The Ionian Islands do not conform entirely to our mental image of a stereotypical whitewashed Greek archipelago. Their green mountainous interiors are a world apart from the Cyclades or the Dodecanese, and their historical and cultural DNA is firmly rooted in the west rather than the east: while most of Greece was ruled for centuries by the Ottoman Empire, the Ionian Islands were an integral part of the Venetian Maritime Republic for over 500 years.
The Ionian Islands lie scattered off the west coast of Greece, from Corfu in the north to Kythira in the south (actually to the south of the Peleponnese). The other five major islands – bringing the total to seven, as the archipelago’s traditional name, Heptanese, implies - are Paxos, Lefkada, Cephalonia, Ithaca and Zakynthos. Added to these are a few tiny gems,
including Antipaxos, Meganissi, Kastos and Kalamos.
The Ionian Islands boast a tantalising mix of superb beaches, turquoise waters, walking trails, sleepy villages, buzzing towns, delicious food, excellent water sports and plenty of history. Some, such as Corfu, have been popular destinations for decades. Others, including Meganissi, Antipaxos and Kastos retain an unexplored, unspoilt ambience, where life is deliciously slow and tranquil.
All of which means that, whatever your personal predilections, there’s an Ionian island for you.