Ionian Idyll: Sailing amongst Greece’s Ionian Islands

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To sail in the Ionian, one needs to fly into Preveza a small airport on the mainland of Greece very near to the island of Lefkas.  Our yacht share is moored at Sivota which a charming little village with a beautiful bay is also on Lefkas; a taxi ride takes about fifty minutes.

Sivota has a host of tavernas and flats and villas and is a haven for yachts of all sizes. We set out from Sivota where our yacht Fluke is moored permanently.

Ionian

Sailing in the Ionian

Sailing in the Ionian

Then, we sailed round to Vasiliki a small port also on Lefkas which is renovating its port facilities.  After one night in port, we then sailed across to island of Cephalonia to Fiskardo.  Sailing here is beautiful and not dangerous but one has to be aware of other craft, most especially ferries of all sizes that move at speed amongst Greece’s islands. This is a beautiful but smallish port and difficult to get a mooring …. also challenging if the winds change … as they did!

However, after a blowy night we came into port and enjoyed another two days; the restaurants are good and colourful, and the shops are full of beautiful fashionable items, clothes, and jewelry. Fiskardo has the remains of an ancient Roman cemetery to explore near a very good taverna.

Then we sailed down to Eufemia also on Cephalonia. Cephalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands and became famous with the very good book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the film of the same name which was the poignant story of a local girl meeting an Italian soldier during the World War 2 occupation and the subsequent cruel behaviour of Nazi Germany who then occupied Greece and executed thousands.  We looked at Sami which is a lovely town and port and was the location for much of that famous haunting film. We then sailed on to the island of Ithaca.

Ithaca sailing Ionian

Mountain top in Ithaca

Since ancient times the name of the island has been known all over the world as the homeland of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey. Archaeologists and scholars generally identify the island with Homer’s Ithaca, explaining that the differences in descriptions resulted either because of Homer’s lack of knowledge of the island or by poetic license.

Odysseus who played a key role in the Trojan War and is the hero of Homer’s Odyssey besieged Troy for ten years along with other Greek Kings showing brilliance, guile and wisdom and is famous for his Trojan Horse ploy to capture the city of Troy.  His journey home took ten years, but we all know that really the Odyssey is a hymn to human strength, will and perseverance.

Vathi Harbor Ionian Greece

Vathi Harbor

We came into Vathi, which is the capital of Ithaca and moored well. The approach to Vathi is through an enormous bay and the whole experience is very striking and beautiful.  This is a nice town with quite a few areas of interest and good tavernas and shops; we hired a car and explored the island which was a delight with beautiful beaches to explore and great heritage.

In 1953, it was ravaged by earthquake but was rebuilt. In the 20th century at a cave on the west side of the island at Poli Bay near Stavros various ancient artefacts were discovered that seemed to prove that Odysseus had existed, and that great story had its origins in truth. The village of Stavros is of interest in relation to Homer and 4 kms from Stavros there are the remains of the School of Homer.

We have sailed into Frikes before but this time by car we called in and then chose one of the glorious little bays nearby for a swim at Skinari with a picnic on the pebble beach; the water is a clear turquoise and it is enchanting.

Ionian Sailing

Sailing the Ionian: Skinari Beach on Ithaca

We sailed around to Kioni from Vathi very early next morning. This lovely village is very picturesque and very popular with yachties and thus one sets off early to ensure finding a mooring.  Having spent two nights there relaxing and swimming and paddle boarding we sailed across to One House Bay on the island of Akoto which is just beautiful for swimming; the one house is an old chapel and there is no habitation, but this is a beautiful bay in which to snorkel, swim, paddle board and enjoy the turquoise clear waters.

Island of Atoko Ionian Sailing

Ionian Sailing: Island of Atoko

Akoto looms out of the sea and is very striking in the mist or the sunshine. From there we then sailed across to island of Kastos for one night; this is a small port on a very little inhabited island and charming with stunning views across the Ionian Sea.

On the next morning, we motored the yacht on to the port of Kalamos on the island of Kalamos.  This too is a very charming small port and a great favourite with sailors.  One could climb the mountain or walk to the deserted old village, but we just relaxed. We then sailed round to Episcopi which is on the north west of the island which is a tiny little port but with lovely beaches and just one rudimentary but good taverna.

Sunset-at-Episcopi Ionian

The Magical Ionian: Sunset at Episcopi

Ionian

Ionian Magic: Beach at Episcopi

From there, we sailed to Meganisi Island and little Vathi the capital and moored at Karnagio in the outer bay which was very pleasant.  From Karnagio, which is very popular for its amenities, one can just walk into Vathi which is charming. On the second occasion just recently, we moored in Vathi, but we prefer the smaller places.

We then motored the yacht around to Spilia and Spartachori for two nights; this is a big favourite with us in a beautiful bay with lovely beach, safe swimming in crystal clear water with a good taverna and showers, and a bar that serves snacks and drinks with umbrellas on the beach; the ancient village of Spartachori is up a steep good road but affords wonderful views. We then sailed back to Sivota in the early morning.  We spotted dolphins in the Meganisi Strait.

Spilia Bay and Taverna Ionian

Spilia Bay and Taverna

After a farewell to the boat the next day having done the obligatory yacht clean to leave her spick and span, we went and spent three days in Nidri which is a ten-minute drive in the direction of the main town – the coastal road of Lefkas has stunning views. We stayed at the Eva Beach Hotel for three days with beautiful views from our balcony and lovely swimming right there in the beachfront/garden of our hotel.

We hired a car to take us to the capital of the island, Lefkada and had a walk around the narrow streets and visited the folk museum and enjoyed some lunch.  The capital has a huge marina and many people store their yachts there during the off season from October to early May.

Swimming-and-eat-at-Spilia Ionian

Swimming and eating at Spilia

Vathi Bay Chapel Ionian

Vathi Bay Chapel

Ionian sailing can be sourced through various yacht charter companies that can provide skippered yachts of various sizes, medium to large, to seriously large, or bare boat sailing in groups of two, four or six persons or larger which means the party do all the sailing themselves but are in a flotilla which ensures they are safe and confident in their activities and have someone on whom to rely for professional sailing advice.

That can be great fun, but sometimes just sailing as a couple is the best for relaxation and enjoyment.   I love Greece and am distressed at their current tragedy of wild fires around Athens which is such a wonderful ancient yet modern city.

For more photos, check out my photo stream.

Aline Dobbie

Aline Dobbie is an author of four books on India and a travel writer. She lives in Scotland but travels widely throughout the year with an annual visit to India where she was born & grew up. Aline’s earlier life was in the corporate world but now lives a rural life with emphasis on travel, gardening, cooking, and family. India, South Africa, England, Scotland, Greece and other lovely places are a constant delight to her.

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