We present you our Ionian Islands travel guide, containing all the information you need on transportation, hotels/restaurants suggestions and four individual itineraries for each of the archipelago’s most popular islands, such as Corfu, Lefkada, Zakynthos and Kefalonia.
Named after the sea which surrounds them, the Ionian Islands are the only island group in Greece which isn’t bathed – not even partially – by the ever-present Aegean Sea. In fact, it is precisely its location, further away from Turkey and west of Greece’s continental territory, that helped shape the archipelago’s current cultural habits and traditions. After all, unlike the other island groups in the country, the Ionians have never been conquered by the Ottomans, having in return suffered a much stronger influence from the Romans and the Venetians.
As a result, the architecture around the historical quarters of most Ionian cities is quite different from what you’ll find in the rest of Greece, being far more reminiscent of other small touristic places in Italy or Croatia. That’s precisely the beauty behind the Ionian Islands, as you’re able to discover a different side to Greece, without compromising the fantastic beaches and awe-inducing landscapes that helped propel the country into tourism royalty heights.
Without further ado, we present you our ultimate Ionian Islands travel guide, containing all the information you need on transportation and travel scams, hotels/restaurants suggestions and 4 individual itineraries for each of the archipelago’s most popular islands, such as Corfu, Lefkada, Zakynthos and Kefalonia.
Luckily, all of the Ionian main 4 islands – Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Lefkada – are actually served by international airports, with frequent direct connections to many other European cities during high season.
If you’re flying from the UK, these are the available flights to the Ionian Islands:
As an alternative, passengers can also choose to fly to Athens and then get on a domestic flight into Corfu, Zakynthos or Kefalonia. Those flights can be operated by Ryanair, Sky Express, Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air. Another option would be to ditch that second flight and hop on a ferry towards your desired destination. You can find out more information regarding this subject on our Ionian Islands travel guide’s section about transportation between islands (down below).
Much like the rest of the country, the Ionian Islands are also an extremely seasonal destination, receiving most of its tourists during the Summer months. However, as one can assume by looking at prices and crowds, your wallet will very much appreciate it if you give it a break during the months of July and August.
As an alternative, and so that you can still enjoy the islands’ beaches and good weather, we suggest booking your visit the shoulder-season, specifically for the period between May-June or September-October.
Since Greece is part of the EU, British citizens do not need a visa to visit. You’ll just need your passport, which must have been issued within the last 10 years and remain valid for at least 6 months from the date of your trip.
However, keep in mind that starting November 2023, British passengers will need to apply for ETIAS in order to enter any EU country.
With the Euro (€) as Greece’s official currency, any withdrawal using a UK bank card might incur in the payment of several different fees. Besides the percentual fee referring to the currency conversion, some UK banks may also charge a flat commission for withdrawals made outside the UK. In some instances, you may well end up paying 5%-6% of your original withdrawal in banking fees.
On the other hand, exchanging money before your trip is not a viable solution either. Besides not being any cheaper, it’s also not safe or wise to carry so much money on you during your trip. As such, we recommend using the services of online banking fintech companies such as Revolut, N26 or Monzo.
Although each have their own limitations and fees, they allow you to withdraw a certain amount in foreign currency without any fees involved. And even after that threshold is reached, costs are much smaller when compared to traditional banks. Sign up for Revolut for free >> to get 3 months of Premium.
Generally speaking, Greece is an extremely safe destination for visitors. Although you may come across a few shady areas in the capital of Athens, that problem pretty much ceases to exist when visiting the Ionian Islands, where most economic activities are dependent on tourism to survive and crime has virtually no statistical expression.
We only recommend that you pay special attention to your belongings around crowded areas or at the beach, and never accept a taxi ride where the meter is not working. Here, much like everywhere else in the country, you just need to use your common sense to stay out of trouble. On a side note, never order anything at a restaurant without looking at the menu first, especially around the most touristy areas. Otherwise, you might end up with a very unpleasant surprise once the waiter hands you the bill.
If you’re looking out for a place to stay on our Ionian Islands travel guide then we got you covered!
Unlike many other Greek regions highly reliant on tourism money to survive, hotel prices tend to be surprisingly affordable in the Ionian Islands, especially in the budget-friendlier islands of Corfu and Kos. But even in Kefalonia, Zakynthos or any specific region in the archipelago catering for a more upscale audience, people coming from most places in Western Europe, North America or Scandinavia may still find the Ionians to be quite affordable when compared to what they’re used to back at home.
That being said, here are some options based on the cities we recommend you to stay at on our itineraries of the Ionian Islands, in Greece:
If you’re already planning your itinerary along the Ionians, then you will necessarily have to figure out the best way to move around between all the different islands. Either way, it’s not like you have a lot of options to choose from, as the ferry is by far the best and most popular way to do so.
