Ionian Islands, Greece

Greece, located on the southern tip of the Balkans at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, has about 6,000 islands and islets. The Ionian Islands  a Greek archipelago off the southwestern coast of the Balkan Peninsula in the Ionian Sea  includes 32 islands, of which only 17 have inhabitants.

The region's history dates back to the centuries when it belonged to Venice. For this reason, the Ionian Islands became the only part of Greece free from the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ionian Islands' enchanting beaches with crystal clear water, imposing Venetian buildings and castles, and traditional stone paths compose a fairytale and romantic environment that attracts travelers from all over the world.

"If you take Greece apart... in the end, you will remain with an olive tree, a vineyard, and a boat... which means that with these items you can rebuild Greece..." – Odysseus Elytis, a Greek poet; Nobel Prize for Literature.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please read the policy page.

The 5 Most Beautiful Greek Islands in the Ionian Sea

Warm climate, lush vegetation, beautiful beaches and mountains, historic towns are, without a doubt, some of the incredible gifts of the Ionian Islands for all travelers. Here are the five most beautiful Greek islands in the Ionian Sea waiting for you to discover them.

Explore the Ionian Sea for five days

Antipaxos

Voutoumi beach (Photo by Grec On Treak)


The Ionian islands, in general, have a rare and wild beauty with clear blue waters, imposing rocks, and caves, but Antipaxos will make you love this Greek archipelago even more. Known to hundreds of Greeks and foreign tourists who visit its places every year, it never ceases to impress.

Located south of Paxos, Antipaxos is a small island with only a few square miles. You can get from one end to the other in 8 minutes by car or an hour on foot – a true small paradise on earth! Its soil is limestone, so you will see the impressive, off-white cliffs if you make the round by sea.

Antipaxos island, with its wider sea area and rocky islets, is a protected habitat of Natura 2000 – a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union. The island has no permanent residents. There are two taverns here, one of which is located high on the hill and offers panoramic views of the bay.

Take a boat cruise to the islands of Antipaxos and Paxos from Corfu

Beaches

The sandy beach of Vrika, with intense turquoise waters, is a unique swimming and ideal snorkeling spot. On its north side, there is a small cave that you should not miss visiting. 

Voutoumi beach is one of the most beautiful in Greece. The crystal clear water and white sand combined with cypresses, olive trees, and vineyards create a beautiful landscape. 

Of course, there are lesser-known beaches, more isolated and deserted, such as SarakinikoRodovani, and Mesovrika. For nudism lovers. The surrounding cliffs, no beach facilities, and no piers for the boats create isolation feeling there.  

Transportation 

You can reach this fairy-tail jewel of the Ionian islands on a day cruise from Corfu and Parga, as well as by sea taxi or private sailing yacht from Paxos, or by renting a boat.

Accommodation

Located in Antipaxos, Villa Lover's Nest offers air conditioning and a private pool. It also has a private terrace. Check-in at the villa is from 2 pm, and check-out is until 10 am. Prices may vary depending on the stay dates and services you choose.

Corfu

The historic city of Corfu


Corfu, known in Greek as Kerkyra and located close to the coast of Albania, is perhaps the most famous island of the Ionian Islands and one of the most popular in the Mediterranean. Summers are hot and dry, and winters cold and rainy here. The abundant vegetation of the island is directly related to the winter rainfall.

Take an eight-day Corfu cruise

Its beaches have a length of over 200 km / 125 mi and form several coves and capes. The highest peaks are Pantokrator (914 m / 2998 mi), Stravoskiadi (849 m / 2785 mi), and Vigla (782 m / 2565 mi). The Korissia lagoon located on the southwest coast of Corfu is a protected site of the Natura 2000.

The island with a long and rich history inextricably linked to Greek culture and tradition for more than 3000 years. Also, the French and English once dominated the island, leaving their heritage in architecture, culture, and, of course, gastronomy. If you are looking for cultural explorations, Corfu offers you countless options.

Corfu was the birthplace of some blue-blooded nobles of Europe, such as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princesses Alexia, and Sophie of Greece and Denmark.

The island's capital with the same name is a museum city; a place with a local artistic tradition and Venetian, English, and French influences is the most successful example of a combination of Greek and Western architecture. Since 2007, the historical center of Corfu is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Transportation

Corfu has an international airport with several flights to Athens and fewer to Thessaloniki. The island is also connected by air with all the Ionian islands and Preveza, while in the summer, it accepts several charter flights. 

