The sapphire waters of the Ionian Sea welcome you to paradise. This is perfect cruising ground! Green wooded islands – famed as much for their startling beauty as well as for their rich history – rise out of sparkling peacock-blue waters, stunning setting for their award-winning white-sand beaches.
The deep and cool sea waters; the mountains; the lush vegetation; the cultural heritage; and the cheerfulness of the inhabitants, make the Ionian Islands the ideal place for a holiday as well as rest and relaxation.
Venetian, French and British occupiers have all helped to shape the islands’ architecture, culture and (excellent) cuisine, and contributed to the unique feel of Ionian life.
The island receives three times the average amount of rain for the area and as a consequence is a mass of green woodlands, wild pine-covered mountains, lakes and cultivated fields. It also has miles of sandy beaches. The island’s capital, Corfu Town is attractively situated on a promontory on the east coast, dominated by the New Fortress. Visit Sidari to the north to swim in the Canal d’Amour, the legend has it that lovers will stay together for life. 16 km to the south of Corfu Town is the Villa of Achillion, built in Italian Renaissance style and situated at an altitude of 145 m. It has magnificent gardens and attractive panoramic views. Today it is a museum. 3 km further south is the charming fishing village of Benitses and the remains of a Roman villa. Climb to the summit of Mount Pantokrator where you will find an abandoned monastery dating from 1347. The hilltop also provides beautiful views.
The main harbour is in Corfu town. Enter the Old Harbour from the eastern end of the breakwater. The entrance into the interior of the harbour is very narrow and a strong northwesterly makes entry difficult. Once inside there is excellent shelter in all weathers. Visitor’s berths are behind the windward mole, alongside, two and three deep. Anchoring is not advised, you will almost certainly get gear tangled. Having berthed you are within walking distance of the town’s centre. Adjacent to the harbour you will find chandlers, machine shops, boat engine repair services and others for electrical and electronic gear.
Corfu town unquestionably offers the best all-round facilities in the northern Ionian. 3 miles to the NW is Linin Gouvia, a large land locked bay. At it’s southern end is Gouvia marina which has become Corfu’s centre of yachting. It is home to a Venetian arsenal. The surrounding area has been given over to the package holiday and there are more pleasant places to spend time on a yachting holiday. The north Corfu channel is the stretch of water between Corfu and Albania. Beware the reef just to the north of Agios Stefanos. Agios Stefanos is a small inlet in the North Corfu Channel. No objection is normally made to anchoring here despite the presence of a nearby military post. Anchor in the middle of the bay in depths of 3 – 6m. The bottom is thick weed and mud which can be difficult to get through. Good shelter from the prevailing NW wind. There is a rough stone mole on the south side of the bay but this is usually taken by local boats. There are numerous tavernas around the shore. Some holiday villas have been built here but the bay retains a calm and a beauty well worth the stop for the night. Limited provisions can be obtained Agni Bay is immediately south of Kalami in the north east of the island. It is open to the south and east but offers good shelter from the prevailing NW wind.
Paxos is 7 miles to the south of Corfu. It is a charming little island, covered with pine trees. It can be explored fully in a few days with a car or motorbike both of which can be rented locally. The architecture of the three main towns, Gaios, Laka, and Logos is typically Ionian with colourful two and three-story homes lining the streets. By contrast the rural landscape is filled with low stone houses surrounded by lush green gardens. The emblem of Paxos is the trident. It is said that Poseidon, the god of the seas, wanted to create a beautiful, peaceful island apart from the other gods and men and intended to live there with his beloved Amfitriti. So he struck the southern part of Corfu hard and Paxos was formed. However he lost his trident striking the blow which was later found by Paxiots who made it their emblem.
Gaios is the capital of Paxos. It is a charming port and spreads itself along the waterfront. Enter Gaios from a northerly direction passing two small islands, Panayia and St Nicholas Island. Soak up the atmosphere of this bustling capital in Gaios square. In it’s centre is the church of St Apostoli. Gaios harbour and the approaching inlet are very safe overnight moorings with security patrols on both land and water. There are several buildings worth visiting the castle of St Nicholas, the Monastery of Panayia, the Church of Agioi Apostoli and the early Christian church of Agia Marina. Take in the sunset at the Ostries.
