Written by Missy Johnston
Fly into the island of Zakynthos from Athens on a domestic flight and board your yacht in Zakynthos. The island of Zakynthos receives a large amount of rainfall each year resulting in rich green vegetation covering the island and a strong agricultural economy producing export goods, which includes olives and olive oils, grapes, citrus fruits, and the Zakynthos small and very sweet seedless currant called the Zante Currant. While exploring the island, enjoy the various scents in the wind and the bounty of local nature served up in the various local tavernas and try the rich sweet desert wine made from the Zante Currant.
Zakynthos just like the other Ionian Islands, spent 6 centuries under Venetian rule. However, Zakynthos also suffered two large earthquakes in recent history, one in 1953 and one in 2006, and unfortunately, much of the architecture left as a mark over the centuries from various civilizations was destroyed. Many of the buildings now have been built in this and the last century, however nothing can obliterate the beauty of the beaches, and waters surrounding Zakynthos.
Along the west coast of Zakynthos are the Blue Caves and rock arches which have been eroded into the cliff sides by winds and seas. Only able to be visited by boat, this is a great area to explore in the ship’s tender threading through the various arches and cave areas over the dark blue waters that are highlighted in various shades of blue and green by the sunlight piercing through the rock formations and dappling along the surface of the water. After boarding, head to this area to have lunch on anchor and enjoy swimming and water sports. After lunch, jump in the ship’s tender and head to the caves and grottos the explore and see the lovely different shades of blue and green that the sunlight colors the water.
Later in the afternoon cruise to the northwestern side of the island after the day trippers have left this lovely anchorage. One of the most photographed bays and beaches on Zakynthos is Navigio, on the northwestern side of the island, also known as Shipwreck Bay. Anchor in the bay, surrounded by a tableau of white limestone cliffs, and white sand lapped by crystal clear waters reflecting the sun. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the waters wading ashore to spend time on the white sandy beach. This is a perfect location for a beach barbecue dinner.
Kefalonia Assos Village
Cruise to Kefalonia which is the largest island and is covered with green forests offering beautiful walks and great hiking. Kefalonian wines are unlike those of the rest of Greece due to the introduction of the Robola grape in the 13th century, so be sure to try local wines at the village taverna. The archetypical fishing village of Fiskardo is popular with visiting yachts. Unfortunately, the other towns on Kefalonia were all leveled in the earthquake of 1953 and Fiskardo is the only town left on the island that displays the traditional Greek island fishing village feel. Kefalonia is an island to visit to enjoy the natural green beauty as surrounded by beautiful clear azure waters. There are many coves and anchorages to enjoy around the island, and to perhaps enjoy in total isolation, with no other yacht in sight. Overnight
Cruise into the Bay of Corinth to the modern port of Itea, which is a 10 mile van ride from ancient Delphi. Have a tour of Delphi with a private guide. Dating from around 500 BC, and in Greek Mythology said to have been founded by Zeus, Delphi is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the south-western side of Mount Parnassus, Delphi was a very important site in Ancient History for here was located the Oracle of Delphi in the Sanctuary of Apollo. Delphi was the site, every four years, of the Pythian Games, one of the precursors to the Olympics. The Oracle of Delphi was consulted by every great Greek Ruler before undertaking any significant action. Felt to have been the result of the Oracle, a local woman of unquestionable birth, breathing a vapor released through a chasm, enhanced by chewing and breathing the smoke of burnt Oleander, the Oracle would go into a trance, or fit and make statements, all of which were translated by Apollo Temple Priests. In 83 BC, an earthquake damaged the chasm, perhaps closing the chasm which stopped the release of vapors from deep inside the earth, and Delphi began to decay with a brief respite in the 2nd century AD under the rule of Hadrian until Christianity dominated. This is an extensive site which includes an Archeological Museum. Guides can be arranged for additional cost if wanted.
For any Historians in the group, also in Delphi, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the monastery of Hosios Loukas, considered one of the most important Monasteries of the Byzantine Period.
