The Emerald Isles


The Ionian Islands are the greenest of the Greek islands and home to some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. This island chain is scattered like emeralds down Greece’s west coast. There is a strong Venetian influence found in the food, architecture, art and literature. Cruising distances are relatively short, and you can easily visit all the islands within a week or so.

Kefalonia is the largest of the seven Ionian Islands. Despite its popularity there are hidden areas where you are unlikely to meet a soul for days. You will be greeted by the steepest of cliffs and the bluest seas. Vast pine forests cloak the rugged limestone landscape where ten of the mountain peaks soar above 5,000ft. Nature lovers will discover beautiful landscapes and countless trails. For archaeology enthusiasts, there are excavations of Mycenaean graves that shed light on a civilisation thousands of years old.

Fiscardo is a former fishing village transformed into a cosmopolitan resort, and now a magnet for superyachts. It retains its rural charm with rows of pastel houses and narrow alleyways to transport you back in time. Cruise south to Myrtos beach, a horse-shoe sand bar with azure waters backed by sheer cliffs. For a spectacular sunset, head to the west coast.


Diminutive Paxos is a peaceful island paradise. The pace of life is slow, with a Caribbean vibe. Take a shaded stroll through the many silver-green olive groves, dotted with cypresses. Gaios, possibly the prettiest port in Greece, is protected by a narrow inlet. For the adventurous, the fjord-like coastline is peppered with caves, grottoes and cliffs, while the Tripitos Arch and Ortholithos Rock are a must-see.


Paxos’ little sister, Antipaxos, covers just 5 sq km and is favoured for its pristine beaches; the soft, white sands of Vrika, or pebbly Voutoumi lapped by turquoise waters. From Agrapidia harbour, a network of tracks stretch across ‘terroir’ renowned for its locally-produced red wine.


Corfu is an island of old world elegance with a fascinating history, rich traditions and varied architecture. The cobbled streets of Corfu Town make for a lively UNESCO World Heritage capital. The bourgeois boutiques, eateries and galleries give it a distinctly Parisian feel where Rue de Rivoli is echoed in the island’s Spianada Square and Liston Street. History buffs will want to explore the museums, Venetian fortresses and church of Agios Spyridon, protector of the island.


Picture-perfect Parga, the gem of Epirus, is close to Corfu on the Greek mainland. Nestled in an amphitheatre-esque, kaleidoscopic bay that is dominated by a ruined Venetian castle, this colourful town is beloved by Greeks for its beaches and laid-back atmosphere.


Lefkada became an ‘island’ when the Corinthians cut through the sandbanks that used to connect it to the mainland. Proximity to the mainland gave rise to a rash of development on the eastern side, but there are hidden gems, such as the towering peaks, natural waterfalls and monastic ruins. The tiny seaside village of Agios Nikitas is a superyacht secret, flanked by stunning beaches and only accessible by boat. At the southern tip, Porto Katsiki is a spectacular crescent of sand, backed by limestone cliffs. To the east is the Onassis dynasty’s verdant green private island, Skorpios.


Zakynthos is world-famous for its beaches and party scene. Mountains lined by forest sweep down to shimmering aqua shores. A National Marine Park was established in 1999 to protect the endangered loggerhead turtles and seals which, though elusive, can still be spotted. The most famous beach on the island is the iconic Navagio (shipwreck) beach; a secluded cove with silver sand and sapphire waters only accessed by boat. Your crew will take you to hidden parts of Zakynthos, abundant in secret coves and sea caves where snorkelling reveals vibrant underwater life.


Ithaca, once home to the legendary Odysseus, is an authentic Greek retreat where the scene is one of quiet privacy. Vathy is an exquisite harbour lined with artisan shops and tavernas. Hike along the island’s criss-crossing footpaths that lead to tiny chapels, ancient ruins and secluded coves. The Monastery of Panagia Kamariotissa at 600m altitude has breath-taking views.


Ironically, Meganisi is Greek for ‘big island’. Yet at 22 sq km, nothing could be further from the truth. Life ambles along much as it has for centuries. There are no bustling resorts, just three flower-filled villages and a coastline dotted with gleaming, white beaches. Explore the plethora of marine caves, notably Papanikolis, a striking cavern 30m deep, which conceals a hidden sandy beach.

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