The Ionian Islands in Greece are a paradisiacal destination for travellers seeking the quintessential island hopping experience.

Offering itineraries that meander through turquoise waters, quaint villages, and hidden coves, each island presents a unique personality.

The beaches, often hailed as some of the best in the Mediterranean, boast clear waters, soft sands, and stunning backdrops, making the Ionian Islands an unforgettable journey of exploration and relaxation.

Introduction to the Ionian Islands

Have you ever dreamed of swimming in awesome beaches under the Greek Sun? The Ionian Islands are a dream come true. Located on the western coast of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean Sea. With clear turquoise waters and lush green landscapes, this archipelago is the perfect destination for island hopping.

While all of the islands have their unique charms, Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, and Lefkada are the most popular of the Ionian cluster. From secluded coves to bustling cities, each island offers something different for travelers to explore.

Geographical Overview and History

The Ionian Islands, or Heptanese ("Seven Islands"), are a group of islands in the Ionian Sea, located off the west coast of mainland Greece. They include Corfu, Cephallenia, Zacynthus, and a few others, each with its own unique charm and beauty.

History of the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands have a rich history that has been shaped by various conquerors. Unlike the rest of Greece, which fell under Ottoman rule, the Ionian Islands were heavily influenced by Western Europe due to Venetian, French, and British occupations. This influence is evident in the local architecture and customs. For instance, there was a period when the islands were known as the "United States of the Ionian Islands" under British rule, which is a lesser-known part of Greek history.


The culture of the Ionian Islands is a blend of Greek and Western European influences. The Venetians, in particular, left a strong mark on the islands, from fortresses and palaces to music and cuisine. The Ionian Islands are also famous for their unique music style known as "kantádhes," which showcases the western influence. Moreover, each island has its own traditions, festivals, and local products, contributing to a diverse cultural experience.


The geography of the Ionian Islands is characterized by lush greenery, mountains, and beautiful coastlines, providing scenic views of the sea and smaller islands. The climate is typically Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild winters. The islands' landscapes vary from steep cliffs and caves to sandy beaches and olive groves, making them a paradise for nature lovers. The region's natural beauty, combined with its historical sites and vibrant culture, makes the Ionian Islands a must-visit destination.

Island Hopping in the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands are a remarkable choice for island hopping due to their geographical proximity and diversity. Each island is a short boat ride away from the next, allowing travellers to easily explore multiple destinations within a single trip.

As every island presents its unique character and scenic beauty, there's a constant sense of excitement and novelty in each transition.

Visitors can indulge in the bustling nightlife of Corfu, experience the serene beaches of Kefalonia, explore the stunning blue caves in Zakynthos, and enjoy water sports in Lefkada. This rich variety of experiences within a compact geographical space makes the Ionian Islands an enticing option for an island-hopping adventure.

Planning Your Itinerary

A well-planned itinerary is always essential for an enjoyable and seamless trip. While exploring the Ionian Islands, travellers should keep in mind the time spent on each island, type of transportation used (ferry or plane), and other factors such as weather patterns.

Planning ahead will give visitors more flexibility to explore their desired destinations while maximising their time.

Using a ferry is usually cheaper than taking a plane plus you get to observe the stunning ionian sea during your journey. However, it is important to note that ferry schedules vary daily and some may be cancelled due to bad weather.

Popular Routes and Destinations

Popular routes for hopping in the Ionian Islands include Corfu-Kefalonia-Zakynthos and Corfu-Lefkada-Kefalonia, allowing travellers to visit three of the most popular islands within a single trip. Other popular destinations include Kythira, Paxos, and Ithaca.

Each of these scenic islands in the ionian provides its own unique experiences from historical sites to beautiful beaches. Kythira is renowned for its gorgeous landscapes and traditional villages while Ithaca is thought to be the birthplace of Homer's Odysseus. Whatever your choice may be, there are plenty of captivating destinations to explore in the Ionian Islands.

Detailed Overview of Major Islands


Known as the "Emerald Island" of the Ionian Sea, Corfu is a cosmopolitan destination and one of the most popular islands in Greece. This is probably the most famous of the main ionian islands has something to offer for every type of traveler, from amazing beaches and historic sites to vibrant nightlife and an array of dining options.

From the cobblestone streets of Corfu Town to the breathtaking views of Paleokastritsa, this island is full of surprises for its visitors. Moreover, it is home to some of Greece's most famous beaches such as Agios Gordis and Glyfada Beach. With all these attractions, Corfu makes an ideal destination for an island-hopping trip.

The island's capital , Corfu Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its impressive Venetian architecture. It is full of historical monuments and cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants, cafes, and traditional tavernas

Old Town of Corfu

The Old Town of Corfu, island's capital, is a must-visit destination on the island. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town presents a visual spectacle of historical and architectural grandeur, with its narrow lanes, known as "kantounia", and tall houses with their renowned "kamara" - the arched room on the ground floor.

The town exhibits a harmonious blend of Venetian, French, and British architectural styles, having seen varied influences through centuries of occupation. At the heart of the town, you'll find the Spianada, one of the most significant city squares in Greece, bordered by the Old Fortress on one side and the Liston arcade, modelled after Paris's Rue de Rivoli, on another.

Charming churches, such as the Saint Spyridon Church housing the remains of the island's patron saint, and the Metropolitan Church of Corfu, add to the spiritual and architectural wealth of the town. As the day unfolds, enjoy the bustling local markets, selling everything from fresh produce to handmade souvenirs, and treat your taste buds with delicacies at the numerous traditional tavernas and cosy cafes. A stroll through the Old Town of Corfu is a journey into the island's captivating past, promising an experience filled with culture, history, and authenticity.

Ionian Academy

The Ionian Islands are not just famous for their amazing beaches but they also house invaluable treasures of education and culture. A noteworthy example is the Ionian Academy, located in Corfu. Established in 1824, it holds the prestigious title of being the first Greek University.

The Academy was a beacon of enlightenment, offering courses in Law, Medicine, Physics and French Literature. Despite its closure in 1864, the spirit of intellectual pursuit lives on. Today, the building hosts the Philharmonic Society of Corfu and it remains an important cultural monument on the Ionian island.


Kefalonia is another of the main ionian islands and its beauty has been praised by both locals and visitors alike. Being the largest island of the ionian sea islands, this island boasts crystal clear waters, dramatic mountainscapes, traditional villages, cavas (cave dwellings), and perfect beaches.

Some of the most famous attractions include Myrtos Beach, the monastery of Agios Gerasimos, and Melissani Caves. Kefalonia is also known for its exquisite local products such as honey, wine, and cheese. This makes it an ideal destination to sample traditional Greek cuisine and experience a more relaxed atmosphere than other Ionian Islands.


Zakynthos, one of the larger islands, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and its crystal clear waters are ideal for snorkelling and diving. The island's renowned Navagio Beach, which can only be accessed by boat, has been praised for its stunning white sand and vivid blue waters.

In addition to the beach life, Zakynthos is known for its caves, vineyards, and historical sites. Visitors can also explore the mountainous interior of the island and take in its unique landscapes and also visit its picturesque villages.


Located between Corfu and Kefalonia, Lefkada island is a beautiful island that offers visitors some of Greece's best beaches as well as an array of outdoor activities. The amazing bThe beaches in Lefkada are known for their crystal clear waters and white sand, making them an ideal destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

The island is also home to beautiful villages such as Nidri and Vassiliki that offer a more relaxed atmosphere away from the bustling beach resorts. Other attractions include historical sites such as the Venetian Castle of Agia Mavra, built during the Venetian Rule and nearby islets and caves for visitors to explore.

Lefkada island, being one of the Ionian sea main islands, provides many activities for visitors to do, including many boat tours.

Cape Lefkada

Cape Lefkada, also known as Cape Doukato, is a significant landmark on the Ionian island of Lefkada, offering a stunning confluence of nature's beauty and historical significance. Perched on the island's southernmost tip, the Cape is home to the iconic Lefkada Lighthouse, an emblem of the island's maritime past.

The landscapes surrounding Cape Lefkada are truly a sight to behold. Towering cliffs cascade into the turquoise Ionian Sea, creating one of the most breathtaking landscapes.

Cape Lefkada also carries a whiff of Greek mythology. It is often referred to as the "white rock" from which the lyrical poet Sappho allegedly leapt to her death for unrequited love, giving the locale a sense of poignant charm.


Paxos, the smallest of all the islands, holds a unique charm that sets it apart. Far removed from the tourist hustle, this tranquil island is renowned for its extensive olive groves. The island features ancient olive trees that dot the landscape, some of which are hundreds of years old, providing a verdant backdrop to the pristine beaches and azure waters.

A visit to Paxos isn't complete without spending some time strolling amidst these shimmering groves, feeling the cool shade and the scent of the Mediterranean. The olive oil produced here is considered some of the finest in Greece, rich in flavour and boasting a distinct, fruity aroma. Visitors can also take an olive oil tasting tour to learn more about the production process and sample this liquid gold, making for an authentic Ionian Island experience.

Most popular beaches on the Ionian Islands

Shipwreck beach (Navagio)

Navagio beach, or Shipwreck Beach, is one of the most famous beaches in the Ionian Sea and located on the island of Zakynthos. This stunning beach is surrounded by rugged cliffs and can only be accessed by boat. Its unique scenery makes it an ideal destination for swimming, suunbathing, and scuba diving.

Myrtos Beach

Myrtos beach is one of the most famous beaches in Kefalonia, known for its crystal clear turquoise waters and white sand. One of the most wonderful beaches of all the ionian islands. It is accessible by car, making it an ideal destination for those looking to avoid long boat rides. Visitors can relax in the sun

Egremni beach

Egremni beach is an idyllic, secluded beach located on the western coast of Lefkada. This famous beach is known for its crystal clear emerald waters and white sand, making it a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing and scuba diving.

The beach is also home to many interesting attractions such as the Cave with the Statue or Caverna with the Statue, an old ruined fishing boat, and a nearby fish farm, which you can reach with a boat trip.

Porto Katsiki Beach

Porto Katsiki beach is one of the most breathtaking beaches in Lefkada Island. This stunning beach is located on the south-western side of the island and can be accessed by car or boat. It offers crystal clear waters and a wide variety of water sports for visitors to enjoy.

The beach also features a small cove surrounded by steep cliffs that gives it an even more breathtaking landscape. Visitors can also explore nearby villages such as Nyfes, which offer local cuisine and some amazing views.

Kathisma Beach

Kathisma beach is one of the top beaches on the island of Lefkada. This breathtaking beach features amazing waters and white sand, making it an ideal destination for swimming and sunbathing. In addition to its beauty, Kathisma Beach also provides visitors with a wide range of water sports including parasailing, windsurfing and kayaking.

Ionian Marine Parks

The Ionian Islands aren't just about beautiful sea and breathtaking landscapes. They are also home to a myriad of marine parks, offering a sanctuary to a diverse marine life and providing an incredible opportunity for visitors to explore the vibrant underwater world.

Zakynthos National Marine Park

Among these, the Zakynthos National Marine Park stands out. It is home to the endangered Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), and it is one of the most important nesting areas in the Mediterranean for these creatures. Visitors have the chance to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural environment, making for an unforgettable experience.

Marine Protected Area of Lefkada

The Marine Protected Area around the island of Lefkada is another noteworthy spot for marine biodiversity. Here, visitors can explore the vibrant sea beds and encounter various species of fish, corals, and even the rare Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus).

Exploring these parks offers an unparalleled experience that perfectly complements the perfects beaches and historic sites of the Ionian Islands. It presents visitors with a unique opportunity to understand and appreciate the rich biodiversity of the Ionian Sea.

Lesser known islands to add to your hopping

The Ionian Islands are home to more than just the main islands of Lefkada, Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Paxos. The archipelago also consists of several smaller, lesser known islands which can be discovered on boat trips and island hopping excursions.


Meganisi is an idyllic island located just off the east coast of Lefkada. It is renowned for its picturesque harbours, tranquil bays and stunning sandy beaches. The most popular beaches on Meganisi are Vathi and Agios Ioannis, both of which offer crystal clear waters and white sand.


Kalamos is a small, secluded island located off the coast of Lefkada. It is an ideal destination for nature lovers as it features a gorgeous pine forest and lush vegetation in combination with its best beaches and crystal clear waters. The most popular beach on Kalamos is Vatsa which has been dubbed "the paradise beach" due to its unspoiled beauty.


Ithaka is a small, secluded island located off the west coast of Kefalonia. This idyllic island is known for its rugged coastline and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean sea. Here visitors can explore quaint seaside villages and enjoy some fantastic beaches like Filiatro, Vathy or Agios Ioannis beach.


Among the Ionian Islands, Antipaxos holds the title for being the smallest of the other islands. It's a tiny gem located south of its bigger sibling, Paxos. Despite its small size, Antipaxos is an absolute paradise, known for its stunning beaches such as Voutoumi and Vrika, often considered among the best in the Ionian Islands. The island is also famed for its vineyards, producing some remarkably delicious wines. With its lush greenery, crystal clear waters and serene atmosphere, Antipaxos is an ideal destination for those looking for a peaceful getaway.


In conclusion, the Ionian Islands offer an amazing experience for any traveler looking for a unique island-hopping adventure. With its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture, these islands promise to captivate every visitor with their beauty and charm. From Zakynthos to Lefkada, visitors have plenty of beaches to explore and activities to enjoy, making the Ionian Islands an absolute must-see destination in Greece.