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The Inland Ionian, enclosed by Levkada (Levkas) and Kefallinia (Cefalonia), is a sheltered and attractive sailing region with lovely scenery, suitable for novice sailors and families not keen on rough seas.
A host of islands creates an enormous number of anchorages, all within a few miles of wherever you may be. Many are suitable for night stops. Popular harbours quickly become crowded in peak season, with novice charter skippers adding some chaos with their first attempts at 'being in charge'. Luckily, there are always anchorages available to escape the crowds.
Yacht support in the area is very good, with sailmakers, stainless steel fabricators, engineers, good chandlers and many layup sites, ashore and afloat. Many services are provided by British ex-pats (often ex flotilla staff) who have taken root in the area. Easy access in summer season through Aktion airport.
Read on for detail . . .
. Summer winds are usually light in the mornings, so motoring to a lunch stop is common. A northerly afternoon breeze then sets in for two or three hours. This wind is brisk in some harbours in the lee of high ridges. Third Thursday in September sees the 'Ionian regatta', a very informal day race from Meganisi to Sivota, followed by a grand knees-up. Some 200 odd yachts usually participate. Quite a hoot.
Preveza and Levkas cruising and wintering facilities for yachts are comprehensive, tightly integrated, and create a major yachting support facility for the whole Ionian.
Travel in season is convenient using the local airport. It's a pain out of season:
Preveza is a traditional Greek town with lots of character and 'buzz'. The narrow streets inland, running parallel to the shore, are full of restaurants. The pedestrian quayside is lined with cafés and is host to a lively evening volta. It's suitable for alongside mooring, but a bit smelly in light winds, noisy in season, and uncomfortable in rare southerlies. Other yards and marinas nearby:
The island is connected to the mainland by road bridge over the Levkas canal. Preveza (Aktion) airport is nearby (seasonal charter flights one or two days a week) and 4 or 5 buses a day shuttle to and from Athens (5hr 30min). Buses connect to Thessaloniki and Igoumenitsa.
Boats enter and leave the area from the north via the canal, dredged to an optimistic 6m (often much less at the N entrance) - keep close to the northerly sand bar to avoid hard obstructions to the south, usually marked by a row of buoys. The road bridge over the canal opens on the hour for five minutes to let shipping pass. Superyachts should check air draft below power lines
Levkas Town. This is a port of entry with very helpful port police. The town is scruffy, lively and Greek, complete with markets and good shops. It's a real pleasure to take an evening stroll up the pedestrian high street, which comes to life between 2100 and 2230. Architecture? Upper floors look like tin shacks, designed to survive the rather frequent earth tremors. There's a good but expensive full service marina, or a much cheaper town quay with a very soft mud bottom — check your anchor won't come home if you're on the quay. Mooring lines and guardiennage are available for some berths. Yacht support facilities are very good, and there are several choices for winter lay up.
Nidri is a tourist dense town with excellent yacht support facilities, including sailmaker, engineers, stainless steel fabrication. 'Must see or trys' are George's superb chandlery in the high street (beats Aladdin's cave any day), and Voula's 'Prawns in Tomato sauce', available at Nick the Greek's restaurant, a rare example of a Greek taverna unchanged from the late 70's (except for improved loos). The quayside setting and views are potentially wonderful, but partly blocked by huge excursion boats. A major recent improvement has been to make the quay side a traffic free zone in the evenings. The quay side itself is a tourist strip of bars, restaurants, neon lights and noise. For yachts, the quay is crowded and affected by chop. The Athos quay, just south of town (res: 0030 26450 93020) is better during daytime. Pay at the hotel reception for fresh water or showers. Anchor nearby, or opposite in the soft mud of Tranquil Bay, a short dinghy hop from town. Tranquil? No longer. Water based activity along Nidri beach and quay is noisy and chaotic. Excursion boats come and go and hoot at random; big RIBs plane past at high speed; water ski and para ski boats add to the chaos; jet bikes weave amongst all, night and day.
Vliho Bay, Levkas, is a very large, well sheltered anchorage just south of Nidri, which has some good, rather other-worldly tavernas dotted around its coast. Moorings and guardiennage available. Cheap winter lay up ashore is possible here — with pull out by wooden sledge into traditional yards using wooden props (home page picture!). Pray there won't be an earthquake. Or even cheaper, just pull up onto the mud in Tranquil or Vliho bay with an anchor or two off the stern. All the facilities of Nidri are a 20 minute walk away. A small community often winters aboard here very cheaply, either at anchor, on moorings, or alongside Vliho quays.
