- Food & Drink
- Design & Culture
- Cars, Jets & Yachts
By Chris | December 30 2012
Whether you need relaxation or adventure, we have chosen the perfect seven-day itinerary that has it all
A small archipelago that sweeps down the west coast of Greece, the Ionian Islands have quietly become a truly elite escape from the rest of the world. Boasting some of the most spectacular landscapes to be found in Greece, this smattering of islands with their untouched beaches, mythical caves and emerald-green forests are the home of rest and relaxation for celebrities and dignitaries alike.
A luxury charter is the best way to discover the hidden gems of these isles, and our seven-day itinerary outlines our favorite spots. Starting in Corfu and winding down the coast to Zakynthos, the southernmost island, you will have plenty of time to lose yourself in the secluded coves, sleepy olive groves and the timeless charm of the Ionian sea. There are plenty of pampering opportunities along way, while those in search of adventure can enjoy the excellent windsurfing or delve into caves and underwater lakes.
Each island has its own distinct culture, colored by the region’s intriguing history. From the Venetian fortresses and cobbled plazas of Corfu and Zakynthos town, to the picturesque fishing villages of Paxos and Meganissi—the islands abound in architectural and natural wonders. Vinecovered tavernas and ancient vineyards provide gastronomic delights while there are plenty of museums, ancient monasteries and even shipwrecks just waiting to be explored.
Whether you choose to unwind in a luxury spa, investigate caves and forests or simply relax on board, you’ll soon see why these dramatic islands have inspired so many legends.
Day 1: Corfu to Paxos
Day 2: Paxos to Anti Paxos to Lefkas
Day 3: Lefkas to Meganissi to Lefkas
Day 4: Lefkas to Ithaca
Day 5: Ithaca to Kefalonia
Day 6: Kefalonia to Zakynthos
Day 7: Zakynthos and Disembark
Arrive at Ioannis Kapodistrias Airport and transfer to Gouvia Marina where your yacht awaits.
Fabled as the island that bewitched Odysseus, Corfu continues to enchant even the most seasoned traveler with its rugged mountains, gleaming olive groves and turquoise waters.
The second largest of the Ionian islands, there is plenty for the elite traveler to discover. Stroll through the labyrinthine streets and plazas of stylish Corfu Town and take in the Venetian forts and Byzantine churches of the historic Old Town, or venture inland toward the lush pine forests and hazy groves of mount Pantokrator, a popular site for horse riding. The sophisticated northeast coast is by far the most elegant part of the island and is dotted with luxury villas and spas. The small cove of Agni Bay is a must for its family-run tavernas and picturesque bay, the perfect spot to while the evening away and watch the spectacular sunset over neighboring Albania. Its stunning architecture and evergreen landscape set Corfu apart from the rest of Greece and make the ideal introduction to your luxury charter.
Style/Ambiance: The elite epicurean will delight in this gourmet treasure which nestles at the foot of mount Pantokrator, a short drive from Corfu Town.
A favorite destination for the jet set, this family-run restaurant combines fresh Ionian produce with Italian influences. Head Chef Ettore Botrini offers creative and well presented dishes such as crawfish in orange crust and sea urchin sorbet, and the signature slow-cooked pork belly with Granny Smith apple purée. Dinner is served in the burnt-orange antique courtyard with tables draped in snow-white cloth. This is a popular choice so be sure to book ahead.
Style/Ambiance: The secluded cove of Agni Bay along the northwestern shore has long attracted the A-list for its privacy and unspoilt beauty.
Surrounded by olive groves, it is home to three of Corfu’s most coveted tavernas of which Taverna Agni is considered the jewel in the crown. This traditional waterfront restaurant offers sweeping views of the postcard-perfect bay with all the rustic charm that the Ionian Islands are famous for. Arrive in style by boat or sea taxi and enjoy the simple yet expertly prepared seafood dishes such as spaghetti with mussels, shrimp and calamari, or pickled octopus that were plucked from the bay’s turquoise waters that morning. A favorite among the Corfu elite, don’t be surprised if you find yourself dining next to Steve Martin or a member of the Rothschild family.
