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Ionian islands - Eptanisa

The temperate climate; the deep and cool sea waters; the mountains; the lush vegetation; the cultural heritage; and the cheerfulness of the inhabitants, make the Ionian Islands the ideal place for a holiday as well as rest and relaxation.

What is more, the traits of the Ionian Islands are perfectly combined with a flawless tourism infrastructure, excellent hotel accommodations, restaurants, diving centers, sea sports, cultural events, and a multitude of sights, historic monuments and museums worth visiting.

Scattered along the western coastline of Central Greece, the Ionian Islands as they are known, are an island cluster comprising twelve small and large islands whose total surface area comes to 2,200 square kilometers. Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu (Kerkyra), Kefalonia, Lefkada, and Paxi are the six, large Ionian Islands.  Antipaxi, Erikousa, Mathraki, Othoni, Meganisi and the deserted islets of Strofades south of Zakynthos are the smaller Ionian Islands.

Together with the island of Kythira and the neighboring Antikythira the islands form the island cluster of Eptanisa. Nevertheless it should be noted that Kythira and Antikythira are completely cut off from the rest of the Ionian islands situated as they are across southern Peloponnese and the coast of Laconia.  

Once, the Ionian Islands were part of Central Greece but were torn apart when the terrain sank due to the seismic activity along the great coastline fault of the Ionian Sea. This accounts not only for the ragged shores and hauntingly beautiful beaches but it also accounts for the islands’ tall mountains, once part of the Pindos mountain range which crosses Central Greece. It also accounts for the great depth of the waters in the area which, at 4,406 meters, is the greatest in the Mediterranean.

The Ionian islands have a mild and temperate climate which makes them the ideal location for vacation or residence.  In winter, the mountains of Central Greece stop the cold northern winds from reaching the islands while, in summer, the heat is tempered by the meltemia, the soft, northwestern winds, and the sea breezes.  Due to the air currents prevalent on the Ionian islands, many of the island beaches have developed into internationally acclaimed windsurfing centers.

The Ionian Islands have been inhabited since Paleolithic times, have been through many invasions, and have received the influence of a variety of cultures.

The Ionian Islands were part of the Byzantine Empire until1204 when the Franks took over Constantinople and the Ionian Islands were eventually ceded to the Venetians.  Under Venetian rule, the Ionian Islands formed their own local nobility whose register survived as late as the 19th century.  

From the time of Frankish rule until 1864 when they were joined with Greece, the Ionian Islands were also ruled by a number of foreign conquerors.  The presence of the Europeans on the Ionian Islands at a time when Greece was still under Ottoman rule gave rise to significant intellectual activity something that is still visible today both in the islands’ architectural tradition as well as their charming cultural traits.

Source: GNTO
Photos: flickr.com

Large Ionian islands

Ζάκυνθος
Zante
The Fioro tou Levande, the flower of the east, according to its western conquerors, Zakynthos is an island with many contrasts. It features cosmopolitan beaches and well-preserved traditional mountain villages. It has high-scale restaurants with international cuisine and countless small family taverns. It's full of bars with modern music and romantic 'cantades'(ballads) - Zakynthos charms the visitor.
The breathtaking view from Bohalis hill is unforgettable... read more

  Ιθάκη
Ithaca
Ithaca is the home of the Homeric hero Odysseus. Ithaca is a legend, has a big history and is related to intellectual people. It is the home of Lorenzos Mavilis. Ithaca combines perfectly the mountain with the sea and it is ideal for relaxing vacations.
Vathi is stretched inside a closed bay with sandy beaches and is the capital and the main port of the island. The houses are roofed with tiles with colorful windows and doors and along with the coastal road and the picturesque streets... read more



Κέρκυρα
Corfu
With the passage of time the island may have changed, but we can still feel the spirit of a distant glorious past . Its rich multi-cultural heritage, its historic monuments, its stunning natural landscape, its crystal clear seas, and its excellent weather all year round explain why Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations weaving a powerful spell on its visitors.
Corfu (Kérkyra), unlike the rest of Greece, never fell under the Ottoman oppression...read more

  Κεφαλονιά
Kefalonia
The largest island in the Ionian Sea is the island of Kefalonia which gives to visitors several options for their vacation.
It is the island of Nikos Kavadias, Marinos Antipas, Andreas Laskaratos and countless other important people. Argostoli is the capital of the island and it has a range of worth seeing attractions and museums.
You can visit the archaeological museum, the Corgialenion library, the English bridge of Drapano...read more



Λευκάδα
Lefkada
It is an island very close to mainland Greece with a distinct charm. Its trademark is the impressive beaches with the white sand and the azure waters.
It has modern hotels units and enterprises of lodgings for each requirement, a lot of choices of amusement and dining. The overall picture, regarding the tourist infrastructure, is high.
Its villages, most are mountainous, maintain their deliveries and their picturesqueness, unaffected by the increase of tourism the latest years... read more

  Παξοί
Paxos
Full of olives trees, pines, cypress trees and shrubs, with beautiful beaches, picturesque bights, enchanting marine caves, the Paxi islands have settlements with genuine samples of Ionian architecture. The visitor can reach every place of Paxi via the streets and the paths of the island.
Gaios is the capital and the port of the island, which, despite the big tourist trade, maintains its traditional color.
The small islands Agios Nikolaos and... read more



Small Ionian islands

Αντίπαξοι
Antipaxos
It is located just 3 nautical miles from the port of Gaios of Paxos. It is a very beautiful little island with beautiful beaches that it was characterized as the Greek blue lake.
The island is lush with undergrowth of trees, cypresses, cedars, bushes, myrtles, hollies, and pines in isolated areas, which stand out for their height and volume.
Even the natural landscape is full of vineyards that produce excellent wine, and that is why it is considered as a paradise for wine-tourists, and rightly is regarded the whole island as one large vineyard... read more
  Ερείκουσα
Ereikoussa
Ereikoussa is an island and a former community of the Ionian Islands, Greece.
It is located off the northwestern coast of the island of Corfu, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located off the northwestern coast of the island of Corfu, and is almost equidistant from Corfu to the southeast, Mathraki to the southwest, and Othonoi to the west. Its population was 698 at the 2001 census and its land area is 3.7 square kilometres (1 sq mi).
The island is rich in green forests, filled with cypress, and olive trees. It has two beaches, Porto and Braghini.



