The temperate climate; the deep and cool sea waters; the mountains; the lush vegetation; thecultural heritage; and the cheerfulness of the inhabitants, make the Ionian Islands the ideal place for a holiday as well as rest and relaxation.
What is more, the traits of the Ionian Islands are perfectly combined with a flawless tourism infrastructure, excellent hotel accommodations, restaurants, diving centers, sea sports, cultural events, and a multitude of sights, historic monuments and museums worth visiting.
Scattered along the western coastline of Central Greece, the Ionian Islands as they are known, are an island cluster comprising twelve small and large islands whose total surface area comes to 2,200 square kilometers. Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu (Kerkyra), Kefalonia, Lefkada, and Paxi are the six, large Ionian Islands. Antipaxi, Erikousa, Mathraki, Othoni, Meganisi and the deserted islets of Strofades south of Zakynthos are the smaller Ionian Islands.
Together with the island of Kythira and the neighboring Antikythira the islands form the island cluster of Eptanisa. Nevertheless it should be noted that Kythira and Antikythira are completely cut off from the rest of the Ionian islands situated as they are across southern Peloponnese and the coast of Laconia.
Once, the Ionian Islands were part of Central Greece but were torn apart when the terrain sank due to the seismic activity along the great coastline fault of the Ionian Sea. This accounts not only for the ragged shores and hauntingly beautiful beaches but it also accounts for the islands’ tall mountains, once part of the Pindos mountain range which crosses Central Greece. It also accounts for the great depth of the waters in the area which, at 4,406 meters, is the greatest in the Mediterranean.
The Ionian islands have a mild and temperate climate which makes them the ideal location for vacation or residence. In winter, the mountains of Central Greece stop the cold northern winds from reaching the islands while, in summer, the heat is tempered by the meltemia, the soft, northwestern winds, and the sea breezes. Due to the air currents prevalent on the Ionian islands, many of the island beaches have developed into internationally acclaimed windsurfing centers.
The Ionian Islands have been inhabited since Paleolithic times, have been through many invasions, and have received the influence of a variety of cultures.
The Ionian Islands were part of the Byzantine Empire until 1204 when the Franks took over Constantinople and the Ionian Islands were eventually ceded to the Venetians. Under Venetian rule, the Ionian Islands formed their own local nobility whose register survived as late as the 19th century.
From the time of Frankish rule until 1864 when they were joined with Greece, the Ionian Islands were also ruled by a number of foreign conquerors. The presence of the Europeans on the Ionian Islands at a time when Greece was still under Ottoman rule gave rise to significant intellectual activity something that is still visible today both in the islands’ architectural tradition as well as their charming cultural traits.
Lefkas – Λευκάδα – Lefkada (ancient Leukas; Italian Santa Maura) is a hilly island marked by karstic action, lying off the Playia Peninsula in Acarnania, from which it is separated by a shallow lagoon varying in width between 600 m and 5 km. It is now linked with the mainland by a causeway and a ferry.
Most of the island is occupied by a range of hills rising to a height of 1158 m in Mount Stavrotas and running south-west to end at Cape Doukato. It was from this Leucadian Rock of gleaming white limestone that Sappho was supposed to have thrown herself for love of the handsome Phaon.
Lefkas never had any permanent natural connection with the mainland. The shingle spit at the northern tip was pierced in ancient times by the Corinthians to provide a channel for shipping, much like the spit to the south of Lefkas town, which came into being in the Middle Ages as a result of the establishment of salt-pans.
Off the south-east coast of Lefkas is the beautiful unspoilt island of Meganisi, with sandy beaches and famous sea-caves and therefore a exquisite area for relaxed family yacht charters, either bareboat, in flotilla or skippered.
The must-see ports and anchorages include: Palairos, Mytika, Kastos, Port Leone, Episkopi, Papanikolis Cave, Vathi, Spartakhori, Menidion (Ambracian Gulf), Sivota, Vasiliki and Rouda Bay,
British Admiralty Chart 203
The earliest evidence of human settlement on the island dates from the Neolithic period. In the 7th c. BCE the town of Leukas was founded by settlers from Corinth, who closed off the south end of the lagoon, opposite the St George Fort, by a 600 m long mole, remains of which are still visible under water (the sunken breakwater). They also cut a channel through the spit of shingle at the north end of the lagoon, opposite the Santa Maura Fort.
In the Middle Ages the island belonged to the barons of Kefallinia and Zakynthos. In 1479 it was taken by the Turks – the only Ionian Island to fall into their hands – but was recovered for Venice by Morosini in 1684.
As a result to the vicissitudes of its history and of a series of earthquakes (the most recent in 1953) Lefkas has preserved very few old buildings.
Preveza, Nidri and Lefkas port are the most important bases for bareboat yacht charters in the southern Ionian, as is Corfu and Gouvia in the north Ionian. The Lefkas canal enables us sailors to pass along the east side of the island, which has 90% of the good anchorages. From the north the entrance can be found by locating the Santa Mauro Fort.
Looking SW: The Santa Maura Fort and the north entrance to the canal and in the distance, Lefkas town.
The canal proper (dotted lines) starts after Lefkas Town and is marked by red and green poles and by red and green buoys when the canal turns south.
The ancient submerged breakwater is located opposite the St George Fort.
In Lefkas Town the houses have an unusual structure. The supporting timber posts and beams and lightly build upper storeys are designed to withstand earthquakes. Go stern-to or bows-to the town quay on the NE or S side, the muddy bottom is generally good holding.
The high town of Spartakhori on the island of Meganisi can easily be seen from the north and west. Once you are in the bay the small harbour will be seen. Good shelter, though you will have to anchor in considerable depths (15-25 m). With NE winds (night!) the anchorage near the taverna is the best location in the bay. The village of Spartakhori – enjoy the beautiful winding road to reach it – is enchanting and definitely worth the climb.
The port of Vassiliki is located in the south-east of Lefkas deep in the large bay of vassiliki. In the west side of this bay – close to the village Pondi – is a nice anchorage (anchor in 4-8 m). The actual port is located in the east of the bay and is very shallow. Just stay close to the breakwater. A natural spring favours this part of the island and runs through a washing house at the south of Vassiliki.
The landlocked Vlikho Bay provides good all-round shelter to anchor in a muddy bottom of just 8-2 meters. Anchoring off the quay of the quiet Vlikho village can be uncomfortable in stronger daytime winds.
Nidri village, however, is more boisterous, just like the fair but crowded inlet across. Outside July, August this inlet is a must anchor and you can use the sunken coaster here to tie an extra line. The Nidri quay self provides water, fuel etc. but places you in the middle of yacht charter bases, tripper boats, ferries etc.
The villa on Modra Island belongs to the family of Arist. Valaoritis (1824-79), greece’s national poet. Anchor in front of the baroque building.
The Skorpios Island is also private (owned by the Onassis family), but as long you don’t cross the high water mark you can anchor on both sides of a small sandy isthmus south of the island (alliteration :-).
The entrance to Sivota Bay is sometimes difficult to make out. Once in, you can anchor at the east side just around the cape or – if you proceed through the dogleg – you can anchor anywhere in 3-8 m.
There are quays on the south and west sides with water, tavernas etc.
British Admiralty Chart 2402