18 Apr THE BEST OF THE GREEK IONIAN ISLANDS
If you’re planning the perfect European vacation but aren’t quite sure where to go this summer? Look no further and check out the stunning Greek Ionian Islands.
Greece has been my favourite European holiday destination since the age of 3. I used to spend all my summers in a little village called Perdika and had some of the most beautiful childhood memories there. But when I was old enough to explore the world on my own, I started traveling around the rest of the world. However, I always enjoy coming back to the Greek islands and this is why.
Acheron River, Gliki
Driving from Perdika, you must have a stopover at the Acheron River in Gliki. The springs of River Acheron are surrounded by wild rocks, waterfalls, and lots of greenery. Ancient myths say that this river led to the gates of Hades. (whatever that means!) You can hike or water raft up and down but the most fun way is to walk, climb and swim through the river. I’ve done this wild water hike about 6 times but it never gets boring. Beware, the water is cold at first but after a while, you get used to it and your skin feels incredibly soft afterward! Some parts are so deep that you need to swim so make sure you have a waterproof camera if you want to take some good shots!
Tip » buy some water shoes to protect your feet, these will come in handy at some of the rocky beaches.
After this refreshing hike, you drive further up towards the first Ionian Island; Lefkas (Lefkada in Greek) This island has pretty much been left unspoiled by mass tourism. Prices are low, and if you walk far enough, you can find some pretty long deserted beaches. I advise you to rent a car or otherwise a scooter. This way you can really explore Lefkas and get to the best beaches. I stayed at Sofia Apartments in Nydri where the friendly owner welcomed us with a traditional Greek drink from the island. His grandmother even baked us a cake! This is why I love the locals! From Nydri, you can easily access all the main roads and enjoy the night market.
The food in Greece is amazing and in Lefkas, you can enjoy the island’s traditional dishes like lentils and chickpeas. One of the best restaurants on the Island is without question Rachi. Beautiful ocean views and delicious food makes this restaurant extremely popular, so expect to wait for a table during high season.
The best beaches
I have been to a few incredible beaches in my lifetime but the beaches you will find here are something else. The water is crystal blue so prepare for some jaw-dropping moments. My 3 favourite beaches on the island are Egremni beach (400 steps down!) Porto Katsiki and Kathisma beach.
Walking down to Porto Katsiki beach in Lefkas
Off the Beaten Track Tip » If you walk a towards the right side of Kathisma Beach and all the way to the end you will find a perfect spot, just for you. A beautiful long beach with no one around. Crazy! If you are brave enough, you can even go skinny dipping!
From the port in Vasiliki (in Lefkas) you can take the boat to Kefalonia which takes about 3 hours and departs daily. Check http://westferry.gr/ for ferry times. This island is larger than Lefkas and with that a little bit busier. One of the main attractions is the Melissani cave, where can pay a small fee for a quick tour of this world wonder. The roof collapsed 20.000 years ago and when the sunlight kisses the water at noon, this results in an amazing blue/green color that many tourists want to see. It’s worth it if you want to take some good shots of this geological phenomenon.
Explore by scooter
Kefalonia is also home to some beautiful beaches of which Myrthos beach is the most popular. Make sure you bring a sun umbrella as there is no shade except for underneath the rocks and that almost cost me my head! (mountain goats created a small lawine on top of the cliff and rocks started falling which just missed my head!) I rented a scooter and this is the perfect way to explore. Be aware that renting a scooter in high season is only possible when you hire one for more than 3 days. Because I don’t like mass tourism, I picked a cute village to spend my first 2 nights.
My favourite town in Kefalonia is definitely Fiskardo. This fishers town is full of boats and cute shops where you can buy art, homemade nougat, and olive oil. At night when the sun goes down and the lights are glowing, the town changes into a magical place with Mediterranean vibes and delicious seafood. Tip » Plan a full day trip as it’s up north depending on where you will depart from.
From Kefalonia you can take a boat to Zakinthos (the beautiful beach you see on every travel Instagram feed) I decided not to go. I was happy here without too many tourists and it was perfect. This part of Greece is relatively cheap if you compare it to the eastern islands like Mykonos and Santorini. (where I will be going this year!) So if you plan your trip way ahead, you can have a brilliant holiday for little money.
So what will it cost you?
- Flights » 350 euro return flights from Amsterdam to Corfu
- Propellor flight » 55 euro’s one way from Kefalonia back to Corfu
- Ferry » about 50 euro’s all together
- Accommodation » about 25 to max 65 euros per night
- Car hire » 30 euro’s per day
- Scooter hire » 15-20 euro’s per day
- Food » Main courses are about 8 euros per dish
- Shopping » You can really make it as expensive as you want!
- Tip » Avoid the tourist markets and go for something local.