South Ionian Islands, Greece
7-Day Sailing Itinerary
The South Ionian Islands. The main departure points here are Lefkada Marina, Lefkas and Preveza Marina on the mainland just to the NE of the Lefkas Canal. The geography here throughout these islands is deeply memorable, stunning scenery, high cliffs, immersive deep caves, and steeped in rich cultural history such as the tales of Odysseus. The winds are often predictable and typical in the summer, making the Ionian Islands an experienced sailors favourite for the clandestine, turquoise anchorages, adrenaline-filled afternoons of sailing and unique clusters of islands huddled together.
The Ionian islands aren’t filled with sprawling, bustling towns like the Cyclades but instead with unique and quaint, smaller towns and villages draped with lush, breath-taking and dramatic natural beauty. There is a more “remote” feeling throughout your week and most nights will be spent at anchor or with long lines ashore, taking the dinghy to the docks and beaches.
A 7-day charter is ideal to enjoy the South Ionian Islands at a relaxed pace without missing out on anything. It’s possible to enjoy the likes of Paxos, Antipaxos and Corfu (all in the North) as well as a selection of islands in the South, with a few days of longer sailing hours, but that would be more comfortable over at least 9 to 10 days.
In the South Ionian Islands, there are two airports you may consider and three departure points for your charter. If a one-way sailing voyage sounds like your cup of tea, you can fly directly to Kefalonia’s ‘Anna Pollatou’ international airport and sail out of Sami or Fiskardo, all the way back to Lefkada, Preveza or Corfu. Alternatively, the Aktion International Airport, just outside Preveza on the mainland serves both Lefkas Marina (40 minute drive) and Preveza Marina (15 minute drive).
To get a taste of the South read one of our favourite routes starting and ending at Lefkas marina.
Day 1: Lefkas Marina – Varko Bay
After boarding your yacht and learning about her ways, head out of the marina down the marked channel. The channel takes you through the salt flats; home to herons, flamingos, and sometimes pelicans; before opening out onto the shimmering blue. Steer to port past the fish farms until you get to the most glorious stretch of beach. Drop the hook for your first night under the stars.
Day 2: Varko Bay – Désimo – Kioni
The serenity of the morning gives you that holiday feeling and the first job of the day is to dive seamlessly off the bow (or belly flop if that’s more your thing!). After a swim to the beach for an iced coffee, it is time to raise the anchor and start your odyssey.
Generally, the mornings are flat and calm, so a gentle motor to a lunch spot for sunbathing or water sports is the perfect way to start the day. For lunch, a wonderful Greek Salad and a wakeboard in the bay Désimo on the island of Lefkada. After an early lunch, it is time to hoist those sails as you set course for Ithaca.
Ithaca may be one of the smaller islands in the Ionian, but it does not make it any less impressive. It towers over neighbouring islands, making Odysseus’ homeland a dramatic location. Beneath a trio of windmills on the East of the island is the beautiful village of Kioni. Longline, free swing or moor on the quay and walk through the village to the beach or windmills. Dinner ashore is recommended as the tavernas offer traditional Greek with a modern twist and spectacular views. After dinner, enjoy a moonlit stroll to the crossroads where you can watch locals playing backgammon whilst sipping on a delicious espresso martini.
Day 3: Kioni – Fiskardo
Another day, another island! Today it is Kefalonia and the beautiful Venetian town of Fiskardo. In 1953 much of the original architecture of Kefalonia was destroyed by an earthquake, however, Fiscardo escaped collapse and boasts intact original Venetian buildings.
Arrive here early to secure yourself to the rocks on the North shore. This is our favourite place to moor so you can enjoy amazing snorkelling and rock pooling, as well as being just a short dinghy ride from the main town. After lunch on the waterfront, tender or paddleboard to the caves at Foki Bay. Take sensible shoes and a torch and head into the cliff face exploring tunnels and caverns. Wash down your exciting adventure with an ice-cold Mythos or a tangy Mojito from Theodora’s Cocktail Bar. The afternoon will soon disappear with a good book, a spot of yacht watching, boutique perusing and a few scoops of gelato.
There are so many restaurants to choose from for dinner that it is worth perusing menus and booking in the afternoon. There is Roulas Grill for Moussaka and honeyed feta with sesame; Elli’s for Italian and Greek fusion; Tassia for beautiful fish dishes; and Lord Falcon for amazing Thai food to name but a few. Dance the night away around the harbour or sleepily retire to the comfort of your yacht.
