The Islands of the Ionian
The Ionian islands are off the north west coastline of Greece stretching down to the coast of the Peloponnese and are some of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. The Ionians are the most green island group in Greece due to the high rainfall they have during the winter, a stark contrast from the Rocky barren Cyclades. The Ionian islands have distinct character from the rest of Greece, much more western European, this is because (with the exception of Lefkada) the islands were never occupied by the Turks and have a huge Venetian/Italian influence.
The Ionian Islands are, in order north to south, Corfu, Paxos, Lefkada (lefkas), Kefalonia and Ithaca, Zakynthos and kythera. The islands suffered a huge earthquake in the 1950's with much of the old buildings being destroyed especially on Zakynthos and Kefalonia, thankfully much of the Venetian buildings on Corfu survived and gives you a glimpse of what the other islands looked like before the earthquake.
Holidays and Tourists
The Islands have been popular with tourist for a long time, the British have been coming to Corfu since the 1970's and much of the island has given over to tourism. Places in Zaknthos like Laganos are now one of the most popular places for 18 to 30's, although many parts of the island are still quiet and traditional. Zakynthos is also home to the famous beach called Navagio where there is a ship wrecked boat. Kefalonia and Ithaca the beautiful islands of Odeseus have kept their traditional character and still have many tourists visiting the islands. Kefalonia is one of Greece's most popular islands and is also famous for the book and movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
Lesser known islands of the Ionian
The small island of Paxos and the even smaller island of Antipaxos are just south of Corfu, even these islands have a small but lively tourist industry. Kythera is south of the Peloponnese and is closer and has more in common with the Cyclades Islands but is grouped for administration reasons with the Ionian islands. Lefkada is connected to the mainland with a causeway and a bridge, it has some great beaches and famous for windsurfing.Lefkada isn't as touristy as the other major islands in the Ionian like Corfu, despite being joined to the mainland.
History of the Ionian Islands
Homeric Islands to Roman package tours
The islands especially Ithaca are know from the Homeric poems as the home of Odesseus, corfu is thought to be Phaecia where the hero was shipwrecked. This is seen throughout the island chain with many restaurants and hotels named after Hero's from the Odyssey . The islands were part of the ancient Greek culture and had city states throughout the islands. During Roman occupation the Ionian islands actually became a bit of a holiday destination for rich Romans.
Byzantine, Venice, French, British rule.
The islands then became part of the Byzantines land until it they were swallowed up by the Venetian Maritime Empire. The most significant part of their history is that they were never occupied by the Ottoman Turks (except Lefkada) unlike the rest of Greece.
After Venice fell to Napoleon , the islands became French owned, when Napoleon was finally defeated they were then handed over to the British until Greek unification. All these cultures are still visable in the islands take Corfu town for instance, Venetian houses, a British Cricket field and a French promenade (Liston).