paths. This magnificent sailing paradise unveils many surprises when you are guided by our local experts who are excellently acquainted with the area.
The Ionian Islands itinerary is certainly the most relaxing and laid back amongst our Greece Island tours, greatly owing to the mild weather and benign prevailing winds. A typical cruise will let you experience the taverns of Sparthaori, the beaches around Port Katsiki, the fortresses of Assos, and the magic of Fiskardo. Breathe in the history of Ithaca, admire old Onassis’s family wealth at Skorpio Island, dive the amazing waters of Paxos, and stroll the picturesque alleys of Pargo. So, while this adventure is relaxed and laid-back, it is certainly not boring!
This archipelago consists of twelve isles and is incomparable when it comes to the natural beauties of each islands’ history, civilization, and influences. Corfu, along with the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos, which are rich with olives and vineyards, looks like a garden. Lefkas, which is an island separated from the mainland by a canal,is scattered with distinct sand beaches lapped by emerald waters. Even more enchanting are the islets that surround it: Skorpios, Maganisi, Sparti, Kalamos, Kastos, Thilia, and Kitros. Cephalonia is the largest of the islands with plenty of archeological sites. Nearby Ithaca,which is famous for the Greek hero Ulysses, is an island of rare beauty characterized by an untouched nature. Vathi, the chief town, is a lovely town with Venetian fortifications. Along the south coast we can find sheltered creeks with a lot of small beaches, we recommend you take a peek!
- Relax 100% 100%
- Nature 100% 100%
- Nightlife 30% 30%
- Adventure 30% 30%
- Shopping 50% 50%
- History & Archeology 40% 40%
Also here are olive trees, vineyards, cypresses, oaks, plane trees and other trees going down to the beaches. Even more enchanting are the islets that surround it: Skorpios, Meganisi, Sparti, Kalamos, Kastos, Thilia and Kitros. Cephalonia is the largest of these islands with plenty of archeological sites. Close to it Ithaca, famous for the Greek hero Ulysses, is an island of rare beauty characterized by a wild nature. Vathi, the chief town, is a picturesque little town with Venetian fortifications. Last, further south, there is Zakinthos: its west coasts, which are rocky and imposing, give birth to a lot of sea caves and offer a breathtaking show. Along the south coast we can find sheltered creeks with a lot of picturesque beaches. Take a peek!
7 Days Itinerary
This island is a vacation home to many Brits as well as the French and is the most internationally cosmopolitan island in the area. Corfu is best known for its buzzing atmosphere, big resorts, massive beaches, and hotels all around its’ coasts. With it being the easiest island to reach and the main hub in the area, it is excellently connected with direct international flights. For those travelling from Italy, there are also direct ferries to Corfu. We recommend meeting at the marina, which is a 15-minute drive from the airport and a 10-minute drive from the ferry port. Depending on your arrival time, we will either spend the night in the Marina Gouvia and enjoy a local restaurant dinner to introduce you to the magical atmosphere of Greece or we can set sail immediately. Whether we leave in the afternoon after your arrival or in the morning after breakfast, our first destination will be Paxos Island. Sailing there will take a few hours and is probably the best navigation leg of the trip with it being thirty nautical miles away. This first crossing is a great opportunity for introductions and for you to get acquainted with the yacht itself, while enjoying cocktails and nibbles.
This is a magnificent place with the most turquoise water in the Mediterranean Sea and typical vegetation or pine trees on its shores or around the beaches. The town of Porto Gaios welcomes us with the warm embrace of the winding creek entrance. Passing through the array of colourful fishing boats and yachts docked along the shore, we will dock a few steps away from the main square, in the very heart of this little town. Surrounded by the typical tavernas (small family run restaurants), coffee shops, bars, and boutiques, Porto Gaios is a unique sight to behold. We highly recommend a quiet dinner away from the buzzing life in the village, at a hidden gem. The walk to this family-run restaurant is surrounded by ancient Greek olive trees. This is a beautiful opportunity to notice how their trunks develop throughout hundreds of years and what a work of art nature has given us. This is our secret spot for a truly authentic experience of the Greek cuisine.
