Total distance: 130 nautical miles
- Day 1: Lefkas → Atherinos (13 miles)
- Day 2: Atherinos → Frikes → Vathy (28 miles)
- Day 3: Vathy → Pera Pigadi → Agia Efimia (20 miles)
- Day 4: Agia Efimia → Pólis Beach → Fiskardo (16 miles)
- Day 5: Fiskardo → Alaties → Asos (10 miles)
- Day 6: Asos → Afales → Spartochṓri (19 miles)
- Day 7: Spartochṓri → Skorpios → Lefkas (14 miles)
This is the account of the cruise that we took between 5 May and 11 May 2019 in the Ionian islands departing from Lefkas, with a group of 9 friends on ASTRO, a Sun Odyssey 509 rented with Filovent. This cruise has been the chance to discover lush nature and to enjoy quiet anchorages in mountainous islands. The itinerary that I’m about to share with you started in Lefkas (you can also say Leucade in French), the principal departure base in the Ionian sea, with Corfu. To get there, we landed at Athens airport from Paris, then rented a car to take us to Lefkas. Following this very exotic route, you will cross the magnificent Corinth Canal (a trench dug out of the rock at the end of the 19th century, linking the Ionian sea and the Aegean sea) and go along the large Gulf of Patras before reaching the green West coast. If not, you have two alternatives: 1) land at the small regional airport of Preveza (Aktion) but watch out, there are no direct flights from France (stopovers in Germany or in central Europe), and 2) land in Corfu, take the ferry for Igoumenítsa then take a transfer to Lefkas.
The itinerary that we followed did not require long sails. It is perfectly suitable for a family cruise because the sea there is calmer than in the other sailing regions in Greece. In total, we travelled around 130 miles (210 km), which was an average of around 19 miles a day, 3 to 4 hours' of sailing per day. It was also possible to return to Zante, but we preferred to explore the island of Kefalonia in depth during our cruise. If you decide to do the crossing up to Zante, I advise you to go back in low season (in May or in September) because “Shipwreck Bay" is very popular with tourists.
Regarding the weather, the sun shone nearly every day, and we sailed on a calm sea with a few windy episodes, particularly during stopovers on the East part of the island of Kefalonia. Bear in mind that the winds are frequent in the Ionian islands with a thermal breeze in summer. Blowing mainly from the North-West towards the continent, the wind rarely exceeded force 4 (18 knots, 30 km/h).
If you don’t have time to read this sailing itinerary in detail, here are the main places of interest that I recall:
- The lush mountains of the island of Kefalonia, which is the biggest and most mountainous of the Ionian islands. "Melissani Cave" and the village of Asos are the two great unmissable destinations.
- Visit to the island of Ithaca in the footsteps of Ulysses with an athletic hike and a stopover in the port of Frikes.
- “Shipwreck Bay" on the island of Zante. I advise you, however, not to go there in summer because it’s overwhelmed by tourists, and you can’t approach and anchor your sailing boat.
- The small island of Meganisi and its many protected coves in the East. You’ll appreciate the lack of crowds even in summer as well as the quiet villages and the rocky beaches.
Day 1: Lefkas → Atherinos (13 miles, 2 to 3 hours' of sailing depending on the departure port)
After the inventory and taking possession of the boat with the chief operator, we set sail and left Lefkas on Saturday at the end of the afternoon. We set sail towards the island of Meganisi once we were outside the channel. We arrived in Atherinos at the start of evening. It's a charming peaceful bay where we decided to spend the night, anchored near the bank in the Southernmost corner. The water was very clear with sandy bottoms. We went to the famous "Niagas taverna" for a drink to start this cruise on a good note! We went back to the boat at 11:00 pm and spent a first peaceful, moonlit night.
