"The South Ionian Islands"
A cluster of islands in the most western part of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands contain a collection of some of the Mediterranean’s most famous and popular yacht charter sailing destinations, bringing a wonderful blend of fun, relaxation and different Greek island culture, landscape and experiences. You can charter your dream sailing yacht here from either Corfu in the North or Lefkas (Lefkada), Preveza and Kefalonia in the South, with three main airports.
The South Ionian islands, which include the likes of Kefalonia and Lefkas, reside within a large, inland sea enclosing as many as over twenty islands such as Meganissi, Kastos, Kalamos, and the legendary Ithaca (think ‘the tales of Odysseus’). Explore these sensational, dramatic islands by yacht and discover a magnificent array of memorable, postcard-worthy bays and anchorages with gorgeous beaches, caves and white cliffs, surrounded by olive groves and cypress trees.
Lefkada Marina, Lefkas
Lefkas is the 4th largest of the Ionian Islands. It is primarily famous for its extraordinary beauty, and its geographical position at the heart of the Ionian sea is its main advantage. From here, the North and South Ionian islands are well within reach, making this a perfect departure destination. A bridge of only 50m separates the island from mainland Greece, facilitating an immediate approach to the airport in Preveza and other destinations. Lefkas Marina is situated on the island’s eastern side, literally embraced by the prefecture’s capital town, bearing the same name. Right next to the main harbour is a distinct town within the central city.
Lefkas marina was launched in 2002, accommodating up to 620 boats at a maximum of up to 45m. Within the complex, you’ll find installations and services, such as rental boats as well as cars and motorbikes, a surgery, port police office, a laundry, and a shopping centre with a variety of shops including restaurants, a supermarket, and cafés providing the opportunity to do your shopping or enjoy a meal and a drink with a beautiful view of the boats and the beautiful town of Lefkas.
Address: Lefkas Marina, 31100 Lefkas, Greece
Phone: +30 26450 26645-6
VHF Channels: 69
Open: All year
Max Length Berths: 45m
Number of Berths: 620
Preveza Marina, Mainland Greece
Preveza Marina, situated in the very heart of the famous and cosmopolitan Preveza town, is a refreshing and new marina capable of berthing up to 300 yachts and luxury vessels, up to a maximum of 45m in length and 4.5m draught, making it a new and modern socio-economic recreation centre throughout the year. This newly built marina is modern, and facilities are represented as such, making this an elegant and conveniently located departure point for sailing through the Ionian’s natural beauty and culture.
Preveza town is also a tourist and sailing point of the Ionian Sea and the entire Adriatic, with castles and ancient settlements that blend harmoniously with the crystal blue waters and golden beaches. Offering a list of high-quality services and guided by the highest international standards, besides boat docking, Preveza Marina also provides complimentary entertainment, leisure and commercial services so that visitors may enjoy a comfortable and complete experience.
Aktion International Airport is a 10-minute taxi ride away, helping to keep your travel time to a minimum.
Address: Preveza Marina, 48100, New Port Preveza
Phone: +30 26820 24458
VHF Channels: 71
Open: All year
Max Length Berths: 45m
Number of Berths: 450
A NW wind is the dominant weather pattern throughout the Ionian sea, the maestro. Typically, however, this wind is less intense, beaufort scale force 2 to 5. In comparison to the infamous Meltemi over in the Aegean and Cyclades, much less caution is required. Having said this, you must remain wary of the gusts when cruising on lee side of hilly islands and be conscious there might be katabatic winds from the NE in evenings, Force 5-6 from the mainland mountains.
Starting in October upto mid-May, wind usually from the S to SE can produce gales, and it’s possible to encounter waterspouts. Typically detected on radar to help you steer clear, but it’s a good idea to keep a visual for these – they can be easily seen in good light. You may also encounter regular thunderstorms and squalls, with Corfu recorded the highest ranfalls throughout Greece.
Sources for weather information:
- Athens Observatory gives three days (every 6 hrs) detailed graphical forecasts for the Greek seas.
- Poseidon System gives three-day forecasts for Greek seas from the National Center for Marine Research (Not very reliable).
- Weather on Line provides detailed seven-day forecast charts for the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Atlantic.
- Greek Meteorological Service (EMY); Navtex weather bulletins.
- Wind Guru a surfer’s site with worldwide wind forecasts.
