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The lonians islands are the bridge uniting Greece with the rest of Europe. They encapsulate the beauty of the Greek countryside and the nobility of Venetian architecture, the azure of the sea, the dark green of the cypress trees and the silver of the olives, the zest for life and the lyricism that all the islanders possess. Truly, how many civilizations, how many races have gone into producing what we see today. From the time when Odysseus was shipwrecked on Corfu , the island of Nausicaa, after his long journey from Troy to Ithaca, up today, Corinthians, Sicilians, Illyrians, and Romans all coveted these marvelous islands. And later, in the Byzantine era, Goths, Normans, Franks, and Venetians, noblemen and pirates, kings and fortune hunters, all passed through the lonians and all left something to mark their passage. The history of Europe is imprinted in these seven islands and in the sea surrounding them, the Ionian. Once, the fate of the whole world hinged on events here. At Etoloakarnania, opposite Lefkada, the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra engaged the fleet of Octavian. Octavian and his Romans were victorious and thus concluded another chapter of human history. The travelers who like Odysseus arrives in the Ionian islands, will discover at every turn the sheer age of Europe. Ancient Greek monuments and Venetian fortresses, Byzantine churches and Neoclassical mansions, all in harmony with a unique landscape whose beauty has remained unchanged.

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(Area 592 sq. km)
Corfu, the wooded isle of the Phaeacians, Odysseeus’ last stop on his long journey home to Ithaca, is the best known of the Ionian islands.
It owes its sophistication and charm to the meshing of the different civilizations that have occupied the island and to the natural beauty with which it is so abundantly endowed.
On this cosmopolitan island, you’ll be able to combine relaxation with good times and a full nightlife, for Corfu is an international tourist center, which can satisfy the demands of the most difficult visitor.
The capital of the island is also called Corfu (Kerklra). It is built on a promontory that projects into the sea and is separated into a northern and a southern section. East of the northern part lies the Old Fortress, cut off from the town by a moat. For centuries all the popular of Corfu lived within this citadel, which was founded by the Byzantines but greatly expanded and strengthened by the Venetians.
The town of Corfu is made up of completely dissimilar elements, left over from different civilizations. It presents an enchanting picture with its broad streets and spacious squares, the popular Spianada – the town “green” – contrasting with its narrow back alleys paved with blocks of stone (known as “Kantounia”), houses with a strong Italian influence, the famous Liston, a French arcade, traditional Georgian mansions, a Byzantine church, Venetian monuments, balconies with wrought. iron railings and window grilles.
The island of Kithira lies opposite the eastern tip of the Peloponnese, Cape Malea. Its scenery is unique – rugged and dramatic, while its architecture is a blend of traditional, Aegean and Venetian elements.
Over the millennia, the winds from the surrounding seas have shaped its shores into steep rocky cliffs punctuated by deep bays.
Kithira has been known since antiquity as the island of Aphrodite.
At the start of the second millennium B.C. it was a Minoan colony and in 424 B.C. it came under the sway of Athens. Over the centuries it knew a succession of conquerors from the Romans to the Byzantines, Venetians and Turks, and it was frequently looted by Barbary pirates. The main town was completely destroyed in 1537 by the notorious Barbarossa. In 1717 in was rebuilt by the Venetians and in 1864 united with the Greek state.


