Information and Tourism
It is hard not to be seduced by the beauty of the Ionian Islands. Essentially an archipelago that runs down the western side of Greece, these islands conjure up images of olive grove-covered hillsides, crystal-clear waters, pretty villages, historic fortresses and churches, and isolated coves.
If you are confused to find that some of the Ionians are known by different names, this is largely because, over the years, they have been invaded by various foreign forces. These have included the Venetians, the British and the French, all of whom have left their mark. Zakynthos, for example, is also known as Zante, and Kerkyra as Corfu.
The Ionian Islands have featured in several well-known novels. The British author Gerald Durrell wrote about Corfu in his best-selling 'My Family and Other Animals', published in 1956. Meanwhile, in 1994, Louis de Bernières set 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' in Kefalonia. In both cases, these stories helped to add new vigour to the local tourist industry.
Corfu is the best-known of the Ionian Islands. Naturally beautiful, the island's lush vegetation has attracted visitors for centuries. It is thought that Shakespeare set his play 'The Tempest' here. Nowadays, cruise liners frequently lay anchor at the main harbours, with the islands being a popular stopping off point for their passengers. Unfortunately, as is the case for many a scenic retreat, Corfu has struggled to cope with the problems associated with crowds of tourists.
A major earthquake struck the region in 1953, pretty much levelling Kefalonia. For this reason, the island's buildings are more modern than ancient, although to be frank, that doesn't take away from the sheer beauty of the place. Rugged cliffs, beautiful beaches and harbours, and the odd Roman ruin or two have all survived on this largest of the Ionian Islands.
Ithaca, by way of contrast, is one of the smallest islands. Even smaller is Paxos, which offers a gentle introduction to the Ionian Islands, with its unspoiled landscape and discreet tourist industry.
Ionian Islands Information and Fast Facts
- Country: Greece
- Main administrative centre: Corfu
- Population: approximately 245,000
- Language: Greek
- Area: 890 square miles / 2,305 square kilometres
WORLD GUIDES TO THE IONIAN ISLANDS
World Guide to Corfu, Greece
Also often referred to as 'Kerkyra', the Greek island of Corfu is the second-largest of the Ionian Islands. Corfu lies on the westerly side of mainland Greece and has countless secluded beaches, olive groves and vineyards.
World Guide to Kefalonia, Greece
The biggest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is nothing short of an exceptional Greek holiday destination. With rugged mountains, awesome sandy beaches, beautiful harbours and cliff-top views, Kefalonia is always popular in the summer.