If you are looking for serenity, tranquility, natural beauty, and some delicious Greek food, look no further than the Southern Ionian. With its crystal clear water and striking backdrops, this destination is ideal for sailing between characterful villages and secluded bays, away from the crowds. Located to the West of Greece and with major islands consisting of Lefkas, Kefalonia, Ithaca and Meganisi, the South Ionian Sea is the place to be this year!
The best way to see this stunning area is by yacht, and with the combination of warm and predictable wind, dazzling sunshine, remote anchorages and bays, and turquoise water, the Southern Ionian is ideal for both experienced, confident sailors or complete novices. The wind in this region is pretty consistent which is not only great for sailing but also means evenings on the water are calm and the ideal setting for an evening dip, paddle board or an intimate dinner onboard your yacht. The breeze typically builds around lunchtime allowing for a great day of sailing, but drops off again by sunset so you can enjoy a relaxing evening in still, peaceful water.
Island hopping in the Southern Ionian means you are never more than a few miles away from land as most islands are in close proximity to one another. This gives you more time to explore each destination in greater detail thanks to less travel time. The travel time is part of the magic however, as you will find that this area is great for sailing and admiring an ever-changing scenery. Along the way, you might also spot some Ionian sea-life to include dolphins, fish, rays and even turtles!
Starting in Lefkas South, there is so much to see with islands such as Meganisi, Ithaca, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos just a few nautical miles away. Here is our guide to getting the most out of this destination:
Lefkas is world-renowned for its enchanting green landscapes, mesmerising sapphire waters, perfect water-sports locations and is home to some of Greece’s most magnificent beaches; Egremni Beach with its white cliffs and azure waters; Agiofili Beach, a secluded beach with creamy white sand and glistening water, is a great spot for snorkelling with some exotic fish; Mikros Gialos Beach has particularly clear and fresh waters thanks to its pebbly beach and horseshoe shape that keeps it sheltered from any wind. Rouda Bay is another idyllic spot as a quiet anchorage away from everyone; the only noise you’ll have to hear is the waves brushing past your yacht. If you don’t fancy dining onboard while here, Zolithros is a great restaurant, offering fresh seafood and locally caught fish, and is said to be the best in the area!
If you are desperate to escape the heat after a day of exploring in the sun, you might want to head inland slightly to the Dimosari Waterfall and cool off in its ice-cold waters. The best time to visit the waterfall is in the morning or late afternoon as the midday heat in the summer months can sometimes cause the volume of water to decrease, leaving little water to swim in. This is a gorgeous natural spot.
Only accessible by water, Sivota is one of the most beautiful bays in Lefkas and is host to a number of soft, white beaches framed by lush rolling hills. Its port is very welcoming and vibrant, and a great place to stop for a sheltered anchorage if you want to enjoy a relaxing lunch while admiring the beauty of Sivota from the water, or if you fancy a swim from the yacht. If you do go ashore here, it can be quiet in the day, but will get busy in the evenings with a buzz of people.
If you fancy dining on land one night, Lefkas has some great tavernas and restaurants to offer. Lefkatas, Athani is particualry great for seafood, pasta dishes, salads with ingredients from a local garden and chocolate souffle. This restaurant is popular due to its prime position for sunset views over the sea and flavourful cocktails. For an authentic Greek experience, Taverna Giorgalakis is perfect. It is slightly more inland and not far from Sivota. This taverna is popular for its delicious homemade Greek food, friendly staff and owners, and spectacular rural views as it sits on top of a hill.
This island is a largely untouched oasis and a very peaceful, slow-paced destination, perfect for those searching for complete serenity. The calm atmosphere is felt across the island, giving you a chance to take a deep breath and absorb all Meganisi has to offer. There is no public transport in Meganisi so everywhere is accessible by foot or by boat, and your tender will be able to take you to most beaches and bays.
The village of Spartochori can be found on a cliff to above Port Spilla, providing picturesque views across the Ionian and an abundance of traditional Greek tavernas and bars. There is a lovely little pebbled beach at Port Spilia that is worth a visit to admire the cerulean water, or to enjoy a delicious fish dish at one of the taverns. From the beach, you can hike up to Spartochori village through the trees for some more enchanting views of the bay, and a glorious sunset. Summer Sun Cafe/Bar is a great location for a drink whilst overlooking the water from the terrace after a trek up to the village. The view for the hilltop is truly spectacular, and you are very much rewarded for the trek up the hill.
Vathi is a very quaint and friendly village and a central location in Meganisi. A short walk from Vathi harbour will take you to Kapali bay or Abelike bay, but you may also like to anchor in these bays for a relaxing lunch or a swim off the yacht. Artisti della pasta is a great waterfront restaurant in Vathi, offering an Italian and Greek menu and a cosy, warm atmosphere. Gimlet wine bar is a great spot to grab a drink, but is also a restaurant offering a sushi-inspired Greek mezze menu that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world! Gimlet is a unique restaurant and takes pride in providing its guests with an unforgettable culinary experience in a beautiful setting.
