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Island Hopping in the Ionian Sea on a Charter Yacht, 7 Day Itinerary

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Fertile, green and delightfully uncrowded, the Ionian Islands are on the western side of Greece, closer to Italy than Athens. These islands were formed by the shifting of tectonic plates. From thousands of years of erosion, they have been shaped into the stunning beauties they are today. The best way to enjoy the gorgeous beaches both pebble and sand, the numerous coves and caves, and the intriguing history is by chartering a Sailing Vessel or Motor Yacht. Here is our seven day cruising itineray. This itinerary works equally as well for sailing.

Using our reciprocal benefits with The Moorings yacht ownership program, we recently spent 3 weeks exploring the Ionian Islands with 7 days of that exploration by motor yacht. If you are interested in or have questions about yacht ownership, please email me. We are in our second contract with The Moorings and absolutely love small yacht cruising as a way to explore the the world.

Where are the Ionian Islands?

The Ionian island group is in western Greece. Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxos and Kythira are the seven largest and most popular islands of the Ionian island Group, refered to as the Heptanese or"Seven Islands." Antikythira, Antipaxos, Ereikousa, Mathraki, Othonoi, Meganisi and Strofades are lesser-known smaller islands in this group.

How long is the Yachting Charter Season in the Ionian?

The Ionian yachting season extends from April 1st to October 31st. The least expensive months to charter are April and October. The water is quite chilly in April and May. September and october have very temperate weather, less crowds than the summer and the Ioanian Sea is still quite warm.

Essential Online Links For Booking Your Trip to the Ionian

Top-rated Corfu tours and experiences for pre and post charter:

Private Island Tour Including Achillion Palace (one of my favorite Corfu experiences)

Top places to stay in Corfu: Cavalieri Hotel (5 Star Luxury) ** Anesis Apartment Corfu (Budget Friendly Residential Apartment) ** Corfu Palace Hotel (Budget Friendly, Central Location) **Locandiera (Mid Priced, Boutique Hotel)

My favorite Guidebook for Ionian: DK Eyewitness Top 10 Corfu and the Ionian Islands

My favorite book about Corfu: A Kitchen in Corfu

Looking for more information on island hopping in the Ionian, check out these posts:

Day One - Gouvia Marina

The largest island and center of commerce and tourism for the Ionian Islands is Corfu. We met my sister and her husband in Athens and flew into Corfu from the Athens airport. Our 43 foot, 3 stateroom yacht was waiting for us at Gouvia Marina, just outside Corfu Town. Gouvia is a full service marina with a grocery store, other shops, several restaurants, showers, laundry services, children's playground and a swimming pool. After stocking up on a few provisions and talking over logistics with our Skipper Yiannis, we headed out to explore the Ionian Sea.

Just a note about Charter Skippers.... the Mediterranean requires an International Competency Certificate to Captain a vessel in the their waters. CaptK does not have that certification, therefore we have used Local Captains in three Mediterranean destinations. Each skipper had his own personality, and all three were outstanding. The local captains know the best places to overnight, they are experienced with the "med-moor" method of docking, they know the best restaurants, and the best places to snorkel, dive, hike and sights to see! I highly recommend Local Captains in a Mediterranean Destination.

Day One - Cruising from Gouvia, Corfu to Lakka, Paxos

I have to admit, I am a geography nerd. I love maps. I love understanding how history, culture and food is impacted by geography. It is interesting to note that architecture and food in the Ionian Islands are significantly impacted by their proximity to Italy. As we were leaving Gouvia Marina, Yiannis pointed out the snow capped mountains pictured in the first photograph above. Those mountains are on mainland Albania. I am embarrassed to say, I did not realize Albania so close to Corfu. We sailed around the eastern point of Corfu Town and took some great pictures of the old Fortress, part of which dates back to the Roman Empire.




Day 1 - Lakka, Paxos

Our first overnight was on the quay in Lakka, on the northern tip of Paxos. This is a delightful coastal village with a protected harbor, nice shops, restaurants and a pretty, pebble beach for swimming. After a morning filled with travel and logistics, we put on our hiking shoes and headed out to stretch our legs and explore.