Find cheap flights to Corfu

You can also take a boat ferry from Igoumenitsa, Patras, and Ereikoussa and the islands of Othonoi and Paxos.

The green buses perform daily trips around the island.

Accommodation

In Corfu, there are many accommodation options, with most five-star hotels located in the city of Corfu and cheaper options scattered in coastal areas of the island.

Attractions

    • Corfu City historical center
    • Achilleion, a palace of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria and later a summer residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia
    • Panagia Monastery and Angelokastro Fortress in Palaiokastritsa
    • Channel of Love in Sidari
    • Pontikonisi, also known as Mouse Island
    • Roman Baths in Acharavi 
    • Maritime Museum in Benitses 
    • Pantokrator, the highest mountain of Corfu, with an old monastery at the top

Food 

The sophistication of the local food will delight any visitor to Corfu. Greek, Mediterranean, Venetian - it is all about the island's cuisine well known for its wealth of vegetables, seafood, meat, spiced olives, and a glass of wine on the table at all times.

There are a lot of seafood restaurants on the island specializing in freshly caught fish. Souvlaki, made from lamb and pork, and a rabbit with wine are the most popular meat dishes. Vegetable salads, of which there are many varieties, have a special place on the menu and will appeal to health food enthusiasts. Those with a sweet tooth will like a wide range of fruits and sweets.

Coffee, as in all of Greece, takes the first position among drinks on the island. Wine, both white and red, is prepared from local grapes and has a distinctive standing among alcohol drinks.

Enjoy a guided Corfu Town walking tour and local food tasting

Kefalonia

Assos village


Kefalonia is the largest and one of the most picturesque Greek islands in the Ionian group. With a multi-layered history that dates back millennia, the island offers a wide range of activities: from scenic vistas to gorgeous beaches to thrilling caverns.

Explore the hidden gems of Kefalonia by a customized and private tour

Beaches

Without a doubt, the beautiful beaches of Kefalonia are the key reason why visitors keep coming back. They seem great in photographs, but the most photographed beaches on Kefalonia are even prettier in person.

Antisamos, a white-sand beach with turquoise waves, is surrounded by green hills and rich greenery. Because it is adjacent to the small village of Sami, there are lots of places to dine and refresh after a day at the beach.

On the island's southern side, Lourdas settlement has a beautiful beach. This popular family destination, surrounded by lush greenery and spectacular waterfalls that cascade down the mountainsides, has crystal clear and shallow waters. 

Myrtos, renowned as one of Greece's and the world's best beaches, combines the Mediterranean's turquoise waters with Kefalonia's beautiful hills. Many people visit this beautiful beach because of awe-inspiring and breathtaking views, and many linger till the spectacular sunsets. 

Xi Beach is well-kept, with sunbeds and straw umbrellas. The shallow sea and gentle waves provide the perfect playground for the kids. A beautiful pub providing cold drinks and nibbles is located right on the beach, as well as a water sports facility for the more daring. 

Transportation

Domestic flights arrive all year from Athens, Corfu, and Zakynthos at Kefalonia international airport named Anna Pollatou. During the summer, the airport attracts charter flights from all around Europe. 

Find cheap flights to Kefalonia

This beautiful destination is also easily accessible by ferries from many places in the western part of mainland Greece, some of the Ionian Islands, and the Italian port of Brindisi.

Accommodation

Accommodations may be available all across the island. However, if you do not have access to a private vehicle, some hotels may be inconvenient to reach. Skala, Lourdas, and Lassi are the most popular destinations, having easy access to beautiful beaches and tourist attractions.

Attractions

    • 16th-century castle built by the Venetians in Assos village
    • Monastery of Agios Gerasimos in Valsamata village
    • ancient Acropolis and Drogarati Cave in Sami
    • Archaeology Museum in Argostoli
    • scuba diving by Agia Efimia village
    • boat tours

Food & Restaurants 

Despite the abundance of places to dine and drink on the island, its size prohibits the development of mass tourism resorts. Kefalonia's beach resorts and port towns have the majority of the island's dining options.

Experience a traditional Kefalonian cooking class

Captain Nikolas in Vatsa is a classic white stone taverna famed for its delicious fish and fresh seafood, as well as its stunning sea views. Locals and travelers alike frequent the establishment.