After a jog – or morning walk – and breakfast, we will continue our descent southwards along the most stunning white cliffs of Paxos Island. As we Arrive at the Tripitos Bay for a swim, look towards the very end of the island. You will be shocked by a massive natural white rock arch, another famous site often used for Greek postcards. Its candid white-washed cliffs dip deep into the most amazing turquoise coloured water you can swim in. This area holds the most peace and tranquility you can find away from the crowds. In another cove a little further down, Mousmouli Bay sits with dozens of small interesting caves and is perfect for a snorkeling adventure.
After our swim and your freshly prepared lunch onboard, we set sail slowly navigating the six nautical miles to Antipaxos Island. The breathtaking scenery as Radovani Bay’s calcified white cliffs drop right off into the light blue ocean is sure to make a mighty impression. Once we have tackled the north point of the island, we will stop in Skidi Bay or Saint Emiliano Bay by hooking up to the rocks on the beach. The usual practice in this area is to collect some sea-urchins for an exquisite Mediterranean delicacy. We will be spending the night in the security of a private bay, illuminated by the starlit sky reflecting on the ocean and surrounded by nature.
We will aim to leave early, right after breakfast the next day. The sailing winds on this leg of the journey are prevalently favourable to our southbound direction. This is the first time you can experience a sporty sailing adventure with special sails and navigation tactics, essentially learning how a sailing boat works. We might have a brief stop in the lovely, continental Greek town of Preveza. If you opt to spend the night in this town there is a plethora of authentic Greek nightlife experiences. After sailing past Preveza, we approach Lefkas Island, Sailing through a narrow sand-shored channel with the most stunning water colours. After passing through Lefkas Channel, our lunch is scheduled in the Kefali Bay. This is a unique spot for snorkeling amidst clouds of colourful fish, which is a great way to relax. Our next stop, Barkos Bay, is known for the amazing sight of wheat fields at sunset. Some of our greatest pictures are regularly taken here.
Further south is the beautiful island of Kalamos, one of the least explored islands in the area and our next destination. It’s here where you will experience the most sensational aroma of the Mediterranean, a mixture of the salty sea iodine that is vaporized with every wave blended with the perfume scent of the slowly developing pine tree sap. A short walk from this port, up the hill in the village, you can find dinner in a restaurant we highly recommend. Dine on great grilled cuisines, all rigorously home-made and skillfully prepared by the local butcher, accompanied by tasty local wine. While walking back to the boat – that’s either anchored in the harbor or our private beach on the other side of the village – you can enjoy the atmosphere of Local residents playing chess or cards in the cafes. For an after dinner treat, Mastika Ice Cream can be enjoyed in the lounge on the port. A trademark of this island, this naturally made ice cream is created with the most tasty, aromatic sap from a very particular Mediterranean mastic pine tree species, for a very unique dessert experience.
Wake up the next morning to the symphonic opera of the Mediterranean cricket choir, a typical morning chorus on the European Riviera. Along with the magnificent lonely beach available for a morning swim and the view of the ancient church on the opposite side of the bay, it makes the perfect setting for a relaxing breakfast. Once everyone is awake, at your own pace of course, we will set sail towards Kastos Island. Smaller than the previous island, it is a mere 10 nautical miles away and en route you will be able to see the most stunning cove in the area. This is a wonderful spot for a swim, with the deepest shades of blue/green water and the most pristine transparency all the way down to the sandy bottom. The amusing goats that will be spying on us from the mountain top are just curious to overlook the humans basking in their territory.
