For many people, the concept of a relaxing holiday is not to
be dependent on a car. The smaller Greek islands are therefore conducive to
chilling on foot and not slumped behind a steering wheel.
On most of the Ionian islands you can hire fibreglass boats
and larger ribs with outboard engines ranging from 30HP to twin 350HP. A
speedboat license is required for engines over 30HP.
Hiring a boat with outboard engine is a fun and to many, an
out of the ordinary way to explore an island. Distances on the Ionian islands
are not large but a few special properties have a mooring spot within a stone’s
Angelika(sleeps up to 5) is a 2-minute walk to Gaios waterfront.
The Ionian islands of Greece have some of the most
beautiful, natural coastlines and crystal clear waters in southern Europe.
The islands offer a diverse playground for both explorer and
cushioned deckchair enthusiast.
Say you are the one responsible for planning the family
holiday or for trying to get a party of friends together – say Sally wants to
escape city pressures and read a book in the shade of an olive tree; Malcolm
only has a week off and wants to experience a different island coastline each
day; Isobel just wants everyone else to be happy (especially Malcolm as he just
won’t sit still); twins Frank & Fiona can’t do boats as they fear sea
sickness; Pops and Granma want to be pampered. The Huddlestones and the
Brinkmans don’t yet know if they can join the party.
How do you choose the right compromise for everyone’s holiday
A more conventional decision might be to either book one
Greek island villa for all or one crewed yacht for all. But why not mix the two
and satisfy everyone?
Ionian Villas offers a wide selection of Ionian island properties for parties of 2 to 20. Fleewinter offer luxury crewed yachts in the Ionian for up to 10 people.
Why not spend a week in a comfy Ionian island villa to keep everyone except Malcolm happy, followed by a week on a Fleewinter yacht exploring the other Ionian islands. If Sally and the twins don’t want to join the yacht party, they can fly back home or extend their villa stay. In any case there’ll be plenty of room on board for the Huddlestones and Brinkmans.
Fleewinter’s yachts have from 3 to 5 cabins taking up to 10
and each one has a skipper and private chef.
You can get involved in the sailing or just take it easy and let the
crew do the work. Each day you decide with the crew whether to take it easy in
a beautiful bay or explore some of the villages and tavernas.
It’s a bit like having a floating luxury villa, and like all
great houses each yacht has a garage full of toys: waterskis, wakeboards, paddleboards,
windsurfers and inflatable toys that are towed behind the private
speedboat. All meals are included except
dinner where you have the option to dine onboard or head ashore to explore.
If you book a 2019 Fleewinter yacht charter through us before the end of March, a 10% price reduction will apply.
Our newsletter brings you Warm Wishes and a Few Things New for the New Year.
Our office has some new family faces. Alex’s wife, Catherine, has joined our team. Catherine (Cat) has spent three years on Paxos as a Representative for Ionian Villas and Scott Williams. She has visited the other Ionian islands and will be revisiting in May.
Alex and Cat’s son, Archie, was born last September and will be on the May familiarisation trip to the islands!
For us, 2017 was the busiest and also the longest season – May and October in the Ionian are becoming more popular for warm weather escapes from more temperamental northern European climates.
May and October are possibly the best months to explore the islands on foot. Sea water and swimming pool water can, however, be bracing in May so a stay in a private apartment (with a good sea view) on the outskirts of a port or village, is fun and economical. For example:
Mermaid Cottage on Paxos has Loggos waterfront as a doorstep and in May is £570 per week.
Katy’s Apartment on Kefalonia has Fiscardo as a doorstep and is £500 per week in May.
We have added some new Ionian properties to our 2018 programme:
Inter-island communications are improving. For 2018 there is talk of the seaplane returning to link Corfu and Paxos and possibly the other more southern Ionian islands. We have also heard that a new ferry is being operated between Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. Sky Express already operate a flight linking Corfu, Preveza (for Lefkas), Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Athens. Apart from the regular inter-island hydrofoil and ferry services it is now possible to charter a private speedboat.
We understand that an island hopping holiday may not appeal to families wanting to limit overall travel but with this new choice of transferring from one island to another it can be seen as an exciting alternative.
And if you are a couple with more flexible time on your hands – let us know if you would like us to tailor-make an Ionian Island Hopping trip for you.
Talking about flights – there’s a new BA flight from Heathrow to Kefalonia starting mid May 2018 – Tuesday and Saturday departures.
For many of us it is difficult to know what wines to sample when on holiday in Greece. The ubiquitous and often bland “house wine” poured from taverna boxes will not show off what Greece is now producing.
On Paxos there is now an opportunity to explore the tastes of the grapes, regions and wineries of Greece from the comfort of your holiday villa. Andreas stocks some excellent wines from wineries he has selected from his annual research trips (someone’s got to do it!). He has his wine shop in Lakka but with a few days notice he can bring a selection of wines to your Paxos villa. He will give you an interesting history to the making of each wine. Best to give him a few likes & dislikes so he can tailor the selection for you. Then – when you return to Paxos for your next holiday you can arrange for Andreas to deliver your favourite wines for your arrival!
We came across an interesting blog about some of the Greek grapes
New hideaway bar in Corfu Town
The Palace and gardens of Mon Repos, surrounded by hillsides of pine forest, stand above the sea on the outskirts of Corfu Town.
Mon Repos Palace was built as a summer residence for the British Lord High Commissioner of the United States of the Ionian Islands in 1828. When the Ionian islands were ceded back to Greece in 1864, the Palace became the residence of Greece’s King George 1. The Greek royal family used it as a summer residence up until King Constantine II fled the country in 1967 and the Palace was repossessed by the Greek State.
Several royal births have taken place at the villa, including those of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 10 June 1921, and Princess Alexia of Greece and Denmark on 10 July 1965.
The Palace and its gardens are now being used as an archaeological museum.
At the foot of the Palace’s forested hillside a sheltered beach, once the bathing spot for the Greek royal family, is now open to the public and has an excellent café bar and restaurant. “The Royal Baths” is close to Garitsa waterfront but its walled gardens (bordered by around 50 old-school, wooden changing huts) are a peaceful escape from the world outside – well worth a visit if you have time on Corfu.
If you feel like a return to the Ionian this year and need some ideas – call us!
If you have time – add us as a friend on Facebook and give us a Like or follow us on Instagram for some Ionian holiday inspiration!
We wish you all the very best for 2018 – may all your dreams come true!
Greeks love to celebrate, be it their birthday or name day (γιορτη), religious holidays, bank holidays or national days. Whatever the celebration – Greek people celebrate to the full, throwing themselves into the spirit of the day!
25th March in Greece is a national holiday – to celebrate the start of the Greek Uprising/the Greek Revolution/the Greek War of Independence in 1821. It also celebrates the Annunciation (Ευαγγελισμος): the day Archangel Gabriel paid a visit to Mary to inform her that she would be giving birth to the son of Christ on 25th December.
In fact 25th March is a day of three celebrations as it is also the “name day” of all those named Ευγγελος (boys) and Ευαγγελια (girls).
A day off work and school, church services in the morning to commemorate the occasion, followed by a parade through the streets of cities, towns and villages by the school children of all ages, either dressed in blue and white (national colours) or for the younger children the traditional costumes. A marching band often accompanies the parade and local characters will join in as well.
After the parade, people will make their way home to indulge in the traditional meal of Μπακαλιαπος (fried cod fish) and σκορδαλια (mashed potato and garlic). As this day also falls in the Lenten period where no meat or fish should be eaten the Orthodox church decreed an exception for the 25th March allowing the salted cod fish to be eaten.
Carnival season in Greece (“Apokries”) starts 3 weeks before Easter.
Fancy dress processions through the streets, dancing groups and music bands. Bystanders throw confetti, streamers and sometimes firecrackers.
Vathy Carnival Procession
Clean Monday (“Katheri Leftera”) marks the beginning of Lent when meat, dairy and eggs are avoided by those who observe it.
If the sun shines on Clean Monday, families picnic outside with “lagana” (an unleavened flat bread), taramosalata, shellfish and salads, followed by sticky deserts. The skies are filled with colourful kites – another part of tradition
Holiday Snaps. We are keen to add your holiday photos to our website. If you have any images, which you would like to share – please send them to us in an email.
What is happening in Greece today? The UK’s media coverage of life in Greece is often scant. Very few of us know and understand how austerity measures are affecting the Greeks. Greek Crisis is a blog dedicated to the understanding of the current Greek (but also European) economic, political and institutional crisis. It was created by Prof. Aristides Hatzis of the University of Athens, after many requests by his students seeking a source of reliable analysis on the Greek current affairs. Its aim is to post commentary and reports published mainly in the major U.S., European and Greek media and to encourage a rigorous discussion.
Walking on Paxos. Before roads were built on the islands, communication between island hamlets and villages was via a network of pathways. Many of these paths have become overgrown or the stone walls on either side have collapsed, making access difficult.
On Paxos, a hard working group of locals are clearing these paths so that eventually all parts of the island can be reached on foot. Come to Paxos in May and explore olive groves coloured by a profusion of wild flowers. 2 people staying at Olitsi Apartment 8th to 15th May would pay £225 per person for the apartment and an Easyjet flight for around £150 each.
We hope to see you again on one of the Ionian islands – do get in touch if you would like us to search for a special island escape.
Vivienne, Alex and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.
Another year goes by and despite the unrest in different parts of the world, now is a good time to make plans for one or more escapes in 2016. Our finger on the pulse of holiday bookings to the Greek islands tells us that the larger villas in August are being taken up quickly and the month of June is proving to be very popular.
I recently read, in a Sunday broadsheet, a review of travel destinations according to a “risk of terrorism” scale of 1 – 10. Many of the destinations were around the 5. I do not know where the Ionian islands of Greece would appear in this scale but I would imagine that they must be amongst the safest destinations to visit. Sitting on a terrace overlooking a still sea with the soft scratching of olive grove cicadas and just the worry of which waterfront taverna to visit later – one can’t help but detach oneself from the outside world.
I have met many people who choose not to spend a holiday on a small island because they feel that there are too many limitations – the same views, the same food, the same daily routine – boring and “uneducating”! Every year over the last 50 years I have spent on average 2 – 3 months on Paxos. There are many hidden parts of the island that I have not yet found; all the views are constantly changing with the position of the sun, the movement of the sea and silver olive trees; the food has nearly always been fresh, inspired, colourful and delicious. I love my short breaks on islands like Paxos and after each visit I feel recharged, refreshed and educated in the simple things in life, which so often pass me by in a more frenetic lifestyle back home.
For 2016 we have added a new Ionian island: Zakynthos– direct flights (Easyjet and charter) – Villa Amphitritisleeps up to 14 people and has a TV monitor showing live footage of local seals and starfish from a nearby underwater camera. We feature 10 villas and will be adding more next year.
There is a ferry service between Agios Nikolaos (North Zakynthos) and Pessada on Kefalonia – taking 1 hour. As Easyjet operates to both islands you could fly to Zakynthos for a holiday and then on to Kefalonia, flying back to UK from there.
Our other new properties are:
Small villas with pool:
On Paxos, Aspro Alogo – 1-bedroom hideaway cottage above Loggos.
On Kefalonia, Marika – a 2-bedroom villa above a sandy beach.
On our island travels we have started to take some brief videos of villa views as these are not easy to capture in a photo. It’s a learning curve for us but hopefully our filming techniques will become less shaky the more we do. Some examples can be seen on the following properties (click on “View Video”):
In 2011 Ionian Villas began with me and my wife, Vivienne. Our son, Alex, has added to his education by working on Paxos as a waiter, a boatman, a dancer, a hamper organiser, a Rep and then for the last 2 years as our Ionian Villas Paxos manager. Alex now joins us back at our Felpham (West Sussex) HQ and Dimitris Aronis becomes our new Paxos manager.
We would love to see your Ionian island photos.
Our Photo Competition offers a 1st Prize of a “10% Off” Voucher (redeemable on any of our properties in 2016) and the 2nd and 3rd Prizes are each a case of 12 bottles of Prosseco. Photos can be of any subject but in some way should give a flavour of the Ionian island. Only “Landscape” format, colour not black & white and any number of entries. We will be setting up a website page just to show a selection of these photographs so by sending us your photos you give us the authority to use each photo. We will not pass on any photo to any third party. This Blog is being sent to our Ionian Villas guests but the competition is open to anyone who has visited any of the Ionian islands.
There are now 3 different hydrofoil/ferry services between Corfu and Paxos so most morning flight departures from UK will allow Paxos clients to reach Paxos the same day. More and more of our Paxos clients are opting to take a flight departing at a “reasonable” time from UK and not at the crack of dawn and staying overnight in Corfu Town before catching an early afternoon hydrofoil to Paxos the following day.
Corfu Old Town is a fascinating mix of the old and the new. Italian and French occupations have left a legacy of beautiful architecture and there are now many excellent restaurants and bars. As an alternative to rushing over to Paxos in one day, why not choose from our selection of Corfu hotels (see below), which are all within a 5-minute taxi ride from the airport and a 10-minute taxi ride to the Paxos hydrofoil.
On most days there are fairly regular ferries between Corfu and Paxos (also hydrofoil), Kefalonia and Ithaca, Kefalonia and Zakynthos, Lefkas and Meganissi. There are also private speedboat charter services if you don’t want any waiting around at the port. Please ask us for more information.
Not Sure What to Buy Her for Christmas?
Auree Jewellery has a sparkly selection of surprisingly inexpensive ideas to show that you care. Their website also has a selection of compressed, easy-to-read travel guides including one for Paxos.
BA’s new flight to Corfu from Heathrow departs 4 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) from 2nd May to 20th September.
Whenever we fly to Corfu (and then on to Paxos and the other islands) we spend the first night in Corfu Town and quite often on the way back as well. Apart from being a beautiful town there are now many excellent restaurants and bars so a first night at one of our featured hotels (Cavalieri or Corfu Palace), dinner under grapevines at one of the nearby restaurants and catching the hydrofoil to Paxos the following morning all adds to the holiday tonic to unwind.
Many of the Paxos villa owners ask for a Monday changeover day. Monday is the busiest day for flights to Corfu and as a consequence the prices of Monday flights tend to be higher than on other days of the week. There can therefore be a price incentive to fly to Corfu on a Sunday, overnight at a Corfu hotel and then on to Paxos the following day.
Meet our Island Managers
Alex is our Paxos manager. Alex has been going to Paxos since he was 6 months old.
Karron is our Kefalonia manager. Karron lives with her family on Kefalonia.
Susan White is our Ithaca manager. You can find out more about Sue at Ithaca Concierge
Patricia Taylor is our Lefkas and Meganissi manager. Patricia has spent many years on Lefkas and can introduce you to the island’s hidden parts.
One of our managers once told me that when she was a Rep for a package holiday company on the island, she was told that their new policy was to employ the same Rep for a maximum of 2 years. It would seem that in their determination to have a fresh face they would lose the valuable local knowledge of a more experienced person.
Our managers are there to offer you all the help and advice you may need at any time but not to intrude on your holiday. The life of the island is more important to each of them than commissions earned on selling you a coach trip to an unforgettable ouzo-fuelled sunset.
The Seasons of Greece
Those of you with children at school will be restricted by school holiday dates. Good old supply and demand means that holiday prices in the peak summer season are considerably higher than in other months.
Package holiday companies will also apply a high mark-up on their holidays falling within Half Term and Bank Holidays – most of our villa owners have higher peak season prices but their end of May prices (May Bank Holiday) do not always carry this supplement.
For those of you who have more flexible dates, why not visit the Greek islands during the different seasons to vary your experience.
Spring in Greece usually arrives one month before ours. At our house on Paxos we have a 40 foot Mimosa tree and it is ablaze with sherbert-yellow blossom in early March. April normally has clear sunny days with temperatures in the late 50’s but no point in choosing a villa with a pool as the water needs longer to warm up. Greek Orthodox Easter is 12th April – a colourful event which should be experienced once in your life.
In May one can feel the days getting warmer (mid 60’s). The islands are still lush with Spring wildflowers – great for exploring on goat paths through olive groves and valleys of bracken. If you haven’t seen a Greek island valley lit up by the tiny flashing lights of fireflies on a warm May evening – shame on you!
In June the sea has a warmer, more sensuous welcome. There is a greater excuse to escape the midday sun and enjoy an afternoon siesta. Temperatures are mid 70’s. Walkers can still enjoy island exploration – as a legacy of the Venetian occupation of the Ionian islands, olive groves provide shade for many of the island goat paths.
July and August temperatures climb into the 80’s so stay close to water! You have to work a bit harder to find a deserted beach – hire a boat; pack a simple lunch of fresh bread, olive oil & garlic, feta cheese, salami, chilled retsina and baseball-sized peaches; buy more sun umbrellas than are needed – find a small deserted cove and erect all sun umbrellas to give the impression of a crowd to deter any sea invaders.
In September the sea is at its warmest and temperatures start to fall to more comfortable mid 70’s. You notice more local islanders returning to their favourite waterfront cafénions now that the busier months of tourism are over and village lifestyles become less frenetic. On Paxos a Classical Music Festival in early September is another experience not to be missed.
October has temperatures in the mid 60’s so ideal for walkers and for those looking for an escape from the crowds and a burst of sunshine and beautiful natural surroundings before the onslaught of a dank, dark British winter.
Do you like garlic?Have you tried olive oil infused with garlic? Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a small, empty water bottle and add crushed garlic. Leave for as long as possible and take with you on beach picnics to be poured over hunks of fresh bread.
“Pa amb oli” means “bread with olive oil” in Mallorquin, and it is as commonly eaten in the Balearic Islands as pa amb tomàquet is in Catalonia.
Pa ambo li Ingredients:
6 (3/4-inch thick) slices of bread (dark rye is probably best)
1 clove garlic
3 tomatoes, halved crosswise
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and immediately rub 1 side of each slice with a cut side of the garlic. Then rub the same side of each slice with the cut side of a tomato half, pressing a little to squeeze some of the pulp and seeds onto the bread. Drizzle olive oil over the tomato and sprinkle with salt. Serve while the bread is still warm and crisp. Yum.
A friend on Paxos once told me that as a young boy he caught fireflies in a jam jar to use as a lantern when walking back home through the olive groves.
There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies, or lightning bugs, and they are actually winged beetles. Typically only seen in the summertime because they thrive in warm and tropical environments, a firefly’s glowing mechanism serves several purposes.
However, the blinking patterns of the firefly’s abdomen remain a mystery, as scientists are unsure of whether the patterns are controlled by the insect’s nerve cells or oxygen supply.
Adult fireflies shine different intermittent signals to grab the attention of possible future mates. Flash patterns vary from short burst to a long continuous flashing sequence, and different firefly species have their own unique successions of light, making it easier for compatible mates to find each other.
Both male and female fireflies turn on their green lights when choosing a mate, and use their blinking lights as a means to communicate during courtship.
Fireflies appear to light up for a variety of reasons. The larvae produce short glows and are primarily active at night, even though many species are subterranean or semi-aquatic. Fireflies produce defensive steroids in their bodies that make them unpalatable to predators. Larvae use their glow as warning displays to communicate their distastefulness. As adults, many fireflies have flash patterns unique to their species and use them to identify other members of their species as well as to discriminate between members of the opposite sex. Several studies have shown that female fireflies choose mates depending upon specific male flash pattern characteristics. Higher male flash rates, as well as increased flash intensity, have been shown to be more attractive to females in two different firefly species.
Paxos Big Brother
The Genesis Taverna on Gaios waterfront have set up a live webcam – have a look to check out the weather: Paxoswebcam
Return of the Ionian Seaplane?
The hydrofoil between Corfu and Paxos takes 1 hour. I can remember when the only connection between the islands was by caique and it took up to 5 hours.
Eight years ago a Canadian company set up a seaplane service connecting Corfu, Paxos and Ithaca – the flight time between Corfu and Paxos was just 10 minutes (plus around 20 minutes to get out of the port to reach the “strip”).
It is reported that the Greek Merchant Marine Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis (try saying that after a few drinks) and Deputy Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michalis Papadopoulos recently signed a decision “paving the way for the country’s first official hydroplane on the Corfu coastline”.
The strip, which is to be operated by the island’s port authority, will be able to serve Greece’s first fleet of hydroplanes and improve connections between the islands and mainland Greece. Watch This Space.
I was once managing director of Greek Islands Club. When we had offices in Old Isleworth it meant a 2 hour drive from home in West Sussex and then a 2 hour drive back home. The M25 was my companion and pacemaker. I now look after Ionian Villas from our home in a little Dorset village and occasionally tune in to radio traffic reports to see how my companion of old is faring. Not too well by all accounts.
My wife and I travel round the Ionian islands for 3 weeks in April/May and 3 weeks in September/October. Refreshing perks of the job but also very important to give knowledgeable advice to prospective clients and to retain good personal links with all our property owners. A plate of grilled octopus by the sea beats the M25 snarl-up any day.
This May we spent Greek Easter on Paxos and then took the hydrofoil to Corfu and then a SkyExpress prop plane to Kefalonia – the ubiquitous grilled octopus at Sami port and then a 30-minute ferry to Ithaca, where we stayed at Dexa Beach House just a few steps away from the beach.
Ithaca hasn’t been tamed or compromised by tourism – it has a beautiful wild side, hidden hamlets, inquisitive locals – many with a lingering Australian or South African twang (many fled Ithaca during the civil war after the 2nd World War), a welcoming lack of coastal development and stunning views from mountain top monasteries.
Back to Kefalonia where we stayed at the superb Avra Suites – above sandy Makris Yalos beach. 5 Star accommodation with only the sound of the sea and the occasional sea bird. Memorable breakfasts procured from the owner’s garden of fruit trees, strawberry patch, vegetable garden and the magic touch of Eleni the creative chef.
Then another Sky Express plane hop of 15 minutes to Lefkas (via Preveza airport) where we stayed at Villa Yasmina – above the west coast with our own theatre of an orchestra pit of silver olives, a stage of Ionian sea and a backdrop of oooo – arrrrr sunsets.
On Lefkas’ east coast port of Nidri a ferry takes 25 minutes, passing Skorpios and other small islands, to reach the tiny island of Meganissi. We stayed at Villa Arenaria – a few paces away from a secluded beach. Vasco, the ever-smiling owner, is half Greek and half Florentine.
Sky Express then took us to Corfu where we met up with Jan Manessi, who owns The Manor House– possibly the most beautiful house in the Ionian.
Spring has sprung in the Ionian – temperatures are nudging 20 degrees. Greek Easter is late this year, May 5th – Easyjet and Ryanair April and May flights provide the perfect opportunity to see how the Ionian islanders celebrate it. Easter in Greece or “Paska” is THE most important (and loudest) celebration of the year.
For Greek Orthodox Lent, those who so wish will abstain from eating meat and dairy products for seven weeks. On Palm Sunday churchgoers are given a cross made of palm leaves and the strrets leading to village churches are strewn with palm fronds and flowers. Holy Thursday is egg dyeing day. Good Friday is a holiday and most shops and businesses are closed and restaurants do not serve meat dishes. The procession of the bier of Christ is held on Good Friday evening. Led by a band or choir the bier is normally draped in a gold cloth and decorated with fresh flowers. The procession passes the local village churches.
On the Saturday night the festivities start in each village square – an occasion for all the family. It starts with the Resurrection mass where the Priest and the Church Elders form a procession and the ceremonial candles are lit. At midnight the intoning priest is drowned out by firecrackers and fireworks. Friends, family and strangers are embraced and greeted with the words “Christos Anesti” – “Christ has risen”. After this, everybody goes home for a meal of “margueritsa” (traditionally a lamb’s innards broth) – the fast is over. If their candles are still burning, a cross is made above the doorway with the soot from the wick, to protect the house for the coming year.
Easter Sunday is the official end of Lent and the fasting turns to serious feasting. Goats and lambs are turned on garden spits from early in the morning; the family wine is brought out and the dyed, hard-boiled eggs are cracked – a similar principle to conkers, where you hit the other person’s egg and the one that breaks is the loser.