Pictures and profiles of the Mediterranean's finest islands. Part seven: the Ionian and Argosaronic islands of Greece.
For two years the capital of Greece, Aigina is now known for its fine pistachio nuts. The two major sights are the Doric temple of Aphaia in a magnificent setting on a wooded hill and the Venetian capital of Paleochora which has about 30 churches mostly dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. Other things to see are the lovely 13th century Omorfi Ekklisia with frescoes, the Panagia Chrysoleondissa convent, the view from the top of Oros and the fishing port of Perdika with a view over to the wooded island of Moni.
Isolated and rugged but surprisingly fertile, producing fruit, vegetables, wine and honey, Antikythira is now making efforts to attract visitors interested in solitude, birds and flowers
Frequent boats from Paxoi have made this small island less peaceful, but it is still possible to find a relatively deserted beach by walking away from the landing places and the interior covered with vines is lovely. There are two charming houses that can be rented.
Elafonisos has a pretty fishing village with a number of places to stay and a good choice of fish restaurants. It also has a huge and outstanding beach at Simos bay.
A wooded island, with cypresses and olives and a sandy beach usually covered with day visitors from Sidari.
Ithaki is an island with little to see and poor beaches, but its hilly terrain offers a sense of freedom to the walker and fuels the imagination of those seeking Odysseus. The pleasant fishing villages of Kioni and Frikes are good places to stay.
A hulk of an island, visited by daily boats from Mytikas, with a pleasant village and the possibility of some fine strenuous walking.
Kastos is a small quiet island with olive trees and a 17th century monastery Ag Ioannis.
One of the most impressive Greek islands, with terrific views from the top of Mount Aenos and along the west coast over Myrtos gulf. The position of Assos is lovely too set on the neck of a peninsular under a 16th century Venetian fortress and the road between the ports of Poros and Sami winds through an enchanting valley clad with cypress. Near Sami are the fine stalagmite cave of Drogarati and the Melissani cave with an underground lake which can be explored by boat. Exploration of the island needs a car.
An enduringly lovely island, particularly in the north, where you can still wander endlessly through huge groves of olives and along country lanes teeming with luxuriant vegetation. Despite its popularity, the town is a fine place with its two fortresses, elegant Spianada, church of St Spiridon and Venetian theatre. Not to be missed are the view from Kanoni over the islets of Vlacherna and Pontikonisi and the views of Paleocastritsa from the Angelokastro road. Most of the best beaches are on the west coast.
A most attractive but little visited island, Kythira has fine beaches, lovely villages and good food (but not good wine). The town of Kythira has a fine setting, with a Venetian castle and a lovely view over Kapsali. The hidden medieval capital of Paleochora is worth visiting and the village of Milopotamos is charming, offering delicious apple pies beside a stream with fine white ducks. The island also has a number of ravines which shelter figs and bananas. Australian is widely spoken and there is a Qantas office.
Lefkada is a handsome island and yet rather lacking in character. The central mountain ridge is impressive and there are a number of very fine beaches all along the west coast. The south of the island is heavily wooded and is home to the windsurfing capital of Vasiliki. The main touristed part of the island is Nidri bay, which has a number of islands offshore, all of them privately owned, of which the prettiest is Madouri with the villa of the poet Valaoritis surrounded by a thick wood. The capital is low-key and pleasant.
A quiet thickly wooded island with a long expanse of beach where loggerhead turtles nest
Meganisi is a pretty island with three flowery villages and a wild interior, ideal for a quiet relaxing holiday. It has a number of coves which can be reached on foot but others can only be accessed by boat. The only sight of note is the Papanikolis cave.
A friendly island much frequented by Italian sailors (it is the nearest Greek island to Italy), with a cheerful port, relatively good food, a dramatic tree-covered interior and a completely unspoilt traditional village near the top of the island.
A relatively quiet and friendly island, Paxoi is almost entirely covered with trees particularly olives and offers very attractive walking. The west coast with its cliffs and caves is spectacular, but the rest of the island is gentle and relaxing with mostly pebble beaches. Shops and tavernas are quite sophisticated and the shortage of accommodation, combined with the daily visitors from Corfu, can give the impression that the island is more crowded than it is.
The town has a fine setting on the islet of Sferia and there is a good view from the top of the campanile. There are lovely walks to the Panagia and Zoodochos Pigi monasteries and over the top of the island to the sanctuary of Poseidon and down through the pine forests to the lovely bays of the north coast. Most of the island is little visited and good to explore.
The largest island in the Argo-Saronic group is wrongly dismissed by many guidebooks. The pine forest of Kanakia ranks with the loveliest on any island and there have been recent discoveries thought to be the palace of Ajax and the cave of Euripides. Much of the island is covered by holiday homes with lemon trees and brightly coloured gardens. There is a fine view from Resti over to Eantio (and very good food), while the view from the little fishing village of Gyala over to Aigina seems a world away.
A happy little island with horse-drawn carriages instead of cars where foreigners mix well with Athenians, many of whom own houses. The port is attractive and there are good beaches at Zogeria and Ag Anargiri, from where there is a lovely walk back over the top of the island through wonderfully scented pine forest. Boats run over to Kosta on the mainland opposite, where there are attractive secluded coves.
Trizonia is a quiet and peaceful island with no cars, a fishing village and a harbour with 150 berths. It has a number of summer houses and a pleasant interior with olive groves.
The town is attractive, with a number of fine old houses, but crowded mainly with day-trippers. There are no cars but lovely walks to the monasteries of Profitis Ilias and Zourvas and the convent of Ag Efpraxia.
An island of great contrasts, with a bare and mountainous northwest and a very fertile centre famed for its currants and good wines. The fine town has suffered extensive earthquake damage, as have many though not all of the islandís churches. The recent indiscriminate growth of mass market package tourism has spoilt much of the south and east of the island and created serious conflict with the largest turtle nesting grounds in the Mediterranean. The blue caves in the north and the views from flowery mount Skopos are worth seeing, but the natural tar springs at Keri have almost dried up.
Mediterranean island guide: Greece - Telegraph