Day 2: Atherinos → Frikes → Vathy (19 miles, 4 hours; then 9 miles, 2 hours)
We got up in the middle of the morning, and set sail for the island of Ulysses: Ithaca. After a long crossing of 4 hours’ sailing we arrived at last in the bay of Marmagkas in Ithaca. We moored with difficulty at the dock due to a strong wind which obliged us to use the bow propeller. Once we set foot on land, our crew set off on a long trip with the aim of climbing the summit to be able to admire the Ionian islands. The sun was very strong, so we took the opportunity to make a stop in a restaurant in Stavros and to taste the famous Greek yoghurt full of fruit! We then came across on a map retracing the Odyssey of Ulysses in the Mediterranean sea. Gradually during our ascent, there were more and more ruins and the vegetation became denser. Finally, we reached the summit of the island with our reward being a breath-taking view sof the turquoise waters of the Ionian sea.
The descent to reach the boat was rapid and we immediately resumed our route to return to Friskes. Our goal was to reach this charming anchorage before sunset. Mission accomplished! We arrived at around 6:00 pm and went back to the mainland for dinner at the "Rementzo", the chance to enjoy a very hearty moussaka. With full stomachs we returned to the ASTRO to undertake the last sail of the day in the direction of Vathy. We arrived in the port at around 11:00 pm. It was the chance to have a proper shower and to enjoy the comfort of the port.
Day 3: Vathy → Pera Pigadi → Agia Efimia (7 miles, 1 hour 30; then 13 miles, 2 hours 30)
The crew was awoken by the bells at 9:30 am! Some crew members set foot on land via the dinghy to purchase bread, croissants, fruits and vegetables, a quick visit to Vathy then we left in the direction of the South of Ithaca to the beach of Pera Pigadi. It's a lovely anchorage with turquoise water, we swam in a turquoise sea (we didn’t encounter any jellyfish during our cruise in Greece). It was fantastic! We then lunched on-board to gather our strength while the wind got up again. We set sail in the direction of the island of Kefalonia. We decided to make a stop near Sami. Our captain, Thierry, stayed on-board while the rest of the crew made for land on-board the dinghy, in order to visit “Melissani Cave"! This underground space is one of the most famous geological formations in Greece. The sun’s rays enter the cave from above thanks to an opening located around 30 metres high, it’s a striking sight! We crossed the cave with the help of a rowing boat which took us into the two halls. After returning to the ASTRO, we made the most of the wind to reach the headlands at 10 knots, and we arrived in the marina of Agia Efimia at the end of the afternoon. There was a space left at the dock but with no mooring line. The same evening we dined at "The local bar", a restaurant opposite the sea which serves very good fish! We went back to the ASTRO at 10:00 pm for a last drink before going to sleep in the cabins.
Day 4: Agia Efimia → Beach of Pólis → Fiskardo (12 miles, 2 hours; then 4 miles, 45 minutes)
The next day, we left the marina at 9:00 am to return to Pólis beach on Ithaca. We dropped our anchor a stone’s throw from the beach, 7 meters deep. The bolder ones reached the beach by swimming. For the others, the trip was made in the dinghy! It was the start of a lazy session for those who wanted to spend a peaceful afternoon. The strangest ones are in the sacred cave of Pólis. The latter houses statues, objects and other offerings historically dedicated to the worship of the Greek gods Artemis and Athena. We arranged to meet on the boat at 6:00 pm to resume sailing in the direction of Fiskardo.
We arrived in the port of Fiskardo at the end of day. Moored opposite the restaurant, we made the most of the evening to visit this authentic village. The night is free, as often in Greece. The counterpart in these cases is the absence of mooring lines, which means that we moored with an anchor by mooring the rear of the boat alongside the quay. We dined at the restaurant "Vasso's", which was located just opposite our sailing boat, which proved to be very practical! While looking at the menu, we admired our co-crew member Thomas rinsing the back of the boat with the shower head; a comical sight! After a hearty meal, we went back to the saloon to plan the next stopovers.
