12 must-do things to do in the Ionian Islands

Découvrir les endroits à faire des îles Ioniennes

Are you planning to discover the Greek islands, and more specifically the Ionian Islands? Here are the must-see places in the Ionian Islands.

The Ionian Islands are undoubtedly among the most beautiful islands in Greece. Different from the Cyclades, the Ionian islands differ greatly from one another. What do they have in common? Beautiful landscapes and a love of music and the arts. These artistic passions have been the inspiration for many a writer and poet. Ideal for discovering on a cruise or with a private boat, the Ionian islands are calm, with majestic landscapes. The many deserted beaches and white sandy coves are the stuff of dreams. You’ll discover an almost Polynesian sea in a few places.

So what’s there to do in the Ionian Islands? Discover our tips for visiting the Ionian Islands, including the must-see sites.

The island of Corfu

A visit to the Ionian Islands starts with Corfu. Corfu is the best-known and largest of the islands. The site invites you to immerse yourself in the richness of the archipelago. In fact, the island played an important role in maritime trade, particularly with Venice andItaly.

Corfu’s rich architecture will never cease to amaze you. In fact, some of its sites are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Corfu’s rich past is a blend of Venetian, British and French heritage.

1. The town of Corfu

Corfou

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Kite_rin

In the town of the same name, on the island’s east coast, don’t miss the beautiful citadel. The ramparts date back to the 15th century, giving the old town a charm all of its own. After a stroll through the streets of Corfu, stop off at the Archaeological Museum and Mon Repo Palace. Adjacent to the royal family palace, it now displays a number of beautiful antique artefacts.

If you love royalty, you can also visit the Palace of Saint-Michel and Saint-Georges. This handsome edifice served for a time as a royal residence.

2. Beaches and culinary specialities in Corfu

Le Pastitsada, à manger voire à faire dans les îles Ioniennes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fanfo

What else can you do on the Ionian Islands? After a few hours exploring Corfu, it’s time to relax. You can end the day on one of the beautiful beaches. In the evening, you’ll be sure to sit down on a restaurant terrace to savor the local specialties. Don’t know what to eat? Order a Pastitsada. This is a stew made from veal shank or shoulder and served with pasta. This Greek specialty is inspired by Italian culinary traditions. In moderation, finish your meal with a glass of kumquat liqueur, the symbolic drink of the island of Corfu.

3. Achilleion Palace

Palais de l’Achilleion

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Media_works

Then head to the outskirts of the village of Gastouri, just 10 kilometers away, to discover the Achilleion Palace. In a completely different style, discover this luxurious villa, built in the 19th century by the Austrian Empress Sisi. This lover of the island of Corfu enjoyed a majestic and astonishing palace. It was here that the empress lived with Kaiser William II of Germany. These two figures of European history shared the same passion for the exciting island of Corfu.

As well as the palace, don’t miss the beautiful gardens. The many statues, including those of muses and philosophers, will introduce you to Greek mythology. And Achilles, the man behind the palace, is of course still named after him.

4. Paleokastritsa

Paleokastritsa

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Balate Dorin

A visit to the Ionian Islands also means a trip to the picturesque village of Paleokastritsa. If you’re looking for a typical village, this is the place to be. The name Paleokastritsa literally means « old fortress », which explains the presence of the castle. Located just 25 kilometers northwest of Corfu town, the village is distinguished by its rocky castle and the presence of the Monastery of the Virgin.

It is also as a seaside resort that the site remains popular. With its bays and harbor along the coastal road, the place is charmingly picturesque. Boats use the harbor as a starting point to discover secluded coves and beaches. High above the village, the Monastery of the Virgin Mary dominates. Inside, you’ll find post-Byzantine icons dating back to the 15th century, as well as objects and books.

Find a rental boat to explore Paleokastritsa Bay

The island of Kefalonia

The most mountainous and largest Greek island in the Ionian Sea is, of course, Kefalonia. And when it comes to visiting the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia offers a wide range of attractions. Thanks to its cultural sites, there’s plenty to discover. Take a trip to the 16th-century citadel of Assos, for example.

Then head off to the fishing village of Fiskardo, where you can enjoy the maze of colorful houses. Argostoli, the island’s capital, is home to a number of museums, as well as one of Greece’s largest libraries.

5. The beaches of Kefalonia

Plage de Myrtos

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Piotr Krzeslak

Of course, the island of Kefalonia has some very fine sandy beaches. In fact, some films have used these beaches as backdrops. Don’t miss Myrtos beach in particular. With its white sand and turquoise-green water, it would be a shame to visit the Ionian Islands without treading on it. This heavenly spot resembles a real postcard and remains one of the most photographed sites in the world. You can lay your towel on this beach, one of the most beautiful in the world.

