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Auch Paxos zählt zu den Ionischen Inseln, Bild: leoks / shutterstock

An island paradise in northern Greece – the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands (in Greek: Eptánisa) are located in the northwest of Greece and are one of the most beautiful and varied holiday areas on the Mediterranean. The group in the Ionian Sea consists of the larger, well-known islands such as Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca as well as several small islands.

General information about the Ionian Islands

Zakynthos, Navagio Bay, Ionian Islands
The famous Navagio Bay on Zakynthos, Image: StockBrunet / shutterstock

The Ionian Islands are the only region of Greece that never belonged to the Ottoman Empire, but first to the Republic of Venice and then to Great Britain. It was not until 1864 that the Eptánisa were united with Greece. This eventful history left traces that today exert a great attraction on culturally interested tourists in the form of archaeological excavation sites, medieval castles and impressive churches and monasteries.

In addition, there are fantastic, sometimes world-famous beaches such as the shipwreck Beach on Zakynthos and an exceptionally green landscape, which now also attracts nature lovers for hiking and cycling in the low season. Since the Ionian Islands are much further north than the holiday areas in the Aegean Sea and it rains much more often here in spring, autumn and winter than in the south, they score with a lot of greenery. The trees on the slopes of the forested mountains often grow down to the shore.

The capital of the entire archipelago is called Corfu Town (Greek Kerkyra) and Corfu is also home to the largest number of inhabitants. Together with Crete and Rhodes, it has been one of Greece’s absolute tourist magnets for many decades and has had an airport since the 1930s. Kefalonia and Zakynthos are also served directly from Germany during the summer season, and the island of Lefkada, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge, can be easily reached via Preveza Airport. If you want to travel to the smaller islands, it is best to take one of the regular ferries. The Ionian Islands are interesting for both beach vacationers and visitors interested in culture. Active guests have the opportunity to discover a variety of exciting sights and beaches for every taste.

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We present the most important attractions below:

Corfu

Corfu, Ionian Islands
Corfu, Image: Oleg Voronische / shutterstock

Corfu differs greatly from the islands in the Greek Aegean Sea not only in terms of landscape, but also architecturally. The reason for this lies in the centuries-long rule of the Venetians and the architectural style, especially in the capital, is more reminiscent of Italy. The best examples are the arcades of Liston, which today house shops, cafes and restaurants, and the largest square in the entire Balkans, the Spianada (Esplanade) Square. The old and the new Venetian fortress are also a must on the sightseeing programs of most tourists. One of the most beautiful buildings in Corfu is known to most Germans from the Sissi films of the 1950s, because the Achilleion Palace was actually built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria . Combined with its lush flowering garden, it is now one of the most visited attractions on the island.

Corfu has romantic small bays as well as rocky coastlines and many long fine sandy beaches. Whether quiet or lively – everyone will find their personal favorite spot by the sea somewhere. In some places, there is a wide range of water sports and various dining options, while other waterfront areas are pristine and natural.

Zakynthos

Shipwreck, Zakynthos, Ionian Islands
The shipwreck of Zakynthos up close, Image: Philip Birtwistle / shutterstock

There is hardly anyone who has never seen a photo of the most famous beach on this Ionian island. We are talking about the shipwreck Beach, which is of course THE photo motif of Zakynthos . Interestingly, it is not a pirate ship from ancient times, but a freighter that only stranded here in 1980 and was not removed for tourism. The sea in front of the island is now a maritime park, which is intended to provide a protected space for the endangered Karetta turtles, which lay their eggs here. The landmark of the island, the early 18th century Agios Dionysos Church, is located in the capital, directly on the harbor pier. Another highlight of Zakynthos are the Blue Caves of Skinari, which you should definitely discover during your stay on this Ionian island with one of the small boats.

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Cephalonia

Myrtos beach in Kefalonia, Ionian Islands
Myrtos beach on Kefalonia, Image: Roman Safonov / shutterstock

Kefalonia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Ionian Islands and there is also a lot of variety here. Swimming in the crystal clear waters at Myrtos or Petani Beach is recommended, as is a stroll through the picturesque village of Assos with the Venetian fortress. In the main town of Argostoli, most of the sights are located on the Lithostroto promenade and can therefore be easily conquered on foot. Not far from the city is the stalactite cave Drogarati, which, together with the underground cave system Melissani near Sami, is one of the highlights of the island. Exploring the caves on foot or with small rowing boats is guaranteed to be a great holiday experience for young and old.

Lefkada

Agiofili Beach, Lefkada, Ionian Islands
Agiofili beach on the Ionian Sea, Lefkada island, Image: Balate Dorin / shutterstock

Lekfada is located just a few meters from the Greek mainland and is one of the best surfing spots in all of Europe. At Vasiliki and Mylos beach, countless windsurfers and kitesurfers cavort and pursue their passion under ideal conditions. However, there are also attractions on the island for less water sports enthusiasts. The castle of Santa Maura, for example, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the island bridge, dates back to the 14th century and is one of the most impressive medieval buildings in Greece. The Faneromeni Monastery, surrounded by dense pine forest, is also well worth a trip due to its fantastic location and unique atmosphere.

The Ionian Islands are a holiday destination suitable for classic beach tourists as well as for sports enthusiasts (water sports, hiking, cycling) and tourists interested in history. Sailors in particular will find an ideal area here, because in addition to the well-known islands presented above, the smaller islands are also waiting to be discovered from the water. Paxi, Kalamos and Kastos are some of the mini-paradises in this dreamlike island world.