Day 5: Fiskardo → Alaties → Asos (6 miles, 1 hour; then 4 miles, 45 minutes)
On this fifth day of sailing, the crew got up early, we went to buy fresh bread and we left in the direction of the beach of Alaties. On the way to the North headland of the island of Kefalonia, the wind got up and we finished our sail with points at 12 knots. Once we were there, we drop anchor amid astounding scenery: we were opposite the white cliffs, the colour of which contrasted with the turquoise blue of the water, like a dream! In certain respects, this anchorage reminded us of the famous “Shipwreck Bay” in Zante, but here there were fewer people, which was very pleasant! We took the dinghy to reach land and returned to the restaurant "Acqua Alaties Beach". The view was incredible: we were overhanging the bay and we lunched in a dream environment!
We went back to the ASTRO and resumed our route. Next stop: the beach of Jerusalem, a fantastic beach! The place is ideal for snorkelling: the water is clear and there’s very good visibility.We were equipped therefore with our flippers and our masks for an impromptu diving session. The water was fine despite the period (the month of May). For a snack, we went to the “Odysseus taverna" to quench our thirst. We resumed the cruise at 5:00 pm to return to the port of Asos where we spent the night. Arriving on site, we were lucky to see a magnificent sunset. The town is nestled in a bay and extends over the flanks of the mountain. We saw from afar the ruins of the Venetian fortress of Asos built in 1593. We disembarked on land to dine at the restaurant "3 wise Monkeys" which was warmly recommended to us on our arrival on site. The atmosphere there was very relaxed, and we made the most of the end of evening to stroll around in the streets of the town.
Day 6: Asos → Afales → Spartochṓri (3 miles, 2 hours 30; then 16 miles, 3 hours 30)
From time in time, a night in the port does you good! We slept well, we washed in real showers, and we had breakfast on land.Once the crew had cleaned everything up, we headed for Afales in the North of the island of Ithaca. The sailing conditions were ideal for hoisting the spinnaker. Unfortunately, the wind ended up falling and we were forced to use the engine to reach our destination of the day. We arrived via the North, and decided to anchor opposite majestic white cliffs in clear water 10 metres deep. It was the perfect opportunity for a short, lazy break after lunch!
We returned to the sea at the start of the afternoon to reach the island of Meganisi to the North of our position. The sail was very calm, and the wind lessened, which obliged us once more to use the engine to make the sailing boat move forward. We circumvented the island by the West and arrived at the end of the afternoon in Spartochṓri to the North-West of Meganisi. The atmosphere there was very festive, and we were eager to spend the night there. At 8 pm, we went to the bar "Porto Spilia" fopposite the sea, where we enjoyed very good fish. For the second part of evening, we let ourselves be guided by the sound. Which brought us to "Agrios Beach Bar" strangely full for this time of year (in May). We mixed with the local and passing boaters to share enjoyable moments and enjoy delicious cocktails. We returned to the ASTRO when the bar closed and continued the evening in the saloon with our favourite game: Werewolf! Very soon we were interrupted by strange noises. On leaving the boat, we realised that two of our German neighbours, also moored for the night, had fallen in the water after excessive alcohol consumption. We were therefore involved (despite ourselves!) in an improvised rescue operation with a happy ending. After all these events, we went back to the cabins in order to enjoy a well-deserved sleep!
Day 7: Spartochṓri → Skorpios → Lefkas (3 miles, 30 minutes; then 11 miles, 2 hours, 30 minutes)
The next day, a lovely surprise awaited us: we found a bottle of red wine posed on the deck. It was a gift from our German friends who set sail early in the morning. For this last day of sailing we planned a rather light schedule with only 3 hours' of sailing and a final stopover in Skorpios. This island is known for having been the property of the famous Greek ship owner, Aristotle Onassis who wanted to buy Ithaca but faced with the impossibility of this transaction, he decided in the end to buy Skorpios. We stopped opposite Jacqueline Kennedy (former wife of Onassis) beach, but were careful not to approach the coasts, today the island is still completely private! After this historic break, we set off for our last sail in the direction of Lefkas in order to return the boat. We went to fill up with petrol once we reached the port and we moored the vessel in the marina. For our last dinner, we went to a restaurant in Lefkas to recall the best moments of the cruise!