Travel Notes blog
Discover the top events on the Ionian Islands
by Clare Evans
17 min read

Discover the top events on the Ionian Islands

Discover the top events on the Ionian Islands
From honouring local saints at charming village feasts to celebrating the area’s finest produce and vintages at local food and wine festivals, the Ionian Islands are full of vibrant events, rooted in fascinating traditions.
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From honouring local saints at charming village feasts to celebrating the area’s finest produce and vintages at local food and wine festivals, the Ionian Islands are full of vibrant events, rooted in fascinating traditions.

Whether you’re fascinated by local colour, contemporary art, joyful dancing, live Greek music, vivid parades or religious traditions, the Ionian calendar is bursting with exciting celebrations. To help you plan your escape to the Ionian, we’ve curated a collection of our favourite events that celebrate Greek culture on these fantastic islands.


Greek festivals across all the Ionian Islands

While many of the Ionian Islands have area-specific events and festivals, there are some that are celebrated on virtually every island.


Most of the islands, but particularly Corfu, celebrate both Orthodox and Catholic Easter. After a more or less devotional Lent, Easter Day is a time for processions, marching bands, fireworks and more. Tables groan with huge feasts of whole roast lambs and other traditional specialties, and families and friends come together to celebrate spring.

Where? Everywhere, with particularly colourful Easter celebrations in Corfu TownWhen? The date for this feast is moveable, depending on when Easter (in both the Orthodox and the Catholic calendars) falls

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary

This is an important national holiday throughout the whole of Greece. The Greek Orthodox religion believed that when Mary, the mother of Jesus, died, both her physical body and her soul ascended to Heaven - a reward for her goodness and devotion. Therefore, this day is not one of grief over her death, but of joy and celebration of her diving qualities. As a high percentage of Greece practice Orthodox Christianity, it comes as no surprise that this holiday is such an important one throughout the country.

On this day, all churches throughout the country that are dedicated to the Virgin Mary organise a festival, and Greek music and dancing are ubiquitous.

Where? Everywhere with a church dedicated to the Virgin MaryWhen? 15 August

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Festivals and events in Corfu

Easter and high summer are the best times of the year to immerse yourself in the area’s traditional Greek festivals and experience the various things to do in Corfu. At Easter time, religious celebrations showcase the island's rich Orthodox heritage, with beautiful parades followed by fireworks and feasting. In summer, the retsina flows and traditional Greek music and dancing take over the island’s towns and villages.

Corfu villas to experience the festivities

Traditional summer festivals in Corfu

August is the month for village festivals (or panigiri ) across Corfu. There are events in full swing every week during the sunny Ionian summer, from charming village festivities to bigger celebrations in the larger towns. 

Each village in Corfu celebrates the patron saint whom the local church is named after. The celebrations begin with a church service and are followed by a festival with live Greek music and traditional dancing. To fuel the festivities, expect lots of souvlaki, plenty of retsina and mouth-watering lamb on the spit.

Some of the most popular annual summer events in Corfu include:

1. International Dancing Festival

Held annually since 1997, this delightful festival is a celebration of traditional Greek music and dancing, as well as folk dancing from an array of international guest troupes.

Where? SiniesWhen? Mid-July

2. Saint Spyridon's Day

On Saint Spyridon’s Day, a procession takes place in Corfu Town to commemorate the intervention of this patron saint during the Turkish siege of 1716. Processions start around 9am in Corfu Town and most of the island’s brass bands take part in what is a truly spellbinding spectacle.

A silver-gilt case containing the body of Saint Spyridon is displayed for public worship for three days and nights. It is paraded around the town, followed by the bands.

Where? Corfu TownWhen? 11 August

3. The Varkarola

The Varkarola festival takes place every summer in Corfu. The event celebrates the miracle of Saint Spyridon, who locals believe saved the island from the Turkish invasion on 11 August 1716.

This miracle is celebrated with a recreation of a nautical battle. A series of boats parade along Paleokastritsa Bay, while bands play traditional music and dancers showcase traditional dances. At the end of the Varkarola, a boat is set on fire and there is a giant fireworks display to commemorate the burning of the Turkish naval fleet during the eighteenth-century siege. A number of other Varkarola celebrations take place at around the same time, such as the one at Petriti in south Corfu.