Treatments and facilities: One of the most exclusive hotels in Corfu and set on its own private peninsula, the Elixir Beauty Spa should be your first port of call for luxuriant pampering.
The spa’s star treatments include facials from the world-renowned cosmetics house Carita & Payot along with its signature Elixir Spa therapies and aromatherapy massages. As well as an indoor pool and sauna, the beauty center offers exceptional salon treatments to make you feel like a Greek goddess from head to toe. The gym facilities are first class and include floor-length glass walls with spectacular views.
Signature treatments: Thalassotherapy, Body & Soul Elixirs, Payot Facials and Body Treatments, Hot Chocolate Treatments.
Mrs Evaggelou, Public Relations Manager
+30 26610 88400
Tzavros, Kommeno, Corfu, 49100, Greece
Treatments and facilities: You will find the Grecotel Daphnila Bay Thalasso Hotel perched amid the cool pines above Dassia Bay just north of Corfu Town.
The superb Elixir Thalasso Spa is the pride of this hotel and offers a range of luxurious treatments paired with breathtaking views of the bay and beyond. Thalasso treatments include natural therapies based on local Greek herbs, flowers and honey as well as mineral and seaweed therapies that take full advantage of the revitalizing riches of the Ionian sea. As well as a pool that boasts a wild-water corridor, cannons and bubble seats, you’ll find a Swimmex pool, whirlpool, Jacuzzi, hydrotherapy room, sauna, hammam and steam room decorated in marble and Greek mosaics. The fitness center is also state of the art.
Signature treatments: Thalassotherapy, Body & Soul Elixirs, Payot Facials and Body treatments, Hot Chocolate Treatments.
Mrs Georgiadi, Public Relations Manager
+30 26610 90320
Dassia, Corfu, 49100, Greece
A maze of winding cobbled alleyways and charming piazzas, Corfu’s Old Town has its roots in Roman times and radiates old-world charm.
This UNESCO heritage site is a colorful mix of Venetian, neoclassical buildings, Byzantine churches and Parisian arcades—each a legacy of its previous rulers. Guarded by three fortresses, it boasts a multitude of architectural wonders in delicate shades of pink and ochre, as well as one of the largest squares in Europe, the Esplanade. The 16th century Church of St. Spyridon is one of the town’s top landmarks and you can often hear its bells peeling out across the rooftops. Don’t miss the Archaeological Museum which houses a fine collection of ancient artifacts including the Gorgon Medusa from the Temple of Artemis. Make sure to stop for coffee under the shade of the iconic Liston arcade—modeled on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, its terraces are lined with stylish cafés.
Lovers of myth and legend should take a trip to the elegant Achillion Palace.
Tucked away on the coast just south of Corfu Town, this 19th century neoclassical palace was originally commissioned by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria as a retreat from stifling Habsburg court life and was later owned by Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Empress, a lover of solitude, was said to adore Greek mythology and named the palace after her favorite Greek hero, Achilles. The palace was famously used as a set for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only and elite travelers can hold their own private gala dinner within its grounds. Wander amid the palace gardens which are peppered with statues of Greek gods. Seek out the bronze statue of Dying Achilles—by far the most impressive.
Founded in 1989 by Marie Dragonea, Mezzo Mezzo was one of the first luxury fashion boutiques in Corfu.
Located in the historical center of Corfu, this elegant boutique exudes an atmosphere of laid-back luxury with sophisticated interiors in muted tones simply decorated with white rocks and seashells. The collection includes a mix of elite international designers such as Michael Kors, Diane Von Furstenberg and Vivienne Westwood along with select native brands. Each item in the collection is handpicked by Marie, and she has provided custom to, among others, Lalla Salma, Princess of Morocco, and Russian retail mogul Alexander Tarantsev and his supermodel wife Yulia Vizgalina.
