olive groves and vineyards are scattered among scores of mountains

colourful villas – some well-maintained, others half-crumbling – frame sloped, cobbled lanes dotted with lemon-yellow flowers. At its heart is a cobbled village square

where I had a hefty gyros (pitta stuffed with grilled pork souvlaki and chips) for €2, with a complimentary dessert thrown in from a smiling, friendly hostess. Down on the coast there are plenty

more spots worth visiting. Highlights include Agios Nikitas, a classic seaside resort with bougainvillea-bedecked tavernas sloping down to a swimmable, aquamarine beach; and Vasiliki, a harbour town in the south lined with shops selling locally made wine and olive oil, and yachts bobbing up and down on the ripples. But most visitors base themselves in Nidri,

gravel trails criss-crossing the hills. Getting there: It’s 15 minutes from Paxos to Antipaxos, with frequent boats departing from Gaios port. Clients can also hire their own – we got a private speedboat over, which had us whooshing across the waves and stopping at swimming holes for a quick (albeit freezing) dip.

LEFKAS The vibe: Connected to mainland Greece by a bridge, Lefkas is bigger and more easily accessible than Paxos and its neighbour, with capital Lefkas Town more developed – but less polished – than the shiny, manicured cobbles of Paxos.

But apart from a few big resorts on the east coast, it doesn’t feel touristy, with quaint villages, working olive groves and vineyards scattered among scores of mountains. It’s also a hotspot for water sports, with rugged, shingle beaches luring kitesurfers from near and far. Highlights: My favourite spot was Karya, a quiet mountain village known for its lace- making heritage, where locals use a stitching technique originally developed by a one- armed woman who opened an embroidery school here. This is the type of place where age-old traditions take pride of place. Patterned rugs and handmade leather wares hang outside bohemian craft shops, and

a bigger resort town on the east coast with a calm, lagoon-like beach and harbour. Though the main strip of tavernas and shops feels a bit run-down and could do with a spruce-up, it makes a good base for clients who want to explore the surrounding islands. It was from here that we hopped over to Meganisi on the aforementioned rib, and it’s well worth recommending (it costs between €280 and €320 for a day including a skipper, but clients can also rent smaller, cheaper motor boats they can drive themselves). You could spend a whole day exploring the deserted enclaves in the area, with must-sees including the Papanikolis Sea Cave. But the real standout for me was stopping

to admire the much-fabled Skorpios, where Jackie Kennedy married shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who owned the island, in 1968. A-listers from across the world came to enjoy Onassis’s lavish, Gatsby-esque parties in its heyday – and if you make it here, you’ll see exactly what lured them. Like many of these islands, it feels remote, pristine and untouched – the type of place where nothing else really matters, where everything disappears for a while beneath the calming, twinkling ripples lapping its shore. Getting there: You can drive to Lefkas from the mainland – Preveza airport is about 12 miles away.

TW Julie Holland, Spear Travels

“A visit to Antipaxos is a must. I never imagined you could see beaches like this so close to home. It felt like the Caribbean with its white-sand beaches and glistening turquoise waters. I also loved Paxos – it’s authentic and full of charm.”

agents ASK THE

Elaine Ferry, Elaine’s Travel

“My highlight was Lefkas. It has a relaxed and informal atmosphere and offers a true Greek

experience with plenty to do, from exploring the surrounding islands to indulging in superb food. I loved it so much I’m returning in a few weeks with my husband!”

Jane Thornton, Gates Travel

“I fell in love with Paxos. It’s so pretty and it hasn’t lost its Greek feel, with excellent food and wine, the bluest of seas and the most amazing sunsets. Couples, honeymooners and families who want quieter resorts would all find something here.”

Anne Washington, Camberley Travel “The Ionian islands exceeded my expectations with stunning beaches and beautiful scenery. I’d recommend hiring a boat to access some of the

quieter beaches around Paxos and Lefkas – there are so many remote spots to explore.”

11 JULY 2019 49

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