Andromeda Centre is a charming restaurant and wedding venue in Lourdas, built on a hillside and surrounded by beautiful terraced gardens. The restaurant, which is open from May to October, has a serene setting and a laid-back atmosphere typical of a Greek taverna.

Since the 80s', Tassia in the village of Fiscardo has been a family-owned and run restaurant servicing diners. Famous guests from Tom Hanks to Jon Bon Jovi have graced the establishment's photo gallery for years.

Lorraine's Magic Hill in Lourdas is a popular eating place because of its outstanding Mediterranean and modern Greek food, as well as a great setting overlooking the sea from an elevated spot on a beach.

Old Times restaurant, located in Skala, a quaint town nestled among tranquil and lovely surroundings, provides its guests with a breathtaking view of the sea as well as the soothing sound of the waves. Traditional Greek cuisine is available on the menu, complemented by an extensive wine list.

Kythira

Melidoni Beach


Known as the birthplace of Aphrodite (the goddess of love) in Greek mythology, Kythira is an island located just across from the Peloponnese peninsula's south-eastern point. Despite its distance from the group, it is traditionally considered one of the principal Ionian Islands.

Beautiful beaches and caves, stunning castles and monasteries, and even ghost villages, such as Paleochora, may all be seen on a drive across the island.

The Venetians, who dominated the island during the Medieval period, had a significant influence on the island's architecture.

Take a Mylopotamos private tour

Beaches

Even during the tourist months of July and August, the beaches are rarely overcrowded. As a result, the island maintains a reasonable price tag, making it an ideal place for Greek vacations on a budget.

Located in the northeastern part of the island, Agia Pelagia is a gray sand beach with crystal blue waves. You will discover here a variety of activities and sports events, as well as restaurants and cafes to satiate your hunger.

Many consider Kaladi to be the most attractive and most popular beach on the island, and it is one that visitors to Kythera should not miss. It is a pebbled shore on the island's eastern coast, right opposite Palaiopolis, with crystal clear blue waters. Kaladi has three sections, the most impressive of which is a little cave that leads to a small beach.

Sparagario is a secret beach located at the mouth of the Chora creek, between two steep hills that resemble a canyon next to Kapsali's village and beach.  

Located between Avlemonas village and Skandia settlement, the beach of Paleopolis is the largest on the island. It has a mixture of pebbles and sand and is perfect for water sports such as skiing, windsurfing, and other water activities. 

Transportation

Domestic flights from Athens arrive all year round at the Alexandros Aristotelous Onassis airport of Kythira. The flight takes about an hour.

Find cheap flights from Athens to Kythira

From the port of Neapoli Voion on the Peloponnese peninsula's southern coast, you may reach Kythira by ferry. The trip takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes and is daily. Ferries to Kythira also leave three times a week from Gythio in Peloponnese and Kissamos in Crete.  There are a few direct routes from Athens to Kythira, which run only during the summer.

The best way to get around Kythira is by your car. If you have not got one, you can rent a car or scooter for driving tortuous roads on the island.

Accommodation

Kythira accommodation suits all preferences and budgets: from remote luxury resorts, retreats, and hotels to budget camping grounds, there is something for everyone. All are available at seasonal rates. However, if you plan to visit during the summer, you should book ahead of time.

Attractions

    • Archaeological Museum of Chora
    • Ayia Sophia Cave near Mylopotamos
    • Chitra, a tiny isolated island
    • Fonissa waterfall in Mylopotamos
    • Houstis Cave in Diakofti village
    • Kadouni Bridge, the longest stone bridge in Greece
    • Paleochora, an ancient city
    • Panagia Myrtidiotissa, the largest monastery in Kythera, located in the area of Myrtidia

Food & Restaurants 

Food is a significant aspect of Greek culture, and Kythira is no exception. Tomato soup, lobster pilaf, thyme honey, and rusks from Karvounades bakery are all worth trying.

Belvedere restaurant is located in Chora and has a magnificent view of Kapsali harbor and the Venetian castle. The pizza and spaghetti are the best here on the island so if you find yourself in the city do not miss it.

The seasonal cuisine of the Familia restaurant in Fratsia reflects the excellent gastronomic heritage and dynamic culinary culture of the Greeks and Kythirians with respect for the location.

Kythira: delicious Greek creative cuisine at Familia

O Magos was one of the first restaurants to open in Kapsali. Andoni, the proprietor, has been serving locals for years, specializing in fish.

Sotiris, located on a vast, open plaza in the middle of Avlemonas town, with a great view of the seaside, focuses on seafood: lobster, grilled bream, seafood pasta, and fish soup.

