After a month in Sicily and mainland Italy, we sailed across to the Greek Ionian Islands for a month long visit. Laid out below are the ports we visited, some of the amazing views we enjoyed and the sailing passages that we took. If you’re planning Sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands, perhaps our experiences might help to guide you towards or away from certain places?!
With such a huge area to cover, a sailor could spend years exploring the Greek Ionian Islands!
We were fortunate to spend the month of June in Greek Ionian islands and then at the end of the season, we spent most of September in Preveza, Greece – a spot on mainland Greece near the island of Levkas (in the Ionian). Our knowledge of the area is not extensive but a two month stay provided us with a great insight to the area.
As I write this, it’s winter and we’re moored up for the season in Marina diRagusa, Sicily
We’ll be here until April when the sailing season starts back up in the Mediterranean. To read what it’s like to ‘winter’ in the Mediteranian, read the article entitled (note: all my links off of this article will open in a new window so you won’t lose your spot on this page): Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean during the winter – what’s the scoop?
Fortunate for us, we’re amongst 60 other live-aboards allowing us the ability to meet new friends, share stories and discuss where we’ve been and where we want to go. Several boats are headed east, to Greece and Turkey in the Spring and many others are going West to visit the Balearics, France, Spain and so forth.
That being noted, I’ve realised that while speaking with other boaters, there’s quite a demand for destination knowledge and route planning. Several people have asked to ‘pick our brains,’ to determine good anchorages, fun places to stop and recommendations on everything from good restaurants, fast internet connection areas, through to favourable diesel prices.
For the benefit of my new friends at the marina and perhaps for you…
…I’ve gone through our logbook and have written out the passages we took, over the course of one month, through the Greek Ionian Islands. We started the season in Gibraltar, sailed to Malta, then Sicily and then enjoyed the Greek Ionian Islands for a month before going through the Corinth Canal, hitting several Greek Islands in the Aegean, stopping off in Turkey, enjoying a few weeks in Crete and then heading back to Sicily via the Greek Ionian Islands before winter hit.
The aim of this article is to point to any previous posts I’ve written regarding our time in the Greek Ionian in addition to walking you through our passages. In other words, this post will act as a hub for our time in the Greek Ionian. If you’re starting off in Sicily, please read, Sailing from Sicily to Corfu hitting mainland Italy on the way as I describe the route we took to get to the Greek Ionian Islands, where we stopped and descriptions of each mooring.
Here’s a chronological list of the places we stopped while sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands
1. Palaiokastrit, Corfu – anchored (free)
2. Gouvia Marina, Corfu (to clear customs) – stern-to (around €80/night for 56′ yacht plus water and electricity)
3. Corfu Town, Corfu – anchored (free)
4. Petriti, Corfu – anchored (free)
5. Ormos Lakka, Paxos – anchored (free)
6. Port Gaios, Paxos – anchored (free)
7. Random Bay, Cefalonia – anchored (free)
8. Fiscardo, Cefalonia – stern-to (free – amazingly!!! Can pay the taverna for water)
9. Nidri, Levkas – stern-to (€12 for our 3 night stay – no water or electricity)
10. Levkas Town Marina, Levkas – stern-to (€80 plus water and electricity)
11. Port Atheni, Meganisi – anchored with line to shore (free)
12. Vathi, Ithaca – stern-to (free)
13. Sami, Cephalonia – side-to (€8/day – no electricity/no drinkable water)
14. Ay Nikolaos, Zakinthos – side-to (free)
Sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands
Once in the Greek Ionian Islands, we first hit Corfu visiting Palaiokastrita pictured above (west side), Gouvia Marina (east side), Corfu Town (Ormos Garitsas) and Petriti.
I wrote quite a comprehensive article about our stay in Palaiokastrita and Gouvia Marina here: Sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands – Corfu. Gouvia Marina was a necessary stop to clear customs. The article includes tips about both destinations.
After we left Gouvia Marina, we sailed a very short distance to Corfu Town and anchored in the amazingly lovely bay of Ormos Garitsas (bay pictured below to the right of us). I wrote about the town and the bay in my article entitled: Corfu Town is not ‘nice’ and this is why – More about sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands.
After several days in Corfu Town, we sailed down the east coast of Corfu and anchored outside the fishing village of Petriti. A few people suggested the town to us and I was in the mood for some local, fresh fish. We anchored outside the tiny port and took our tender to one of the free jetties outside a taverna. Moorings were available to sailboats, space permitting however we liked to anchor whenever possible.
We ate at a restaurant with a wooden patio leading up that sea and octopus hanging on a clothes line!
While eating we could watch the tiny fish swim by and enjoy the lovely sounds of the waves lapping upon the shore. Everything we ate was great, my daughter enjoyed playing at the waters edge and the town was very quiet and tranquil.
