PLAN YOUR IONIAN ADVENTURE
Set sail for a group of Greek islands full of myth and mystery
Gloria was 14 when she first holidayed with family in the Ionian seaport village, Kioni. So captivated was the American teenager, whose only connection to the region was a Greek grandparent, that she would return four years later. That trip would be her last.
“I never left and that was, what, 53 years ago,” the woman said shrieking with laughter as her Greek husband chuckled behind her. “I mean look around you, the island, waters, can you blame me? It’s just an incredible place, incredible people and I am just lucky to have found where I belong.”
Her musings are perhaps not as indepth as those of Ancient Greek poet Homer who from these Ionian shores in the 8th century BC wrote his odyssey epic which scholars argue went on to inspire Western civilisation’s most famous works of literature, music and art. But her observation of the spectacular natural beauty of the Ionian Islands off the west coast of Greece is clear. These islands have changed little over the centuries and only in recent years are being discovered by travellers bored with the overcrowded island offerings on the country’s east coast.
The only way to truly discover this region is by sea. Over the past five years various charter companies, selfsail or fully crewed, have sprung up about the Port of Lefkas, which is the main starting point for a Greek islands odyssey. Despite a crowded harbour and bustle to get out, once on the open sea your only next human contact will be of your choosing as you cruise in the afternoon’s 17-knot breeze through turquoise waters to seek out your private anchorage for the night. Conditions are predictable and easy to navigate and – with many small coves, caves and beaches where a yacht can anchor or long line off – chances are you’ll be alone in your self-made berth to swim, fish or explore.
Ithaca (Ithaki), one of the seven largest islands in the region, is breathtakingly beautiful with its clear waters and pebbled beaches. Kioni is cute with its restaurant-ringed bay where fishing boats literally pull up on the beach to drop off their fresh catch, or Polis beach, a highlight with its single beach taverna speaking of unspoilt and ancient beauty.
This region is not the whitewashwalled homes and loud bars one associates with Greece but rather lush green islands of cyprus and elm trees and flowering herb shrubs growing wild; where on some beaches, like Kalo Limini, the only beings you share your space with are the wild goats.