Every New Year begins with a promise. So for 2019, we’ve pledged to live the best of our beautiful islands in the Ionian Sea and find something different about each of them. There’s still loads of Sun & Sea… but not as you’ve imagined it.
Our island adventure begins with Easter, our biggest celebration of the year and a time of joy and colour throughout Greece. And, typically, each Ionian island has its own way of building up to the festivities.
Easter as never before
The very first day of Lent, known as Clean Monday (March 11), never fails to set the tone for the celebrations to come, with taverna tables overflowing with seafood and laughter.
It helps, of course, that it coincides with the pinnacle of Greece’s carnival celebrations. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Zakynthos at the time, the open-air dancing, parties, parades and theatrical performances bring the streets to life for weeks, not days.
But if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’re after, then you’ll find yourself on Corfu on the last weekend of April, for Orthodox Easter celebrations that are second to none.
From attending a solemn but deeply moving mass service and following the Philharmonic Society of Corfu’s procession of Christ’s epitaph on Good Friday, to the botides (clay jars) being thrown into the streets from people’s balconies… this is Easter as you’ve never experienced it before.
Spring is in the air
It helps, of course, that Easter coincides with Greece’s beautiful springtime, which simply urges you to spend every possible minute outdoors.
When it comes to outdoor activities, the island of Lefkada has long been an adventure-seeker’s dream. It’s famous for its beaches and water sports (imagine your sea fun starting in May) but you should also pack a pair of walking boots.
Here’s one tip: The picturesque Dimossari waterfall, about an hour’s walk from the village of Nidri, spills into a great blue pool – perfect for swimming in!
And just to the south, the wild and largely uninhabited island of Ithaca also offers up great hiking options, with many of the trails maintained by devoted nature lovers and guides. The 3km path from Perachori to the Cave of the Nymphs and the 1.2 walk from Platrithias to Homer’s School are for the whole family, and there are longer hikes starting from Exogi (to the north) and many other locations. A bit of research and a good hiking map will take you a long way.
Late-summer culinary secrets
Whatever the time of year, a good walk should be rewarded with an equally good feast. And each of the Ionian Islands has its own local delicacies and culinary secrets, so it’s hardly possible to separate one. But we’ve got another tip for you that’s worth keeping for late-summer. It’s on Kefalonia and is perfect for wine lovers and anyone who enjoys learning how a destination can be defined by its agricultural produce and vice versa.
Kefalonia is the exclusive home of the Robola grape variety and, whether you are enjoying a drop (or two) of the dry white that it produces, or take a tour of a Robola vineyard, the experience is made all the more special when the island’s vines are fully laden and the harvest is in progress.
Setting sail for a last dose of sun
No tour of the Ionian Islands would be complete without heading to sea. So for our last adventures, we’re celebrating the fact that September and even October still offer plenty of sunshine and heading into those incredible blue-green Ionian waters.
Our first suggestion is something you’ve likely never even associated with Greece… going sea turtle spotting around Zakynthos. You could be lucky and encounter one while snorkelling, or you could increase your chances by going out on a chartered boat trip. Just be respectful of these beautiful creatures if you do encounter one.
And when it comes to sailing holidays, Paxi is perfect in so many ways. But once you’re there you simply have to head to its adorable little brother Antipaxi, just a mile away. Imagine exotic beaches and complete tranquillity.
Same story for Lefkada… Just a hop to the east takes you to Meganisi, where you feel like there’s a beautiful beach for each inhabitant. Olive and walnut groves compete with each other for beauty and each of the three villages will make you feel more welcome than the other. All with glorious late-summer sun beating down on you.
So that’s what escape feels like.