Day 1 - Hike to the Lighthouse

Our skipper Yiannis sent us in the direction of a lighthouse on the northwest shore of Paxos. It lights the way for sailors making the passage between Corfu and Paxos. This lighthouse was established in 1825 during the British rule of the Ionian Islands. Once you get to the top of the hill, it is easy to find the lighthouse by walking south along the road. the entrance to the light is locked, however you can walk all around it. There are trails that take you out to sweeping views of the coast.

Day 1 - Dinner at Alexandros

One of the best meals we ate on the trip was at the family owned and operated Alexandro's just off the main square in Lakka. We were invited into the kitchen to see what had been prepared for that evenings menu. The family was warm, welcoming and so proud of the heritage. The meal was prepared by family recipes handed down from previous generations. The food was made with fresh ingredients and was delicious.

Day Two - Cruising to Preveza, Mainland Greece for a Lunch Stop, Overnight on Meganisi

Once we enjoyed a morning coffee and a pastry in Lakka, we sailed off to our next stop, Preveza on Mainland Greece to the southeast of Paxos. It was a beautiful Sunday in May, with a cool breeze from the northwest. There were lots of others boats out sailing that morning keeping us entertained on our 36 mile voyage to Preveza.

Day 2 - Preveza, Mainland Lunch Stop

As quaint and charming as Lakka was, Preveza is modern and lively. The quay is long and wide with many boats moored there. The options for dining, shopping and provisioning are plentiful. The stores are well stocked and have anything you may need. If you are looking to stretch your legs, it is an interesting walk from one end of the quay to the other.

Day 2 - Lunch at Treli Gaida (The Crazy Shrimp)

Sunday lunch is a relaxing family meal in most parts of Greece. We were able to get a table at Treli Gaida, one block inland from the quay, and join other Greek families in the Sunday Lunch tradition. Treli Gaida is known for their Shrimp Saganaki, shrimp cooked in tomato sauce and feta cheese. It was outstanding as was the grilled shrimp. Both were nicely paired with the house white wine.

Day 2 - Sailing to Meganisi through the Lefkas Canal

After filling our stomaches and stretching our legs, we ere back on the boat and heading to the mostly rural island in the Ionian chain, Meganisi to overnight. Meganisi is about 18 miles south of Preveza. It is an interesting sail because you pass through a swing bridge that connects Lefkas to the mainland. Then you take the 3.5 mile long canal past the Lefkas Marina, past the island of Skorpios, once owned by Aristotle Onassis and on to the quiet port on Meganisi.

Day 2 - Porto Spiglia, Meganisi - Overnight

Mooring quayside, we spent some time enjoying the pebbly beach. In May the water is quite chilly but refreshing after our sail. The interesting thing about some of these smaller Marinas is that they provide quayside docking, water, and electricity at no charge as long as you eat in their restaurant.

Day 2 - Dinner at Porto Spiglia

Porto Spiglia is primarily a fish taverna, with local fisherman bringing in their catch daily. After the owner showed us what the fresh options were that evening, we feasted on grilled Sea Bream and Scorpion Fish. The fish was cooked on an open flame grill and stuffed with herbs picked that morning and lemon. What a way to end a beautiful day on the water, fresh fish eaten under the stars!

Day 3 - Hike to Spartachori, Papanikolis Cave, Lunch in Kioni, Ithaca, Overnight Fiskardo, Kefalonia

Nothing better than a quiet morning sail, while sipping on a cup of coffee.

Day 3 - Hike to Spartachori

Before leaving Meganisi, part of our group climbed to the village of Spartachori at the top of the hill. behind Porto Spiglia. A church anchors the town square that has sweeping views of the mainland and islands to the north. There is also a small hotel on the square. Between the square and the beach is a cave, the path to the entrance of the cave was blocked with rocks and tree trunks making it impassible to get to the cave. We think it was blocked for safety reasons.

Day 3 - Papanikolis Cave

Because of the wind and water erosion of the rocks, the Ionian Islands have many caves. One of the most famous is on the western side of Meganisi, Papanikolis Cave. This cave is named after the WWII Greek Submarine that was hidden from the Germans in the cave. It is interesting to note that in many places the deep blue water color goes directly up to a sheer rock face, the water can be as deep as 250 ft deep. The lighter aquamarine color in the last picture is where the water is more shallow.

