Located in the Ionian Sea to the west of Greece’s mainland, the Ionian islands enjoy a temperate climate, plus beautiful mountains and beaches.
This island group is not accessible by passenger ferry from Athens. To reach the islands, ferries would have to either take a long route around the Peloponnese peninsula or travel through the Corinth Canal, which is too narrow to accommodate large vessels. However, you can still reach certain Ionian islands from Athens by flying from Athens Airport.
If you would like to travel to the Ionian islands by ferry, you can do so by leaving from the port of Patras in the Peloponnese. Or, for those looking for a long and scenic boat trip, you have the option of visiting the Ionian islands from Italy during the summer.
Due to its northern location, it is also possible to access the island of Corfu by ferries leaving from ports in northwestern Greece and Albania.
To experience the landscapes, culture, and gastronomy of the Ionian islands, you can check out this eight-day itinerary, which allows you to see several different islands by boat.
Duration: 1 hour
From Athens Airport, you can catch a direct flight to Kefalonia, Zakynthos, or Corfu. Several flights leave daily for each destination. If you would like to travel onward to a smaller island (like Paxos or Ithaca), you will need to fly to the nearest large island, and get a ferry connection from there.
Duration: 1-4 hours
Patras is Greece’s third-largest city, and can be used as a base for visiting the Ionian islands.
One flight per week leaves from Patras Araxos Airport heading to Corfu. The flight takes just 40 minutes.
You could also travel by ferry. From Patras port, you can catch a boat directly to the town of Sami on the island of Kefalonia, or to the port of Pisaetos on Ithaca. The ride takes about 3.5 hours to Sami, or 4 hours to Pisaetos. Only one ferry leaves daily on both of these routes, so booking in advance is recommended.
If you are willing to drive to Kyllini, a small port town about an hour west of Patras, you will have a few additional options. From Kyllini, you can get to the island of Zakynthos, or to the town of Poros on Kefalonia.
Duration: 6 hours to one day, depending on your destination
It’s possible to get to the Ionian islands on a ferry directly from Italy. While this route is long, it will allow you to enjoy great views as you travel through the Adriatic Sea.
Ferries leave from various ports along Italy’s Adriatic coast, including Bari and Brindisi. Destinations include Corfu, Sami (Kefalonia), and Zakynthos. Note that these routes run only during the summer months, and availability is limited. Booking in advance is highly recommended.
From Northwestern Greece or Albania
Duration: 30 minutes to 2 hours
The town of Igoumenitsa, in northwestern Greece, is located very close to Corfu. Ferries from Igoumenista to Corfu leave frequently throughout the day, and take anywhere from 45 minutes (for the hydrofoil) to nearly two hours (for the regular ferry).
Corfu can also be accessed by ferry from Saranda (Sarandë) in Albania. Both Greek and Albanian ferry companies operate on this route, with ticket prices and travel time varying by company. Fast ferries can take just half an hour, while slower ferries take up to an hour and a half. Note that the Greek companies occasionally experience delays due to strikes.