Escape to nature
8 day itinerary
Dotted with olive and cyprus groves, and with subtle influences from Venetian, French and British culture, the Ionians are a step back to nature. From paradise beaches and waters teeming with sea turtles to pretty harbourside towns and delicious cuisine, disconnect and rediscover what matters in these islands.
Corfu Town, with its Italianate architecture reflecting 400 years under Venetian rule, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the churches, castles and fine museums and soak up centuries of history. Shop in the boutiques scattered throughout the old streets. Listen out for the marching bands - one of Corfu’s special characteristics - a common sight throughout the town. For classic Corfiot food head to the down-to-earth Marina’s Tavern, or try the more sophisticated and cosmopolitan Venetian Well.
KAYAKS AND MYTHOLOGY
Although not an island, mainland Parga is a very worthwhile stop. Take photo after photo of the pretty town – brightly painted houses jumbled on top of each other. Jump in the tender and discover your favourite beach. Go kayaking on the Acheron river. In Greek mythology, Acheron, known as the "river of woe", was one of the five rivers of Hades. Visit the Paragaea Olive Oil Factory or the old Venetian Castle for stunning views. Finish your day with sunset cocktails at Amicos Bar, inside the Parga’s Distillery.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
Tiny Antipaxos is all about peace, quiet and glorious beaches. Tender to Vrika and Voutoumi to relax on soft golden sand and swim in clear blue and turquoise waters. Go snorkelling to spot colourful fish, underwater rock arches and caverns. Walk through the olive groves carpeted with wild flowers to the tiny village of Vigla, with its maze of narrow, walled paths. Watch the sunset from the jacuzzi, sipping champagne as total tranquillity falls over the island, before dinner onboard under the stars.
Visit the Melissani Cave, home to the nymphs in Greek mythology, with its stunning interior lake. Access the lake by boat and swim and snorkel in its emerald-green water. Head to milky-white Myrtos beach, the island's pin-up, or pine-fringed Horgota. Go hiking on Mount Ainos, a national park where deer and wild horses roam. Explore the pretty fishing village of Fiskardo with its Venetian architecture. Enjoy a delicious meal right on the harbour at Tassia, washed down with the local Robola wine.
The 'Caretta-Caretta' loggerhead sea turtles come to nest on Zakynthos and return to their birthplace up to 26 years later. The island's National Marine Park provides protection for these and other incredible flora and fauna. Go diving within the park, and later stop off at Navagio Beach – one of the most famous Greek postcard snapshots, with its iconic shipwreck. Explore the beautiful west coast and the inland villages. Enjoy traditional cooking and live music known as kantades, the traditional songs of the Ionians.
From Galaxidi, visit the ancient ruins of Delphi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed that the Pythian Games (one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, which includes the Olympic games) were held here. The ruins of the Temple of Apollo can also be seen, dating from 586BC and including an amphitheatre, hippodrome and the remains of several other buildings. There are also many preserved statues of athletes including the Charioteer of Delphi. For even more culture, take a private tour of the Archaeological Museum.
Pass through the Corinth Canal, an experience in itself. The idea was first conceived in 602BC, but only came to fruition in the late 19th century, used for the first time in 1893. It is 6.4km long and just 25m wide, and navigation is extraordinary to watch. On arrival at Epidaurus, another significant ancient site, take in a performance in the atmospheric amphitheatre, dedicated to ancient Greek drama. If you prefer, cruise on to Athens and enjoy Dinner in the Sky, literally suspended 50m over the city, or stay grounded at the fabulous Michelin starred Funky Gourmet.
Wake up in Athens - at the heart of Ancient Greece, a powerful civilization and empire. The city is still dominated by 5th-century BC landmarks, including the Acropolis, a hilltop citadel topped with ancient buildings such as the colonnaded Parthenon temple. Take in as much and as many as you can before your flight home, or prolong your holiday at a luxury hotel in this vibrant and historical city.