(Area 781 sq. km)
The largest island in the Ionian, Kefalonia is a land of contrasts. Just for starters don’t miss the view from the castle at Assos. On your, left, spread out beneath your feet, lies the enchanting turquoise bay of Myrtos renowned for its afternoon sun and soft white sand. Or you might swim in the crystal clear water of Poros. You can also go up to the top of Mt. Enos (1,628 meters above sea level). Its slopes are covered with tall, cedar like fir trees that grow nowhere else in the world. On other parts of the island you’ll run into groves filled with olive or orange trees and hillsides studded with grapevines; breathtaking golden beaches and deep coves, rugged rocky shores or visit famous caves. The cave at Melissani is actually a partially covered subterranean lake. When the sun is directly overhead, its rays strike the ultramarine water, shattering into a myriad phantasmagorical colors. Drogoratl, on the other hand, is known for its unusual stalactites. In the area of Lassi, 1,5 kilometers from Argostoli, are the famous Katavothres (swallow-holes), a rare geological phenomenon. Here sea water enters openings in the rock and “disappears”. Only recently were scientists able to trace it; they found that it travels northeast through underground all the way across the island finally to emerge at Melissani, near the village of Karavomilos, opposite Sami. (In the past water poured in at such a rate it was used to power two enormous sea mills.) Of the old, immensely attractive city of Argostoli, the capital, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, very little remains; one or two houses, the arched bridge stretching across the lagoon and the obelisk at its center, which commemorates the date of its construction. During your stay there you could visit its interesting museums (Archaeological Museum; Folk Art Museum), its Library and swim at the famous nearby beaches of Makris and Platis Gialos. Lixouri, Kefalonia’s second largest town, has a peaceful atmosphere, a lovely 19th century mansion-museum, and vestiges of the ancient city of Pali. The beaches to the south are among the best on the island. South of Argostoli near the village of Domata lies the church of Panaghia with an exceptional carved wooden icon screen. NE of Domata the Monastery of Aghios Andreas near the village of Peratata has a wonderful icon collection. Above the monastery looms the castle of St. George built by the Venetians in 1504. Within its walls there is a small piazza, the Kanoni, and north of it the ruins of the Catholic church of St. Nicholas. The view of the fertile valley and its villages spread out below the castle is splendid. The area of Katelios in the southeast of the island, has two outstanding beaches, one near the seaside hamlet of Katelio and the other at Skala. In this area were discovered the ruins of a 3rd century B.C. building from the height of the Roman era, perhaps the home of a wealthy Roman businessman, which contains excellent, well-preserved mosaics. On the east side of the island are Poros, Saml, and Aghia Efimia with its pebbled beach. Fiskardo, the northernmost harbor on Kefalonia, has kept its traditional color. Lying opposite and very close to Ithaca, it is surrounded by a thick cypress glade. On the west side of the island is Assos, a charming village built astride the isthmus of the peninsula of the same name, famous for its picturesque castle. The good road network, which covers the whole island, makes it easy to explore Kefalonia from one side to the other: its deep blue waters, steep bare cliffs, lush valleys, picturesque, secluded villages


(Area 25 sq. km)
Paxi is the smallest of the six main Ionian islands. When you step ashore at Gaios, the island’s little port, you'll find an exquisite miniature world just waiting to be discovered. One of the attractions of this island is its size; it is so tiny (10 km. long and 4 km. wide) that you can easily walk from one side to the other. At the same time, it is so thick with grapevines and olive trees that the whole place is like one big garden. Along its eastern coast, just a stone’s throwaway, are the smaller islands of Panagia, Aghios Nikolaos, Mongonissi and Kaltsonissi. During your stay on Paxi, you will find wonderful beaches and translucent waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling and fishing. You should not miss taking a trip around the island in a motor launch, for a look at its spectacular white cliffs, punctuated by delightful coves and intriguing grottoes. On the east side of the island sits Gaios, its capital and biggest village. Its charming 19th century houses, threaded by narrow lanes, lie at the end of a closed “fjord”, surrounded by trees and shrubs. At the entrance to this picturesque harbor you can make out the islets of Panagia and Aghios Nikolaos with its Venetian castle and windmill. Laka is a little seaside settlement with a tiny harbor, built on a sheltered bay whose coasts are covered with olives and pines. Its low houses are particularly distinctive, painted in interesting shades of brown and indigo. The grotto of Ypapanti is only 2 nautical miles from Laka by motorboat. If you should happen to be in Paxi on the 15th of August, you’ll want to follow the faithful who gather at the Monastery of Panaghia (Moni Panaghias). The festivities last all day and all night, winding up in Gaios with dancing in the main square. Pleasant excursions may be made to Panaghia, Aghios Nikolaos, Mongonissi and Kaltsionissi. From Paxi it is also possible to visit Parga on the mainland, a small town with a Venetian fortress and a wonderful beach, and Andipaxi, a tiny island 3 nautical miles (30 minutes away) from Gaios. About 120 people live on Andipaxi. Its slopes are practically covered with grapevines and its beaches are superb. Totally unspoilt, quiet Andipaxi serves as a refuge for those seeking solitude, simplicity and serenity