+30 69472 60497
38 Nikiforou Street, Corfu, 49100
There are a number of stylish bars in Corfu Town and Gouvia Marina but none offer a more impressive setting than the Cavalieri Hotel’s rooftop bar.
Once home to a 17th century nobleman, the Cavalieri Hotel was among the first luxury hotels to open on the island and exudes a stately elegance. Decorated in a country house style with black and white marble flooring, the hotel interior gives an air of faded glamour. Its rooftop bar provides the finest views over Corfu from its privileged position in the heart of the Venetian Old Town. From its patio terrace you can appreciate the island’s lush green hills and the beauty of the Ionian Sea which stretches out beyond. Take in the fabulous view for the Old Fortress and watch the sun go down over mainland Greece and the mountains of Albania.
+30 26610 39041
Capodistisou Street 4, 49100, Corfu
34 nautical miles
The picturesque journey from Corfu south to Paxos is an ideal way to begin your tour of the Ionian—you may be lucky enough to spot wild dolphins that often frolic near boats making the journey.
Just seven miles long and two miles wide, Paxos is a stunning small island covered in olive groves which produce some of the world’s finest olive oil. The soaring limestone cliffs of the west coast have been shaved into monolithic rock formations by the open sea and are pockmarked with caves, while the east coast is adorned with a necklace of untouched white pebble beaches and coves. There are three main villages on the island, each with their own photogenic horseshoe bays and warm harborside tavernas. Lakka in the north is famed for its startling aquamarine waters and the striking Kastanitha cave lies close by, while Loggos is the prettiest of the three with its traditional harbor filled with hand-painted fishing boats. The crystal clear sea and sheltered beaches on the east coast are perfect for snorkeling and watersports should you wish to take a dip. End your day in the main harbor of Gaois to the south and soak up the atmosphere of its wonderful cafés and traditional village stores.
Paxos is an island blessed with natural beauty and is ideal for short hikes.
The summer months see the land come alive with wildflowers and butterflies, while fireflies illuminate the olive groves in the month of May. Inland there are countless sleepy hamlets to explore, as well as the ruins of some 60 churches dating back to the 6th century. Lakka is perfectly situated for some fine walks to the island’s old lighthouse, though the best walks are along the Erimitis cliffs along the west coast. These sheer 500-foot cliffs are home to a wealth of bird life and offer stunning sunsets. Erimitis Taverna, known locally as the sunset bar, is a popular traditional taverna from which to enjoy the view as the cliffs transform from chalk white to a rosy hue of pink and gold.
34 nautical miles
As you coast south towards Lefkas you’ll pass the quiet, picturesque island of Anti Paxos.
Only accessible by boat, this gem of an island is home to two of the finest beaches in Europe but remains virtually untouched by tourism, with sea taxis only occasionally flitting back and forth between Gaios harbor on Paxos. The pearl-white sands of Virka and Voutoumi beach offer a welcome change to the pebbled beaches of Corfu and Paxos, complemented perfectly by the indigo sea and a garland of cliff tops. Life here is lived at a relaxed pace but you can stop for lunch at one of the handful of welcoming tavernas scattered along the waterfront. Adorned with olive groves and fruit orchards, the island is a natural haven and ideal for exploring by foot. Visit in the summer months and you will find nothing but donkey tracks and the ground carpeted with wildflowers.
After the tranquility of Anti Paxos, your next port of call is the colorful town of Lefkas. Because of its connection to the mainland, Lefkas Town is often lively. Devastated by an earthquake in 1948, much of the town has been rebuilt in timber and metal in a startling array of yellows, greens and blues. Serpentine lanes filled with tavernas, shops and bars make this a town full of life and character. The island of Lefkas has a wealth of beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls, sea caves and ancient monasteries to explore and discover.
Style/Ambiance: Tucked along the cobbled streets of Lefkas Town behind the church of Agios Spyridon, this traditional restaurant is hailed as the oldest and most popular taverna on the island.