Sivota Bay, S Levkas, has excellent shelter in all winds. It developed to serve the flotilla market. Its west side is one continuous quay, lined with tavernas, shops, bars and yachts moored bows/stern to with their own anchors. On the NE corner there is a "pay" pontoon with pickup lines, electricity and water. Setting an anchor in weed in the middle of the bay is not easy. The place is fairly lively with young yotties, but otherwise has little character. Villas have sprouted around the surrounding hill sides.
Vassiliki Bay Levkas, is a windsurfer's paradise, a symptom of having big winds in the afternoons. When anchoring stern-to these winds can be challenging. But the harbour is pretty, with a ring of quay side tavernas and cafés and fresh water around the quay. It's a good people watching site in a lovely setting. There's a sneaky uncharted 1.7m patch of sand just north of the harbour entrance, which catches many yachts unawares and provides good entertainment, morning and evening. For nightlife, a nightclub may cut in after 22:30 with enough noise to keep some awake.
Between Skorpios island and Meganisi island is an occasionally marked shoal which damages a yacht or two each year.
Meganisi has two enchanting hill villages (Spatahori and Katomerion) one of which has to be a "must visit". There are also numerous quiet and sheltered anchorages around the deeply indented coast. Some are busy with wasps in late summer, and foxes haunt beaches used for BBQ parties. There are three ports. Regular ferries shuttle to and from Nidri.
Porto Spilia (Spatahori). Very busy, but room for lots of boats. All quay side berths have free tailed moorings. The taverna owner who installed one pontoon on the right as you enter may pressure you into eating at his place. Climb up to Spatahori, a quaint village stuck in 1970s Greece, but with colour television, satellite dishes, air conditioning. Taki's simple but enjoyable taverna up there is often very lively, so consider leaving the (almost industrial!) quay side tavernas of Porto Spilia to the flotillas — unless you want to use their showers. Superb breakfast views from the café up the hill, just above the viewing balcony.
Vathi is rather prettier, several tavernas. Houses are set around the (free berthing) quayside, which is a bit exposed to fresher afternoon winds. A 15 minute climb above Vathi is the old village of Katomerion, well worth a visit.
Vathi Marina. The well sheltered inlet on the right as you enter Vathi is home to a small marina with tailed moorings, electricity, water, toilet, shower and WiFi included in the (average for the area) charges. Some vessels are berthed there long term. Tel:+30 264 505 1084. - http://www.odyseasmarina.com .
Porto Atheni, an east facing bay with lots of room to take a long line ashore, one taverna and an easy walk up to the hill village of Katomerion
The Cave. See the massive sea cave 70% down the west coast of Meganisi — leave someone on board to tend the yacht (you can rest your anchor on the boulders below, but it may get stuck in a crevice. Don't ask.) while the rest go in and explore by dinghy.
Small islands with several quiet bays and several quiet anchorages for the more ingenious sailor. The ports have a simple taverna or two, and offer peace and quiet — as long as a flotilla isn't visiting.
There are some delightful day anchorages on azure blue sand along the northern corner of the Inland Ionian. Mainland ports are not so often visited by charter yachts, and have a more practical and less tourist oriented style. Fish farms come and go along the rocky part of the coast, occasionally blocking off small anchorages.
Palairos, sometimes called Zaverda, is a pleasant small resort in a lovely setting, with a farming village uphill. Just south of Palairos is Vounaki, a marina below a substantial hotel, operated from 2015 as a watersports and yacht charter centre by Neilson.
Mytikas is a small holiday resort for Greeks, just opposite Kalamos. The town invested in a bypass to remove traffic, and now has a pleasant, quiet pedestrian high street. The harbour is dredged to 3m with good quays all round, construction of a further basin to the west was halted with quays awash. Some canny live-aboards have taken root very cheaply here.
Astakos is a small farming and fishing town with lots of character. Most evenings in summer a 'volta/passagiata' develops along the quay side around 21:00, with families coming out, parading up and down the traffic free front, passing gossip and showing off their children; a very human alternative to mobile phones. Excellent (and cheap) fresh fish shop. Ignore the menus — the restaurants here will rattle off their available food in pidgin English . . . this place is country Greece; some visitors may find it too foreign!
