Emily Peilan - Freedom Wanderers

Hi.

Welcome to my photography and travel blog. This is a space where I share my travel stories, thoughts and photographs of beautiful places around the world. Enjoy reading!

Em xx

Best Underrated Islands in Greece

Best Underrated Islands in Greece

A short tribute to the Ionian Islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca

Skala:Mouda Beach932.jpg

An escape to paradise, a pause on the hectic city life, a therapy of Vitamin D and good vibes from happy people does wonders for the soul. The underrated Greek islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca are close neighbours on the Ionian Sea. An absence of mass tourism allows for a much more authentic and genuine connection with the island and its people. 

You have to yourself an abundance of idyllic turquoise beaches with its own magical world beneath the blue surface and countrysides lush full of olive trees and scampering goats. The geology of the mountainous islands offers truly spectacular hikes, while the history of the Pirates and the Venetians have left remnants in the form of castle ruins, old canons and windmills. If you are feeling adventurous, there are some old shipwrecks and vast sea caves to be discovered on a Scuba Diving experience

The best way to explore these islands is with a rental scooter and a cheap ferry ticket will easily get you across from Kefalonia to Ithaca. However, be warned that the concept of time is not kept to very strictly. In fact, these islands are the antidote to the stresses of city life and there is no other place where time slows down more than here on the Ionian Islands. 

KEFALONIA

The larger island of the two and famous for its film feature in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - set in Antisamos Beach, featuring Penelope Cruz and Nicolas Cage. Kefalonia Airport is where you will most likely arrive and there are many cheap flights to be scored through RyanAir with connections all around Europe. The nearest city is the Capital of the island called Argostoli, which is only a 10min drive away. 

Argostoli is the central hub of the island and also a port. The city is situated by the harbour where you can often see the rare Caretta Caretta Turtles coming back from sea at sunset. Delicious and authentic Greek Restaurants are found almost everywhere in the city. This is also where you will find food markets and shops with olive inspired products, gorgeous jewellery and art made by local designers. The only ‘night life’ on the otherwise very quiet island is found here . The surrounding area of the city is spoilt with beaches and unique rock structures, making Argostoli a great place to call ‘base’ on this island.

Now to the geological wonder of the island - The Melissani Caves. After a massive earthquake, the top of the cave collapsed down into the waters beneath it. Nowadays, the sun passes through this perfectly rounded hole everyday between certain hours and the result is magical. Sparkling blue turquoise waters, so clear you can see the bottom. An entrance fee is required to see the caves, but this also includes a tour on these cute little row boats around the Melissani Cave Lake

You can read more about how to get here and the prices on my more detailed Blog Article here: Kefalonia Travel Guide

Melissani Cave07.jpg

A potential Game of Thrones location is the village of Assos. With the imposing Venetian Castle Ruins high up on the islet hill, looking down from there is certainly a sight to behold. The most beautiful sunset spot can be found atop the castle walls. The quaint little village of Assos is calm and perfect for an afternoon Freddo Cappuccino, perhaps even a swim in the turquoise blue bay. You will also find the stunning blue waters of Myrtos Beach nearby with sea caves and perfect rock jumping spots. 

One of the best panoramic views of the island is up at Mt Ainos. It is here that you can truly appreciate the vast and varied landscapes of the islands. The east coast tends to be flatter with sandy beaches, while the west coast is more rugged with cliffs and rocky beaches. It is without a doubt that you will come across many friendly goats roaming freely around the hilly landscapes - something you don’t get every day.

You will find plenty more tips and recommendations on my article here:
Kefalonia - Travel Guide


ITHACA 

Home to the great Odysseus of Greek Mythology, written by Homer, this island is steep with history and enchantment. Words cannot quite describe the energy and serenity given off by this island. It must be felt and experienced, soaking up the magic of the rocks lying beneath you as the sun warms your core. Everything about Ithaca is therapeutic and you come away feeling so relaxed, that time itself becomes a foreign concept

Although Ithaca has a much smaller population compared to Kefalonia, the kindness and generosity of the people on this island is infectious. If you stay longer than a week, it’s most likely many of the locals will know who you are already. The best time to visit Ithaca is between late May and September, where the weather and water temperature is at it’s best. Despite being peak season, Ithaca does not get overly crowded. In fact, it’s the perfect amount of buzz and bustle in the capital of Vathy

You don’t have to venture far to find beautiful serene beaches. Just a few kilometres away from Vathy are two very stunning locations: Filiatro and Sarakiniko Beach. If you feel like a little hike or a kayak adventure to an even more secluded spot, then Gidaki Beach is the perfect ‘off the beaten track’ location. You can do guided kayak tours with Odyssey Outdoor Activities to Gidaki beach or alternatively, rent out the kayaks yourself and explore the island’s unique geological structures

Since the majority of beaches are unaccessible by vehicle, the best way to explore the hidden gems of the island is by boat. You can either rent a boat yourself or hire a skipper for the day. There is nothing quite like feeling the wind in your hair, the ocean spray on your skin and the excitement of discovering secret coves and dreamy beaches that all seem too good to be true. 

You can find my best tips and recommendations for Ithaca here:
Ithaca - Travel Guide


Ultimately, it is the people that make this place feel so warm and inviting. The locals are so kind and many people will be interested to know a little more about you. These dreamy Greek islands feel like home in no time and you find yourself wishing to stay longer, perhaps even indefinitely? The island’s long sunny days, with magnificent mountains down to shimmering turquoise waters and its friendly locals make the Ionian Islands one of the most welcoming and underrated places to visit. 


Read more about the Ionian Islands:


This article was written in conjunction with a new book project, however, since the book will not be published in English, I thought it would be nice to share my written parts and photographs here :)

Have you been to the Ionian Islands before? Where did you go and what did you like most? If you’re planning a trip to Greece and have some questions, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or message me :)


NZ Road Trip - CAR vs. CAMPER VAN

NZ Road Trip - CAR vs. CAMPER VAN

Couchsurfing: Is it safe? - How to Couchsurf for First Timers

Couchsurfing: Is it safe? - How to Couchsurf for First Timers