‘A different world, another Greece.’ That’s how some have described the Ionian Sea and its islands. It is the ideal sailing destination. And truly, as your boat sails out of the Gulf of Patras, a whole new world opens up. These islands which parallel the west side of the mainland have a completely different flavour to those in the Aegean. The Greeks call them the ‘Seven Islands’, but there are many more of these emerald gems. Sail the Ionian Sea and discover its unique islands with just a click here.
From Attica to Corinth: Let’s start at the beginning. Heading west from the coast of Attica, you sail behind Salamis and set your course for the entrance to the Isthmus of Corinth, a journey of 24 nautical miles. Arriving at the entrance of the Canal, you'll join the queue with some other larger and smaller boats, eyeing with awe the narrow slit between the towering sides. You tie up at the mole, pay the fee and wait for your turn. For sailing enthusiasts, it’s the ultimate experience.
Poseidonia & Trizonia: Once the submersible bridge is no longer visible, the boats begin to go through one after the other. There’s nothing like sailing through the canal, the sides are so close, the walls so high. It’s almost 4 nautical miles long and you’ll practically hold your breath until you reach the other end called Poseidonia and enter the open Gulf of Corinth. Around you high mountains rise both north and south, which sometimes cause surprises to the unwary captain, with sudden gusts of wind and choppy seas. You plot a northwest course and after 55 n mi, you arrive at Trizonia, an ideal place for an overnight stay, since it has a large marina, a handful of small tavernas, a supermarket and plenty of local colour.
Rio-Antirrio: The mighty Rio-Antirrio bridge is only 17 nautical miles from there. As inspiring as it seems to drive over, it's even more inspiring to sail under it. Note that before you pass under the bridge, you have to decide whether you’ll head for Zakynthos or Kefalonia, port or starboard and inform the Rio Marine Traffic centre accordingly. Beginning your voyage towards the Ionian from south to north, you’ll pass outside Patras, where you can tie up in the marina, and then proceed to the main port of Zakynthos.
Zakynthos: The entire island is the perfect setting for sailing. The big harbour of Zakynthos has a marina on the side of the jetty which naturally provides all the services and supplies a yacht could need. Around the island there are many beaches to inspect, including the world famous Shipwreck Bay. No need for you to wash up here, though. The bottom is sandy and makes a good anchorage. The equally renowned Blue Caves are only accessible by boat. To visit them, you should anchor in Agios Nikolaos bay and go there with your tender. There’s a small quay where you can tie up. Be warned, however, there are chilly underwater springs here. As you sail, watch out for the rare loggerhead turtles, Caretta caretta, making their way to Zante’s southern beaches, Laganas in particular, to lay their eggs.
Kefalonia: Next stop, Kefalonia. Although the distance between Zakynthos and Kefalonia is barely 10 nautical miles, it’s about 40 n mi to the capital Argostoli. Situated on a deep gulf, the harbour here is one of the safest in the Med. Lixouri, located on the peninsula opposite, also has a good marina. One place that attracts virtually all sailors is Fiskardo, a fishing village-turned-international yachting centre, on the northernmost tip of the island. Another spot favoured by the sailing crowd as a safe anchorage is Agia Efimia, to the east.
Ithaca: The kingdom of Odysseus. Directly opposite the northern shores of Kefalonia lies Ithaca, a high, narrow island indented with coves. The main harbour of Vathy lies at the back of a deep bay and could not be safer or more hospitable. A dramatically beautiful island, Ithaca is not as tourist-orientated as its bigger neighbours. Don’t fail to stop for a swim at Gidaki, in the north. Bluer-than-blue waters surrounded by lush greenery await you.
While you’re in the area, the smaller, well-wooded islands Kalamos, Kastos and Meganisi will remind you why you chose to travel by yacht. It’s the only way to explore them and they do have facilities for boats.
Lefkada: Westward to Lefkas, which forms a kind of inland sea with the mainland opposite, is dotted with tiny islands like Skorpios and Madouri. This east coast is extremely popular with sailors and has the advantage of being protected from the occasional strong westerlies. Vasiliki and Nydri both offer safe anchorages and well equipped marinas.
Travelling northwards, you pass through the canal that separates Lefkas from the mainland with extreme caution, since it’s not very deep and apt to be crowded. But before you leave, check out the island’s marina, one of the largest and best organised in Greece, with a capacity of 600 yachts. At Aktion, at the mouth of the Amvracian Gulf, you can stay overnight at Kleopatra marina, near Preveza and only 1.5km from the airport.
Paxi & Antipaxi: The distance from the exit of the Lefkas canal north to Antipaxi is a bit more than 30 n mi. Antipaxi is noted for its extraordinary beaches, which explains the almost constant traffic of yachts offshore as well as boats toing and froing passengers from Paxi just 5 n mi away. The little port of Paxi is unique in the Ionian, invisible until you reach the end of the ‘fjord’ formed by the islet of Agios Nikolaos in front of it.
Corfu: And on to Corfu. The first port, Lefkimmi, is 24 n mi from Paxi but the best is yet to come. Continuing northwards, you pass Benitses, where you can moor. But if you don’t stop you can sidle up to much-photographed Pontikonisi, Mouse Island, on your way to the Old Fort, where there is a marina. Around you, many super yachts will greet your eye, either docked at marinas or anchored offshore.
Old Fort: The sight of the citadel from the water is magical. Changing course, you’ll pass the attractive headquarters of the Corfu Yacht Club before you get to the main port where the ferries and cruiseboats dock. The town of Corfu, one of the prettiest in Greece, has an Italian air about it, as well as a myriad choices for a meal or a drink. The marina of Gouves, the first private marina in Greece, is a short distance from the heart of town and the airport and can accommodate more than 1,200 boats
Othoni: The largest of the Diapontian islands, Othoni lies less than 15 n mi from the north coast of Corfu. It is the westernmost place in Greece. And all of them are well worth a visit since they form a mini paradise with a few scattered villages, a few rooms to rent, two or three tavernas and a smattering of ruined Venetian castles. On Corfu you can rent a boat, sailboat or motorboat, big or small, by the day.