(Area 96 sq. km)
Throughout the ages Ithaca has been known as the home of Odysseus. For years Homer’s hero wandered before he finally returned to his island kingdom. Though he visited beautiful, exotic, far-flung lands, Ithaca never left his mind for a moment. And even today, once you’ve been to Ithaca, it’s difficult to forget this small, mountainous island with its captivating coves that conjure up some earthly paradise. Ithaca is separated from Cephalonia by a channel some 2 to 4 kilometers wide. The west coast of the island is steep and almost barren in contrast to the green, gentle shoreline on the east. The capital and largest settlement is Ithaki or Vathi; its red-roofed delightful houses set amidst enchanting scenery at the end of the deep closed bay of Molos. Taking the capital as a starting point, it’s easy to get to know the island’s landmarks. Three kilometers to the northwest lies the so-called Cave of the Nymphs (Nimfon Cave). Here according to the myth, Odysseus hid the gifts bestowed upon him by the Phaeacians who deposited him upon Ithaca’s shores ten long years after the end of the Trojan War. Also worth visiting is the medieval Monastery of the Archangels at Perahori. North of the capital and 600 meters above sea level, the Kathara Monastery (Moni Katharon) has a unique view of the island from its bell tower. On the horizon you can make out the mountains of Akarnania, the Echinades islets, the peaks of Zakinthos, the eastern coast of Cephalonia and even the entrance to the Gulf of Patras. The bay of Polis to the west is the site of another cave (Loizos’ cave). This one yielded up shreds on which were carved inscriptions testifying to the worship of Artemis, Hera and Athena. Even more interesting, in the cave were also found recently twelve tripods similar to the other that the Phaeacians were supposed to have given to Odysseus. Stavros, a village 17 kilometers northwest of Ithaki, is a good base from which to explore the northern section of the island. About 1 kilometer north of Stavros is Pelikata; excavations on this hillside between the bays of Polis and Frikes brought to light remains of a small Bronze Age settlement. The finds unearthed there reinforce the theory that the ancient city of Ithaca lies somewhere in the vicinity. Kioni and Frikes, typically Ionian villages, on the northeast coast are unspoilt, wonderful places for a short excursion or an extended sojourn.
Ithaca offers lovely beaches for bathing, caves for exploring and uncrowned hamlets where noisy nightlife is unheard of. “When you set out for Ithaca”, wrote the poet Constantine Kavafis. He was referring to Ithaca as one’s ultimate destination. Thus, Ithaca, this verdant Ionian island, may become your own favorite place, a place that draws you back year after year, when you plan your summer holiday.


(Area 303 sq. km)
To get to Lefkada, you don’t need to take a boat. Instead you go by car or bus, quickly crossing over the narrow channel separating the coast of Etoloakarnania and the island. It is said that once upon a time Lefkada was united with mainland Greece. Some say the Leleges, its first inhabitants, transformed it into an island; others maintain that the Corinthians dug a trench across the isthmus. Lefkada is a mountainous island, covered with dense vegetation to the east and south. Its eastern coast slopes gently down to the sea, which is sheltered from the wind and dotted with thickly wooded islets. The most famous of these are Skorpios, Madouri and Sparti. In contrast, the west coast is steep, with a few stunted pine trees and lined with spectacular stretches of endless golden beach. The capital of the island is also called Lefkada. A tranquil, picturesque town built on a natural harbor, it is composed of distinctive, multicolored wooden houses, whose upper floors are covered with sheet metal. It is from here you’ll set off – over good roads – to explore the island. Before abandoning the town, you may wish to visit the castle of Santa Maura, right next to the channel. It was founded in 1300 by John Orsini, a Frankish knight who held Lefkada as a fief. If you follow the eastern coast road, passing through villages bordered on one side by the sea and on the other by lush greenery – villages like Ligia and Nikiana – you will come to Nidri, one of the most popular holiday spots on the island. Nidri was the home of the Germanarchaeologist, Dorpfeld, who maintained that Lefkada was in fact none other than Homer’s Ithaca. Sights worth seeing in the area are the ruins of the prehistoric city and some circular graves. Your next stop on your way around the island is Poros and the lovely pebbled beach of Mikro Yialo. Vasslliki is Lefkada’s southernmost seaside settlement. Here you can swim from the village’s long, flat beach or hop aboard a cacique that will take you In 30 minutes to Cape Lefkata. At Lefkata or Sappho’s Leap, the most southerly cape on the island, there once stood a shrine to Appolo, famous throughout the ancient world. Here, too, they say that the poet Sappho took her life, flinging herself from the white cliffs, a hopeless victim of her unrequited love for Phaona. Your tour of the island finishes with a visit to Aghios Nikitas, a traditional, picturesque fishing hamlet on the west coast of Lefkada, and a stop at the island village of Karia, known for its handmade traditional embroideries. Both before and after Aghios Nikitas you can take a dip in the sparkling waters of one of the most beautiful beaches of Lefkada. Its fine white sand stretches as far as the eye can see.
From Nidri, you can take a short ferryboat ride to Meganissi, 12 nautical miles southeast of Lefkada. According to historians, Meganissi has been settled since Homer’s time. It has three villages, sea caves, wonderful beaches and clean waters.