Warm, friendly service and hearty local cuisine is the order of the day at this local favorite. The Regantos family has been serving its delicious char grilled fish dishes with creative flair for decades. Sample homemade Greek classics such as moussaka, stuffed tomatoes and giouvetsi as well as a number of fresh salads and endless appetizers. Sip local wine on one of the timeworn wooden tables that line the restaurant’s colorful Venetian façade and enjoy live music under the lamplight.
+30 26450 22855
Lefkada Town, Lefkas
Treatments and facilities: This luxury hotel on the eastern shore of Lefkas offers sensational views of Nikiana bay as it slopes down towards the sea.
The spa comes complete with a heated pool and Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and a first-class fitness center. Enjoy the sweeping views as you indulge in a candlelit massage under the velvety Ionian sky.
Signature treatments: Facials and massages.
Beaches beckon from every corner of Lefkas island but for lovers of watersports Vasiliki Beach in the south should be your number one destination.
This crescent of shingle ringed by forest is whipped up by strong cross winds that make it a paradise for windsurfing and kitesurfing—it is lauded as one of the top beaches for these sports in the world. Whether you want to take to the waves or prefer to watch from the comfort of your deck, the sight of the surfers skidding across the bay is something to behold.
There are a number of notable monasteries on the island but Faneroméni monastery makes an easy and picturesque trip from Lefkas Town.
Huddled in the shade atop a pine clad hill just to the west of town, this picture-postcard monastery boasts sweeping views. The museum is a major ecclesiastical attraction and boasts a collection of rare Byzantine icons, manuscripts and gospels which date back to the 15th century. The chapel is adorned with beautiful stained-glass windows and murals.
23 nautical miles
Towards the southeast of Lefkas, the island of Meganissi makes an idyllic day trip from Lefkas Town.
The largest of the four satellite islands that cluster around Lefkas, Meganissi is one of the lesser-known treasures of the Ionian. Timeless and serene, it exudes the laid-back charm that makes the Ionian Islands so appealing. Stop for coffee in Vathi, the island’s stunning main port which has a sprinkling of pastel colored tavernas and cafés along its waterfront. Then take a stroll through the hazy groves and cool pinewoods before heading to one of the beautiful unspoilt beaches. The white-shingle bay of Spillia is a favorite choice but there are many secluded coves and sandy inlets to discover. The crystalline waters that await are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. As you pass along the coast on your way back to Lefkas Town, make sure to spot Skorpios island which belongs to the Onassis clan—it is here Aristotle Onassis wooed and wed Jackie Kennedy.
34 nautical miles
Widely acknowledged as Odysseus’s homeland, the mythical island of Ithaca holds a number of mysteries and legends to its name.
Thought to have been inhabited since prehistoric times, the island is filled with wooded mountains with shady footpaths and along its jagged coast are deep caves just waiting to be explored. The horseshoe port of Vathy, the island’s capital, is relaxed and rustic and the island abounds with quiet, picturesque hamlets. Kioni is one of the few villages that survived the 1953 earthquake unscathed, and is worth a visit for its iconic windmills and tiled, whitewashed houses.
Style/Ambiance: Should you wish to venture inland then this charming restaurant offers a fabulous selection of homemade Greek cuisine.
Set within the picturesque mountain village of Stavros, it provides a truly authentic taste of traditional island life. The old peach-colored Venetian building is draped with vines and adds to the restaurant’s rustic appeal. Dine on classic dishes such as the slow-cooked lamb or mousakka under the shade of hanging vines and lemon trees in the restaurant’s courtyard, which is peppered with antique pots. There is also a great selection of vegetarian options available and the service is warm and friendly.
+30 26740 31794
10 nautical miles
Rugged forests, wild mountains and spectacular caves—Kefalonia is rich in natural wonders.
