DESTINATION IONIAN ISLANDS
The Odysseus Destination: Ionian Islands
Western Greek Islands or Ionian Islands refers to the chain of Greek Islands stretching along the west coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea. These islands are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e. "the Seven Islands" in Greek, but the group includes many smaller islands as well as the seven principal ones. The islands are well known for their beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, architecture, charming villages and stunning scenic countryside which is verdant and flourishing with greenery and nature. Each Ionian island has a distinct character. The islands are also known by their Italian names. These islands are known to be covered with green unlike the Cyclades, which is due to rareness of rain. Historically, these islands had a common fate, especially the three major islands of Corfu, Cefalonia and Zante.
Corfu / Kerkyra Island
Temperate, multihued Corfu—of emerald mountains; turquoise waters lapping rocky coves; ocher and pink buildings; shimmering silver olive leaves; puffed red, yellow, and orange parasails; scarlet roses, bougainvillea, and lavender wisteria and jacaranda spread over cottages—could have inspired impressionism.
Kerkyra (Corfu) is certainly the lushest and, quite possibly, the loveliest of all Greek islands. Breathlessly blue waters lap rocky, pine-rimmed coves, and plants like bougainvillea, wisteria, and sweet-smelling jasmine spread over the countryside. Homer's "well-watered gardens" and "beautiful and rich land" were Odysseus's last stop on his journey home. Corfu is also said to be the inspiration for Prospero's island in Shakespeare's The Tempest. This northernmost of the major Ionian islands has, through the centuries, inspired other artists, as well as conquerors, royalty, and, of course, tourists.
Today more than a million—mainly British—tourists visit every year, and in summer they crowd the evocative capital city of Corfu Town (population 40,000). As a result, the town has a number of stylish restaurants and hotels and a sophisticated European atmosphere. The interior of Corfu, however, remains largely unspoiled, and the island has absorbed many layers of architectural history, offering an alluring mix of neoclassical villas, Venetian palazzo, pastel-painted hill towns, old farmhouses, and classy, city-sized resorts. You'll find all this plus ancient olive groves, pine-covered cliffs, and heart-stopping, beautiful vistas of sea and sky. Corfu remains an enchanting mixture of simplicity and sophistication.
The classical remains have suffered from the island's tempestuous history; architecture from the centuries of Venetian, French, and British rule is most evident, leaving Corfu and especially Corfu Town with a pleasant combination of contrasting design elements. And although it was bombed during the Italian and Nazi occupation in World War II, the town of Corfu remains one of the most charming in all of Greece.
Source: Fodor's Travel
Zante / Zakynthos Island
Zakynthos is situated to the south of Kefalonia and is reputed to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the region, surrounded by soaring cliffs and turquoise sparkling waters.
Beautiful Zakynthos, also known by its Italian name Zante, has become dominated along its southern and southeastern shoreline by heavy package tourism. Once you leave the long sandy beaches of those regions behind, however, and set off to explore the rest of the island, you'll discover plenty of forested wilderness and traditional rural villages. Some attractive lower-key bases lie just beyond the larger, run-of-the-mill resorts, including Keri and Limni Keriou in the remote southwest, and Agios Nikolaos and Cape Skinari in the far north, but it’s the spectacular scenery of the rugged west coast, where mighty limestone cliffs plummet down to unreal turquoise waters, that’s the true highlight.
Source: Lonely Planet