Sailing the Ionian Islands Part 1 – Unveiling the Beauty
Greece is the cradle of western civilization. A home of philosophy and modern thought. A motherland of politics, medicine and art. Yet, if given only two words to describe it, for us those two would be beauty and beauty. That is exactly how astonishing it is, even more so if you visit it the way we intend you to – by sail. Careless, off guard and most pleasing, resting peacefully surrounded by the seas, it waits to timidly open up to curious sailors. So let’s discover it starting from the west – sailing the Ionian Islands.
The place where the magic begins
Corfu is a breathtaking town. A tangle of pebbled streets will guide you through a maze of high Venetian-style colorful buildings with painted shutters and narrow iron balconies. Despite its ancient but turbulent history, one idea will occupy your mind while you roam the shops and taverns – Gods really love this place. And they have been doing so since the 8th century BC. It has miraculous Mediterranean architecture, rich and welcoming shops and taverns, friendly locals and an Old Town inscribed in Unesco’s World Heritage List (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/978/). Yet, all these qualities would not make it a perfect starting point for your sailing conquest of Greece, had there not been for the two most important things:
- Gouvia – a luxurious marina, the largest base for ships in Ionian sea
- Marina’s Taverna – home of the best gyros in the whole country
Now that you have admired the town, filled your stomach, and set foot on your sailboat, you can start sailing the Ionian Islands.
Following the footsteps of Poseidon
Paxos is the first checkpoint on your conquest when sailing the Ionian Sea. With an area of approximately 23 km2, this island is the smallest of the seven main Ionian Islands. However, its overwhelming charm compensates for its miniature dimensions more than one could ever expect. After all, it was no less than Poseidon who created the place. In his mighty wrath, he struck Corfu with a trident to create a place to rest with his wife. So, let’s see how much love and taste the good actually had.
A bay of olive trees, cypress and white sands
When you already have mild sun on your face and a breeze in your hair, there is nothing that can please your senses more than a sight of a bay such as Lakka. A small picturesque village on a hill, tucked into the shades of olive trees embracing a safe harbor where sailboats dwell among calm winds. Here you can anchor your boat and dive alluring turquoise water, 3 m deep throughout the entire white sandy bay. The view of the village, best approached by boat, is indeed a sight for sore eyes.
A vibrant Venetian harbor
Giaos is the capital of Paxos. It is a lively little harbor, favorite among Corfu visitors and a must-see destination for all people sailing the Ionian Islands. Venetian architecture combined with Mediterranean spirit and Greek hospitality makes it a most pleasant visit for all inquisitive guests. However, it shows most of its charms when you approach it by boat. Observed from the sea, the harbor rests hidden behind a small island. Thus, in order to approach it, you have to sail through a narrow channel and maze your way to behold this unmatched view of the town. So, bring your camera and prepare your fingers and do it firmly the way the pirates would hold to their swards.
Swimming on Paxos
- Ypapanti’s Cave – the most fascinating natural cave on the island. It can only be approached by boat. Be assured, the mere view of a hole resting on the sea surface carved in a steep high cliff hanging over your head will take your breath away. What’s more, you can actually swim inside the cave. What is waiting for you inside is worth overcoming the initial shivers. It is the view of the summer sky through a hole in the cave ceiling. Not many places in the world offer this spectacular attraction.
- Erimitis Bay Beach – a true wonder. Clean, transparent water, turning white and turquoise from the shimmering pebbles on the sea bottom and steep white rocks forming a bay around the beach. This movie-like scenery is something you would regret not seeing and feeling.
- Mongonissi Beach – a sandy pleasure. Small, comfortable, sandy beach, perfect for children and adrenalin ease. Here you can enjoy the afternoon sun and explore lovely taverns surrounding the beach. The food is everything but disappointing. You will leave this place happy and full.
Conclusion – following the footsteps of Poseidon when sailing the Ionian Islands is a cruising paradise. And yes, he did have good taste and yes he loved his wife. All the splendor could not have been random and for nothing.
Savor an uninhabited paradise
If Paxos is the yin, Antipaxos is the yang. It is almost completely uninhabited, a wild Mediterranean pearl, only 5 km2 in size. The only trace of civilization on this island is the vineyards, covering almost the entire island. Yet, it is an otherworldly playground. The magnificent turquoise beaches on this untamed beauty of an island can only be approached by boat. The sight of these shockingly gorgeous wonders will remain carved in your memory for as long as you live.
- Paralia Voutoumi Beach – sea water equal to pacific islands. Here, you can swim in paradise. This is not an overestimation. Superior water, lovely breeze, magnificent view of cliffs and forests of the beach bay and shining white pebbles caressing your feet will make you feel absolutely pampered by your own destiny.
- Kaloiri Cove Beach – an unchallenged wilderness. Astonishing is the word people who visit this beach most frequently use to describe it. Once you dock, and set your feet on the cushioning sand you will not want to leave this turquoise piece of heavenly peace. Ever.
Back on shore
Being on the coast does not mean your sailing the Ionian Islands journey has ended. The coast also has much to offer. First, there is Parga. A magnetically appealing town, returned to by many. It is an elegant, vibrant place, painted in all the colors of the world. The view of its Venetian castle, marina, picturesque houses and exotic beaches will leave you speechless once you approach it from the sea. Restaurants, cafes and taverns are many. You will eat abundant and mouth melting-meals.
Yet, Parga is also captivating for another quite simple reason. It is pleasant and friendly but also meets the needs of younger, adrenaline thirsty-visitors. The main beach i long, sandy and pleasant, but you can also enjoy many water sports – bananas, parasailing, and water skiing. The nightlife in Parga is also reputable and highly diversified. It is simple – people return to Parga because it has it all. And so will you, when you visit it.
The Greek Caribbean
The last but as far away as possible from the least- Syvota, the final destination of this sailing the Ionian Islands tour. This village hidden between three islands is indeed jaw-dropping. Here you will rest in a peaceful atmosphere. You will enjoy tasty food with no noise and turmoil and have the most pleasant walks along the shore. You will swim on beaches spectacular beyond reason, expectation and imagination. Syvota is truly a piece of paradise. They don’t call it the Greek Caribbean for no reason. When you drop your anchor on Blue Lagoon Beach, Παραλία Πέταλο or Pana Beach, you will wish everybody forgot you ever existed.
It is precisely here where your 7-day sailing tour will end. Once you step on shore, you will feel sad but fulfilled and determined. Sad because your sailing trip didn’t last any longer. Fulfilled because all the pleasures that had satisfied your senses will stay with you for as long as you live. Determined to sail again as soon as possible.