SPRING-SUMMER 2011I sea&iI55Artistic heritage, mythical wonder and enchantingculture have become irrevocably entwined withthe archipelagos of Greece. All are suffused withintrigue, adorned with whitewashed houses andbeautiful beaches, and lapped by the constant wash of the sea.But as the archipelagos are so vast, you ideally need to singleout just one group to explore during each visit. One of the most popular is the Ionian island chain, locatedoff the northwest coast of mainland Greece. Once home tolegendary Greek king - and pioneering island-hopper -Odysseus, these islands deliver mythic grandeur inspades, with plenty of secluded beaches and hiddencoves for you to create a remarkable journeyof your own. The seven Ionian islands run from the basin of the Adriaticto the Peloponnese. The archipelago encapsulates the beautyof the Greek countryside and, thanks to its proximity to Italy,combines this with a distinct Venetian flavour. These are themost verdant islands in the region - Cyprus trees, firs andolives are kept green by the winter rainfall, while the summer'sblue skies and stiff afternoon breezes enhance some of the bestsailing waters in the Mediterranean. From the bustling fishingharbours of Corfu and Zakinthos to the tranquil fishing villagesof Ithaca and Levkas, island hop and discover secludedbeaches, welcoming locals and some fascinatingarchitecturaland archaeological sites. The ideal place to begin your Ionian cruise is Corfu. The mostnorthern island in this archipelago, it has a history rich with?Fit for the godsaboardashoreionian islandsEach of the Ionian islands is a tiny unique world suffused with its own rhythmand charm. As such this Mediterranean island chain is a charterer'sparadise, providing endless compelling cruising itineraries ByMiriam Cain
ALBANIAGREECEPELOPONNESECEPHALONIALEVKASITHACAZAKINTHOSCORFUANTI PAXOSPAXOSThessalonikiMt. OlympusAthensCorinth Canal56Isea&iISPRING-SUMMER 2011artists, composers and poets. Corfu town is relativelycosmopolitan and a great place to sit at a taverna and observethe passing scenes, while the island's coastline has stunningcoves to lure travellers wishing to escape the crowded resortbeaches. But it is the interior of the island that reveals Corfu'strue character. Lush vegetation, rural villages and farms andcountless olive and fruit trees abound. South of Corfu town,sample fantastic mezze at Taverna Nikolas on Agni Beach, orjoin the yachting crowd at the favourite waterfront haunt ofMitsos Taverna in Nissaki. Later, set sail for the buzzing beaches and quiet covesof Paxos, taking in the imposing Emiritis Cliffs that dropdramatically to the sea along the northwest coast of Paxos.The island, which spans just seven by two miles, combinespicturesque simplicity with an easy pace of life. Olive andcypress-clad hills gently slope into a crystal-clear sea, anddotted along these shores are small coves and bays and thethree main harbours - Gaios, Loggos and Lakka. Lying just offthe island's south coast is a tiny islet called Anti Paxos.Endowed with a multitude of green vegetation, it has twobeautiful beaches - Vrika and Voutoumi - at its north end.The islet is a haven for watersports enthusiasts. Spend theafternoon anchored in one of the many secluded coves beforecruising on to Levkas.Here you can wander through wooded hills and along highcliffs and spot an abundance of wildlife. The island is a paradisefor windsurfers, sailors and beach lovers. Reliable winds in thesouth of the island at Vassiliki provide some of the best wind-surfing conditions in Europe, while the deep coves andturquoise-coloured bays of Meganissi, the largest islet in thesouthern part of the island, are ideal for watersports. To the eastof Levkas, an archipelago of islets provides idyllic anchorages.During the evening, step ashore to Levkas Town where thestreets have a hip atmosphere, particularly during theInternational Arts Festival in August. From Levkas,it is an easy cruise to Homer's Ithaca. For centuriesthis quintessential Greek island has been synonymous witha hero of epic proportions: Odysseus. Virgin green hillsidestumble to a string of deserted coves with white, pebblybeaches, some of which can only be reached by sea and whichprovide an ideal secluded anchorage. Explore the Cave of theNymphs, where Odysseus is said to have hidden gifts, thefountain of Arethusa, and Odysseus' palace. Serious nightlifeon Ithaca is non-existent, but the bijou ports are a showcaseof charming Greek cafés and tavernas. For the St Tropez of the Ionian, hop over to Cephalonia'snorthernmost port, Fiskardo. Spared by the earthquake thatalmost destroyed the whole island in 1953, this intimatePrevious page andabove:the Ionian offers countless deserted bays andintriguing coves to discover by yacht or kayak ?MORE TO SEE.For an extended itinerary, begin (or end) your charter in Athens, home to some of themost spectacular historical sites in Greece. From there you can cruise through the CorinthCanal, past mainland Greece's beautiful Mediterranean landscapes of citrus and olivegroves, and on to the Ionian Sea. ADRIATIC SEASUGGESTED ITINERARYDay 1Corfu to Paxos (30 nautical miles) Day 2Paxos to Anti Paxos to Levkas (35 nautical miles) Day 3Levkas to Meganissi to Levkas (8 nautical miles) Day 4Levkas to Ithaca (28 nautical miles) Day 5Ithaca to Cephalonia (17 nautical miles) Days 6 & 7Cephalonia to Zakinthos (46 nautical miles) In order to preserve the underwater archaeology,independent diving is forbidden off the coasts of all theislands. If you wish to explore Greece's underwater world,your CNI charter broker can recommend a number of reliablediving schools.