Ionian Islands Attractions Iónides Nisiá
The Ionian Islands, also known as the Eptánisos (Seven Islands), are strung out along the west coast of Greece from the Albanian frontier to the Peloponnese.
In this westerly situation, with more rain than most other parts of Greece, the islands have a mild climate and a luxuriant growth of vegetation, with the exception of Kythira, which lies apart from the others off the southern tip of the Peloponnese.The Ionian Sea, which was equated by ancient authors with the Adriatic and is now seen as its southern continuation, and the Ionian Islands owe their name, according to Aeschylus, to the wanderings of Io or, according to later sources, to the Illyrian hero Ionios (spelt with omicron, the short o). They have thus no connection with the Ionian Greeks (derived from Ion, with omega, the long o), who left Greece in the 11th and 10th centuries B.C. and settled on the Anatolian coast, giving this eastern Greek territory its name of Ionia.Evidence of settlement dating back to Mycenaean times has been found on the islands, but their first emergence into the light of history was in 734 B.C., when Corinth founded the city of Korkyra (later Kérkyra). In the fifth century B.C. the islands came under Athenian influence, and in the second century B.C. all of them, including Kythira, became Roman. Later they came under Byzantine rule, and in A.D. 1085 were conquered by the Normans; then in 1203-04 the Fourth Crusade brought another change of masters. The islands now fell into the hands of Italian barons, and then, one after another, came under Venetian control - Kythira in 1363, Kérkyra (thereafter known as Corfu) in 1386, Zákynthos in 1479, Kefalloniá in 1500 (after a 21-year period of Turkish rule) and finally Lefkás (which had been Turkish since 1467) in 1684.Venetian rule lasted until the fall of the Republic of St Mark in 1797. During this period the islands provided a refuge for many Greeks fleeing from the Turks, including artists from Crete who established a school of their own here; and throughout these years they enjoyed a richer cultural life than the rest of Greece.After an interlude of French rule the young "Republic of the Seven Islands" became a British protectorate in 1815. In 1864 Britain returned the islands to Greece.
Area of island: 19 sq. km/7.5 sq. miChief place: Paxí (Gáios)Paxí is a charming little island to the south of Corfu covered with subtropical vegetation, with beautiful beaches and good diving grounds.The inhabitants live mainly by farming (the local olive oil is highly esteemed) and fishing.On two islets lying off the principal port, Paxí or Gáios, are a Venetian fort and the former monastery of the Panayía (pilgrimage on August 15th).On the south coast is the Ypapantí sea-cave (seals). Off the southeast coast of Paxí are the islets of Mongonísi (causeway) and Kaltsonísi.Regular weekly service from and to Patras (cars carried); from and to Corfu (Kérkyra), several times daily (two and a half hours).If you happen to be in Paxi on August 15, you'll want to follow the faithful who gather at the Monastery of Panagia (Moní Panayiás). The festivities last all day and all night, winding up in Gáios with dancing in the main square.
Southeast of Paxí is its rocky little sister island of Antípaxi (area 6 sq. km/2.25 sq. mi; alt. 107m/351ft), which has beautiful lonely beaches. Its 100 or so inhabitants live by sheep-farming and fishing.There are boats from Paxí to Antípaxi in summer; but the island has no accommodation for visitors.
The seaside village of Láka has a small harbor in a protected bay. The homes here are brightly colored and stand out along the waterfront.
The Ekhinádes are a group of islands lying just off the coast round the mouth of the river Akhelóos, in the Ionian Sea. The principal islands in the group are Dragonéra, Petelá and Oxiá, now partly linked with the mainland as a result of silting up.In this area was fought, on October sixth 1571, the naval battle of Lepanto (= Náfpaktos), so called because the Turkish fleet was based there, in which the 26 year-old Don John of Austria, with 250 Venetian and Spanish galleys, destroyed almost 200 vessels of the Turkish fleet, which was of similar strength.
Area of island: 24 sq. km/9 sq. miChief place: KálamosKálamos, lying off the coast of Acarnania, is a hilly island of karstic terrain and steep rocky coasts, with some agriculture. The chief place, Kálamos, is on the southeast coast. To the south of Kálamos lies the island of Kastós, inhabited only by a few fishermen.Connections with Astakós and Lefkás.