Trattamento is a restaurant in Kapsali. Here you will find delicious food for the whole family, a beautiful setting by the water, and live music in the summer.

Zakynthos

Navagio Beach


Zakynthos is a famous vacation spot in Greece, with white beaches, sea turtles, and a lively atmosphere. Internationally known as Zante, it is the third-largest island in the gorgeous Ionian Sea, after Corfu and Kefalonia. 

Beautiful hilltop villages, historic monasteries, and stunning natural scenery – all this you can find in Zakynthos. Many photographs and postcards have attempted to portray its splendor, but the reality is considerably more spectacular.

Find the best sunset spots on the island of Zakynthos

Beaches

Banana is Zakynthos' largest beach, approximately 14 km / 7 mi from the island's capital, Zakynthos Town. It is well-known for its unusual waters, which shimmer in the sunlight. Banana is well-organized, with sundecks and umbrellas for hire.

Due to its distinctive rock formations, small caves, pine trees, and a lovely beach, tiny Cameo Island offers outstanding beauty. The water is shallow and safe for swimming; the area is friendly to families and is a good place for kids to play. A wooden bridge connects it to Zakynthos, giving it a Caribbean feel.

Gerakas is one of Zakynthos' most beautiful beaches because of its blue waters and distinctive natural features. It is 18 km / 11 mi south of the capital and provides a haven for the endangered Caretta-Caretta marine turtle. Before you walk down the path to this beautiful beach, there is free parking.

Navagio Beach, also known as Shipwreck Cove, is Zakynthos' most famous beach near Anafotiria settlement on the island's western side. Because of the mineral deposits in the caves around the shore, the water here often has unimaginable colors of blue. You will be able to swim and relax on the beach. Stops made by the boat on the way there or returning provide real swimming fun.

Transportation

Zakynthos has an international airport, with domestic flights from Athens and Kefalonia all year round and, during summer, from numerous locations around Europe. 

Find cheap flights to Zakynthos island

Another option is to take a ferry from the Peloponnese port of Killini to Zakynthos. In summer, you can reach Zakynthos from Kefalonia, too.

Accommodation

There are 1,890 hotels in Zakynthos you can book on Booking.com, searching for hotels by location, price, whether they have a pool or are on the beach, and view photos, maps, and customer reviews.

In Zakynthos, the most popular hotels are Balcony Hotel, Contessina Hotel, and Contessina Suites & Spa - Adults Only. Other popular hotels are Casa Del Mar, Olea All-Suite Hotel, and Memories Apartments.

Attractions

    • Blue Caves on the northernmost side of the island
    • Church of Agia Mavra in Moherado
    • Exhibition Center of the Sea Turtle Caretta Caretta in Dafni
    • Marathonisi Islet in Limni Keriou
    • Monastery of Eleftherotria in Moherado
    • Post Byzantine Art Museum in Zakynthos Town
    • Venetian Bridge in Arggasi
    • Venetian Castle in Zakynthos Town

Enjoy the experience of making ceramics in Zakynthos

Food & Restaurants

You can find traditional foods and local cuisine in a variety of local taverns throughout the island. In addition to Greek cuisine, many restaurants, particularly in the more touristy towns, serve excellent international menus, including the best Chinese, English, Indian, Italian, and other cuisines.

Mantalena is a restaurant established in the 80s' in the heart of Alykanas.  The world's leading tourist guides and media highly rated its traditional Greek cuisine. The restaurant daily offers charcoal-grilled steaks, souvlaki, freshly baked sweets, and house wine from nearby vineyards, as well as a beautiful view of the street below.

Kaminaki, located in the mountain village of Ano Volimes, in the north of Zakynthos island, is a famous traditional tavern specializing in charcoal-grilled food.

Zakanthi is a lovely restaurant in Kalamaki serving innovative Greek cuisine. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with a soothing ambiance. Candles and charming decorations here create a cozy environment that you will not find anywhere else. You can also eat in Zakanthi's lush garden while watching the stars.

Sunset is a tavern in Keri, a historic mountain community. It is known on Zante island for its grilled meat specialties and has a panoramic terrace overlooking the spectacular sunset over Keri rocks. 

During your vacation in Zakynthos, you may want to spend at least one night in Zakynthos town, and taverna Varkarola could be an excellent place to eat in a classic Greek atmosphere.

Greece Map



0 comments