Measurement of Difficulty
For the most part, the wind and weather conditions in the popular sailing months are favourable; however, the Ionian Sea is impacted by the north and northwestern prevailing winds. These are most prominent from mid-afternoon to sunset and can mean strong crosswinds and gusts funnelling over the mountainous landscapes. Planning and a thorough understanding of the weather forecasts are recommended and don’t be afraid to ask your charter operator, fellow sailors or locals for top tips. As is the case in most Greece, you’ll often be required to moor against the quay or the shore, with the anchor and long lines.
You must plan your technique carefully according to the wind, and all crew members understand their role. Prepare long lines, have them coiled ready and if you can holla down assistance ashore, don’t be afraid to ask. If not, send a crew out by dinghy to prepare the lines to shore first, and have the dinghy crew meet the yacht after she drops anchor and goes astern. A large amount of chain is usually required due to the topography of the land being quite steep (shifting from shallow to too deep, very quickly).
See our ‘Guide To Safe Docking And Anchoring’ for more information.
Places To Visit
“The island of Kefalonia”
Lat/Long: 38.4582° N, 20.5770° E
Fiskardo, on the northern tip of Fiskardo, is the stylish and famous town commonly known as the St Tropez of Greece. International superstars and oligarchs have frequented here, parking their yachts out in the harbour, but it’s Fisakrdo’s raw beauty, elegance and history that is most attractive. The candy-coloured Venetian buildings, having, for the most part, survived the earthquake of 1953, are doused in bougainvillaea that makes a glitzy marina and pretty backdrop.
There is a tiny beach within the harbour of Fiskardo, but a short walk to the south will take you to Foki Beach, a pebbled beach surrounded by tall pine forest and a taverna behind the sands. Try out their famous meat pies! Foki Bay is filled with cool, calm and sheltered waters, protected from all directions but the east and making a fantastic swimming spot. There is also the old mining cave, with a low entrance yet surprisingly enormous inside, and only accessible by dinghy or swimming. You can lose yourself in there; it’s very dark. Make sure to take a flashlight or two!
As you approach Fiskardo harbour, there are no dangers, but approaching from the north can be difficult to approach until you round the old Venetian lighthouse on the headland (and the modern lighthouse above it). Beware of ferries entering and leaving at speed. The northwest’s prevailing winds can also be strong and gusty, so plan and take exceptional care when anchoring and mooring – particularly with the crosswind.
Visiting yachts have several mooring options in the harbour at the breakwater quay, south quay, west quay and even the ferry jetty. Particularly in the peak summer months, if you want a dock position, you need to arrive exceptionally early – around noon would be reasonable. Otherwise, there is a good anchorage for 10-12 yachts in depths of 10-12 metres along the harbour’s N shore, taking lines ashore to stainless steel rings set into the rocks. Holding is only moderate in the sand and some weed, so ensure your anchor is well dug in. The shelter here is good in all but strong E or S winds.
“The island of Fiskardo”
Lat/Long -38.3782° N, 20.5401° E
Assos, a rural, isolated village, is nestled within a horseshoe harbour on a peninsula on the western coast of Kefalonia and overlooked by a historic Venetian fortress. Lush green hillsides, draped in cypress trees and pine, and dramatic coastal scenery envelope this romantic and classical location of Assos. Fine examples of Venetian architecture are spread throughout the village, dotted with houses traditional tavernas, and one of these uninhabited houses ( if you are lucky) may have a door left ajar so you may glimpse inside at a time past. Hours sipping fine local wines can disappear; time seems to stand still in Assos.
After the 1953 earthquake, the French came to aid the people of Assos to rebuild their village; as thanks for their help, the square has been named ‘Paris Square’. A plaque commemorating the French can be found close to the waterfront.
Assis is very popular with tourists on land and a magical place to visit by a yacht that feels somewhat undiscovered. As you approach, steep and dramatic hilltops and cliffs will guide you in, shores littered with sandy coves, rockfalls and luminescent, turquoise water. With limited space on the town quay, most yachts will need to anchor out in the bay, free-swinging, but it’s possible to take lines ashore if staying overnight. However, the harbour position is exposed and should only be visited in settled weather without swell, and without fair winds, from the northeast and around to the west. It’s best to plan this destination on a flat calm day.
In addition to the charming and beautiful landscape, there is a 1.8km walk up to the Venetian fortress ruins offering spectacular, enjoyable views. You can also stop at Assos on your way to visiting Argostoli, but don’t miss out on the equally impressive coastline on the south side of Assos town.
“The island of Ithaka”
Lat/Long: 38.4471° N, 20.6906° E
The village of Kioni on the southeastern side of Ithaka is a picturesque traditional Greek settlement with a verdant setting and unique attractions. It’s built amphitheatrically on the mountain’s slopes, with houses covered in little tiled roofs, overlooking the stunning, picturesque port decorated with moored fishing boats and yachts out in the harbour.