Nisi Petalas. Just north of Oxia, this island shelters a really quiet and secure chill-out anchorage, excellent holding, with nothing near by.
This large island is oriented to tourism, with frequent charter flights in summer bringing people to the sandy beaches around the south of the island and the smart villages of the north. Flights to Athens and regular ferries from Argostoli and Poros to Killini (Peloponnese, buses to Athens) and Fiskardo to Levkas (Vassiliki) keep it in touch with the rest of Greece.
Fiskardo is a smart little port crowded with boats (arrive early for a good berth), and quite classy restaurants and cafés with classy prices. It's well worth a visit in spite of the crowds. Food here is more imaginative than average, but if you're ready for a change from Greek cuisine, try 'Lord Falcon'. Tucked 90m behind the SW corner of the harbour, it offers good Thai food as well as some more conventional Greek dishes. Café Tselenti has the highest prices with fine food and service. It also provided the inspiration for 'Capt Corelli's Mandolin', and Minas (who owns the place and used to be a professional guitar player) is a mine of musical knowledge. His CDs — covering a wide range of genres — play on a superb sound system. Not only that, he sells draft beer. Agree a play list with him for the afternoon, then it's a great place to read a novel while he takes his siesta. For yachts, there's fresh water on most quays. Tassia's pontoons are recommended for deeper draft vessels. If (very rare) southerlies are forecast, only the southern quays are tenable.
Ayios Euphemia. This is a small hamlet whose quay side road is lined with a few cafés and restaurants and a shop or two. It's often quite a windy entrance, which makes anchoring stern-to with a cross-wind rather demanding. Bows-to is easier. Notices threaten high fees for mooring here, but outside peak season there is rarely anyone around to collect them. Water and electricity. Greeks and those "in the know" come here from far afield to visit restaurant 'Paradise' (turn right from the quay side, go 500 metres). Stavros's family has run this place for more than 3 decades, "Paradise" is still a favourite, although the more international style of Fiskardo restaurants is catching up.
Sami is a useful stop to visit either the (over-rated?) stalagmite decorated Droghorati Cave, or to travel in a punt around the half drowned Mellissani Caves, both within 5km. Both can also easily be reached from Ay. Euphemia. Ferries to Killini, on the Peloponnese.
SE Cephallonia Beaches, a string of day anchorages, good for night stops if you're a brave soul with good ground tackle. But don't blame us if the night wind and waves rock you awake. And while we're mentioning rocks, make sure you've got your exit plotted out before you go to sleep. Two harbours on the coast:
Kateli (Katelios) Just 2nm round the SE corner. Well sheltered, reef off entrance. Small hamlet; tavernas.
Agia Pelagia. A convenient little port 2nm short of Argostoli airport runway touchdown point. Moor end on to quays, or anchor. No local facilities, a couple of tavernas within 1km. Taxi Dennis Tzortzatos; phone 6984083827. Off-shore reefs to be negotiated.
Argostoli Town is a port of entry, nearby airport. Ferries to Killini. It's a bit off the beaten track for sailors, but the pedestrian precinct of the town has a lively evening volta, and an excellent range of shops. The sheer native bustle of the place, only lightly touched by tourism, is very attractive. A 'marina', built just outside the town has never been commissioned. Many quays in it are uncomfortably exposed to surge from the summer northerly winds.
Lixouri, west side of the gulf of Argostoli, has a slip and small hard if you need a haul out (hard damaged by earthquake early 2014)
Ithaka island offers a nice range of anchorages and small harbours, reasonably isolated from mainstream tourism, since it is only accessible by ferry.
Ithaca town itself (Vathi) lives a couple of decades in the past, but has a fine traditional restaurant (Nicos) partly blocking the main crossroads in the centre of town (no, there's not a lot of traffic) and several quite lively bars. A convenient port of entry.
North of Vathi are Kioni and Frikes, two tiny villages, now living largely off yacht visitors. Both are affected by occasional wash from passing high speed ferries - which makes the pontoon in Frikes dangerous for mooring.
The coast north of these villages has some empty beaches, suitable for day anchorages.
Reviewed Dec 2016