We also recommend a visit Papanikolis Sea Cave in Vathi which is believed to have been the secret hideaway for a World War II submarine called Papanikolis. It is a very impressive sight due to its size and depth as the second largest cave in Greece. This tranquil spot is great for an afternoon of exploration and snorkelling or a relaxing lunch aboard the yacht.
Meganisi is also well known for the sunken plane wreck in Vathi that acts as the perfect excuse for some snorkelling, paddle boarding or even diving!
Only accessible by boat, Ithaca is another picturesque and authentic Ionian fishing village with scenes worthy of being on a postcard. This island is ideal for swimming, hiking and sightseeing and, because of its size, tends not to attract masses of tourists so it is easy to escape the crowds here, adding to an atmosphere of total serenity across the island.
Vathy is the capital and main harbour of Ithaca. This is a great location if you want to see some authentic Greek history, particularly with the stunning cathedral dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin or the house where Odysseas, the Greek hero, was born. Overall, the town could be described as rustic, charming and relaxed, with a laid back atmosphere in the air, so ideal for escaping life’s stresses. A great little authentic restaurant here is Fish Tavern Poseidon. Run by a Greek family, they serve a traditional Greek menu with a focus on fresh seafood. Alternatively, Sirines serves a range of dishes and makes for a lovely place to eat outside in the sunshine or on a warm evening.
Ithaca is also home to some stunning bays that you should try to visit. Sarakiniko Bay is particularly dreamy, as a quiet, peaceful area, boasting rich green landscape made up of Cypresses and Olive Trees that border the crystal clear water. This spot is great for paddle boarding or snorkelling thanks to the clear water and abundance of sea-life. Filiatro Bay is also surrounded by lush greenery and warm turquoise water. The trees on this beach offer some shade if you need to cool down, but this is a nice spot for sunbathing and an occasional dip in the water. There is also a lively beach bar at Filiatro if you enjoy beach parties and fruity cocktails, but if you are looking for a more peaceful time, you might want to try one of the other bays Ithaca has to offer. Kioni Bay is a much more peaceful spot overlooking three windmills- it is a beautiful little spot. There are four beaches within this mystical bay, all offering a view of the charming, pastel coloured houses and red rooftops overlooking the port. The Mills is a glorious waterside restaurant that serves traditional Greek food with a twist and the menu is made up of locally caught seafood, but also more unique dishes from their external wood-burning clay ovens.
Ithaca is also a great location for yoga enthusiasts thanks to its peaceful atmosphere and natural environment, but also Itha108 which is a yoga retreat that takes place in the countryside, overlooking the sea across to Kefalonia. Maybe you would like to take your daily practice up here for a nice change of scenery and a unique experience that you’ll never forget!
The largest of the Ionian islands, the allure of Kefalonia will draw you in from the moment you arrive. There is so much to see and explore on this island so you might want to spend a little more time here so you don’t miss out on this hotspot!
Fiscardo is a crescent shaped harbour and one of the most visited ports in the Ionian thanks to its natural beauty, and plethora of trendy shops, traditional restaurants and bustling bars. This is one of the more cosmopolitan harbours in the Ionian, and is sometimes referred to as the St. Tropez of Greece due to its electric atmosphere in the evening. If you are looking to sample some authentic Greek food, this is one of the best places to visit and most tavernas line the waterfront, to provide a breathtaking view to match the delicious food- a combination of which makes the Ionian distinctive and hard to match. Fiscardo is the place to be for either a romantic dinner and drinks or a wild night out enjoying local delicacies, killer cocktails and a boogy with friends!
While here you might also want to take the dinghy to Foki bay for a swim in the huge cave where you might even spot some turtles! Not far from central Fiscardo, Foki beach is small but beautifully peaceful and definitely worth the visit for its captivating views and emerald waters surrounded by a forrest of olive trees and caves that can be found via a path to the right of the beach. If you get hungry while here, there is a lovely fish tavern just above the beach which is a great place to stop and relax, but you might also want to drop anchor for lunch and admire the bay from your yacht.
Agia Efimia is one of the most stunning harbour villages on this island. This is a popular and central location for visiting yachts and a beautiful, un-commercialised spot surrounded by natural beauty, to include mountains that form the Pylaros Valley. This would be a great spot to get the yacht’s toys out or explore one of the four picturesque pebble beaches in Agia Efimia.
If you’re looking for an impressive beach, Myrtos Beach is the place to go. It is a stunning sight from the beach but also from the hills above with its vibrant shades of aqua and deep blue in the water, contrasting with the creamy golden sand and bright white pebbles, surrounded by towering cliffs. This spot is particularly good for admiring sunrises and sunsets, the prime position being on one of the hill tops. The beach is a magical oasis, but is much better in lighter winds and can be an uncomfortable place to be on windy days, so bare this in mind.
