Located off the western coast of mainland Greece this group of islands are mountainous and green with abundant cypress and olive trees as well as lovely beaches. Culture, cuisine and architecture have been shaped by occupiers, particularly the Venetians.
The appeal of Corfu never diminishes. Overlooked by Mount Pantokrator it is one of the greenest islands in Greece, if not the Mediterranean. The island is covered in trees – cypress, olive, lemon and orange. There are beautiful coves of azure blue water and fine sandy beaches as well as some of shingle and pebble. Whilst some parts of the island are now well developed, Shearwater Travel focuses on the more low key areas, where the authentic life of the Greek island can still be seen. There are miles upon miles of paths and lanes for walkers. The Corfu Trail runs the length of the island and can be done as one long walking tour (150km) or you can do some day walks featuring parts of the trail. There are excellent maps and walking guides available. Corfu has a fantastic array of accommodation. Many choose to stay in self-catered accommodation – luxury villas with pools (staffed if you wish), fishermen’s cottages, traditional houses and apartments. Others choose family run hotels, stylish luxury boutique hotels or luxury resorts.
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands and a car is advised to explore and discover all the island has to offer. Its highest point, Mount Aenos is covered in trees – pine, cypress and olive and there are plenty of authentic Greek villages. Picturesque headlands, spectacular coves and sandy beaches, Kefalonia has it all. It even has an underground lake and a number of caves where you can see dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of a day spent exploring the island you can settle down to enjoy a glass of delicious locally grown Robola wine. There are walking trails all over the island and a map and walking guide book are available. In the north there are three good loops around Fiskardo.
If you are looking to holiday on an island reminiscent of times before the Greek islands became such a major holiday destination, then Kythira may be the right island for you. It has over 30 beaches and a gentle rolling interior landscape. Walking is a big attraction with around 32km of gentle walking on eight routes and there is a map showing the routes available. Accommodation is simple but there are some lovely self-catering options as well as comfortable hotels with pools. There is enough here to keep you occupied for a week with monasteries, hundreds of churches, ruined castles, traditional villages, waterfalls and caves to be discovered. Car hire is essential to make the most of the island.
Paxos is the smallest of the Ionian islands, in fact you can walk the length of the island in one day. But it is covered in scented pine and cypress trees and criss-crossed with many paths which in spring and early summer are bordered by wildflowers. Walking here is gorgeous. There is a map available showing routes and an Englishman who has visited the island 20 times or more has also created a walking map with updates which you can buy on the island or directly from him before you go. The nicest accommodation on the island is in self-catering villas, cottages and apartments. There are also a couple of lovely stylish boutique hotels. Paxos combines really well with Corfu (visit Corfu first).