The largest island in the Ionians, it was hailed as one of the most idyllic places to live by Forbes and its beauty was immortalized in the Louis de Berniere’s novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Swathed in cypress trees, the northern village of Fiscardo has long been favored by the A-list thanks to the Venetian harbor with its pastel-hued cafés. Spend the evening sampling the delicious fresh fish dishes from one of the many tavernas around town. Kefalonia’s west coast is one of the most beautiful in the Ionian, and is a delight to explore by boat. Make sure to spend some time on the pristine shores of Myrtos, one of the Mediterranean’s finest beaches famed for its brilliant turquoise water. Explore the heights of Mount Ainos on horseback or wonder the southern beaches and look out for the endangered loggerhead turtle.
Style/Ambiance: A stroll along the seafront and through the alleyways of Fiscardo will reveal a number of hidden restaurants and tavernas.
Tassia is one of the longest running restaurants on the island and names Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg as some of its patrons. Opened in 1972, this traditional family-run restaurant has a reputation for serving some of the best homemade Greek dishes on the island. Head Chef Tassia took the reins from her parents and has continued to celebrate their passion for Kefalonian cuisine. Expect dishes made from only the best local ingredients such as salads dressed with figs, almonds and honey, lamb lagoto with a wine and mustard sauce and their signature Kefalonian veal and beef pie. The delicious fare is complemented by an extensive wine list including a number of Kefalonian wines.
Athanasia Dendrinou, Restaurant Manager
+30 26740 41205
Cuisine: Greek and Mediterranean
Style/Ambiance: After unwinding in the hotel’s gorgeous spa, why not indulge in the fine culinary fare on offer at Votsalo, the Emelisse Hotel’s gourmet restaurant.
The hotel’s chic design in muted tones of coffee and cream paired with superb service make Votsalo the perfect setting for a sophisticated lunch or dinner. The à la carte menu combines traditional Greek and imaginative Mediterranean dishes made with fresh local ingredients unique to the island. In the evening, enjoy the mesmerizing sunset over the Ionian Sea as you dine by candlelight under the stars.
Michael Miliadis, Head Chef
+30 26740 41200
Emplisis Bay, Fiscardo, Kefalonia, 28084
Treatments and facilities: Hidden among cedars and cypress trees above Emplisis Bay, this stylish boutique hotel is one of the top hotels on the island and offers a range of treatments within the beautiful modern interior.
Signature treatments: A wide array of Elemis facials and rituals await, including the Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow and deep cleansing seaweed wraps. Other treatments include a deep tissue massage, aromatherapy massage and reflexology.
These staggering caves are one of the Ionians’ top tourist attractions and a wonder of the natural world.
The huge Drogarati cave is believed to be more than a million years old and is dripping with stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over the millennia. The platform of rock named the Royal Balcony makes the perfect setting from which to view an opera or classical music performance that are held in the cavernous Chamber of Exhaltation below. The jewel in the crown of this subterranean world is the underground lake of Melissani. According to legend the cave was once the sanctuary of the god Pan. It is best viewed in the early morning when the light hits the dark turquoise water and transforms the lake into a kaleidoscope of colors.
Set within a secluded horse-shoe bay, this small, traditional village is one of the most beautiful on the island and is well worth the short, picturesque journey along the southwest coast from Fiscardo.
Its narrow streets are lined with charming apricot-colored buildings with flower-filled balconies and hanging vines. There are a number of excellent tavernas, nestled on the quay beside the pale green water. The village is dominated by the ruins of a 16th century Venetian castle, now listed as a European Heritage Site, which sits on a hill connected to the village by a thin strip of land. The castle is a great setting for a romantic stroll and is the perfect spot from which to admire the spectacular panorama over the bay.
One of the oldest boutique wineries in the country, Gentilini is famed for its exquisite, handcrafted wines which take advantage of the unique aromas and flavors that the Kefalonian landscape provides.
Hugging the low slopes of Mount Ainos and overlooking the Ionian Sea, the winery offers sublime views beneath its shaded vines. Enjoy a personal VIP tour of the estate from husband and wife duo Petros and Marianna, followed by an exclusive tasting of limited edition wines including the rare Robola vintage and specialty Syrah red, of which only two barrels are made a year. Tastings take place amid the estate’s glorious gardens, accompanied by a cheese platter and some of Gentilini’s extra-virgin olive oil.