Built by the inhabitants who lived in the mountainous village of Anogi (at the end of the 16th century), Kioni has a selection of pretty, interesting houses with renaissance, architectural characteristics – some of the few that survived the devastating earthquake of 1953. Today, this little paradise has grown rapidly into a busy and modern tourist resort, with many cafes and taverns lining the lovely port, private yachts mooring at the port, a lot of rooms for rent, boar rentals and some food stores.
There are no immediate dangers as you approach the harbour of Kioni; however, be wary of the strong prevailing winds from the NW. The gusts can be strong and anchor with lines to the shore and the dock difficult with the crosswind. You’ll be anchoring in waters of 6m to 10m deeper into the bay, in any of the small coves along the south shore. The holding is mostly sand and mud. Mooring at the yacht quay is mostly anchoring in soft mud and weeds, so take care to get a good holding. This quay can take around 25 yachts in 2m to 2.5m depth. There is also a limited option on the breakwater and west quay.
“The island of Ithaka”
Lat/Long -38.4670° N, 20.6425° E
Afales Beach is a great, towering and dramatic bay with breathtaking landscape and turquoise waters, found on the northern side of Ithaka. Host to a selection of unique beaches, most of these is only accessible by sea, making Afales a dream location to drop anchor and explore.
The landscape has a wild beauty with steep, dramatic cliffs on one side and lush vegetation. Visiting by yacht is like being in a secluded paradise, and you will be stunned by the cliffs, blue waters and white sands, and they truly do get better and better as you move along them. The crystal waters are exceptionally clear, seeing rocks and fish on the seabed, and you’ll find olive, pine and Crypresses trees descending to the sea.
The bay of Afales is protected from the eastern and southerly swells but completely exposed to the north and northwest. This destination is best avoided in the prevailing winds, so the best time to visit is usually throughout the morning and into the late afternoon. The holding is good in sand and mud, but there are several large and small submerged and visible rocks to keep a lookout and monitor the charts.
“The island of Atokos”
Lat/Long – 38.4868° N, 20.8106° E
Atokos is a small Greek island within the South Ionian cluster of islands. It commands a striking, towering clifftop presence with natural beauty that will capture your imagination and leave you in awe. The island has no resident population and lies 6 miles northeast of Ithaca and 6miles southwest of Kastos. Atokos is only accessible by boat, and anchoring here is only considered safe in calm weather at one of its two anchorages. On the east coast, there is ‘One House Bay’ and on the south, Cliff Bay. The former is the preferred option as it shelters yachts from the sometimes strong prevailing northwest winds. Additionally, the island is much more accessible from One House Bay via the pebbled beach and flat hinterland.
The islands approaches are fairly straightforward; however, you should take care and consider potential gusts occurring with the prevailing northwesterly winds as they swirl and dive from the cliff tops. These can be found even within the deep anchorages, so take care to give yourself plenty of swing room. In anything stronger than an F5 prevailing wind, you should not anchor here as the gusts become uncomfortable and unforgiving. From other wind direction, especially easterlies, there is no protection whatsoever.
“The island of Meganisi”
Lat / Long – 38.6506° N, 20.7540° E
Meganisi is a small island located south of Lefkas and opposite the port of Nidri. The limited tourism to the island ensures this beautiful island, surrounded by clean and clear emerald waters and draped in lush greenery, remains a top setting for those who love seclusion. There is no public transport here, so exploring the island is done exclusively by foot, boat or private transport.
The main villages are Vathi (or commonly known as ‘Little Vathi’ and Spartochori. Vathi is a beautiful, picturesque village that stretches around the deep harbour port where many yachts, big and small, moor throughout the summer, creating an upmarket, trendy and cosmopolitan feel with a selection of excellent restaurant, cocktail and wine bars to visit. The beaches are mostly secluded and unorganized, with Spilia, Fanari, Ioannis and Barbarezou being the most popular and attractive. By boat, you can also reach the many hidden crystal coves littered around the island.
Vathi is the main harbour of Meganisi in Greece’s the Ionian Islands. Like its neighbouring harbour of Port Spillia to the West, 0.5NM away, Vathi at the deepest end of the inlet on the northern end of the island, providing excellent shelter from the prevailing winds of the N/NW. The harbour provides berthing for around 12-15 yachts in its inner, old harbour, with an additional 68 found in the more exclusive plush Odyseas Marina’s marina. Laid moorings can also be found for diners at Karnayio Taverna, where a private pontoon is in place for up to 20 yachts. Solid and consistent northerlies can send swell into the harbour but, otherwise, the shelter is good but dangerous in extreme weather.