Day 4: Fiskardo – Cliff Bay – Kastos
The morning starts with a bakery breakfast and a swim. The last
one out of the water gets the job of undoing the shoreline as the anchor is
lifted and the compass is set. On leaving Fiscardo don’t forget to take a look
back at the Venetian lighthouse and Fortress on the Northern peninsula,
definitely a photo opportunity!
You can tick off another island as a lunch stop today, this
time the small uninhabited island of Atokos. There are two bays suitable for
mooring here ‘One House Bay’ and ‘Cliff Bay’. Both are as beautiful as each
other, simply choose according to wind direction and space.
When the afternoon breeze has filled in you can set sail for
the town of Kastos on the island of Kastos! Feel the sun on your skin as the
sea breeze fills your lungs with new-found energy.
Kastos is a stunningly unspoilt island with only
approximately fifty permanent residents. It boasts exquisite turquoise waters,
a mix of sand and pebbled beaches and that magical atmosphere of a true hidden
gem. Kastos is not often on busy routes making it a peaceful retreat and the
perfect stop on your route.
Day 5: Kastos – Sarakiniko – Paleros
If you can bear to tear yourself away from Kastos, it is simply delightful to snake your way around the coastline dipping in and out of bays. Keep an ear out for the bells of the mountain goats jingling as they navigate the rocks near the harbour of Sarakiniko. If you find the harbour empty it is the ideal place to stop for lunch, however, if you have had a later start it is just as nice to eat on the move as you make your way to your evening destination.
Although part of the mainland, the town of Paleros is just as pretty as the islands and worth a visit. The traditional harbour is beautifully white-washed, and the bars, restaurants and beach clubs give it a current vibe. Whether you are watching the midday sun bounce on the water or catching the last of the sun as it disappears on the horizon, the beach is the place to be. Sit with a drink in hand and just take it all in, whoever said you can’t have it all?
Day 6: Paleros – Abeliki Bay – Little Vathi
For breakfast visit one of the many butchers for homemade sausages to fry up onboard or treat yourself at one of the seaside cafes. For day six you head to the island of Meganisi.
Meganisi is all about exploring and seclusion. The north of the island is forked like a splayed hand creating many creeks and inlets to anchor and enjoy. Choose from any of these and you will not be disappointed. The beaches are natural, rugged, and full of natural charm. Swim, relax, be merry.
A short hop from these bays, including Abeliki, is the charming, sleepy village of Little Vathi. Book ahead and secure your birth in Odyseas marina for a fuss-free ending to your day or moor onto the town quay. From the town, you can walk in either direction to a swimming spot or simply pick a seat on the harbour wall and enjoy the view. Drop a line and try your luck at fishing, though you will be competing with the village champion! Take a walk to the fisherman’s quay to see the propellor of an old aeroplane that crashed nearby and is still sunk in the harbour.
Fish is a must for dinner – it can’t get much fresher than it does here! There are so many beautiful restaurants to choose from, you will not be disappointed!
Day 7: Little Vathi – Thilia Island – Lefkas Marina
It is a crime to leave Little Vathi without first having breakfast at Pistrina. For a more relaxed start, sit on the balcony and watch the comings and goings from the marina or if you are keen to get sailing, make sure you grab a local coffee and freshly baked croissants to take away.
As you follow the meandering coastline that forms the top of Meganisi you come to a channel that separates the tiny island of Thilia from Meganisi itself. With careful navigation, you can sail between the two and anchor in the small bay. The water here is crystal clear and the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing morning and lunch. Paddleboard to the shore and snorkel the rocky outcrops or simply relax and take in the postcard view.
When the wind picks up after lunch, hoist your sails and feel the wind whipping you along as you zig-zag back towards the start of the Lefkas channel. Keep an eye out for the island of Skorpios, which was once owned by the Onassis family.
Once moored up safely back in Lefkas Marina take a stroll into Lefkas Town. The town is made up of a delightful mix of coloured building each with its unique style. Restaurants are in abundance and it is all about the location that appeals to you. Do you choose a fish taverna on the waterfront, a quirky bistro in the bustling town square or a fine dining experience off the beaten track? Whichever you choose it is sure to be delicious and the perfect final evening in the Ionian.
Day 8: Lefkas Marina
All there is to do this morning is enjoy a gorgeous last breakfast of local produce and fresh coffee. Oh and fit all of those new buys into your case!