Μαθράκι
Mathraki
Mathraki is an island and a former community of the Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corfu, of which it is a municipal unit.
Mathraki is a 45 minute boat ride off the coast of Corfu (4 NM from Cape Arilas). It has three restaurants that double as general stores, villas and "rooms to let".
Mathraki is a quiet island that manages to stay clear of tourists except for the occasional hikers that brave the rocky coastline. The municipal unit includes the three nearby islets Diakopo, Diaplo and Tracheia.
Population 297 (2001)
  Οθωνοί
Othoni
Othoni is an island and a former community of the Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corfu, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located northwest of Corfu. In the 19th century the island used to be the capital of the Diapontia Islands Municipality, which consisted of the islands of Fano, Marlera and Mathrachi. Most of the island's inhabitants can trace their origins to Paxoi Island as people from Paxoi were settled in Fano beginning in the 1570s by Venice. A cave, near the Aspri Ammos (white sand) beach, is traditionally believed to have been the place where Calypso kept Ulysses captive.
Population 631 (2001)



Μεγανήσι
Meganissi
Meganissi is a beautiful, picturesque and greenfull small island, but with a great length of beaches and a cultural heritage, in the Ionian Sea, very close to Lefkada.
Just 4 nautical miles (South east) separates it from the island of Lefkada and there are several neighboring islands around it such as Scorpios, Scorpidi, Thilia, Kithros, and more.
You can arrive there by a ferry boat from Nidri and you will have the opportunity to see the Madouri, with the old mansion of Valaoritis and Scorpios, owned by the Onassis family.
The island has a fairly good road network and local transportation... read more

  Στροφάδες
Strofades
Strofades is a group of two small Greek islands in the Ionian Islands. They lie about 44 km (27 mi) south-southeast of the island of Zakynthos. Administratively they are part of the Municipality of Zakynthos.

 The larger island, Stamfani, has an old Fortress/monastery built in 1241. The smaller is Arpia. Both are sparsely vegetated and rocky.
There is a strong avian presence on the islands (Which is why hunting has been prohibited). Species include Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and migratory passerines. There is also a large spring migration of Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur).



Κάλαμος
Kalamos
The island of Kalamos (in ancient times was called Karnos) is located at the SE of Lefkada island, near Aetoloakarnania Perfecture and combines green with shady, clean beaches and incredibly clear waters. The unique nature and the environment travel the visitor to past times.

On the island, there are two settlements, the namesake village of Kalamos that has about 600 residents and the village of Episkopi, where about 100 residents live.
Kalamos occupies an area of about 20 square kilometers and is a mountain ridge above the sea. The highest peak of the island is 745 meters high.

The pine forest, covering the north and east sides of Kalamos, is one of the rarest and is dense, lush and hosts many species of birds. A similar pine forest exists only at Sporades... read more
  Καστός
Kastos
Kastos is a Greek island and a former community east of the island of Lefkada, Ionian Islands, Greece.

Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lefkada, of which it is a municipal unit. Until the mid-1970s, the island was administered under the Kefalonia prefecture with Ithaca. Its nearest island is Kalamos, with a deep channel between them; the mainland is approximately 5 kilometres (3 miles) to the northeast in Aetolia-Acarnania.

Kastos has a school (where is now the offices of the local community, since the last students graduated in 1981), a church and a square (plateia), its nearest lyceum (middle school) and gymnasium (secondary school) is in Aetolia-Acarnania but most of its students attend school in Nydri (on the island of Lefkada).



Kythera and Antikythera

Κύθηρα
Kythera
Wonderful for its marvelous beaches as well as exciting contrasts, island of Kythera has been home to hosts of peoples and civilizations: from the Neolithic Age to the Minoan times (20th century AC) and to the Mycenaens, the Dorians and the Spartans, still in the ancient times; from the Byzantine middle ages to the Venetian rule; from the Ottoman to the English occupation; from the State of the Ionian Islands to the modern Greek State which it joined in 1864.
The ancient myth that referred the island as Aphrodite’s birthplace has been the inspiration for the paintings of celebrated artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Jean-Antoine Watteau... read more

  Αντικύθηρα
Antikythera
The island of Antikythera (commonly known as “Tsirigoto”) which locals call "Lioi" is a rock in the sea, south of the Peloponnese, between Kythera and Crete.
It occupies an area of 20 square kilometers and has a coastline of 24 km.
The island belongs administratively to Attica (SE Piraeus), geographically to Laconia and historically to the Ionian Islands and is a single community consisting of the uninhabited islets of Nautilus, Pori, Poreti, Thermones and Psira.
The island's population is about 45 people, according to the census of 2001, who are largely of Cretan origin. Of these around 10 are characterized as young i.e. under 55 years old. The island has a tapered shape and its ground is rocky, arid and barren.



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