+30 69327 18730
Minies, 28100, Kefalonia
Perched amid acres of native cypress and cedar trees along Kefalonia’s rugged coast, and just a stone’s throw from Fiscardo harbor, this chic bar offers an idyllic setting to while away an evening.
Relax and watch the sun sink below the hotel’s magnificent infinity pool as you sip on a glass of fine Kefalonian Robola wine or one of the delicious cocktails on offer. Small delicacies from all over Greece are served and there is also an open air cinema to enjoy. At night, soft lamps and candlelight lend the bar a romantic atmosphere.
40 nautical miles
One of the most visited islands in the Ionian, the island of Zakynthos— often called Zante—represents the finale of your luxury charter.
Your crew will prepare a tender for your final departure as there are no marinas that accommodate superyachts on the island. Its rugged coastline, lush valleys and cobalt sea are heightened by clean beaches and an unfathomable number of sea caves. Adventurers will relish the chance to explore shipwrecks and deep, underwater realms, or roam the green plains and hills on horseback. For those in search of long stretches of golden sand, the small village of Vasilikos on the southern peninsula is renowned for its beautiful beaches. Head to Zakynthos Town to enjoy the many museums and sample the boutiques of Alexander Street. Seek out, too, the Church of St. Dionysios, the island’s patron saint.
Leaving the best until last on your seven-day trip, the Blue Caves on the west coast of Zakynthos are one of the highlights of the Ionian.
Here the sea has been slowly whittling one of its masterpieces, cutting deep into the white cliffs to create these iconic arches. Since they are only accessible by boat the caves make an ideal stopover for your charter. Perhaps the best way to enjoy their majesty is to explore by sea kayak or underwater with oxygen—the crystal clear water means you can trace the crevices beneath the surface. Make sure you visit at either sunrise or sunset, when the sun’s rays add to the surreal and magical atmosphere by illuminating the water in tones of sapphire.
A trip to Zakynthos would not be complete without a visit to the iconic Navagio beach—or Shipwreck Beach as it has come to be known— which nestles in a sheltered cove on the northwest coast.
This sliver of startlingly white shoreline, hemmed in on both sides by soaring cliffs and lapped by a sky-blue sea, is perhaps the most famous beach in all of Greece. The skeletal remains of the wooden ship that lies half claimed by the sand conjures tales of smugglers and buried treasure and has made the site one of the country’s most photographed beaches. It is only reachable by boat so make sure to include it in your tour of the island.
A visit to this iconic site, one of the most celebrated attractions in Greece, is well worth the trip if you have the time.
Just an hour away by helicopter, Olympia is famed worldwide as the site of the original Olympic Games, believed to be held in ancient Greece around the 8th century BC. Originally a sacred sanctuary used to pay homage to Zeus, Olympia abounds in archaeological treasures. Today the ruins of temples, theaters, altars and shrines lie peacefully shrouded beneath oak and pine trees, hinting at the majesty of this once glorious civilization. The Temple of Zeus once housed a statue of the Greek god in ivory and gold, and was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. But most impressive is the Olympic stadium where a crowd of 50,000 would watch the events unfold under the Grecian sun. Not to be missed is the Archaeological Museum which chronicles the long history of the games and is one of the most important museums in Greece.
After the earthquake of 1953 devastated many of the ancient churches and monasteries of Kephalonia, many important art works, frescos and icons were rescued from the rubble.
The Byzantine Museum was born from a collection of those pieces and today is one of the finest collections of Byzantine ecclesiastical art in Greece. Housed within an elegant neoclassical building on the main square of Zakynthos Town, the museum includes an extensive sculpture collection that dates from Hellenic and Byzantine times, as well as Nikolaos Kantounes’s 15th century work, Christ’s Descent from the Cross.
+30 26950 42714
Plateia Solomou, Zakynthos Town, Zakynthos