The Ionian Islands have for decades attracted visitors and for good reason because they are idyllic sailing destinations found off Greece's beautiful west coast. The islands get quite a bit more rain than most and as such boast lush vegetation. The milder winds and the gorgeous settings makes these islands an ideal choice for both novice and seasoned sailors who just want to kick back and sail through some of the most beautiful waters in the Med on a luxury charter cruiser.
Zakynthos is the most southern of these glorious islands and for decades people have enjoyed spending quality time in a very welcoming atmosphere. One of the best ways to explore Zakynthos, is to cruise the crystal clear waters along the coastline, dropping anchor wherever you please and mooring up in some of the most picturesque harbours on the planet. The town of Zakynthos itself has lots of appeal with its bright, large squares and fabulous buildings. Exploring the town is great fun and there's a maze of cafés, tavernas and restaurants where you can treat yourself to wonderful delicacies which includes nougat which Zakynthos is famous for producing.
Sailing around the coastline means finding beautiful beaches made up of fine white sand and for those who like a bit of adventure, there's a myriad of caves to explore as you sail up to the northernmost tip of the island to the delightful Cape Skinari. It's in this beautiful coastal spot where boats cruise through stone arches before entering the blue cave which simply put is astoundingly beautiful to the point of being fantastical. Spending two to three days exploring Zakynthos and its glorious coastline is a sheer delight before heading off to discover other islands that make up the Ionians.
There's a causeway that links Lefkada to the mainland, but the approach by water to this splendid mountainous island is impressive to say the least. The island is covered in dense woodland, forests and superb olive groves and it's surrounded by islets, which makes cruising the waters around Lefkada such a pleasurable experience. It's the only real way to take in all there is to see which includes the salt lagoon found on the headland and where the main port is located. A little way passed the glorious windmills and to the west you'll find one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Taking in the sunsets from Agios Ioannis Beach is something not to be missed and all the more impressive from the deck of a chartered luxury cruiser.
The lovely, picturesque village of Vasiliki is situated on the west coast where windsurfers take full advantage of the breezes and lovely seas, making it one the best places in the whole of Europe for windsurfing. You'll find both sand and pebble beaches along the west coast of the island with the best sandy beaches being Egremini, Kathisma, Porto Katsiki and Agiofylli.
Islets found in these waters include Maganisi and Kalamos which are the largest of the ten, but then there's Meganisi which is a delightfully quiet location that's become popular as a yachting destination. It boasts a picturesque port and three delightful villages worth exploring. Island hopping is a pure pleasure and the fact that Ithaki and Kefallonia are just a short sail away makes it all the more enjoyable.
Totally unspoilt, Ithaki is an impressive island to cruise around with its beautiful bays and mountainous landscapes that drop steeply down to the sea, but there are plenty of gorgeous creeks and little harbours dotted around the coastline all of which are idyllic spots to drop anchor and take a cooling swim in crystal clear waters. Snorkelling and diving is outstanding in these waters because of the clarity and beautiful underwater rock formations.
The main harbour of Vathy consists of a small, but delightful town that's made up of lots of twisting streets lined with cafés, traditional tavernas and craft shops. Another must cruising stop-over is the lovely fishing village of Kioni that nestles at the foot of a sloping mountainside and which over the years has become popular with many who people who cruise these waters.
Spending a little time ashore is a must because Ithaki is steeped in history and legends being the home of the mythical God Odysseus, the island has been inhabited since the third century BC. Naturally there are lots of lovely beaches dotted along the coastline, but by far the best are found between Kioni and Frikes where it's possible to drop anchor to enjoy a moment or two in paradise. The great thing about chartering a cruiser is that you get to decide where you go and how long you'd like to spend in one spot or another before pulling up anchor to set off across the water to the next beautiful Ionian island.
Kefallonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands with its majestic Mount Enos standing tall as you sail towards it. The island boasts gorgeous landscapes covered in pine forests, olive groves, vineyards and masses of wild flowers that flourish just about everywhere and which form the base for many perfumes. Cruising these waters is a sheer delight. Spending a little time in Argostoli, the island's capital is a must with its causeway that links the town to the main island. There's a lot to do and see which means spending a few hours discovering the delights of this charming town is a must before setting off to explore the rest of its glorious coastline.
The main port is Sami which offers everything you would ever need to stock up with while cruising around the island. Just a short sail away you'll find a subterranean seawater lake called Melisani Cave, but then there's Dorgarati Cave that's also well worth a visit with its stunning stalactites. If you are looking to spend a little time anchored offshore next to a beautiful white sand beach, then head down to the Myrtos which has to be one of the most exquisite in the region.
Just a short cruise away you'll find many hidden coves nestled between tall limestone cliffs and which are only accessible by boat. Chartering a luxury cruiser or yacht offers you the chance to visit all these exquisite coastal spots and the best part is that some are wonderfully secluded which means you would be the only boat to anchor off in one even during the height of the season.
The gorgeous island of Corfu has for centuries attracted intrepid travellers to its shores and being just a stone's throw away from mainland Greece and Italy makes it an attractive sailing holiday destination in the Med. Corfu is the largest of the Ionian Islands boasting a 217 km coastline, so there's a lot to explore. It's also the lushest of all the islands and is covered in cypress trees and gorgeous scented wild flowers. Sailing into Corfu is a wonderful experience with the lush gentle slopes, the rugged hills and the double peak of Pantokrato looming in the distance on the approach.
Corfu's old harbour offers the best shelter when the NW winds start to blow and it's situated just east of the customs harbour. The Naok Yacht Club has a few berths that visiting boats can use which is handy to know if you want to spend a few days in the area. However, if you're keen to discover more of the island and all it has to offer, the best beaches are found on the west coast with Paleokastritsa being the biggest of the many resorts locate on Corfu. However, the longest stretch of unspoilt pure white sand is found along the coast between Issos and the freshwater lake of Korission. The good news there’s plenty of sheltered anchorages to be found along this part of the coastline.
The long stretch of inviting sand and dunes between the freshwater lake of Korission and Issos is one of the most unspoilt along Corfu's coast. When it comes to anchorages, it doesn't get much better than at Sidari in the north where it is said that if lovers swim in the Canal d'Amour, they will remain together forever. Island hopping around Corfu is fun because a short cruise away to the south there's the delightful small island of Paxos. You can make your landfall at Gaios which is the main port and yachts can moor right in the centre of this charming spot to watch the world go by, however, in the high season it can get a little busy.
However, sailing down the coast to Paxos there's the wonderful Ypapanti sea-cave which is well worth a stop-over and further south from Paxos, there's Anti-Paxos where you'll find gorgeous secluded anchorages off stunning beaches. This tiny island only boasts around 100 inhabitants who make their living as sheep farmer or fishermen.
To the west of Corfu, and just a short cruise away is Paleokastritsa which is one of the most vibrant tourist resorts on the island. The majestic Monastery of Panayia Theotokos looms over the resort from a high cliff it's built on and nearby there are lots of sea caves that are well worth exploring and for those who don't mind an hour's guided trek, there's a superb walk up to the ruins of Angelokastro Castle which offers the best panoramic views of the islands. To the north, there's a superb Venetian arsenal that dates back to 1716 at Gouvia where there's an excellent marina and from which many yacht and luxury cruise charters are based. It's the perfect starting point for a luxury cruise through the Ionian Islands and makes for a great base too.