A Greek sailing holiday in the Ionian islands

Crete, Mykonos, Santorini,… : the islands around Greece are plentiful and there’s never a lack of sunshine and good food! You can while the day away on your sunbed or take in the historical sites of Rhodes, but the best way to truly enjoy the relaxed pace of island life is by sailing from island to island, discovering new places as you go!

With so many islands around, you’ll be spoiled for choice! I opted for sailing the Ionian islands because, well, that’s where my friend’s yacht was, but also because most of them are still relatively unknown! The most famous ones are Zante and Corfu, but who wants to go where everybody else is going, right? I preferred to concentrate on the 5 lesser known. You can read what each island has to offer on the following links: Ithaca, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Paxos and Meganisi.

Now, sailing is a perfect example of slow travel. It’s the kind of travel that is completely dictated by nature. I remember being stuck in one place for several days because the wind was simply too strong. And if there is hardly any wind, it can take you a lot of time to get to the next destination. Sailing forces you to unwind, it forces you to slow down and take in your surroundings, to enjoy the moment rather than hurrying off to the next must-see!

Here’s how to slow travel the Ionian islands like a pro :

1. Read up on the history of the Ionian islands
Venetian castles whose ruins are still scattered around the area bear witness to the remarkable past of the Ionian islands. And you might not have heard of Ithaca, but you’ve no doubt heard about Odysseus or Ulysses. He is said to have navigated the surrounding waters during his famous “Odyssey”  and the island of Ithaca displays plenty of references to its legendary king!
Stories of earthquakes, piracy and smuggling give you a closer look and insight in the area and make for great reading on deck, accompanied by a refreshing Mythos beer.

2. Anchor off a bay
Looking for some privacy or that perfect Robinson Crusoe-feeling? Then don’t go into a marina or harbour, in summer it can get pretty crowded. Instead anchor off in a small bay, it’ll be only you, the stars in the sky and the surrounding blue waters. One of my best memories is to enjoy a delicious dinner on board with nothing but the lapping of the waves as company.

sailing the Ionian islands

3. Visit the backalleys
Most of the harbour waterfronts are lined with taverna’s waiting for wealthy yachties to spend their well-earned euro’s. While they can be charming, they can also feel a bit “fake”. But not to worry, just walk up a bit further and you’ll get the chance of seeing Greek island life without the tourist hordes: houses covered with bougainvillea, the baker passing with fresh baked goodies, a tiny vegetable market, …

4. Go inland and hike
Some of the islands are big enough to spend your entire holiday. Take a local bus to visit some of its villages or better: hike! I spent a lovely morning hiking towards the abandoned village of Psilithrias on Kefalonia. I discovered byzantine churches with well preserved frescoes and retraced Odysseus’ steps on Ithaca. Perfect to immerse yourself in the history and culture!

5. Do absolutely nothing
Many a happy afternoon was spent sitting in a harbour café with a café frappe observing the coming and going of the boats, writing, reading or just people watching. After all, you are on holiday, right?

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Did you ever go sailing around the Ionian islands? Or anywhere else? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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