(Area 402 sq. km)
Zakynthos, the southernmost of the Ionian islands, owes its name to the son of Dardanos, the king of Troy, who according to myth built the first city here. It is also mentioned in “The Iliad”. All who came to this island fell under its spell. The Venetians baptized it “the flower of the Orient” (Fior’ di Levante). Others gave it just as evocative names like “earthly paradise”, and “Perfumed Isle”, while Dionysios Solomos, the father of modern Greek poetry and a native son, wrote “Zakynthos could make one forget the Elysian Fields.” No one who has been here can forget the emerald green of its sea, its pine-studded mountains, its musical people and their hospitality. The first thing to welcome you, as soon as you step off the ferryboat, is the town of Zaklnthos. Though it lost all but three of its buildings in the earthquake of 1953, the town has been meticulously reconstructed and its former layout has been faithfully preserved. Zakynthos today has pleasantly arcaded wide streets, spacious squares imposing buildings and cheerful houses. The Museum of Post-Byzantine Art on Solomos Square contains treasures salvaged from the island’s historic churches.
On the waterfront, one should visit the churches of Aghios Dionysios, the island’s patron saint, with its tall campanile, and of Aghios Nikolas tou Molou, a church out of the Italian Renaissance with, surprisingly, a 17th century Byzantine belfry. If you walk along the flagstones coastal promenade, the so-called Strata Marina between the two churches, at dusk, you’ll get the true flavor of the town. Sometimes it seems as if the whole population is out enjoying the ritual of the evening stroll.
The street is lined with small cafes and shops selling folk art. Don’t leave before tasting the famous Zakynthos “mandolato” or nougat; it’s a real treat. The town is watched over by the Venetian fortress on the hill above. Only the gate, outer walls and battlements still stand. But from this vantage point a spectacular view can be had of the harbor, fertile inland plain and beaches as far as the eye can see. Nearby is another hill, the Lofos Strani where Solomos Dionysios composed the famous, the father of modern Greek poetry “Hymn to Liberty”, which became the Greek National Anthem. Zakynthos is almost triangular in shape, with two green mountainous promontories extending into the sea to form the huge bay of Laganas. There are more pine-covered mountains and hills in the north, but the center is gentle and lush, richly planted with currant vines, olive trees, almonds and seasonal vegetables. There are dozens of beaches to choose from, sandy and sheltered with invitingly sparkling water. Flowers of every kind fill every available space, filling the air with the scent that so enraptured visitors of old. With a sunny climate most of the year and good roads to facilitate exploring, Zakynthos lends itself to holidaymaking in spring and fall as well as summer. Some of the best-known summer resorts are Argassi, Alikes, Pianos, Tsilivi, Vassilikos, Gerakas and Porto Roma, while Laganas is the most famous of all. Its long beach and wide range of facilities attract thousands of tourists from May through September. At Laganas, Vassilikos and Gerakas, the endangered sea turtle Caretta-caretta also comes to lay her eggs. Apart from its beaches, Zakynthos has many other wonderful places to get to know. For example, there’s the village of Anafonitria, with its fascinating 15th century monastery dedicated to the Virgin. And Maherado, with its two 14th century churches, the half-ruined Ypapanti and the sumptuously decorated Aghia Mavra. Or the mountain village of Keri, where sooner or later everyone goes to admire the sunset and the stupendous view of the seacaves below. Heading north, don’t miss Volimes or Skinari at the tip of the island. Volimes has a wonderful Venetian tower and lovely old churches with frescoes dating to the 12th and 14th centuries, while Skinari is where the famous Blue Caves are located.
Inside the caves, the refraction of the sun’s rays on the water creates an unbelievable array of blue and silver tones of a dreamlike beauty.
Further south is the cave of Xingia, where there is a spring of sumptuous water that bubbles up white, clouding the sea up to 500 meters from show

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