There are fine beaches at loni Gouli, Kamini and Kaki Lagada. Port Gaios is the principal port of the island. You can moor right in the middle of the busy touristy scenery or choose a quieter berth further down the long quay. If you want a berth in July and August be here early in the afternoon. Excellent shelter in all weathers. Care should be taken when laying your anchor as passing ferries in the narrow channel may foul your chain. Lakka, in the north of Paxos is set in a gorgeous horseshoe shaped bay and is flanked by high ground covered in cypress trees and olive groves. The bay which nearly landlocked is excellent for swimming and water sports. Holding is good. Some swell may occur dependent on the wind’s direction. There are some berths on the quay, limited to around 10 yachts. Fresh water from the local water truck. Its tiny sister island, just to the south, Anti Paxos is surrounded with crystal clear waters lapping onto some lovely sandy beaches.
The beautiful coastline of Paxos is renowned throughout the Ionian and the natural harbours of Lakka, Gaios and Mongonisi soon fill up with yachts during the summer months. The value of these anchorages is recognised when the Maistros blows and in the Paxos strait the currents and waves strengthen. The western shoreline of the island consists of impressive cliffs with sea caves, which, weather permitting can be visited. Although Antipaxos does not have a safe anchorage, the gorgeous beaches and spectacular turquoise waters of its north-eastern shore are nevertheless extremely popular.
Lefkas is a popular, lively and windy island. It is the only island linked to mainland Greece, a swing bridge providing access by road. The airport at Preveza is only a 30 minute ride away. Lefkas Town lies a short distance down the canal, at the point where the canal turns to run SE. The buildings of the town are easily seen and the harbour is not difficult to locate. There is a marina here or you can use the town’s harbour. Both provide good shelter in all weather conditions .The Lefkas canal enables sailors to pass along the east side of the island, which has most of the anchorages. The northern entrance can be found by locating the Santa Mauro Fort. The canal proper starts after Lefkas Town and is marked by red and green poles and by red and green buoys when the canal turns south.
Nidri is lively, the quay self provides water, fuel etc. but places you in the middle of yacht charter bases, tripper boats, ferries etc. A little further south he landlocked Vlikho Bay provides good all-round shelter the bottom is mud On the southern end lies the sheltered bay of Sivota with several waterside bars and tavernas. On the southwest coast, Vasiliki has quayside bars, cafes and non-stop nightlife. Vassiliki was a sleepy little fishing village. It is now one of the islands main resorts The port is located in the south-east of the large bay. It offers good shelter although the prevailing wind tends to blow into the harbour making conditions uncomfortable at times.
The bottom holds well. There are no anchorages on the west coast but you will find beautiful beaches where you can watch stunning sunsets. Also worth a visit while on Levkas: The ancient city Nirikos was the first capital of the island from 2BC. Excavations have shown that Nirikos enjoyed significant economic growth. The collection in the Archaeological Museum of Levkas includes findings dating from the Proto-Hellenic period to the Roman era, including ceramics, pots, statues, signs, ecclesiastic pieces and photographs from the excavations in Nidri. Lefkata Cape is situated at the southern part of Lefkas and offers a majestic view. Originally, sacrifices to the gods and spirits took place here. Convicts were forced to jump from the rocks and attempt to fly using feathers tied around their bodies. The monastery of Panayia Faneromeni is the most significant religious monument on the island. It is situated 2 km east of the capital outside the village of Frynio and stands on the site of an ancient sanctuary for Artemis or Hera.
Meganissi has the magnificent inlet at Port Athene on the north coast.This is the perfect place for snorkelling and swimming and makes a good overnight stop. Vathi is the islands main port. It is a pleasant relaxed place with good walks through the olive groves to the bays on the east.
