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North Ionian Sea

The Ionian islands are washed by the most beautiful emerald green waters, which owe their colours to the bright white limestone that lies beneath them. Check out the beauty of this destination for yourself!
The Ionian islands are washed by the most beautiful emerald green waters, which owe their colours to the bright white limestone that lies beneath them. Check out the beauty of this destination for yourself!
Yachting conditions are similar to those in Croatia, but there are warmer seas, the city ports are cheap or even free, you have green islands, good food and a people who are very enjoyable to spend time with. The sea between Corfu and the mainland is peaceful and, in the case of strong winds, it provides a safe haven without big waves. Unlike Croatia, there are very few well-equipped marinas, but on the other hand, there are plenty of urban ports where you only pay for water and electricity.

The North Ionian Sea is bordered by the islands of Othoni, Erikousa, Mathraki and the Homeric Island of Corfu, as you navigate to the south after the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos, the islands of Levkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia and Zakynthos. In the east, the Ionian Sea is washed by the shores of Albania, mainland Greece and the Peloponnesian peninsula.

Who is renting a yacht suitable for?

For families with children or yachtsmen with limited experience

Waves are not so large in the sheltered sea between Corfu and the mainland, winds being weaker than on the open sea. Plan for short distances and you will find a large number of harbours and bays in easy reach.

For more experienced yachtsmen and adventurers

While sailing to the north and the along the western coastline of Corfu to the south, you will be on the open sea and the sailing will become more demanding, particularly during spring and autumn.

For lovers of history

Historical monuments are from both the Venetian era and antiquity. The coastline of the Peloponnese is especially rich with ancient monuments.

For lovers of secluded locations

The islands in the Ionian Sea are so rugged that you can still find bays where you will be the only boat anchoring.

For senior citizens

The Ionian Sea is an ideal yachting destination for people who are not in a hurry to get anywhere, and for flotilla sailing holidays.

The Ionian Sea is given its name, of course, from Greek mythology, being named after the Greek goddess Io. She was a priestess of Hera and, for a short time, Zeus’ lover. When Hera discovered this, it led to conflict and Zeus decided it would be better to transform Io into a white cow. Hera sent an enormous gadfly to make her life unbearable, which is why she immersed herself in the northwestern sea to rid herself of the annoying insect.

 

The 10 most beautiful locations in this region

  1. Corfu—old town and harbour and small islands
  2. Corfu—Palaiokastritsa
  3. Ormos Valtou Bay
  4. Sivota, or Muertos Harbour
  5. Parga Vidho Harbour
  6. Two Rock Bay
  7. Antipaxos—Blue Lagoon
  8. Paxos—Gaios Harbour
  9. Paxos—Lakka Harbour
  10. Paxos—bays on the western coastline

The winds are very steady in summer. It usually starts blowing around noon and settles down at sunset. The direction is mostly NW to W, with a force of 2–5 on the Beaufort scale (BFT), that is, between 5 and 20 kph. A Mistral predominates in this area during July and August, characterised by a slightly higher intensity and N to NW wind direction. Care must be taken at the edges of the windward sides of the high islands such as Levkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, or Zakynthos. The danger of strong gusts exists here, often indicated by cigarette-shaped clouds on the mountain peaks of the island.

The best time for sailing south is the afternoon when a stable wind with a force of 4-5 BFT blows. You will sail comfortably and quickly with a lovely wind on the quarter. However, it is recommended that you sail north in the morning  before the wind picks up. In the afternoon, upwind sailing or sailing on a sharp, close hauled course awaits you. Nice, but it can make for somewhat uncomfortable yachting.

Mathraki

This tranquil island is located 45 minutes by boat cruise from the coastline of Corfu. Together with Othonoi and Ereikoussa, it forms the so-called, "Diapontia islands group". Mathraki is the smallest of the three islands with a mere 3 km square land mass. About 300 people live here at the harbour and in two small villages, Ano Mathraki and Kato Mathraki, both of which are accessible from the harbour by road. Kato Mathraki is located to the north and is the closest to the harbour. Ano Mathraki is in the south. There are three restaurants in Mathraki, which also function as a kind of supermarket and there are rooms for rent, in two hotels.

Mathraki is a beautiful, green island with pretty nature, where you will find plenty of pines and cypresses. From the road that leads from the harbour to Ano Mathraki and Kato Mathraki are several paths leading to beaches and bays and other harbours. The largest beach on the island is called Portello and is located on the northeastern part of the island. It is a sandy and shallow beach with fine sand. Other smaller beaches are Arvanitiko and Agouridi Kontrakas, with rocky outcrops nearby. Also belonging to Marthraki are the two small islands called "Diaplo". On one of them you will find the church of Aghios Nikolaos, the patron saint of sailors.

