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The Ionian Islands have suffered massive destructions in their history, mainly because of the numerous earthquakes, wars and conquests. However, these small pearls surfing the deepest waters of the Mediterranean retain much of their history and incredible, unspoiled natural beauty. Acrobats between two worlds, between classical Greece and venetian Italy, Zante, Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada not only act as a gateway towards the west, but were also home to great writers and scholars, Greeks and Italians. Here we can still find suggestions ranging from the verses of Homer to those of Ugo Foscolo.
The ‘Ionian Sea Pearls’ is a cultural tour in highly touristic area. The road conditions on the islands are not always the best, while there are ferry transfers almost every day. Along the tour, you will enjoy some of the most elegant towns and beautiful landscapes of Greece. The visits to archaeological sites are not many, making the tour rather easy.
Arrival at Athens Venizelos international airport and departure to Killini, where we embark for Zakynthos. Dinner at Kyllini. In the evening, Arrival at Zakynthos, accommodation in the hotel and overnight stay in Zakynthos.
Alternatively, if available flights are available, flight directly to Zakynthos.
The continuous earthquakes suffered throughout its history have left Zante quite poor in archaeological treasures. But what has been deprived by nature, has been restored by Venice, which adorned the island with beautiful architecture. The castle, the cathedral of San Dionisius, the patron Saint of Zakynthos, the monument to the poet Ugo Foscolo are among our stops in the charming small city, before we leave for a tour of the island. Crossing the charming countryside of Zakynthos and enjoying the stunning panoramas over the Ionian Sea we are visiting the monasteries of Santa Maura in Macherado and Anafonitria before we arrive to the famous Shipwreck View Point, one of the most photographed landscapes of the Mediterranean. In the afternoon, we return to Zakynthos, dinner and overnight stay.
Morning departure to embark towards Kyllini. Once on the Peloponnese, according to the schedule of the ferries, we are visiting Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic games and important religious center in the ancient times: here, we will find some of the most famous masterpieces of ancient art and architecture. We are visiting the archaeological site with the famous stadium and the museum. After our visit, we return to Kyllini and embark towards the island of Cephalonia. Upon arrival at Argostoli, the capital of Cephalonia, we head for the hotel. Accommodation, dinner and overnight stay in Argostoli.
Full day Cephalonia: Our visit on the island, that recently suffered strong earthquakes, starts from the small, yet traditional and interesting Korgialeneion art museum of Argostoli: through the museum collections we will approach the rich culture of the region from the times of the Venetian domination until the big earthquake of 1953, which deprived the Ionian of much of its cultural wealth. In Argostoli we also visit the Katavothres, rare natural phenomenon that leads underground the sea waters from one side of the island to the other, and the monument to the Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division, fallen here in WWII. Their story was the subject of the film “Captain Corelli’s mandolin” shot on the island.
With the local ferry, we cross the Argostoli Bay and get to Lixouri. Following the road to the north we stop shortly to admire the imposing castle of Assos before we head to the beautiful Fiskardo. Return along the east side of the island, admiring Ithaca before us. Our last stop will be the picturesque village of Agia Efimia. Dinner, return to the hotel and overnight stay.
Departure early in the morning to Sami, where we embark for Ithaca. We arrive at the small port of Pisaetos and continue to the capital of the Homeric island, Vathi. We are visiting the small archaeological museum and Saint Nicholas of the Strangers, small church in which we find an icon of Jesus traditionally attributed to El Greco. The monastery, called “of the Cathars”, Ithaca’s spiritual center, and Anogi picturesque church, decorated with splendid Byzantine frescoes are our steps on the road to Stavros, where a Mycenaean settlement, identified as the palace of Odysseus has come to light. Witness of this building is a reconstruction in the center of the village and the small, but interesting archaeological collection. Return to Pisaetos. Embark to Cephalonia. Before returning to Argostoli we stop at the monastery of St. Gerasimos, patron of the island and taste the Robola, famous white wine produced exclusively in Cephalonia, the Robola. Upon arrival at Argostoli, dinner and overnight stay.
Departure from Cephalonia. Before coming to Sami, we stop at the nearby cave of Melissani, where the underground waters from the Katavothres flow. From Sami, we embark to Astakos on the Ionian coast of Epirus and departure for Lefkada. After passing the strait that connects Lefkada to the mainland, the imposing castle of Santa Maura welcomes us. Once in the picturesque city we visit the churches of San Demetrio, St. Mina and the archaeological museum, based on collections by German archaeologist Dörpfeld, who worked hard on the long history of the island. At the end of our visit, accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Lefkada.
Leaving Lefkada we approach the rich heritage of the coast of Epirus: we cross the entrance of the Gulf of Actium, where the naval battle between Octavian and Mark Antony, contestants of Rome’s imperial crown, took place. To commemorate his victory Octavian founded on the coast of Epirus Nikopolis – the city of victory – that flourished in the following years. We are visiting the archaeological museum of Nikopolis and then the ruins of the once glorious city.
Near the village of Kamarina we are visting the ruins of ancient Kassopi, one of the most powerful ancient cities of Epirus, built on a natural rocky terrace, before continuing to Mesopotamos to visit the Nekromanteion: the oracle of the dead, famous in ancient times, mentioned in the verses of Homer. We are visiting the archaeological site and soon afterwards we stop at Parga, one of the most picturesque destinations of the tour.
In the afternoon, we arrive at the port of Igoumenitsa where we embark for Corfu. Upon arrival, accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Corfu.
Full day Corfu. The ruins of the ancient city, Paleopolis, among the gardens of the palace and the museum of Mon Repos is where we start our visit. We continue to Achilleion, the impressive palace built by princess Sissy of Austria, as a retreat. Excursion to the picturesque Paleokastritsa and the tour ends in the alleys of the city of Corfu, where we visit the beautiful castle, the Spianata square. Dinner in the city and return to the hotel for overnight stay.
Time at leisure in Corfu until departure time in good advance for departure flight. Transfer to Corfu international airport and end of services.