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Last updated : Nov 2009
Corfu, Cephalonia and Kythera
Corfu, Cephaloniaand Kythera - TravelPuppy.com
Corfu

(Igoumenitsa, 18 nautical miles.) The northernmost island of western Greece, Corfu is the best-known, busiest and most cosmopolitan of the Ionian islands. Although its natural beauty has led to extensive commercialisation along parts of the coast, visitors who arrive during spring or autumn will still find idyllic beaches, romantic landscapes studded with cypresses and olive groves, and unspoilt inland villages.

The capital, Corfu Town, is presided over by two striking Venetian fortresses and gives onto a series of pretty harbours and bays. With French, Italian and English influences evident in its architecture, it is made up of wide avenues and large squares, among them the graceful Spianada or esplanade, cobbled alleyways, arches and colonnades. Worth visiting are the Archaeological Museum, which houses finds from local excavations; the Byzantine Museum, with an excellent collection of icons; and the Museum of Asiatic Art. The Town Hall, a fine example of 17th-century Venetian architecture, and the 12th-century Byzantine Church of St Jason and Sosipater and the Church of St Spyridon are also interesting. At Kanoni, on the tip of a small peninsular south of the town, a narrow causeway leads to the much photographed Monastery of Vlacherna. From here, it is possible to take a boat to the minute island of Pondikonissi, crowned by a 13th-century church.

South of Corfu Town, at Gastouri, stands the 19th-century Achillion, the summer palace of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, surrounded by gorgeous Italian-style gardens. West of town, built into a rocky hill, lies the village of Pelekas, reputedly one of the best place to watch the sunset. Close by, the Ropa Valley (Livaditou Ropa) is home to the superb Corfu Golf Club. North of town lies the well known seaside resorts of Kassiopi, Ipsos and Sidari, the latter known for its unique rock formations and beaches, which have unfortunately been somewhat spoilt by commercial development. Northwest of Corfu Town, the fortunately unspoilt resort of Paleokastritsa offers crystal clear seawater and two wonderful sandy coves for bathing. Nearby stands Angelokastro, a 13th-century Byzantine fortress.

Corfu can be reached by ferry either from Patras (see Peloponnese section) or Igoumenitsa (on the northwest coast of mainland Greece, just south of Albania), and there are direct ferries from Italy in summer. The island’s airport offers direct flights to Athens and many other European cities.

Cephalonia

(Patras, 53 nautical miles.) Recognized as the setting of Louis de Bernières Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Cephalonia is the largest Ionian island. The mountainous scenery, culminating with the 1600m (5250ft) Mount Enos, is dramatic and the island has a high-quality network of roads.

The chief settlement, Argostoli, was ruined in the disastrous 1953 earthquake. Nevertheless, the Archaeological Museum and Folk Art Museum are both worth visiting and the nearby beaches of Makris and Platis Gialos are perfect for bathing. Inland, close to Perata, stands the 16th-century St George’s Castle (Agios Georgios), built by the Venetians. Cephalonia’s second town, Lixouri, is peaceful and old-fashioned, and a little south from here lie some of the island’s best beaches. On the northwest coast, the village of Assos is known for its charming castle. Fiskardo, the northernmost harbour, is unspoilt and has some nice beaches. On the east coast, the Cave of Melissani, noted for its astonishing colours caused by the reflection of the sun’s rays through the sea, can be visited by boat. Cephalonia can be reached by ferry from Patras. The island’s airport offers direct flights to Athens.

Kythera

(Piraeus, 28 nautical miles.) At the southeastern tip of the Peloponnese, Kythera is the southernmost Ionian island. Much loved by artists such as Watteau, it was often portrayed as a ‘Garden of Paradise’ and has some magnificent sand beaches.

Kythera Town, is a neat settlement overlooking the sea, close to the main port of Kapsali. The second port, Agia Pelagia, is the main tourist centre. At Milopotamos stand the ruins of a Byzantine town and the Cave of St Sophia, previously used as a chapel and adorned with frescoes, stalagmites and stalactites. Kythera can be reached by ferry from Monemvassia and Piraeus. During summer there are direct flights from Athens.

Lying east of the Peloponnese and southeast of the coast of Attica in the Aegean, a total of 30 islands make up the Cyclades, the best-known being Santorini and Mykonos. Other well-liked islands are Andros, Naxos, Delos, Paros and Tinos, while the small islands of the eastern Cyclades are less visited and offer only basic amenities. All of these islands can be reached by ferry from Piraeus, and several have small airports with daily fights to Athens through summer.