The Ionian islands of Mathraki and Othoni The Ionian islands of Mathraki and Othoni

Othonoi

Othonoi or Othoni as it is sometimes called, is the westernmost of the Ionian islands and has about 600 residents. Most people make their living through fishing and growing olives. Othonoi is a rocky island with many olive trees and beautiful beaches. There are also a lot of pines and cypresses here, which are exported from the island as timber. Here, you will find the Church of the Holy Trinity, several shops, as well as a hotel and several taverns, a post office, an ATM, a police station and a health centre. Pavements and unpaved paths connect 13 small villages and beaches on the island. At the southwest of the island is the Calypsos Cave, where it is said Calypso held Odysseus as her prisoner. The cave is about 100 m long and roughly 20 m high. At this part of the island, you can also find the beautiful Aspros-Ammos beach (literally, "white sand"). The Calypso Cave can only be visited by boat.

In total there are four Byzantine churches on the island, remnants of Venetian fortresses and an impressive lighthouse from 1872 . This lighthouse has always been an important point in terms of Othonoi’s position between Italy and the island of Corfu. At present, the beacon is unattended, but you can still see the old spotlight on the ground floor. Near the lighthouse are the remains of a small Venetian fortress called Kastri. One of the prettiest villages on the island is Vitsentziatika, where you can see a gorgeous view of the whole Othonoi, the sea, Albania, and Italy.

Erikoussa

The island of Erikoussa, with an area of 4.5 km square and about 700 inhabitants, has been settled by wealthy Greeks who spend their summer holidays here in their houses. Most of the island’s other residents make their living from fishing and farming, as well as tourism to a lesser extent.

Erikoussa is a green island with pitch pines and cypresses, but also a lot of olive trees. The island has two, large, beautiful beaches, one found in the bay at the southwest of the island in Porto harbour and the other called Braghini. These are sandy beaches with no available lounges or sunshades, but there is a pub in the harbour.

Corfu

To this day, Homer's epic celebrates Corfu as a green paradise that will enchant every visitor with its soothing charm. Today, when Corfu is visited every year by millions of seasonal tourists, it is almost a surprise to realise that you can still find beautiful, tranquil places here. The mountainous north gradually slopes down towards the plains of the south of the island. The rich, verdant cover of the island is in magnificent contrast to the arid Albanian mountains. The channel between the north of the island and Albania is only a mile wide, so you can see the Albanian military base at Butrin quite clearly. Roughly at the centre of the island, you will even find a golf course—the only one on the island.

Corfu Harbour (Limín Kérkira)

Anchor in the old harbour east of the customs pier. Here, it is the most convenient to land port-side and the northwest wind will guarantee you stay in position. The old harbour is usually full of cruise ships so it may be difficult to find a space. Sometimes you may have to circle the breakwater before one of the ships departs. You will find water at the customs pier, and there is also a tap behind the bathrooms in the old harbour. You can get fuel at the customs pier. Specialised mechanics are available for various repairs right on the seafront, and there are also a number of mini-markets for re-stocking provisions. Unlike the city centre that is sure to captivate you, the old harbour is not a particularly pleasant place, mainly because of fishy smell and overcrowding.

The city’s architecture shows very strong English, French and Italian influences. Local people like to claim that they are more cultivated than their compatriots from other islands. The capital city of Corfu features a wonderful combination of parks and squares, along with a typically English cricket field called the Esplanade. The old Venetian fortress from 1559, christened Palaio Frourio, stands atop the cliff opposite the square. You can take a walk on the northern side of the cricket ground and you will get to the Palaces of St Michael and St George. Discover the unique Museum of Asian Art with its unique collection assembled by Corfu diplomat Giorgios Manos, a collection that motivated his frequent expeditions to the Far East. Above all, the ladies of the crew will be enchanted by the area on the western side of the pitch, called The Liston. This row of charming cafés and shops in the French style was built at the request of Napoleon himself and was intended to rival the famous Rue de Rivoli in Paris. The local coffee is no more expensive here than anywhere else on Corfu.

Sailing south you will reach the resorts of Gouvia, Dasia, Ipsos, and Pirgi. These places have, unfortunately, long since lost most of their distinctive character. If you want distinctive character, you can still find it, for example, at the foot of the majestic mountain Pantokrátor, with a height of 906 m. The ideal starting point for going up to the mountain is the village of Old Perithia. Local villages such as Nissaki or Kalami, whose White House used to be the residence of English writer Lawrence Durrell (he was even visited here by Henry Miller), have retained their natural charm.

If Corfu is where you are starting your journey, from here you can sail to Sivoty, 29 km south. For about EUR 10, your children can visit the local water park. In the centre of town is the delightful Steak House restaurant, where excellent meals are served in large portions.

A beautiful beach at the southern tip of the island is at Cape Arcoudilas, which makes a wonderful stop for lunch and swimming when the winds are gentle.

If you are in the mood for tasteful night-time entertainment, then visit the Czech-Greek bar, the Golden Beach, which is right on the beach and 200 m north of the Messogi River, where it is possible to anchor at its mouth in good weather. There are three basic programs here: Latin-American dances, Elvis Presley, and Greek-Latin dances. This program is unparalleled elsewhere on Corfu, being cheerful and based on dancing and good drinking. Entry is free and drink prices are the same as in any other bar.