Cruise later in the afternoon to Ithaka. Ithaca town is a small, hospitable place full of Homerian history and coves with crystal-clear water. Generally, felt to be the Ithaca island named by Homer as the home of Odysseus, Ithaki is a small quiet traditional island where villagers still gather at the local tavernas and life moves at a slow island pace. Enjoy the beautiful coves for an afternoon of relaxation and water fun. As the sun sets, head into Ithaca Town to explore and perhaps have ouzo and octopus at a local Taverna, a daily event at 5:00pm. This is an excellent island to enjoy a traditional Greek Taverna for dinner as well, as the Taverna is the heart of local Greek Life. Overnight.
In the morning cruise to the Ionian Island of Paxos, a major producer of fine olive oil with some olive tree orchards dating back to the Venetian occupation (1204-1550). Seven spectacular caves on the western coast include Ipapanti, Homer’s cave. This is a great location to explore by ships tender and “gunkhole” in and out of the various sea caves and grottos. And is also a great photo opportunity to take photos of lovely water colors throughout the caves.
After exploring the caves cruise north to Gaios, the capital of Paxos, a picturesque village built around a port which is protected by two small islands Agios Nikolas and Panagia. On the Northern side of the harbor is the village of Lakka and on the east side is the very charming village of Loggos. You will find the pace is still unhurried, very relaxing with genuine friendly Greek hospitality at its best. Paxos Island over all, has a permanent population of approximately 2,300 inhabitants. Overnight.
Corfu Venetian Fortress
In the morning cruise to the most northern Ionian Island of Corfu. Anchor between Kanoni and Mouse Island on the tip of a small peninsula south of Corfu’s town center to visit the much photographed Monastery of Vlachema.
Corfu is the most fought-over, romantic and cosmopolitan of all the Ionian Islands. Homer tells us Odysseus found shelter in Corfu at the end of his wanderings. Corfu Town is presided over by two imposing Venetian fortresses and Renaissance-style city squares. Enjoy its museums and the sound and light show at the old fort.
Visit the tiny island of Pondikonissi, crowned by a 13th Century church. There are many anchorages to explore around this island and the additional little islets. Either spend the day enjoying the many anchorages around Corfu for water fun, sunning and water sports, coming into Corfu Town for night life to overnight, or see have lunch on anchor with swimming, coming Corfu Town and the sights during the afternoon and find a lovely anchorage later in the afternoon to again have a refreshing swim and spend the night in quiet solitude with dinner on board on deck under the stars. Overnight.
Cruise to Antipaxos Island to spend the day relaxing. Antipaxos Island is said to have two of the finest sand beaches in Greece. One of the best of these beaches is Voutoumi beach. Tucked behind the beach is an excellent taverna serving local dishes and with a good selection of fresh fish. Take a walk back from the beach into the interior among orchards of fruit trees, vineyards and carpets of wildflowers. Overnight
Navigate the ancient Levkas Canal and cruise to Meganisi Island, a little remote island rarely visited by anyone where traditional village island life flourishes. Close by is Skorpios, once the private island of the Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis. Meganisi is a very green island covered with pine and olive trees. According to legend, it is on this island where the cave is located where the cyclopse that was blinded by Ulysses lived. Truer to fact, is that during WWII, the Greek submarine “Papanikolis” was successfully hidden in a big cave on the western shores of the island, which cave can be visited by ship’s tender. Anchor and enjoy lunch.
After lunch, cruise to the island of Lefkada and enter the charming harbor, named for the white cliff from which Sappho supposedly flung herself in the 6th century B.C. Shops around the harbor in this island village sell traditional lace. Despite being connected to the mainland of Greece by a causeway/bridge, this very green island remains unspoiled. Anchor off Egremni, a couple of miles south of Athani, a beautiful long, sandy beach and backed by sheer white cliffs. This is a beach more easily accessed by private yacht, as by land there are 355 steps to climb down and then back up cut into the cliff side. The water in this bay is impossibly beautiful reflected against the white cliffs.
The area of Sfakiotes on the island has seven very traditional settlements where within, and along the roads between traditional life continues. Here is an area of age-old olive groves, ancient wells, ruined watermills, crumbling campaniles, and very welcoming locals, usually dressed in traditional garb. Overnight.
In the morning cruise back to Kefalonia to disembark.