THE IONIAN ISLANDS are located in the deep cerulean waters of the Ionian Sea, in between Greece and Italy. Although all Greek islands have a bit of drama in their landscape, it’s in the Ionians, among the steep limestone cliffs and mysterious sea caves, that you can really imagine mythological gods and ancient literary characters making epic voyages. It’s here that Zeus’ mortal lover, Io, swam to escape the wrath of Zeus’ wife, Odysseus made the final leg of his voyage home, and the Venetians successfully fought back against the Turks. As if the mythological and literary drama weren’t enough, the Ionian islands have also served as refuge for both exiled intellectuals and newly born loggerhead turtles. Although the busiest islands like Corfu and Zakynthos are bastions for cheap package tours and behemoth resorts, there are many places to find authenticity and solitude in these mystical islands.
THE MAIN IONIAN ISLANDS are: Corfu, Ithaca, Lefkada, Kephalonia, Kythira, Paxos and Zakynthos. The smaller islands are: Antipaxos, Ereikoussa, Kalamos, Kastos, Meganisi, Othonoi, and Antikythira. There are also dozens of uninhabited islands and private islands. Confusingly, Kythira and Antikythira are actually in the Aegean, closer to Crete. Check out the maps above or below to orient yourself.
THE MAIN FERRY DEPARTURE POINTS are from Italy (Brindisi and Bari), mainland Greece (Igoumenitsa, Patras and Kilini but not Athens), and Corfu.
AN ISLAND HOPPING ITINERARY could start and end on one of the islands with the most departure options, like Corfu, Zakynthos, or Kephalonia, and include relatively quiet islands like Antipaxos, Othonoi, or Meganisi, as well as one of the quaint medium-sized islands like Ithaca or Paxos.
OTHER TRAVEL INFO: Unfortunately, it’s not possible to travel by ferry to any of the other island groups east of mainland Greece, but you can take a flight into Athens or Thessaloniki and take a ferry from there. For Kythira and Antikythera, you’ll need to travel from Athens or Crete.