Angelokastro Fortress on the island of Corfu Angelokastro Fortress on the island of Corfu

Paxos and Antipaxos

Paxos is a green garden of olive groves, colourful flowers on rare plants, small vineyards, interwoven with stone walls and zigzagging paths that invite inquisitive adventurers to explore the countless magical locations of the island. The entry is the picturesque Gaios Harbour, formed by the narrow strait between the small island of Saint Nikolaos and the island of Paxos.

Last, but not least, Paxos is the perfect location for divers and enthusiastic snorkelers. Divers should situate their dives primarily on the western coast of the island, where there are unique sea caves that radiate an unbelievable range of blue colours, from pronounced turquoise to deep blue. In the same part of Paxos, on the seafloor itself, you will find a famed panorama of coral reefs abundant with undersea life.

The western coast of the island also provides yachtsmen with a great opportunity for relaxation, as even in high season here you can fully enjoy the intimacy of small beaches and lonely coves, and often you can anchor in absolute solitude. Sail just off the coast and drop anchor in the bay that fascinates you the most, ideally in the morning to mid-morning before the breeze picks up.

The small island of Antipaxos, located southeast of Paxos, offers several wonderful places to start your sea spa treatment. Worth highlighting is the beautiful and long Vrika Beach at the north of the island, which is covered with snow-white sand with a sea of turquoise blue. However, it is necessary to get up in the morning and get there in time before the beach is inundated with tourists from the cruise ships, or visit the location late in the afternoon. It is only 3 NM to the port of Gaios from there. Unlike Paxos, Antipaxos is set amidst bucolic vineyards, whose liquid alcoholic products will be offered to you in the local taverns.

The Blue Lagoon is located at the northeastern end of Antipaxos Bay. The turquoise water and the long sandy beach attracts dozens of boats. We recommend going ashore as early as possible in the morning, preferably at dawn to enjoy the beach without people. Cruise ships with tourists arrive around 11:00 and then this beautiful beach becomes a mere tourist attraction. Weigh anchor around 11:00 and head off to the western coast of the island (if the west wind is not blowing) and enjoy swimming and diving in the romantic little bays amongst the rocks.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Gaios Harbour

This harbour offers water, electricity, restaurants and shops. If you do not find a place at the pier (which is very likely, especially if you arrive late in the afternoon), you can dock in the northern section of the strait, facing the ferry pier by dropping anchor from the bow of the boat, and tie off the stern on the rocks of the isle of St Nikolaos. You can get to the town by dinghy, or you can move there in the morning with the whole boat when the pier is freed up. The harbour is wonderfully protected.

Another option for anchoring is the small port of Mongonissi on the island of the same name, south of Gaios, which is connected to Paxos by a bridge. There is a nice, sandy beach with a pleasant restaurant and a magnificent view of the surrounding scenery with the dominating island of Antipaxos. You can get to Gaios from here with a 30 minute stroll along the waterfront road. For lovers of tranquil and free anchorage, we recommend Meassalongi Bay, 2 NM south.

Another harbour you should not miss is Lakka, to the north of Paxos. This magical harbour is located in a well-protected bay. It will be easier to find a place to anchor here than at the small waterfront where barely 20 boats fit. If you stop at Lakka for breakfast on your way to Corfu from Gaios, you will want to stay here for lunch, and dinner, too! Beautiful walks take you to the northern Paxos lighthouse, with beautiful views of the open sea and Corfu.

A cave on the island of Paxos A cave on the island of Paxos  

The most romantic anchorage in Parga is near the island of Nea Panagia. You can anchor at its northeastern end and tie up to the bank with a rope. You will be protected from waves by the island, and it is only about 200 m to the shore with a dinghy. There is wonderful snorkelling around the island and its surrounding cliffs. From the boat, you will have a view of Parga. Watch out when anchoring and do not get too close to the shallow nook connecting the island of Nea Panagia to the coastline. Parga Harbour is the most picturesque harbour in the entire area. The colourful houses at the waterfront and the old fortress above the town create a beautiful backdrop. You will also find narrow lanes with many shops and restaurants worth visiting.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

A beach on the island of Paxos A beach on the island of Paxos

Corfu

The following map shows a route in the area around Corfu. For more details about routes and individual locations, click on the icon at the top left corner of the map.

 

Sailing around Corfu

For more details about routes and individual locations, click on the icon at the top left corner of the map.

Boats chartered from Moorings will satisfy the most discerning yachtsmen. Moorings offers the very best service at prices somewhat higher than others. Our other partners include Dream Yacht, Omegasail, Vrakotas, and Kekeris. All these are proven companies of the highest quality.

The most demanding sailors will satisfy Moorings' ships, offering the best service at prices somewhat higher than others. Our other partner is spol. Dream Yacht and Omegasail, Vrakotas and Kekeris. All of these companies are proven and quality.

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