Fortunately, there are over 20 ferry companies operating all over Greece, with Blue Star, Golden Star, Minoan Lines and Hellenic Seaways standing out as the most popular. However, and so that you don’t have to search for a specific route on dozens of websites, you can use the platform FerryHopper, which aggregates the offers of several different local companies. That way, you can easily compare prices and times on the same browser tab.
If you intend to visit all of the main islands across the Ionian Sea in a single trip, then this is the itinerary you’ll want to look for:
Using the Island Hopper tool from their website, you can plan out all the ferry trips you need to take and then buy all the tickets (up to a maximum of four) using a single purchase.
As stated above, every island (even those without an international airport) is served by a local public bus service. Although there is no integration between the networks of different islands, they all follow the same basic premises.
For example, and regardless of the island, ticket prices range between 1,10€ and 3,80€ depending on distances, and it is quite rare to be able to find buses running after 22h30, even on weekends. Besides, do not expect to find bus stops in the middle of nowhere, as the services’ goal is to connect the areas where people actually live across the islands.
In every single one of the main Ionian islands, you can easily find companies where you can rent different motorized vehicles, such as cars, scooters or quads. However, and before you make up your mind on this solely based on your budget or personal preferences, it’s equally important to assess the topography and type of terrain you will find on the island you’re visiting, as well as your experience behind the wheel.
When looking at islands where the most popular areas are simultaneously the ones where roads have the most inclination, renting a quad or a scooter with low engine capacity might not be the way to go, since you probably won’t be able to complete the steepest roads. We should also mention that, in case you have no experience driving scooters, Greece is definitely NOT the place where you want to figure things out. Roads are narrow, visibility isn’t always the best and Greek drivers are famous for being downright reckless behind the wheel.
Plus, keep in mind it is mandatory to have a motorcycle license in order to drive any scooter over 50cc. In case you think you’d still be comfortable driving such a limited vehicle, we remind you that you will definitely struggle while trying to drive a 50cc scooter through some of these steep roads. As for quads, a regular license is enough.
That being said, if you wish to rent a scooter or a quad in the Ionians, you can check these local companies:
As for cars, you can browse for prices and availability on Rentalcars.com!
As mentioned in our intro, the Italian influence over the Ionian Islands is quite palpable, being present aesthetically, architecturally and culturally all over the archipelago. However, it doesn’t really stop there, influencing a lot of what is still eaten in the Ionian Islands today! It’s quite interesting to see how several Italian staple ingredients, such as tomato sauce, pasta, oregano and cured meats have found their way into most Ionian traditional dishes, providing a pretty different foodie experience when compared to the rest of Greece.
Want to put this theory to the test? Well, then let’s start with Pastitsada, one of the group’s most emblematic dishes, made up of beef (or chicken) pieces, cooked in tomato sauce and served with spaghetti or penne pasta. Another good sample of the islands’ Venetian heritage is the Sofrito, a steak dish where the meat is slightly coated in flour before being sauteed in a sauce of vinegar and garlic. In fact, the name of the dish itself couldn’t give it away any easier, as “sofrito” literally means sauteed in Italian! For an even more evident adaptation, you can try Bourdetto, a fish dish where the protein is also cooked in tomato sauce, and that is still served to this day in the Veneto province (whose capital is Venice), where it initially came from. Other typical delicacies, such as Patrokio (eggplant cooked in tomato sauce and smothered in cheese) or Riganada (basically the Ionian version of the bruschetta) certainly help fueling this gastronomic narrative.
As for local products and tidbits, it’s pretty much mandatory to try Noumbolo, a sort of smoked Ionian pork sausage; the lentils of Lefkada, considered some of the best in the world; and also Ladotyri, a PDO cheese from Zakynthos, which is preserved in olive oil until it’s perfectly cured. Finally, and because there’s always room for dessert, we recommend satisfying your sweet tooth with a nice slice of Amygdalopita, a Greek traditional almond cake; a Mandolato, a sugary nougat soft bar with merengue; and/or a dose of Frigadia, a local dessert whose presentation and preparation method, despite using totally different ingredients, will remind you of the Italian classic Tiramisu… which was originally created in the Veneto region! What were the odds…
As usual, we have compiled a list of lesser-known places in the Ionian Islands that are just equally as impressive as the main sights. Here are a few hidden gems you cannot miss:
So that reading and consulting this guide can remain as user-friendly as possible, we have created four different posts, one for each of the main islands’ itineraries.
You can move on and read them through the links below: