Corfu (Kerkira): The best known of the Ionian islands is Corfu, said to have been Odysseus last stop before returning home to Ithaca. One of the most cosmopolitan islands in Greece, Corfu is endowed with much natural beauty as well as history so varied due to the many different civilizations that once upon a time occupied the island. The capital of the island is Kerkira or Corfu which is built on a premonitory projecting into the sea. The town is a mass of dissimilar elements: spacious squares, narrow alleys paved with stone or as the Corfiots call these, "kantounia"; houses with strong Italian influences, Frensh arcades, Georgian mansions and many Venetian monuments.
The patron saint of the island is St. Spiridon, whose remains are kept in the lovely basilica. Places of interest to visit are: Paleokastritsa, an area with crystal clear waters, with lush greenery growing right to where the sea laps the seashore; Kanoni, located south of the town and is a very popular spot where a narrow causeway takes you to Monastery of Vlacherna, from where you can also take a small boat and go to the tiny island - Pontikonisi with its 13th century church; the Achillion which used to be the summer palace of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the last Kaiser of Germany, but which today houses the casino by night and a fascinating museum by day is well worth a visit.
Paxi: This is the smallest of the Ionian Islands, with its main town and port called Gaios. The island is so small that it is possible to walk from one end to the other. The island has many lovely beaches with little coves that lend themselves ideal for snorkeling and fishing in its crystal clear waters.
Lefkada (Lefkas): Connected to mainland Greece by a narrow bridge, it is possible to reach this island by car. Very mountainous and full of dense vegetation, Lefkada has miles of sandy beaches - at Nidri, Vassiliki and Agios Nikitas. At the most southern tip of the island is the shrine dedicated to the god Apollo, where it is also believed that the poet Sappho took her own life by flinging herself off the cliffs. Along its eastern coast there are the lovely little islets of Skorpios, Madouri and Sparti. Skorpios is the most famous as it belongs to the notorious Onassis family.
Kefalonia(Cephalonia): This island is the largest of the Ionian Islands and often described as the most "green" due its fir covered mountain Ainos(1,600mt high) and many groves throughout the island full of olive trees, orange orchards and grapevines. The capital, Argostoli, although a very old city, unfortunately does not have much to show of its past as a result of the destructive earthquake in 1953. Remains of few houses and the arched bridge across the lagoon, however can be seen. The excellent road network, enables the visitor to explore the island's many beaches such as Myrtos (with its turqoise waters and soft white sand), the beaches at Lixouri, Katelio and Scala. Fiskardo, north of the island is a picturesque harbor town, surrounded by a thick cypress forests. A few natural wonders can be seen on this island - the caves of Melissani and Drogorati, and the sea mills at Katavothres. Melissani is actually a subterranean lake with the unusual phenomenon of when the sun shines overhead and its rays hit the crystal clear waters of this lake, the light is broken up into a myriad colors.
Drogorati is a cave with amazing stalagmites. Katavothres, 2 kilometers from Argostoli offers a rare geological sight. Sea water enters openings in the rock where it disappears. Scientists have found that this water flows northeastwards underground, to come out at Melissani. Formerly this water used to travel at such a rate that it was used to power the 2 sea mills.
Ithaki (Ithaca): The island of Odysseus - a tiny, mountainous island, with lovely beaches and clear water. As Odysseus yearned to return to his home at the end of his long journies, so it is said that any visitor to Ithaki, once visited, will yearn to return. Picturesque traditional villages and harbors abound, breathtaking views of the island can be had from the bell tower of the Kathara Monastery - one can see as far as the gulf of Patras.
Zakinthos (Zante): An oblong-shaped island, the most southerly and the closest to the Peloponnese. An island full of friendly inhabitants, rich past and many sights to see. A very famous landmark that identifies Zakynthos is the Italian Renaissance church of St. Nicholas, with its Byzantine bell tower. The basilica of St. Dionysios dedicated to the patron saint of the island is also a lovely landmark. Unfortunately most of its Renaissance buildings and examples of Venetian architecture were destroyed by the earthquake of 1953, but this influence can be seen in its music, museums and some restored monuments peculiar to this island. The island is blessed with beautiful beaches, the most famous being Laganas where the sea turtle "caretta-caretta" is trying to co-exist with the tourist.
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