Ionian Sea – Secret Hidden Gems inside this Stunning Blue Paradise
The Ionian Sea is a bay in the Mediterranean Sea, stretching from Albania in the northeast to Sicily in the southwest. The width of the Ionian Sea is 40 miles—from Greece in the east to Italy in the west and northwest. A number of beautiful islands are dotted throughout the sea, but the majority are on the east side, belonging to Greece. Collectively known as the Ionian Islands, the most frequented are Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada and Ithaca.
Despite its popularity, the archipelago guards countless untouched paradises. From hidden coves to hillside hamlets, here are some of our favourite secret hidden Ionian treasures.
Lefkada is an island with a twist—you can reach it by car. Connected with the mainland by a small bridge, the island easily accessible. Lefkada boasts some of the best beaches in Greece. Although most people are familiar with Egremni Beach and Porto Katsiki, lesser-known Milos beach is one of the best.
Milos beach is truly a hidden gem—it’s only accessible via boat or via a trek through woodland. Concealed by thick trees, its sugar-soft sands are boarded by soaring cliffs and impeccably clear waters. Sunbathing by the water is a day well spent here. However, if you are looking to expend some energy, head to the beaches of Nidri and Vassiliki to try your hand at water sports. Enjoy the thrill of jet skis, windsurfing and banana boat rides.
Take to the azure waters and explore further afield. Yacht Charter Lefkada offers a range of yacht and boating options. Embark on a week-long voyage from Lefkada to the island of Ithaca for its ancient and mythical past.
If you’re running to a tighter schedule, rent a yacht for a day and spend the morning snorkeling before an afternoon soaking up the sun on the deck. Evenings should be spent in Lefkada town, the island’s picturesque capital. Wander the old town’s winding streets to find traditional taverns, excellent but under-the-radar restaurants and cozy cafes.
Ithaca is an island with an epic history. The island is relatively unknown to tourists as most favour Kefalonia, Ithaca’s larger neighbour.
Island of Kefalonia
Ithaca is famous for its place in Greek mythology. In 2010, archaeologists discovered the remains of a palace they believed was the home of Odysseus. Excavations are still in progress in several locations around Ithaca with lots still to be found—perhaps you’ll stumble across an ancient relic on your travels
The island’s rugged landscape lends itself to adventure. Secluded harbours with secret coves, dense woodland and rolling hills are perfect for exploring. There is no shortage of beaches, either. Aspros Gialos is a must-visit. Although it comprises a pebbled shore instead of golden sands, it boasts an amazing coastline drenched in glorious sunshine. It’s always calm and quiet, too. A real slice of paradise.
Head off the beaten track and into the mountains to reach the village of Anogi. Established in the 16th century, the village is one of the oldest on the island. Currently, fewer than a hundred people live here. Check out the Byzantine church with traditional frescos and refuel at the quaint cafe—the only place in the village that serves food.
Opposite the port of Nidri in Lefkada sits the small island of Meganisi. Although in close proximity to Lefkada, Meganisi is overlooked by tourists. Nick named the ‘big island’, Meganisi is actually tiny. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. The islet is bursting with pebbled beaches, white-washed villages and olive groves.
Walking is the best way to discover Meganisi. Explore the peaceful streets of Vathy, Katomeri and Spartochori—the only villages on the island. You’ll find sleepy churches, cobbled streets, bougainvillea covered houses and tranquil harbours.
Dive into the island’s history with a guided tour. You’ll take a trip to a winery and visit an olive oil press in Katomeri. If you’re feeling adventurous, go island hopping. Trips to nearby Kastos and Kalamos are arranged on a weekly basis—keep an eye out for the dolphins that gather off the coast of Kalamos.
Once you’ve found your sea legs, why not hire your own charter? Take a boat from Vathy to Papanikolis Cave and swim up to the beach inside.
Othoni is the western-most of the Ionian Islands. Comprising 13 small villages connected by meandering footpaths and unpaved roads, Othoni is a quiet, idyllic island. Steeped in culture and history, reminders of Othoni’s heritage are dotted throughout the island. Find Byzantine churches and the remains of a Venetian fortress.
Flickr by: Marlon Freiberger
Head to Dafni to get a taste of Othoni life. A sleepy village built on top of a hill in a distinct architectural style. The focal point is the Church of Virgin Mary and its accompanying cemetery—built in the 1600s, it’s remarkably well-preserved and its views of the Ionian are second to none.
To the southwest of Dafni is the Calypso Cave. According to Greek mythology, this is where Calypso kept Odysseus prisoner for seven years. Take a boat to reach the hidden beach inside. Next to the cave is the Aspri Ammos beach. Although small, it is one of the best beaches in Greece. The waters are impossibly clear and the sands are chalk soft.
The Ionian Islands are loved by tourists across the globe but despite their popularity, they haven’t given away all of their secrets. Add the islands to your bucket list and find hundreds of undiscovered jewels in this blue paradise.