The north and south Ionian is such a wonderful location for a sailing holiday. The numerous islands, the close proximity of the islands to each other, the huge number of pretty villages, the unlimited bays and coves to visit and the excellent weather all add up to create one of the best sailing areas in the world.
With so many places to visit, it can be quite daunting at first, when starting to plan your itinerary for your holiday. The first point to make is that there really are very few places in the Ionian which you will be disappointed with (if any!), so you cannot go to far wrong!
The second point is that, due to the short distances between the islands and villages, you do not need to do too much hard and fast planning. You can pretty much make it up as you go! However it is a good idea to have a list of places you would like to visit before you set off. If you are new to the Ionian, when you arrive at the Nisos base, one of our skippers will sit with you with the charts and help you plan an itinerary and share their vital local knowledge with you.
In order to help you with your initial planning, we have asked our regular skippers where the best places they head for when sailing in the wonderful Ionian Islands, Greece. You can see the responses below. This will be updated on an ongoing basis, so keep coming back!
Geoff Connolly - Freelance professional skipper
-Foki bay: just south of Fiscardho, Kefalonia. Longline to the shore and lay anchors fairly deep as it shallows quickly. There's a little beach, a cave that is quite large, and a good taverna ashore. Great for those who want to visit Fiscardho but don't fancy the hassle of parking there.
Astokas - Mainland Greece
Planned only to stay one day but ended up there for three. Moor near the ferry dock right in front of the tavernas which are really good as all the locals eat there. Do not swim on the NE side of the bay it seems all the rubbish from the ship breakers. Head south for about 8.5 miles and you will find one of the most secluded lagoons complete with bat cave 1/2 way up the west hill side.
Mellisani Caves - Kefalonia
If you moor up at Ay Euphemia or Sami on the east coast of Kefalonia, you can take a trip to the wonderful Mellisani Caves. This cave is located near to the village of Karavomilos on the road between Ay Eufimia and Sami. From the entrance you go down through a tunnel to the cave and underground lake. A boatman will take you around the cave on a 20 minute trip. Well worth a visit and a pleasant walk from Sami. Sami is not an obvious choice for an overnight stop, as it is a fairly "new" village having been rebuilt in the 50's following the large earthquake in the area, but it has some great tavernas and lovely walks. It is also one of the quieter places to visit with regards to yachts so there is often plenty of space on the town quay.
The Amvrakia Gulf (Kolpos)
This land locked Gulf is entered from Preveza, and is ideal if you are heading North into the North Ionian for a couple of stops. It is well and truly off the beaten track and few yachts venture into here. Due to the high number of fish in this Gulf, there is an abundance of water birds as well as dolphins and turtles to spot.
Vonitsa is a good place to head for initially, and as well as the town quay there is a wonderful anchorage to the east of the Nisos Koukouvitsa. Vonitsa is a fairly popular tourist destination for the Greeks, so there is good food to be found, especially flat fish. There is a castle to ramble around with great views across the Gulf.
If you wish to take a trip up to the ancient town of Arta, then head for Menidion on the east coast. There are some good tavernas here, again specialising in fresh fish. Arta is about 20kms away, and is steeped in history. Good architecture to view including the ancient Turkish bridge and the church of Panayia Paragoritissa.
The following ideas have been submitted by Brian Walker (freelance Skipper)
One of my Ionian favourites is Desimi beach otherwise known as Desimi Bay.
Cave at Desimi Bay
Desimi is an open anchorage that has easy access, something for everyone once anchored; eateries ashore, places for children or adults to explore from the dinghy, a beach for those... 'well' beach moments, good swimming & clean water. (N38 40,10.25 E 20 42,54.32). Of the two beach tavernas, the starboard hand one, when viewed from seaward is the more atmospheric. The food is good inexpensive, the welcome warm and a short dinghy distance from the anchorage.
Approaching from the south the bay is easy to identify sitting almost at the top of the Meganisi channel, properly speaking, to the Port hand, nestled at the foot of the tall cliffs that surround the Meganisi channel on it's western shore. From the north, continue southward entering the channel between Skorpios and Lefkada (the upper part of the Meganisi channel) keep to the western shore until past the southern extremity of Skorpios, continuing trending southwest closing the lefkada shore, a mile past the southern end of Skopios turn westwards towards the land mass of Lefkada, Desimi will open to starboard once clear of the prominent headland to starboard. Turn northward and enter the bay. On closer approach clusters of small boat anchorages can be identified to the Port and Starboard hand, with a number of buildings visible on the beach front and the slopes behind.
