One of the most perfect and picturesque spots in the Ionian islands (and a favourite with Italians) is the small island of Paxos. Just one hour by hydrofoil from Corfu, the island is one huge silvery olive grove dramatically broken up here and there by startlingly vivid hues of the sea. The gentle hills and sparkling bays of the east coast are in sharp contrast to the wild drama of the west coast cliffs. The quaysides of the Venetian capital of Gaios play host to an entertaining cosmopolitan variety of yachts, especially in high season, jostling for space in the harbours with traditional fishing boats, ferries and hydrofoils.
Another favourite island in the Ionian is Lefkada. Long a favourite with yachtsmen but little known otherwise; green and mountainous, Lefkada is reminiscent of Corfu 30 years ago. Many stunning villas enjoy breathtaking views over the islands of Skorpios, Madouri and Sparti, looking east towards the mainland or towards Ithaca and Kefalonia in the south. The golden beaches rate highly in lists of the world’smost beautiful. My favourite time to be here is in May. Away from the yachts, boats and beaches there is much to explore. The air is scented with the pungent aromas of wild herbs familiar to travellers in Greece – sage, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Guests are rewarded by glimpses of protected wildlife, by the unrivalled beauty of ancient buildings and villages and by spectacular coastal scenery.
The island of Paros in the Cyclades is also becoming a firm favourite with visitors. Long considered just a ferry hub, guests love its stylish capital, fashionable bars, clubs and picturesque mountain villages which are all the more charming for the lack of crowds. Paros is also known for its glorious golden sandy beaches with crystal clear water and watersports. Also well worth a visit is its sister island Anti Paros.
The unspoilt southern Peloponnese is also becoming a popular choice. This area is home to huge pristine beaches and tiny coves, lapped by translucent waters where the saltiness is often tempered by underwater freshwater springs, fed by snow-melt from the towering Taygetus Mountains. Again May and June is a wonderful time to explore the awe inspiring ancient ruins of Mycenae or Byzantine Mistra where wild flowers are in abundance. The seaside villages of Stoupa, Aghios Nikolaos and Gialova are still pleasantly old fashioned. Lunching off fresh fish at a waterside taverna is highly recommended; the live entertainment may appear in the shape of a large turtle.
For villa holidays to Greece Silver Travel Advisor recommends CV Villas