Day 3 - Kioni, Ithaca

Ithaca is a small rugged island, immortalized as the home of Odysseus by Homer in the Odyssey and the Iliad. We stopped at the picturesque village of Kioni for lunch. The town lines the horseshoe shaped harbor, which is dotted with shops and tavernas. It is such a beautiful place, it is easy to see why Odysseus fought so hard to get home.

Day 3 - Lunch Avra Taverna

When we are in Greece, CaptK and I generally eat both lunch and dinner out. That is not the case when we are cruising in the BVI or the Bahamas. The food in Greece is just so darn good. Every restaurant has a family garden where the herbs and vegetables they serve grow. There is no word for farm to table in Greek, because everything is farm to table. If it is not grown locally, it's not eaten. Avra Taverna is a perfect example of delicious, fresh, locally grown options prepared impeccably. Tucked away in the far corner of the harbor, it is just the place to experience traditional Greek food.

Day 3 - A Walk around Kioni after Lunch

After lunch we took a walk around the harbor to enjoy the beautiful vistas. It is easy to understand why people have inhabited this island since the 8th century BCE.

Day 3 - Overnight Fiskardo, Kefalonia

Archaeological finds indicate that humans have been living on Kefalonia since 50,000 BCE. The island flourished in Mycenaen times (1600-1100 BCE) and was captured by the Romans in 2nd century BCE. From 1500 to 1700 CE the island was ruled by the Venetians. You can see their fingerprints in the 18th century houses that cluster around the harbor, along with coffee shops, cafes and nice gift shops.

Day 3 - A Walk Around Town and a Sundowner

We took a walk around town and made a reservation for dinner. Happy hour is not something that you see very often in Greece. The Greeks are usually drinking coffee at that time of day. Lucky for us, Panormos, the restaurant recommended for dinner, had a happy hour on the patio bar, overlooking the sea. Giving a nod to the greek custom of coffee in the late afternoon, I ordered an espresso martini.

Day 3 - Dinner Panormos

Panormos is a Mother/Daughter run restaurant in the cove just south of the main harbor. It has stunning views and non-traditional options on their menu, like the contemporary version of Shrimp Saganaki in the first picture above. The food is refreshingly different, but definitely Greek.

Day 4 - Hike Kefalonia, Lunch Vasiliki, Lefkada, Overnight Sivota, Lefkada

The morning light adds an extra glow to the brightly colored building in Fiskardo.

Day 4 - Hike The Cypress Trail, Kefalonia

Morning coffee was quickly downed as we headed out for the longest hike of the trip. Behind the town of Fiskardo is an EU Protected Natural Area and the 8 mile Cypress Trail. I found the trail on Alltrails, my main source of hiking trails when traveling. This trail has an 887 ft elevation gain that offers spectacular views. You wander through ruins on the climb out of town and established neighborhoods at the top of the hill. You come down to the south of the village and walk back along the road.

Day 4 - Roman Burial Ground and a Sweet Treat at the end of the Trail, Kefalonia

On the road back to town, you will find an ancient Roman cemetery that is an active archaeological site. The coffins in the first picture are part of that site. In town, we stopped at Melina Patisserie. Her offerings definitely live up to their reputation as the best bakery in the Ionians. It is a tasty place to refuel after a hike.

Day 4 - Vasiliki, Lefkada

As tempting as it is to spend another day in Fiskardo, we sail off to Vasiliki, the windsurfing capital of western Greece. This is a pretty, modern town with a well shaded waterfront and a brand new marina.

Day 4 - Lunch Penguin Taverna

One of the things I love about Greek food is the heavy Italian influence. I have eaten some of the best pizza in Greece! The Penguin Taverna, on the waterfront in Vasiliki, has authentic wood fired pizza. CaptK and I shared a delicious pie, made with local sausage, peppers and onions. They also serve traditional Greek dishes and fresh fish. Gary, the owner and his son are at the restaurant everyday, serving up deliciousness to travelers and locals.

Day 4 - Overnight Sivota, Lefkada

The next cove over is Sivota on Lefkada, not to be confused with Sivota on the mainland. We visited both cities, however we stayed overnight in Sivota on Lefkada. Sivota is a modern city with provisioning, gift shops and cafes designed to attract boaters. Floating docks with water and electricity are available for overnight stays at no charge as long as you eat have dinner at the restaurant that owns the dock.There are also showers and a washing machine available to use. There is a pretty, pebbly beach for swimming on the eastern side of the harbor.

