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Emerging from the sparkling blue Ionian Sea, it’s little wonder tourists from around the world flock to this magical chain of Greek islands. Scattered off the west coast of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands comprise seven principal islands - though over forty smaller islets also belong to the group. Visitors to the archipelago soon discover that each island tells a story. From Corfu, canonised so famously in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, to the undulating landscapes of Ithaca, home of Homer’s epic Odyssey, the islands are rich in history, natural beauty and local charm.
Choosing which unspoiled island you should stay on is a pretty enviable dilemma to be faced with. Whether it’s Kefalonia, Cerigo, Zante, Lefkas, Paxos, Ithaca or Corfu, you’re certain to come across a gilded tapestry of quaint coves, bountiful orchards, lively tavernas and spectacular scenery. Perhaps you wish to island hop, making it up as you go. Whatever you decide, renting a villa or apartment from HomeAway Holiday Rentals is a terrific alternative to lodging in a busy resort. With over a thousand properties in the archipelago, you’re sure to find accommodation that suits. But first, why not read our guide to the Ionian Islands’ top destinations.
Top five Ionian Island destinations
Lefkas is named after its sheer white “lefkos” cliffs, which tower above the golden beaches of its west coast. A picturesque little island that connects to the Greek mainland via a floating bridge, it’s perhaps the most unspoiled destination in the archipelago. While the coastal towns of Nidri and Vassiliki contain large bays inundated by watersport devotees, beaches such as Porto Katsiki, Egremni and Kathisma are quiet and sublime. The charming villages of the Sfakiotes region, meanwhile, retain old world authenticity - olive groves and ruined campaniles are just some of the sights. Of an evening, grab a bite at one of the restaurants in Platia Agios Spyridon, in the heart of Lefkada Town.
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Many people have preconceived opinions of Zante. It’s gained a rep as something of a party island in recent years, but there’s much more to get excited about than pubs and clubs. Consider the abundance of bays, coves and peninsulas; the preponderance of quirky handicraft stalls selling lace, hand-woven baskets, rugs; the tumbling hills enshrouded in pine trees and ancient architecture. Tired of the nightclubs? Take a boat trip to the Blue Caves. Swim with turtles in the Bay of Laganas. Visit Anafonitria monastery, dating from the 15th century, and once home to Zante’s patron saint, Dionysios. Exploring, sailing, relaxing, partying: do it all and more in Zante.
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When you learn that Kefalonia is the setting for Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, it really needs no further introduction. Surrounded by brochure-blue sea, it’s the largest of the Ionian Islands, yet remains largely unspoiled by the vagaries of mass tourism. The northern fishing village of Fiscardo is amongst Greece’s most enchanting, while the sight of its waterfront, colourfully lined with Venetian facades, is truly something to behold. Prized Myrtos beach is a must-see, of course, but it only takes an hour to drive the length of the island and there’s plenty to see in-between - from lavender-littered fields to entrancing hamlets. Feeling energetic? A hike up Mount Aenos awaits you!
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Corfu truly has something for everyone. The most northern of the Ionian Islands, it is, like its neighbours, home to a gamut of glorious beaches, bustling resorts and first-class bars and eateries. Intrepid travellers will uncover more about Corfu as they delve inland, however. Away from the 18-hole golf courses and jam-packed water parks, you’ll find traditional Corfu; untrammelled citrus groves, stands of cypress trees, remote glades and whitewashed buildings unchanged for centuries. For entertainment, you’ll come across religious festivals and fairs, as well as markets. Agni is a charming seafront village, while Corfu Town has preserved the fascinating architecture of Venetian, French and English occupation: a wander through the network of tapering streets feels both romantic and uplifting.
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Famous throughout the world as the home of Odysseus, Ithaca truly symbolises the term ‘island paradise’. It is quieter than Kefalonia and less developed; a land replete with lush green valleys and capes, with hiking trails that veer off into the mountains, uncovering hidden ruins along the way. Don’t miss the ancient villages of Exogi and Anogi in the north, both of which impart stunning views of the archipelago. Ithaca’s range of beaches, some sandy and pebbled, others rocky and backed by greenery, are also some of the best in Europe - head for Filiatró or Sarakínniko, and in the evening sample the seafood in the harbour villages of Frikes and Kioni. Divine!
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Ionian Islands holiday rentals
Exclusive beach front villa with stunning view and private pool.Ideal for couples and families seeking for seclusion and relaxation.
The open plan living room and kitchen opens on to a garden and patio with private pool and Jacuzzi.
Villa Daniel is a recently built home located at a charming little fishing village, Agios Stefanos with a wonderful view of the Ionian Sea. This exclusive six-bedroom villa of modern architecture, incorporate with natural materials as part of the ...
This traditional four-bedroom Villa Ricco was built largely out of the local Sinies stone, which also makes an attractive appearance in the living areas inside.
Approached through a fenced garden with olive trees and aromatic Mediterranean shrubs...
Villa Poseidon sits on the edge of the village surrounded by a green canopy of palm, olive and cypress trees and just about ticks every box we can think of, for a memorable Villa holiday in Kefalonia. It took us a little under 10 mins to walk to t...
Set amongst the lovely pine woodland that tops the descent into the fishing village of Sami, this outstanding location offers superb views over Sami Bay with Ithaki in the far distance and the lovely lush hillsides embracing it on three sides. Ele...