Next we sailed to the island of Paxos and stayed at Ormos Lakka and Port Gaios
Ormos Lakka is an absolutely brilliant bay with some lovely tavernas, shops and stores. We stayed in the bay two nights. On our first night we anchored as far out as possible. The bay was very busy and we didn’t want to get too close to other boats. Also, it’s hard to enter a busy bay and try to anchor when you’re new. Everyone watches and it can often be stressful.
Unfortunately, however, the swell at our anchorage was very annoying. The boat rocked back and forth all day and all night. Furthermore, we felt very far from the amenities.
During our second evening at Ormos Lakka, we moved our boat closer to the shore despite the bay being packed with boats. Unfortunately, we learned a massive lesson about anchoring that day. The full story is under the heading “And here comes my disastrous anchoring story…” within my article entitled: How to anchor a sailboat – what I’ve learned about anchoring thus far
In the article, you’ll hear about what happens when a 60 mph gust of wind hits a bay full of too many boats
Needless to say, Ormos Lakka is a lovely bay but it does get too busy. If any bad weather is forecasted I’d suggest that you think twice about saying in this harbour. (Picture above is the bay when seated at one of the tavernas)
Port Gaios was a lovely mooring to enjoy a stroll, get an ice cream and take your pick of several excellent restaurants
It’s not often that hubby and I are able to enjoy an evening alone. My cousin offered to watch our daughter and stay on the boat (you can see our boat anchored in the picture above), while hubby and I took the dingy to the shore. We enjoyed a cocktail and then passed some sailors whom owned the same boat as ours – a 56′ Oyster. The owners invited us on their boat and we discussed a whole range of things – as you do. We learned some great tips on how to better handle our boat so hubby and I were pleased with the chance meeting.
One thing led to another and they invited us to join them for dinner. Knowing that it was an ‘alone’ night for hubby and I, we declined and spent our last moments in Port Gaios enjoying another lovely fish meal. In fact, I’d say it was my favorite fish meal in the Ionian.
With sore heads from the wine the night before, we then attempted to get into Ormos Vasiliki on the island of Levkas. The wind, however, was blowing from the wrong direction and we didn’t feel safe – especially after our anchoring scare in Ormos Lakka. We then sailed to the island below, and tried to get into Fiscardo, Cefalonia but the port was jam-packed. In the end, we found a small bay, not mentioned in the pilot book, south of Fiscardo and we anchored. All we could hear were sheep’s bah’s and bells.
I can’t say I felt safe
The anchorage was too deep for me (I wasn’t happy with the scope for our anchor) to feel comfortable and I felt so isolated.
The following day we found a spot in Fiscardo, Cefalonia and stayed for several days. Fiscardo is mine and my hubby’s most favorite sailing destination. Read, The magic of Fiscardo Cephalonia, to get a taste for this amazing destination. There are some tips in the article so make sure to read them before you go. For us, this spot is a MUST to visit.
While in Fiscardo (entrance of the bay pictured above), we hired a car and explored a variety of places on Cephalonia. We enjoyed a underground fresh water cavern, did some sightseeing around various villages and took in the beauty of the island.
Next, we sailed to Nidri on the island of Levkas. Our intention was to anchor in the bay but it looked packed. As we looked over at the town quay we noticed several open spots and went stern-to. Later we realised that the ferries and tourist boats cause quite a bit a movement along the wall, but overall the mooring was fine for a couple nights.
While my hubby, my father-in-law and my daughter were cleaning up the boat, my cousin and I took a little stroll to the restaurant that had the best wifi rating (from the boat). Our usual plan was to get a beverage, find out the wifi code, pay the bill and then go back to the boat so we could use the wifi from the luxury of our own abode.
Our wifi hunt, however, took a different turn on this particular occasion
My cousin, Loryn, and I ordered a 1/2 carafe of wine, poured a bit into our glasses and then started to download emails. As we were hooking ourselves up to the Internet, our server started chatting with us. We mentioned the boat we were on, pointed to my hubby cleaning the decks and explained our adventures.
To our amazement, our server, took two glasses from our table, poured two more glasses of wine, jumped on his scooter (parked outside) and took the wine to my husband and his father. We were both amazed at he servers actions! Loryn and I were also happy when our server brought us another 1/2 carafe of wine for free.
Nidri is an interesting place – it’s lined with restaurants and tavernas all along the waterfront. There are various pirate tourist boats and entertainment. Behind the line of restaurants there’s a main street that has stores, boutiques and the standard things you’d expect. There’s a bar on the main street called Road House – it plays rock-n-roll so my cousin and I enjoyed a few beverages while listening to some good tunes.
After Nidri, we ducked into Levkas Town Marina to ride out a storm
To get to the marina you have to motor up a very long channel and it takes quite a long time. Furthermore, it’s very narrow. As we went in one sailboat was grounded. And of course, there’s always motor boats wanting to go fast so they speed along trying to pass other boats.