Where? PaleokastritsaWhen? Typically the closest weekend to 11 August


Easter in Corfu Town

Considered by many Greeks to be the ultimate Hellenic celebration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, Easter in Corfu Town encompasses a variety of thoughts and feelings at once: it’s simultaneously solemn, spectacular, thought-provoking and joyous.

The Greek Orthodox Church bases its liturgy on the Julian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian version, so Easter in Greece can take place up to four weeks after the celebrations of Western churches. One benefit of this ‘late’ Easter is that the weather is usually excellent and everyone can enjoy the spring.

Palm Sunday

Residents of Corfu Town begin their Easter festivities on Palm Sunday, as families come together to prepare traditional Paschal treats, such as delicious almond and honey cakes. On Maundy Thursday, many locals head to church to listen to readings from the gospels. After these services, the town’s bells ring out, signalling the arrival of a day of mourning.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, residents are awoken by the solemn tolling of the town’s church bells and by the afternoon, the streets are thronging with processions, each one headed by an epitaphios (an icon of Christ). The last procession of the day, led by the most richly adorned epitaphios, begins its rounds at about 10:00pm, accompanied by the mournful music of the town’s brass and wind bands.

Easter Saturday

On Easter Saturday, celebrations reach their climax. Statues of the Virgin Mary and the local patron saint, Saint Spyridon, are borne through the streets, followed by high-ranking clergy, civic officials, bands, choirs and much of the town’s populace.

At 11:00am sharp, the resurrection of Christ is announced and the cries of Christós anésti! (Christ is risen) can almost drown out the peeling bells. This is a cue for those watching the procession from their balconies or windows to launch earthenware pots down onto the streets (at a safe distance from crowds!) in a show of renewal, purification and renunciation of the devil. The smashing of thousands of pots, the tintinnabulation of hundreds of bells, the hearty roar of the crowds and the uplifting music of the town’s massed bands and choirs create a joyous cacophony.

The faithful are not finished yet, however. As night falls, Orthodox believers crowd the area around Pano Platia (one of the town’s squares) and Catholics head to their cathedral for a devotional mass. At midnight, the miracle of Christ’s resurrection is once more proclaimed, prompting a spectacle of flickering light as thousands of candles are lit and the night sky is illuminated by a kaleidoscope of fireworks.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday in Corfu Town is comparatively quiet. After mass, many families head out to the countryside or get together with friends living in other towns around the island. Dining tables groan with whole roast lambs, wine flows and lavish lunches continue well into the evening. Those partaking do so safe in the knowledge that they will have plenty of time to recover the next day, which is a public holiday.

Get even more inspiration from our dedicated Corfu itinerary.


Lefkada festivals and events

As we mentioned before, many traditional Greek religious festivals, such as Easter and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, are celebrated across the Greek Islands. However, some festivals, like that of Agion Pateron on Lefkada’s east coast, are unique to the town or village where a specific patron saint is revered.

Solemn devotion is most certainly the driving force behind these religious events, but after religious observances have been conducted, those who live in the towns and villages of Lefkada gather for dancing, music-making, eating and drinking late into the night. If you get a chance to go to a Lefkada festival, don't miss out!

There are many things to do in Lefkada - but we have to say that attending one of the phenomenal local festivals should have to be at the top of our list. Explore some of our favourites here:

View our collection of Lefkada villas

1. Agion Pateron

Agion Pateron is an annual pilgrimage to the little convent above the village of Nikiana. Devotion is expressed by walking up the steep hill and thanks is given to the saints. Once homage has been paid, it's time for a party (which usually begins around 10:00pm), with traditional clarinet music, dancing and general feasting.

Where? NikianaWhen? 27 May

2. The Feast Day of Agia Kyriaki

Agia Kyriaki is the beloved patron saint of Vlicho, but is popular throughout all of Lefkada. Celebrations go on for three days, with a street market, comings and goings across the water to Nidri, thanksgiving and then, on the final evening, an almighty all-night party starting at around 11:00pm.

Where? Vlicho and NidriWhen? 7 July

3. The Feast Day of Agia Marina

This event is mainly celebrated in rural areas, with feasts to honour the saint as the protector of crops. The church of Agia Marina is just behind the beach of Agios Giannis near Lefkada Town.