The high village of Spartohori on can easily be seen from the north and west. Once you are in the bay the small harbour will be seen. Good shelter but the depth often exceeds 15m. The anchorage near the tavern is the best location in the bay. The village of Spartahori is an absolute must, walk up the hill for a warm local welcome and an incredible view out over Nidri, Madhouri and Skorpios and over to the mountains on the mainland to the east. The island has a number of picturesque bays where you can anchor and take a line ashore. Facilities are at best limited and usually non existent Ithaca – Steeped in legend of Odysseus the island has beautiful bays and attractive anchorages.
Cephalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands covering some 700 sq. km. It is renowned for its wine and more latterly for the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. For the walker there are acres of forest covered limestone mountains to explore. 10 peaks rise above 5000 feet. The limestone rock results in remarkable caves and caverns as can be seen at the underground lake complex at Mellisani. Most of the mountains fall steeply to the sea and the you will be sailing at the foot of these peaks, in places this means the boat will be subjected to strong gusts of wind so care is needed.
There are a number of shops in the village as to there are tavernas some serving excellent food. There are several anchorages on the coast between Fiskardo and Ay Eufimia to the south. Ay Eufimia is a small harbour in the north west corner of a large bay. Most provisions can be found and there are a few tavernas. Sami to the south of the same bay is the island’s main ferry port. It was developed after the earthquake and is nearly all modern buildings. There are good walks along the coast to the north east of the harbour. Still further to the south is the small harbour of Poros. This is not the most comfortable harbour in the Ionian with the prevailing winds creating a chop in the harbour. It is uncomfortable rather than unsafe. Most provisions are available in the village. There are several tavernas with a good one by the harbour. The capital of the island is Argostoli the SW. The earthquake in 1953 bought almost total devastation, all that remained intact were a couple of houses, the arched bridge stretching across the lagoon and the obelisk at it’s centre. Sadly the rebuilding has produced a rather soulless place. There are plenty of shops and tavernas in the town. Lixuri is a town with a small harbour opposite Argostoli on the western side of Kolpos Argostoliou. Unfortunately the harbour is situated next to the main sewer outlet and is extremely smelly during the summer months. Assos, on the western side of the island, should be used only in calms or when the wind is light from the west. There are numerous tavernas in the village and limited provisions can be found. The village is particularly picturesque set under the high cliffs and mountains and just across the peninsula from the ruined Venetian fort.
The small island of ITHACA is part of the Ionian group and lies off Kefalonia’s east coast. Overshadowed by its more popular neighbour it has escaped the more damaging attentions of the package tourist industry.
Ithaca is a sleepy, rocky, some say dull little island – Homer called it ‘good for goats’ – where time, when not standing still, tends to wander about rather aimlessly. Apart from the small annual influx of tourists and occasional invasion by day trippers there is little to disturb the soporific atmosphere.
Ithaca is almost split in two by the bay at Aetos, with large peninsulas north and south. The north has the best resorts and the more interesting walks. The south has the capital at Vathi and the more important links to Homer. The west side coastline is rough and ragged with only a couple of decent beaches while the east is typified by rolling hills and lush farmland.
Ithaca is an island for those looking for somewhere to unwind and where the most exciting event of the day is catching a waiter’s eye.
Zakinthos is the southernmost of the islands in the Ionian. A horseshoe shaped mountain range surrounds a rich fertile plain. Half of the island’s cultivated land is given over to the currant vine which was originally transplanted from the Peloponnese by the Venetians. In the north east of the islands lies Ormos Ay Nikolaos. You can anchor in the bay in about 5m depths or go stern to the outside of the breakwater and take a long line ashore. Strong gusts can be expected in the afternoon and most yachts leave after lunchtime and head south to the capital. A visit to the Blue Caves is a favourite in this part of the island. Join one of the local caiques as visit with a yacht is not advisable as the area is unprotected from north westerlies and the waters to deep to anchor in. The underwater rocks are covered by a mauve coloured seaweed. The seaweed together with the white sandy bottom of the caves reflect the incoming sunlight producing a blue hue.
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