Care should be taken in final approach & anchoring due to the volume of local traffic. The bottom is sand and weed, not always good holding. The anchorage is relatively deep demanding sufficient scope for a safe overnight. If there is any southerly element in the weather then this not a good anchorage and may become quickly untenable requiring the vessel to seek shelter either across the Channel in Spartahori or to the north in Vhilco bay.
The extremity southerly cape of Meganisi is known as Kap Kefali. (N38 35,25.63 E20 48,31.06) It is a wild and stunningly beautiful location. Excellent as a lunch stop, whilst waiting for the afternoon breeze, or as an overnight in settled conditions. It is completely possible to swing to the hook here, however a more comfortable situation is to make a Mediterranean moor, using the large rocks on the shoreline to hold the stern of the yacht. This spot is not for the fainthearted or less experience crew however. Completely open to the south the skipper needs to have a preplanned exit route should the weather suddenly deteriorate.
From the North, Lefkada side of Meganisi once clear of the Meganisi channel it is necessary to close the western coast of the Island and parallel the shoreline until with 500 metres of the cape itself. At this stage the yacht will be under the lea of the small Island Kythros, which lies a 1/4 of a mile to the west of Kap Kefali itself. The anchorage will not be seen until the yacht has passed a prominent vertiginous cliff formation, where the yacht will be literally 10 to 15 metres offshore and in 90 metres of water. This rock formation comes to an abrupt halt and turns eastward breaking up into huge clefts of shattered rock, a humongous strata layered arch and a tiny cove. It's an awesome spot to witness the power of mother nature and an absolute delight to swim in translucent water, over a sparkling seabed littered with chunks of cliff amidst which a varied population of sea creatures chase their prey!
Such privileges don't come without effort and persistence. Having arrived at the anchorage, the skipper needs to be totally organised to make a safe effective mooring suitable for more than a few minutes stay. On a first visit a calm tour of this tiny mooring spot is a good idea prior to setting up the mooring. Bring the yacht onto a southerly heading roughly 30 metres offshore with the small cove to your port quarter, gather sternway dropping the hook in a large sandy patch in around 16 mts, be prepared to payout the full 60mts of chain in setting up this mooring as, given the nature of the anchorage, sufficient rode is required to have a good safety margin.
Approaching the cliff, on closer inspection a very large triangular rock can easily be identified just to the RHS of the cove when viewed from seaward. It has a slash of white quartz close to the apex of the triangle. The object is for your crew to secure a longline around this rock, the back face is angled away from the shore making it a secure bollard. The longest available line should be used for this exercise. Whilst I always swim the line ashore it is possible to have the line setup first using the dinghy, this is however a more time consuming process. Once secure the yacht lies quietly to a gentle swell secure between the anchor and the shoreline. As the afternoon breeze strengthens a significant sea can build between Kythros and Kap Kefali, however this delightful anchorage is in the lea of huge vertiginous cliffs and whilst some swell does work it's way around the corner, it is calm in the cove. Given the exposure of this anchorage the yachtsman should continuously monitor weather condition.
In recent years with the increase of the RIB army in late July and August an early start is needed to bag this spot.
As there is very little in the way of Taverna's mentioned above. I felt obliged to add some of my favourite eateries.
Paradise Beach restaurant, about a 15minute walk along the coastal cliffs above Ayias Eufima, absolutely the place to be for a really memorable view over the southern end of the Ithaca channel, call ahead for a reservation
The Sunset restaurant above Poros also about a 15minute walk up the cliffs behind the port probably the best view of the Ionian from their terrace. Go towards the Hotel Oceania and cut right up a steep set of steeps cut into the rock, best to book in advance.
If you find yourself in Fiscardo then enjoy the Thai resto a street over from the front at the back of the port, excellent menu but quite expensive.
Polyphemus in Stavros, the town above Polis. Also a 15/20 minute hike up from the port. Fabulous garden atmosphere, good varied menu run by a fiesty lady. On the way home you will be treated to stunning starlit views over the Ithaca channel. Reserve in advance.
Eysin in the back streets of the town continues to be a favourite of mine. High season reservation needed
The Vezene in Vathi, is a class resto with a varied and an atypical greek menu, not cheap it is a 'slow cooking' venue. Excellent cellar again not cheap. Chef comes from NYC, not open early season, reservation sometimes necessary.
Pano's fish restaurant on the waterfront in Aktio is excellent food in a cheap and cheerful environment, Overlooking the historic site of the battle of Aktio, the sunset over the Aktio strait with it's mixture of fishing and pleasure boats belies the humble situation of this eatery. All veg is home grown plus Pano's uses family olive oil on the tables.