A brief travel guide of the Greek islands Part I: the Ionian Islands – Corfu, Lefkada, Zakynthos

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             Greece is such a generous country in terms of tourist attractions that you need three lives to be able to encompass it. Every time, on my journeys, I have to select only a small part of what this generous part of the world can offer to me. I think a brief presentation of some Greek islands will maybe help you choose the next holiday destination.

               The Ionian islands, although called „The Seven Islands”, form a fairly compact group of dozens large and small islands. They are located in the Ionian Sea and became part of modern Greece in 1864. The influence of the Venetians, Ottomans and English is reflected in their gastronomy and architecture. With one exception: the island of Corfu had never been under the Turkish occupation but it has some French influences.

               In this article I will tell you about three of the seven big Ionian islands.

 Corfu

 

               This island, located in the north of the Ionian islands, is about 61 km long and 27 km wide and has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and very rainy winters. In fact, in Corfu rains much more than in the rest of Greece. The lush vegetation, the green fields even in the middle of summer gave it the name „Emerald Island”.

               The charm of the island is given by the villages perched on the slopes of the mountains, many keeping intact the typical Venetian architecture with stone houses such as the village of Palia Perithia or the village of Lakones, where the women still wear the traditional Greek dress.

               The history is reflected in the amalgam of the unique charm architectural style of the capital Kerkyra, many of them included in the UNESCO heritage, but also in the Pantokratoras monastery, the ruins of the Christian basilica Paleopolis or Angelokastro, one of the most important Byzantine castles in Greece. Achilleion, the palace of the Empress Sissi, attracts many visitors thanks to its neo-classical Greek statues, its beautiful paintings and gardens.

               Varied beaches, dream landscapes and cosy hotels attract millions of visitors wishing to indulge in the sunshine of Greece. I would like to recall the beaches of Paleokastritsa, Acharavi, Agios Gordis, Logas and Sidari with the famous Canal d’Amour. You can read about them in this article.

               The island’s gastronomy has strong Italian influence, with the distinction that the dishes are more spicy. Pastitsada is the main dish on the Sundays and potsichada is made with rooster instead of beef. Here I ate a delicious ice cream made with Koum quat, a Chinese fruit brought by the British.

 Lefkada

 

               Lefkada is the second island of Greece after Evia, accessible by car. The connection between the mainland and the island is a floating bridge over the Drepanos canal. This island is surrounded by other small islands, including Scorpios, the island that belonged to the famous multimillionaire Aristotel Onassis. Moreover, in both Nidri and Vassiliki you can book cruises around the island. You can find some information here.

               The island is generous in terms of beaches. The western part is wild with scenic beaches, while the eastern one is very busy with contiguous mini-resorts. It is very hard to mention only few beaches because many are gorgeous so if you want information about them, you can read here. Lefkada’s lofty interior contains spectacular mountains, traditional villages, beautiful churches such as Agios Ioannis and Dimossari waterfall.

              Unfortunately, the earthquakes from 1948 and 1953 had destroyed most of the island and, therefore, today we only find a few traditional settlements. Another earthquake, in 2015, partially destroyed the picturesque Egremni beach as well as the access road to it.

               The spectacular Doukato lighthouse, the Maria Koutsochero folkloric museum in the picturesque village of Karya, the Panagia Faneromeni Monastery, the Dimosari waterfall and the village of Sivros with the last watermill on the island are some tourist attractions that you should not miss.

               Local cuisine includes savoro, alder, bakaliaros, maridopita, bourdeto and frygadeli, delicious dishes that, although there are in all the Ionic islands, here you can find variations that taste differently.

Zakynthos

 

               Zakynthos Island is like a huge natural park interlarded with diverse beaches as amenities, incredible marine landscapes and villages that still preserve the ancestral traditions. A stroll along the chic and windy streets of Zante, a visit to the ruins of the Venetian castle in Bochali and a tanning session on one of the beaches that nestle Caretta-Caretta turtles will bring you recordable travels. You can also experience a unique swimming at the Argassi resort. Here, a small bridge located in the sea, near the beach can be explored even if it dates from 1803.

               Most ads about Zakynthos Island include images of Navagio beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. Beaches and resorts are very varied, some quiet, some lively, with many facilities. Besides, the beaches in the east are organized, while in the west dominates the secluded ones. I liked the beaches of Navagio, Gerakas, Xigia, Porto Zorro, Porto Limnionas and Agios Nikolaos (Ammos). If you want to read about them you can do it here.

               Blue Caves and Keri Caves are two places with incredibly blue water. Blue Caves are well-known because they are on the way to Navagio Beach. In the past, the locals organized boat trips to Navagio Beach. At that time there were only rowing boats, so at Blue Caves the rowers had a break while their tourists were swimming in these caves. Keri Caves are less well-known, though, in my opinion, even more spectacular than Blue Caves.

               The local gastronomy includes sofigadoura – a cauliflower dish, skordostubi – a dish with eggplant, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic and fitoura, a dessert served at St. Dionisios celebration day. Rabbit dishes are also part of the traditional gastronomy.

               Before I went on holiday in Zakynthos, I had the feeling that I would have going to visit an over mercantile island. I do not know if the advertisements were to blame, but I’m glad it was not.

               One of the very important fact of visiting the Ionian islands is that I had enjoyed the incredible blue shades of water that rebalances and heal my soul.Ionian Sea

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