We motored up the long channel and when we asked the marina for a berth they said that they didn’t have any available. I was deflated. A storm was coming and we wasted all that time going up the channel. I then yelled at hubby saying, ‘why didn’t you call before we entered the channel?’ As luck would have it, we called the marina again and said, ‘Are you sure you can’t fit us in somewhere?’ The marina kindly found us a spot.
I never wrote a review for the marina. There was a fee for the showers so we showered on the boat. The bathrooms were very nice. The whole marina was very well kept, had couple places to eat and a supermarket. And the town surrounded the marina so you could get anything and everything you’d expect in a town.
Overall, our stay in Levkas Town Marina was fine – nothing exceptional
But then again, I’d rather be anchored in a quiet bay or stern-to a free village quay. Sailing in Greece is so inexpensive so it hurts when you have to duck into a marina and pay a high price.
Leaving the busy waters around Levkas, our next port of call was the quite bay of Port Atheni, on the island of Meganisi. This was another one of our favorite spots – we anchored and then ran a line to shore to keep us from swinging (see picture below). The trees are all green, the waters are clear and it’s relatively quiet. We could easily take our tender to the inlet next to us and enjoy one of two lovely tavernas.
The owners of the taverna on the right have children so my daughter played with the kids the whole time we were on shore. It was funny to see her running around the back area playing with the children and their toys while we enjoyed a beverage and ate some lovely food.
A short walk away is a little town with a couple grocery stores, and some restaurants and bars. We found some good wifi and I enjoyed making a few Skype calls back home to the family.
We filmed our ‘Greek Burgers’ video in this particular bay (they have a Feta cheese surprise in the middle!). If you’d like to see a panoramic view, watch the Greek Burgers video about how to make the burgers and at the end my cousin presents the views.
After the quietness of Meganisi, we received word that friends we met in a Sicilian marina would be in the area. To read about how we met our friends in Marzamemi, Sicily read: Visiting Sicily – it’s one door before you get to heaven
We arranged to meet our friends at Vathi on the island of Ithaca
What a visit! After our initial hugs and greetings it didn’t take long for the Italians to feed us a plate full of pasta – of course! We had some drinks, caught up and eventually arranged for taxi’s to take us to a lovely traditional Greek restaurant at the top of Ithaca.
We enjoyed great food, amazing service and in the end some of us had a go at dancing on the tables. It was so wonderfully amazing to hook up with friends we met earlier in the season. We ate, drank, laughed and all had a great time together.
The following day, we had to push onto the town of Sami on Cephalonia
The Daily Mail (UK Tabloid Newspaper) was having a journalist fly down to interview us on the boat so we arranged to meet in Sami. Previous to the journalist coming we also wanted time to clean the boat, relax for a few days and have some down time.
The town if Sami has the usual things – grocery stores, butcher, bakery and several restaurants, bars and coffee shops. We enjoyed eating at several of the tavernas and my daughter sampled as many ice cream flavours as she could. We moored up along the wall and it was an easy stroll over to the restaurants. The one thing we did miss was a nice beach nearby.
After a week in Sami we knew it was time to start heading towards the Corinth Canal – the waterway that cut mainland Greece in two. We finished our stay in the Ionian Greek Islands on the island of Zakinthos at Ormos Ay Nikolaos and what an enjoyable stay it was.
When entering the harbour we first attempted to anchor however we were told that we’d be obstruct a ferry
Fortunately, a very tall Greek man on the jetty waved us over and helped us tie Britican side-to the wall (pictured below). The gentleman gave us his card and explained that his family owned the taverna on the beach and that they’d love to see us there. We later discovered that the mans family seemed to own the whole town!
After settling in, a older gentleman came down on his tractor to sell us olive oil and wine. My cousin managed to get a ride on the tractor!
Later during the week the whole family went out for a ‘Greek Night’ at the taverna on the beach
We enjoyed traditional Greek music, dancing and clapping. Everyone one of us got up and danced around the dance floor (below you can see the back of my husband and daughter). My daughter had a great time and I couldn’t help but have perm-a-grin the whole evening. The food was great, the entertainment was wonderful and the local and visiting guests were all in great spirits.
The following morning I woke early and went for a run
I run three times per year, if that…but on this particularly beautiful morning I just wanted to get up on higher ground to see the sun and the sea. I ran/walked for three or four miles and enjoyed the most wonderful sights – seaside and countryside. Below are some of the photo’s I took – I wish I could also offer you smell-o-vision as the smell of wild sage was so strong! As I walked around the area I just kept feeling so grateful to be alive.
After our amazing trip through the Greek Ionian Islands for the month of June, we then turned towards the Corinth Canal. Read: Travelling through the Corinth Canal during a Gale Force 8.
Overall, the Greek Ionian Islands provide loads of anchorages, harbors, eateries, scenery and like-minded people. We found the other tourists, sailors, local people and anyone else to be kind, friendly, helpful and grateful to enjoy the delights of the area. I highly recommend a sailing vacation or an extended cruising stint in these islands!