If you’re planning on visiting the Greek islands, you’re in for a treat, but you’d better do some advanced planning too! There are over 200 inhabited Greek islands and there’s never a lack of sunshine and good food, no matter where you go! So, where do you start? Do you go for the more famous ones like Santorini, Crete or Corfu? Or do you go for some of the more obscure ones? (no, I’d never heard of Elafonisos either)
I chose to sail around the Ionian islands 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 concentrated on the five lesser known islands: Ithaca, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxos and Meganisi. One month of pure Greek bliss and slow travel! Here are some tips to make the best of your Ionian sailing adventure:
1. Read up on the history of the Ionian islands
Scattered ruins of Venetian castles bear witness to the remarkable past of the Ionian islands. You might not have heard of Ithaca, but you’ve no doubt heard about Odysseus or Ulysses. He is said to have navigated the Ionian waters during his famous “Odyssey” and the island of Ithaca displays plenty of references to its legendary king!
But the Ionian islands are not all about mythology. There are stories of earthquakes, piracy and smuggling, which all give you a closer look and insight in the area and make for great reading on deck, accompanied by a refreshing Mythos beer!
2. Drop anchor in a bay
Looking for some privacy or that perfect Robinson Crusoe-feeling? Then don’t go into a marina or harbour, in summer they can get pretty crowded. Instead anchor off in a small bay: it’ll be only you, the stars in the sky and the glistening blue waters. One of my best memories was enjoying a delicious homemade dinner on board with the sound of the lapping waves as the only background noise.
3. Visit the back alleys
Most of the harbour waterfronts are lined with tavernas waiting for the 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 into the back alleys and you’ll get the chance of seeing Greek island life without the hordes: houses covered with bougainvillea, the baker passing with fresh baked goodies, a tiny vegetable market, … My kind of travelling!
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 the green island of 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 in Meganisi, sitting in a harbour café with a café frappé, observing the coming and going of the boats, writing, reading or just people watching. After all, you are on holiday, right?
Did you ever go sailing around the Ionian islands? Or anywhere else? Tell me all about it in the comments!