Ionian Islands, Greece
The archipelago of eleven islands,large and small, strung out along the west coast of mainland Greece and totalling 2,200 sq. km. in area, is known as the Ionian Islands. The six large ones are Zakynthos, Ithaka, Corfu, Kephalonia, Lefkada and Paxoi, while the small ones are Antipaxoi, Ereikousa, Mathraki, Othonoi, Meganisi and the cluster of uninhabited islets to the south of Zakynthos, the Strofades. Together with Kythera, which is, however, cut off from the rest, opposite the southern Peloponnese and the shores of Lakonia, as well as neighbouring Antikythera, they constitute the Heptanese.
The historical past of the Ionian Islands, known to us from the lines of Homer’s Odyssey, goes back millennia. Ithaka was home to the cunning King Odysseus, some of whose adventures took place in
the Ionian Sea, while Corfu (anc. Corcyra) is identified with the Homeric island of the Phaeacians. Important landmarks in the history of the Heptanese are: their colonization by Peloponnesians and Euboeans in the mid-eighth century BC – involvement in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (431-404 BC) – subjugation by the Romans in 197 BC – Venetian Occupation (1204-1797) – Septinsular Republic (1800-1807) – French Occupation (1807-1814) – British Protectorate (1814-1864) – Union with Greece (1864).
These islands, with their wonderful natural environment, abundant water, fascinating towns and villages, mild climate, superb beaches, inviting bays, crystal clear seas and archaeological sites are set like precious jewels in the vast blue Ionian Sea.