Where? Across the islandWhen? 17 July

4. The Feast Day of Agia Paraskevi

Agia Paraskevi is worshipped in the small village of Agios Petros, just outside Vassiliki in the south of Lefkada. After a day of sombre thanksgiving, a traditional party begins late in the evening, with tables and chairs put out in the village square, traditional Greek food and wine on tap and plenty of vibrant music and dancing.

Where? Agios PetrosWhen? 26 July

5. A traditional Lefkada wedding

Lefkadians are proud of their traditions and, in August, one is celebrated with the reenactment of a traditional island wedding. Costumes, music, food and wine all have a role and the event is a popular one with hundreds of visitors.

Where? KariaWhen? The first Sunday in August


6. The Agios Donatos Lentil Festival

High above the sea, in the mountains of central Lefkada, is a plateau. For centuries, if not thousands of years, this has been a place of agriculture and abundance. Traditionally, lentils have been grown to feed the islanders and it is this humble legume that is celebrated in concomitance with the festival of Agios Donatos. After prayers, steaming vats of lentils accompanied by sardines, other specialities and wine are served outside the church.

Where? EnglouviWhen? 6 August

7. The Lefkas International Folklore Festival

Since 1962, the Lefkas International Folklore Festival has been promoting peace and friendship throughout the world. There are eight days of traditional folk dancing and music with participants from all five continents. This festival has a great atmosphere and is fun for all the family.

Where? Lefkada TownWhen? The last week of August

Download our inspiring Lefkada itinerary.


Festivals and events on Meganissi

The Ionian Islands take tradition every bit as seriously as they take festivity and merry-making, and Meganissi is no exception to the rule. All of the pan-Ionian Island festivals are observed here, often with parades and religious services, followed by feasting, music and dancing. The island also has some unique events of its own.

Discover some of our favourite secular and religious festivals on Meganissi below.

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1. The Feast Day of Agios Ioannis

Saint John the Baptist is honoured on the eve of his saint's day. Most people arrive at the beach on the west coast of Meganissi by boat, coming both locally and from Lefkada and other neighbouring islands. Respects are paid to Saint John at his small chapel, before people head to the nearby beach and celebrate long into the evening with traditional clarinet music and dancing.

Where? The chapel of Agios IoannisWhen? 24 June


2. The Feast of Sardines

Perhaps one of the most delicious celebrations in the Ionian, this feast is held annually in the main square of Vathy. As a traditional orchestra plays, revellers enjoy locally made wine and freshly caught roasted fish. Sardines are, of course, the centrepiece of this sumptuous feast.

Where? VathyWhen? July

See what else there is to do on Meganissi.


Antipaxos and Paxos festivals and events

If you’d like to make attending an Antipaxos or Paxos festival part of your escape to the Ionian, Easter and summer are the perfect time to enjoy local revelry and traditional celebrations on the islands. All of the traditional pan-Ionian festivals are celebrated in the churches and village squares of Paxos and Antipaxos, including Easter celebrations and local saints days. For bigger events, a short boat trip to Corfu or Lefkada will allow visitors to experience larger spectacles, like the Varkarola in Corfu Town, or a mock traditional Lefkadan wedding in the mountains.

While tiny Antipaxos offers travellers an opportunity to ‘get away from it all’, its slightly larger neighbour, Paxos, offers much more in terms of local festivities. Explore our two favourite local events below.

Explore Paxos and Antipaxos villas.

1. Paxos Biennale

Paxos becomes an open-air gallery of contemporary art for the Paxos Biennale, with specially commissioned installations, sculptures, murals, performances and more by international artists exhibited all around the island. A wonderful way to explore the many beautiful corners of Paxos while also enjoying contemporary art, we are proud to be one of the sponsors of the truly unique Paxos Biennale.

Where? Across the islandWhen? 7 June to 31 October 2022

2. The Paxos Festival

This long-running annual festival of classical music has now diversified, embracing a wide array of different genres and art forms. Musicians and artists come from all over the world to take part in the Paxos Festival, which holds concerts and events in the three main towns of Gaios, Loggos and Lakka.

View the festival programme for a full list of events and artists.

Where? Across the islandWhen? 23 June to 16 September 2022

See what else Paxos and Antipaxos have on offer.