Day 4 - Dinner 12 Gods Restaurant, Sivota, Lefkada

On the recommendation of Yiannis, we stayed on the 12 Gods Restaurant floating dock and ate at the 12 Gods Restaurant. This was one of the best meals we had in Greece. CaptK picked out a huge lobster for dinner served grilled, which he shared with my sister. You can see the wide assortment of seafood available that night, in the first photograph. They also serve traditional Greek dishes like the stuffed tomatoes I enjoyed.

Day 5 - Lunch Ammoudia, Acheron River Tour, Wine and Olive Oil Tasting, Overnight Parga, on the Mainland

After a ride north through the Lefkas Canal and along the western side of mainland Greece, we stopped at Ammoundia where the mythological five rivers of Hades converge. The Acheron River is the longest of the rivers and it spills into the Ionian Sea at Ammoudia. The river Styx converges with the Acheron River about a half mile inland. These rivers marked the beginning of the underworld in mythology.

Day 5 - Lunch at Taverna Pateras, Ammoudia, Mainland

Ammoudia is a coastal village with a big, wide, sandy beach. It sits along the Acheron River at the place where the river meets the Ionian Sea. There are multiple tavernas along the river to the north and the remains of the ancient customs house on the south side of the river. We had a lunch of traditional Greek dishes at Taverna Pateras before embarking on the Acheron River Excursion.

Day 5 - Acheron River Excursion, Mainland

Unauthorized boats are not allowed to enter the Acheron River Basin because it is an EU Protected Natural Area. The only way to visit this area is by small tour boat.

It is a peaceful ride up the Acheron River to the River Styx. There are turtles, protected birds and bright blue dragon flies. These rivers played a large role in Greek Mythology. They were the boarder between Earth and Underworld. Achilles’ mother dipped him into the river Styx as a child to give him invulnerability, only his heel which she was holding was vulnerable. The ferryman Charon transported bodies from Earth to the Underworld. In several cultures, coins are placed on the eye sockets of the dead to pay the ferryman. This is a custom started in greek Mythology by Charon. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and cost 5 euros for each passenger.

Day 5 - Overnight, Parga Mainland

Parga is a picturesque town on mainland Greece, where colorful buildings line the harbor and beaches. The back streets and alleyways wander via stairs up the hill. Gift shops, cafes and tavernas line these pedestrian walkways. The bay is dotted with small, verdant islands that are home to bright white religious buildings. In the early morning, you can see swimmers getting their exercise by padding between the island and shore.

Day 5 - Wine and Olive Oil Tasting, Parga Mainland

About halfway up the hill is a Paragaea Old Olive Oil Factory that focuses on turn of the century olive oil production. Our Skipper arranged for them to do an evening olive oil and wine tasting followed by dinner at the quayside restaurant, Aegis. Cassie, from the museum, took us on an educational journey through Greek olive oils and wines. She expanded our knowledge of these integral parts of Greek life. The health benefits of a diet rich in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, especially first harvest, cold extraction Extra Virgin Olive Oil are widely documented and proven by the long life spans of the Greek people. This is particularly true of Greek people living on the islands. You can book wine and olive oil tastings directly on the on the Aegis website.

Day 5 - Dinner Aegis Restaurant, Parga Mainland

Aegis is directly on the seaside, on the northwestern side of the quay. Their food is absolutely delicious. The menu is full of fresh, local ingredients prepared with a contemporary twist. Pictured above is Sea Bass on Shrimp Risotto with Mussels and Herb Crusted Lamb Chops.

Day 6 - Hike to Castle Parga, Lunch Anti-Paxos, Overnight Gaios Paxos

The Castle at Parga has dominated the landscape since the 11th century. It was built to protect the city and its citizens from pirates and the Ottomans.

Day 6 - Coffee and Hike to the Castle, Parga Mainland

One of my greatest pleasures is enjoying a cup of coffee slowly, while watching a resort village awaken. Parga did not disappoint. Mornings start slowly and quietly, as the sun rises the activity level rises. By noon the seaside town is lively and bustling,

The hike to the Castle is a walk upwards on pedestrian streets of stairs. The vistas are spectacular. The gift shops beckon you in to look at their treasures. Cafes offering ice creams and cold drinks are available to refresh you on your climb.