Sandy stretches and rocky coves, textbook Greek towns, and nightlife that’ll knock your socks off – when it comes to holidays, the Ionian Islands pull out all the stops.
Scattered west of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands are major players on the holiday scene. Along with sandy beaches and pebbled coves, they tick off everything from crowd-pleasing scenery to Ibiza-esque nightlife.
Kefalonia’s the biggest of the Ionian Islands, and comes with Hollywood credentials – big-budget blockbuster Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed here back in 2000. It’s got more than its fair share of good looks, showcasing pine-backed beaches, rolling hills, and vineyard-striped countryside. Lixouri makes a good base – it’s a laid-back town in the east of the island with beaches on tap and regular ferry services across the bay to Argostoli.
Nicknamed the ‘Emerald Isle’ thanks to its tree-topped hills and olive groves, Corfu is one of the best-known Greek Islands. Places for your shortlist here include low-key Achiavari and, at the other end of the spectrum, neon-lit Kavos. Beach-wise, the island has got some real head-turners like Blue Flag Glyfada and sandy Sidari. And then there’s Corfu Town to consider. Its UNESCO-protected old town is a web of lanes crammed with Venetian buildings, chic boutiques and rooftop bars.
Trace your finger south on a map of the Ionian Islands and you’ll hit Zante. This triangular island is all about contrasts. Resorts range from quiet-and-shy Alykanas and family-favourite Tsilivi, to up-all-night Laganas. Nudge inland, meanwhile, and you’ll stumble across the quiet hamlets and sleepy squares of old-school Greece.
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People have been singing Corfu’s praises for centuries. The poet Homer, for instance, labelled it ‘a beautiful and rich land’. Almost 3,000 years on and his words still ring true – Corfu is one of the prettiest parts of Greece. And it certainly deserves its ‘Emerald Isle’ nickname, what with its green hills and an olive-tree quota topping the three million mark.
A part of Greece since 1864, Zante, or Zakynthos, as it’s also known, was given the name ‘Flower of the Orient’ by the Venetians because of its incredibly lush landscape. The island’s interior is filled with luxuriant, rolling hills, covered with olive groves, lemon trees and blooming bougainvillea. And, along the way you can explore traditional villages that seem not to have changed in hundreds of years.
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