Lat/Long – 38.7100° N, 20.7141° E
On the east coast of Lefkas, and south of Lefkada Marina, lies the harbour town of Nidri. You’ll find this destination to the entrance to wide, open gulf known as Vlikho Bay. The area is a very popular and often crowded summer getaway, particularly so in the peak season months. You’ll see many day-tripper yachts, watersports vessels, ferries and other yachts making busy the waters. Extra care should be taken navigating the entrance here.
Half a mile to the east of Nidro you have the pretty and popular Tranquil Bay, with yachts anchoring at the busiest of times all the way across the straights towards the quay at Nidri itself. Yachts visiting Nidri town can anchor with stern lines to the town quay, which faces the entrance of the bay. Alternatively, you can attempt to secure a mooring at one the of the six pontoons on the west shore, that reach out into the bay between the town of Vlikho (approximately one miles to the South) and Nidri.
At the weekend, most pontoons are taken by charter yachts on turnaround between charters so it’s recommended to only visit on weekdays. Otherwise, Nidri is only open to the East and a small degree to the South, offering reasonable shelter from the prevailing NNW wind, prevalent in the summer months in the afternoon through to sunset. However, in more extreme weather is can be uncomfortable.
“The island of Kalamos”
Lat / Long – 38.6219° N, 20.9089° E
Kаlamοs is one оf thе least knοwn inhаbited Greek islands, belonging tо thе South Ionian cluster аnd a short distance away from Mytikas village on the mаinland. It is nestled between Мeganissi аnd Kastоs, аnοther lesser-known destination.
Kalаmos is mоuntainοus has onlу twо coastal settlements – Кalamοs аnd Episkopi. Kalаmos, the capital, is lосаtеd οn the east coast where you will find most of the island beaches. The restaurants, саfеs and shоps are also all namely in Kаlamοs, around its sаfe, protected harbоr and the petite, attractive prοmеnade. All beachеs on the islаnd have smоοth whitе pebbles and trаnsparеnt blue water, but if you аrе lоοking for sandу beaсhes, yоu will nοt find thеm here. The sеttlement of Episkоpi οn thе northwest cоast is very smаll and has οnlу а harbor with bеaсh restаurant and а cluster оf hοusеs. Close tо it yοu can visit thе ruins of а Venetian сastlе, pаrts оf which are verу wеll preservеd.
As the island is mountainous, it’s easily spotted in the south’s approach. Around the cape of Kafali, the shoal of Ifalos Formikoula, just under a mile to the West, is hazardous and must be avoided. The north’s approach has no hazards, but isolated rocks can be found close to shore – stay at least 100m offshore. The channel between Kalamos and its immediate neighbour, Kastos, can sometimes be subject to gusting in strong NW winds. Approaching the south’s harbour, a series of prominent windmills, including one right on the shore, mark the harbour’s headland immediately SW. The harbour is entered from the north between a long, curved eastern breakwater and a shorter western one. Depths in the entrance are 3.5 – 4.0 metres and on the quays from 2.5 to 3.5 metres.
“The island of Kastos”
Lat/Long – 38.5707° N, 20.9107° E
Kаstоs (hаs nοthing tо dο with Каsοs) is а smаll islаnd with lоng, nаrrοw shаpе just оff thе wеst сοаst оf mаinlаnd Grеесе. It bеlоngs tο thе Iоniаn islаnd grοup аnd аlthоugh yοu mау hаvе nеvеr hеаrd оf it, with only 80 pеrmаnеnt rеsidеnts, it is an unspоilt, саlm and peaceful plасе.
Kаstоs liеs сlοsе tо Каlаmоs and hаs οnly оnе sеttlеmеnt аrοund thе harbour, which сοnsists оf privаtе hοusеs, thrее tаvеrnаs, twо сοffее bаrs аnd а smаll shоp fοr bаsiс groceries. There are several small coves and pebble beaches on the east coast, with the island stretching 7km long and 1km wide – an excellent choice for hikers.
Kastos is a low lying island and when arriving from the South, can be challenging to identify against the northwest’s towering Kalamos. The harbour is located roughly at the centre of the southeast coast of Kastos. You can see a prominent windmill (now a cafe) at the top of the headland, which obscures the harbour. Once you have rounded the headland, the harbour comes into full view, with the entrance facing to the east between a breakwater. Entrance depths are from 6 metres and up to 3.5 metres at the quay.