Zakynthos events and festivals

The vibrant island of Zakynthos is home to a wealth of events and festivities, from a solemnly observed holy week to exciting carnivals. As with elsewhere in the Ionian Islands, traditional Greek festivals (rooted in the Orthodox church) remain important events in Zakynthos. The Easter carnival, which takes place during Lent, is a particularly charming celebration. With a uniquely Venetian influence, you’ll find plenty of characterful Zakynthian colour and tradition at festivals and events throughout the year.

Explore our collection of Zakynthos villas

1. Carnival

Once ruled by the Venetians, Zakynthos has retained many traditions and influences that were brought over. The island’s carnival celebration, which takes place annually around the end of February, is one such tradition. Expect historic Italian costumes (as locals dress as the commedia dell’arte), parades, processions and even a traditional Venetian mock wedding. The celebrations end with cheese eating and the satirical Funeral of the Mask event.

Where? Zakynthos TownWhen? Typically around the end of February

2. The Feast Day of Agios Dionysios

This patron saint is celebrated twice a year on Zakynthos, with pilgrims and visitors flocking to the islands to take part in solemn religious ceremonies and processions throughout Zakynthos Town, before enjoying the feasting and festivities that follow.

Where? Zakynthos Town

When? 24 August and 17 December

3. The Feast Day of Agia Paraskevi

This is a charming local feast day for the villages of Agios Leon and Volimes. This saint’s day is a wonderful opportunity to experience a traditional Greek village celebration.

Where? Agios Leon and VolimesWhen? 26 July

Learn more about what to do in Zakynthos


Festivals and events on Kefalonia

From traditional village celebrations of local patron saints to fairs and festivals of wine and music, Kefalonia is an Ionian Island that loves to let its hair down.

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1. Celebration of the Virgin Mary

This traditional celebration combines daytime religious observances followed by vibrant feasting, dancing and merry-making as night falls. Festivities celebrating the Virgin Mary are particularly vibrant on the island of Kefalonia. In Markopoulo, particularly, the event is celebrated with great vigour, thanks to a legend that the village’s icon of the Virgin Mary was once found encircled by snakes, which appear only once every year on Kefalonia. 

Where? MarkopouloWhen? 15 August

2. The Feast Day of Agios Gerasimos

The patron saint and protector of Kefalonia, Agios Gerasimos is celebrated in style twice a year on the island. Pilgrimages (from beyond the island) are made to the Monastery of Agios Gerasimos to visit the saint’s sarcophagus, as the island’s choir serenades the proceedings. A holy mass is later given in a cave in nearby Argostoli. Visitors of all faiths are welcome to respectfully attend.

Where? Around Argostoli and the Monastery of Agios GerasimosWhen? Mid-August and late October

3. Robola Wine Festival

Dating back to 1978, Kefalonia’s wine festival is a hotly anticipated event in the Ionian Islands. In the villages of Fragata and Valsamata, festivities are held with feasting, dancing, traditional Greek music and, of course, lots of wonderful Robola wine. 

Where? Fragata and ValsamataWhen? Around the third week of August

4. International Music Festival

Also known as the Saristra Festival, this long-running Kefalonian event is a celebration of music from around the world, including contemporary music and of-the-moment acts. Expect vibrant art and inspiring entertainment at this multi-day event.

Where? SaristraWhen? End of July

5. Other events on Kefalonia

Some other unmissable events on the island include:

  • The Carnival parade in Lixouri

    - Takes place the day before Lent

  • Traverso Festival in Lakithra

    - Takes place in July

  • The Vakarola in the villages of Assos, Lixouri and Argostoli

    - Takes place 24 August

Celebrate the Ionian Islands with The Thinking Traveller

Allow us to help you experience Ionian festivals, Greek traditions and celebrations firsthand, as our team combines exceptional service and exquisite properties near all the best festivities - from our villas on Kastos to our Corfu luxury villas - with unparalleled local knowledge. We would love to design a personalised experience for you on the Ionian Islands, helping you immerse yourself in the region’s vibrant culture. 

Our team can create bespoke experiences that make your Ionian escape truly unforgettable. Explore our collection of breath-taking villas on the Ionian Islands, or contact us to discuss your escape. Please call us on +44 (0) 203 603 4478, email or enquire online.

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