THE JEWELS IN THE IONIAN SEA
These are the jewels:
Kefalonia, Zante, Ithaca, Corfu, Paxos, Lefkada, Cythera and Omfori.
The beauty of Kefalonia and every one of the Ionian islands is well known; as are those crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea. Sea and land – a partnership as old as time. Practically every photo of a great view taken on Kefalonia has the sea as its focus or it will be in there somewhere; in the background or just behind that hill. Mountains frame the sea and the sea frames the mountains. That’s just how it is!
Wherever and whenever you look out to sea, it is very likely you will also be looking at some land; at perhaps another island or a peninsular – sometimes near as well as far, far away. The temptation is to ‘go look’. And we have never been ones to avoid temptation!
TRAVELLING AROUND THE IONIAN SEA
Over the twenty years or so that we visited and lived on Kefalonia, we have also enjoyed some wonderful times and adventures on the other islands; on Zakynthos, Ithaca, Lefkada, Corfu and there are still more to discover. An extra bonus to our voyages of discovery is the method of travel – Greek ferries. They are efficient, clean, on time and reliable. No question. And they take your car – with absolutely no fuss at all.
Although connected in many ways, every island is distinctive, an entity each with their particular histories, characters, flavours, culinary delights and terrains. As in Kefalonia, every island has huge variations in geography.
Something people may not immediately think of: there are large area of wetlands in Greece. Both Lefkada, Zakynthos and Kefalonia as well as the mainland have wetland areas.
So take your pick.
There are mountains, wetlands, olives, vineyards, villages, harbours, farms, busy towns and a marvellous amount of wilderness. And Kefalonia is a great place to start. So plan a small trip – a holiday within a holiday – when staying at The Walnut Tree. The villa has a small reference library with maps and travel books, as well as books on flora and fauna. While away a few hours planning a trip. Then return to recover! Makes sense!
Lefkada is almost not an island. The way off (and on, of course) is a causeway and a bridge to the mainland. And what a brilliant bridge it is – a Floating Bridge! If you want to use it for your lorry, van, car, bicycle – there it is. If you want to use the waterway for your boat, then the bridge politely moves out of the way. Could have watched it for hours. There is a brilliant fort (Castle of Santa Maura) to explore right there as well. Always something for everyone in Greece.
Leaving Lefkada and and travelling north, the lagoons of Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park are well worth a visit. At various times of the year you can see flamingos, pelicans, water buffalo and an astonishing variety of birds both migratory and resident,
Once on the mainland (we were making our way north for the ferry to Corfu), there are so many places to visit: Octavius’s Nicopolis (his city built to honour his triumph over Cleopatra and Anthony at the Battle of Actium), the Ladies of Zalongo (a sculpture to the memory of 60 brave Souliote women and children and their mass suicide, escaping Ottoman soldiers in the Greek War of Independence in 1803). For us, best of all was the chance discovery of hidden away Kassope, a Greek city state of such sophistication just below the Zalongo scultpture. This place completely fascinated us. It’s extraordinary serene atmosphere and sheer beauty has never left me.
Corfu Town is truly a city and endlessly fascinating. It’s vibrancy is palpable from the moment you set foot in the centre of the town. There are two ancient forts, beautiful churches and grand civic buildings, a bustling shopping area (the shops with leather articles are a must), a great variety of mouth watering restaurants and bars, the cricket pitch, the beautiful buildings lining the water front; my photos do not do it justice.
The photos below are taken in and around Paleokastritsa.
Ithaca, the nearest island to Kefalonia is somewhere we have come to love. Kefalonia is our island, but Ithaca has become very special. If we need to take a short break, Ithaca is our ‘go to’ spot. And we are always ready for more.
This blog is just a taster for some of the Ionian Islands we have visited. Maybe this will be enough to encourage others to set off on their own adventures.