6. Drogarati cave and Lake Melissani

Melissani

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Piotr Krzeslak

One of Kefalonia’s most spectacular sites is the Drogarati cave and Lake Melissani. Lake Melissani is a deep-blue underground lake that can be explored by boat. The color of the water is fascinating, as are the ceiling and the spectacular rock formations.

7. Agrilia monastery and Antisamos beach

Plage d'Antisamos

Photo credit: Shutterstock – s_kaisu

After Lake Melissani, continue your visit to the Agrilia monastery. The view from this vantage point is breathtaking. Continue down to the famous Antisamos beach for a swim. This beach is featured in the film Captain Corelli.

8. A boat trip

Visiter îles ioniennes : Une balade en bateau

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Michael Papazissis

Once you’ve visited the most beautiful sites on Kefalonia, there’s another must: a boat trip! Renting a boat in Kefalonia gives you the chance to discover the island’s wonders while escaping the hustle and bustle of tourism. For example, you can enjoy a relaxing boat trip on the turquoise waters of Kefalonia, or sail to Ithaca, the island of the poets and the birthplace of Ulysses.

If you don’t have a boating license, you can hire the services of a skipper who will show you the most beautiful corners of the island throughout the excursion. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to take a dip in some of the island’s most magical spots, for an unforgettable day out with your loved ones.

Find a boat to rent in Kefalonia

9. Zante

Découvrir les Caretta caretta, activité à faire sur les îles Ioniennes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Matteo photos

Wondering what else to do in the Ionian Islands? From the island of Kefalonia, take the boat to the island of Zakynthos. Renowned for its marine heritage, the island is home to the country’s first marine park. It’s here that you’ll be able to observe Caretta caretta sea turtles, a rare species. It has to be said that they love Zakynthos. They come here to lay their eggs.

And then, at the foot of the cliffs, the memory of a shipwreck is still very present. This wreck can only be discovered from the sea, at sunset. It’s an impressive experience, and the sight of the wreck against the backdrop makes you dizzy.

For swimming, there are many secluded coves around the island. You could even try a dive in the famous Bay of the Shipwreck. On the one hand, it’s from Skala beach that the shipwreck beach can be discovered. The place is still very well known for its sad history. But the crystal-clear water that caresses the beach is a sight to behold.

The other Ionian islands

After these discoveries, what can you do in the Ionian Islands? Discover the other islands nearby. While they all have beautiful sandy beaches, they all have their own unique characteristics.

10. Leucade

La forteresse de Leucade

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Calin Stan

The island of Leucade has long been known as Sainte-Maure. Today, the site stands out with its beautiful fortified castle. The island is also a haven for sports enthusiasts, with some excellent surfing spots.

11. Paxos and Antipaxos

Port de Gaios

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Kite_rin

With its beaches and chalky cliffs, Paxos is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. Enjoy the white pebbles, crystal-clear water and palm trees, as well as the traditional village of Gaios.

You can also visit the small island of Agios Nikolaos. Here you’ll discover the castle, a listed historic monument. It was built by the Venetians according to the plans of a certain Leonardo da Vinci.

12. Ithaca

Le port de Kioni

Photo credit: Shutterstock – photo stella

To visit the Ionian Islands, head for Ithaca, the island of poets.Ulysses ‘ homeland is a source of inspiration for souls eager to escape. So let yourself be lulled by the landscape, then visit the village of Kioni. So, what’s there to do in the Ionian Islands? You can continue your journey on the island of Kythera, birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite.

How to get to the Ionian Islands

From France

To reach one of the Ionian islands, fly to Corfu. Various airlines offer this trip. You can also land on the tarmacs of the islands of Kefalonia, Zakynthos or Lefkada.

Depending on when you leave, prices fluctuate widely from month to month. In fact, prices soar in summer. If you want to take advantage of the most attractive offers, don’t hesitate to compare prices using a flight comparison service such as Ulysse.

Getting around the Ionian Islands

After landing, you can reach your accommodation by cab or rental car. You must be at least 21 years old. For the nearby islands, a number of boat crossings are regularly chartered.

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Where to stay in the Ionian Islands?

As well as the idyllic setting, the accommodations are just as idyllic. You can opt for accommodation with a swimming pool and sea view. Accommodation of this type is available on Airbnb.

Looking to get away from it all? Take a look at the different accommodation options available, using a hotel comparator. You can choose between a charming hotel in Corfu or a sea-view apartment in Zakynthos. Prices are very affordable. Expect to pay around 50 euros a night in low season.

So, are you ready to go? Bon voyage!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Zakynthos,gr