Atokos and Ithaka Islands
Next along our route is a little uninhabited isle with its own breathtaking artwork, created by nature. The candid-white cliff walls that dive into the intense blue water here are divine creativity. Erosions have carved these rocks over the centuries, creating a marvelously precious and defined texture. We will also stop in the curious “One-House Bay”. In the early afternoon,under the fresh westerly breeze, we will navigate loosely towards Kioni Town, on Ithaka Island. Barely visible from afar, Kioni is built as an amphitheater on a verdant hill, at the bottom of a natural inlet. A renowned pirate’s den in ancient times, Kioni is secluded from the chaos and traffic of the boats/tourists in the main town of Vathi. Incredible at sunset spending an evening in this town is one of the most exhilarating experiences of your tour. Although there are but a few lounge bars and tavernas, all are extremely elegant in their simplicity and sophistication, finely furbished and unique. This is the ideal culmination to an intense day of sailing.
After a chilled breakfast, we recommend a walk in the town for some typical Greek crafts, jewelry, souvenirs, and fashion shopping in the local boutiques. When everyone is done and back onboard, we will set sail south again. The first stop of the day is Pera Pigadi bay which is nearby on the same isle. You can have a refreshing plunge and then lay on the deck for that perfect tan as we sail on towards the Saint John (Agio Ioannis) Cape. Next on our schedule is the stunningly gorgeous Marathias Bay, a one-of-a-kind minuscule lake-like sheltered cove. Many of our guests fall in love with this bay, and as we secure the yacht to the shore, you can decide whether you want to spend a quiet night here, or move on…
Moving on towards Cephalonia Island, there is a very interesting narrow passage between Ithaka and Cephalonia, that we will be tackling left and right all the way up to Fiskardo Town. This buzzing little town, sophisticated and exclusive, has great shopping and mundane fine dining in high-end restaurants. Famous for foreign tourism, Fiskardo has plenty of lounges, cafes, bars, and even a few clubs for those looking for higher-end nightlife. On the other hand, if you want more of a tranquil authentic Greek experience, we can opt for an interesting alternative. Our favourite place on this island is the tiny, picturesque village of Asos, located nearby. The view of this village is almost like a hand-painted portrait of a perfect Mediterranean village, the colours vary from the most pastel house facades to the most intense fuchsia bougainvillea flowers that climb every balcony and adorn every corner. Dominated by an ancient castle that we can walk to through the aromatic pinewoods, this place is uniquely exquisite. All this exists in a perfect harmony for eyesight. Welcoming cafes and tavernas are located right on the beach itself. You will also notice the authenticity and hospitality of the locals, starting with the elderly gentleman selling his own honey in the shade of the majestic sycamore on the main square.
Following breakfast, we will set sail to Maganisi Island, a bathing stop in the crystal-clear waters south of the Kithros Island and the Kefali Cape strait. From there, it will only be a few nautical miles before we sail by Scorpios Island, owned by Aristotle Socrates Onassis, a most famous Greek businessman. Its highly recommended to at least slow sail and appreciate this garden island. From there, we will make our way back up north to the Lefkas Channel and then a quick sail towards Paxos for the last night out in the beautiful surroundings.
We return to Kerkira early in the morning, with a few plunges, towing on the rope with the sails wide open.
Departures and stop-overs can be arranged in the rest of the Peloponnesos as well. So, Olympus, Katakolo, Navarino Pylos, Kyllini, etc., contact us for these!
This is a concise briefing of one of the classic itineraries that gives you a decent idea of this archipelago.
This example is arranged around a Corfu departure as this is the main flight hub in the area. However, I suggest embarking on Paxos, which is easily reachable from Corfu on a 45 min hydrofoil, which runs very frequently throughout the day – saving hours of long navigation. This variation would allow you to gain 4+ hours each way for the crossing, basically making up for one entire day out of seven, that we can dedicate for a visit to Cephalonia and other islands. Bear in mind this is only a general explanatory route that can easily be modified and personalized to your preferences and, naturally, weather conditions.