Argostoli is the island’s capital and is a great place to visit to get a better understanding of the Greek lifestyle. The central square of the town, Plateia Valianou, is an ideal for an authentic Greek dinner with its plethora of restaurants and tavernas, or even just a leisurely stroll along Ioannou Metaxou Street in the evening after a long day on the water. Right above the square is the glorious Botanical Garden which is worth a visit.
Argostoli is also the perfect stop for history buffs or those interested in Greek history and mythology. We recommend a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Kefalonia if Mycenaean, Hellenistic or Roman history interests you. Alternatively, if you are feeling more adventurous, you might want to spend the day climbing the highest mountain in the Ionian, Ainos, or the ‘Black Mountain’. This mountain is now a national park and home to a whole host of wild flowers and a special breed of pony, whilst also commanding the most stunning views over Kefalonia and across to neighbouring islands- it is a natural paradise. If you do make it to the top, be sure to sign the guest book inside the metallic box to reward your efforts. If you find yourself in Argostoli in the evening, and you’re a sushi fan, you will want to visit Sepia. This restaurant provides the perfect setting for a memorable meal, delicious sushi and other Japanese dishes.
Another beautiful coastal town that is worth visiting is Sami, just 9km from Agia Efimia if you wanted to see both in the same day. It is the second largest port in Kefalonia and acts as a great base for exploring more of the island. If you are looking to connect with nature, a great walk is the seaside trail, through the eucalyptus trees, that will see you end up at Karavomylos Lake. Next to the lake is a traditional Greek taverna, with the lake on one side and views of the sea on the other making for a magical scene while you sip on an ice cold beverage. You might also want to visit Antisamos Beach if you are in Sami. This beach gained worldwide fame as a feature in the film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, so if you are a fan of this Hollywood blockbuster, it is worth a visit. If you are not much of a fan, the beach is still a captivating sight with its sky-blue waters and lush green hills that hug the beach.
Alternatively, and only 3 km from Sami, Drogarati Cave is a fascinating and very impressive place to visit, and is said to be over 100 million years old. This natural masterpiece has hosted numerous concerts and prestigious events and a visit here would see you travel down the cave’s long corridor to the “Royal Balcony” for the best seats in the house!
We would also recommend the phenomenal Melissani Lake. The best time to visit this cave is around noon so that the sun is directly overhead and the sun rays hit the water creating a memorising atmosphere of glistening blue light inside the cave.
Zakynthos is the southern most island of the Ionian Islands and one of the most exotic. Dotted with idyllic beaches, Zakynthos has a largely untouched coastline, characterised by shimmering water, rows of vineyards and olive trees, and is home to more vibrant and welcoming towns. It is a spectacular island.
Zakynthos Town is very quaint and authentic with its pretty pastel houses and historic churches. Here, you will find some traditional Greek architecture, particularly in Solomos Square. Prosilio is a beautiful restaurant in the town centre that specialises in serving high-quality Greek food with a modern twist that can be eaten in their terraced courtyard- the ideal setting for an intimate dinner or dining with friends. You must try Prosilio if you are in Zakynthos Town for its gourmet cuisine, range of delicious wines and friendly atmosphere.
For stunning panoramic views over the town, we urge you to visit Bohali just on the hilltop behind Zakynthos Town. The views from Bohali at night are mesmerising as the glistening lights from below twinkle and illuminate the water. Up here you will also find a range of restaurants, bars and cafes that you can enjoy with a glorious view. The local dessert ‘frigania’ is highly recommended! Movida is a great restaurant here that serves delicious food and has one of the best views in town.
As mentioned, Zakynthos is home to some of the most exotic beaches in the Ionian, and is also where the Caretta-Caretta sea turtles hide their eggs in the sand every year. Possibly the most famous of the beaches is Navagio, known for its shipwreck and being the most photographed beach in Greece- it is worth a visit to see what all the fuss is about! This beach is a secluded area and only accessible by boat.
Located on the East coast of North Zakynthos, Xigia beach is uniquely known as a natural spa thanks to its sulphurous waters, as a result of the neighbouring caves. The water here is known for its healing qualities and it is also said to be great for smoothing out the skin and cellulite! The rest of the beach is also heavenly with fluffy white sand and lush green trees cradling the bay.
If you are looking for a vibrant beach bar, Porto Vromi is your best bet as they tend to crank the Greek music up and serve a range of colourful cocktails. This probably isn’t the beach for those looking to relax in the sunshine as the music tends to be heard across the whole beach!
This really is such an enchanting destination that is best discovered by yacht. As you can see, there is so much to see and enjoy in the Southern Ionian, and island hopping means a change of scenery everyday, but where will you start? Get in touch with Lizzie now to find out more about the yachts we have available for charter in this gorgeous region of the Mediterranean, and book your dream trip now.