Join Us at The Southampton Boat Show [for less!]




As ever, we will be attending the Southampton Boat Show and we will be delighted to see you all and to have a chat!

If you’d like to join us at stand J040, then here’s how to get in FOR 40% LESS, CLICK THIS LINK.


We’ll see you there!


Flotilla Sailing For Non Flyers – South Of France

Flotilla Sailing For Non Flyers – South Of France


At every boat show, we are asked what we can propose as a flotilla holiday for those that don’t like to fly.  Our Cote D’Azur flotilla on the South of France is the answer with a range of travel options available for the non- flyer.

This is our second year in this area and whilst still not quite as well known as our flotillas in Greece and Croatia, we are having a good season and receiving some really good feedback from guests.

The area is of course stunningly beautiful with some great natural attractions such as the Callanques coastal national park and the idyllic offshore islands of Porquerolles and Port Cros, but also  lovely harbour  towns and villages offering fabulous food and good facilities all along this coast.

For those that prefer to fly, there is an excellent choice of flights from around the UK to Marseille Toulon and Nice, all within easy reach of our base, but what are the options for non- flyers ?

Self Drive – Combining a flotilla holiday with a driving holiday through France certainly has its attractions. The road network is excellent and one is spoilt for choice on routings and attractions on the way.  Whether visiting the sights in historic cities as you  travel through the country,  a change of scenery with a visit to the Alps or sampling the delights of one of the many coastal resorts with a hotel or villa stay, there is something for everyone. In a straght line, you can drive the distance in a day, but if you are exploring, you can take as long as you like.

TGV – France boasts arguably the best rail network in Europe and their iconic TGV high speed trains are a safe, comfortable and efficient way to reach your destination.

Flotilla sailing for non flyers – South of France

Boarding Eurostar at St Pancras at 09:22 on a Saturday morning, you can be in Toulon, just across the bay from our base by 18:16 on the same day.  This does involve changing stations  in  Paris, between Gare Du Nord  where Eurostar terminates and Gare De Lyon to board the TGV . This can be either by taxi or by using the Metro. This was enough of an incentive for some of our clients to use this as an excuse to spend a day or two in Paris either on the way out or on the way back. However, even as a straight journey, it can be a reasonable comparison to a flight when one factors in travel time to airports, check in, clearing security and so on, all of which are simpler and quicker by train.

From Toulon’s station, it is a ten minute walk or two minute taxi ride to the port and ferry pier for the short ride across the bay to Les Sablettes with the pier being just 350 metres from our base at Port Pin Rolland.

Whether you favour the self drive touring option or you are a rail enthusiast, both options work really well and are the perfect addition to your week or two on flotilla with Seafarer in the Med.
We still have some availability this summer and some great special offers, so if travelling without taking to the air is your choice, give us a call and we will be happy to guide you through the options.

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    French Riviera Flotilla

    19 May - 22 September
    Experience level - 2
    Saturday departures
    Flights & transfers from £195
    Ideal for couples & friends
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    From £1605
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How I Became an RYA Sailing Instructor


Our instructors come from varying different backgrounds and we thought it would be nice to share their paths towards the role they currently work in for Seafarer. For those who would like to become RYA Instructors there are a number of ways into the industry and we are happy to help advise anyone looking into this. We also run 6 Week Sailing or Windsurfing Instructor Courses through Seafarer Academy. So sit back and have a little read about how we all got where we are.

Name - Joe Snowdon

Current Role – Nikiana Beach Club Resort Manager

Instructor Qualifications – RYA Dinghy Senior Instructor, Advanced Instructor, Multihull Instructor, RYA Windsurf Instructor, RYA Powerboat Instructor

“I was lucky enough to start sailing at the age of 8 when I was thrust into the front of a Mirror Dinghy on a very wavy and cold April day in Sidmouth, Devon, somehow I loved it and I raced Mirrors for a number of years before progressing onto Laser 2s and Scorpions. It was during this time I started teaching, first just helping out with ‘beginners evenings’ at my local club before becoming an Assistant Instructor at Spinnakers Sailing School in Exmouth.

Needless to say I loved teaching and became a Dinghy Instructor as soon as I turned 16, teaching through a couple of wonderful summers in Exmouth before a summer job in an American Summer camp tempted me to the other side of the pond. This was great fun but not really proper teaching (no boat had a tiller extension) so I spent the next two sun drenched summers working for Neilson in Halkidiki, Greece where I met some great friends, probably drank way to much and learnt how to Windsurf.

University brought me back to the UK studying Industrial Design at Brunel in West London but I found myself Team Racing regularly and learning how to sail a RS800. During the summers I worked at Datchet Water Sailing Club and following Graduation I worked there for 3 seasons as Training Manager before doing another 3 seasons for Mark Warner in Kos, Greece and Bodrum, Turkey, the first as a Senior Instructor and the other 2 as Waterfront Manager.

This will be my second year in my current role and unfortunately I don’t get to teach as much as i’d like but I’ll be teaching any RYA Performance Courses in our wide range of Performance Boats along with hopefully getting in plenty of racing and windsurfing”.

Joe Snowdon

Name - George Nounesis

Current Role – Ionian Sailing School Senior Instructor

Instructor Qualifications – RYA Cruising Instructor, Commercially Endorsed Yachtmaster

“I started sailing in 1999 in Greece and ever since I haven’t stopped learning. I realised that sailing is not just a boat in the water going from place to place, it is much more. If you want to be a good skipper you must be a sailor, an engineer, a navigator, an electrician, a meteorologist and you have to develop knowledge and skills to a level that every passage will be safe and pleasant. Sailing is my passion, sailing is what I love to do that’s why I am trying to improve my knowledge and my skills every day. I was fascinated by the RYA teaching methods and I found out that my way of thinking suits to these methods, so a few years ago I decided to be an instructor. As an RYA cruising instructor, I am trying to pass my knowledge my experience and my passion to every student through the RYA courses.

Every day is a school day !!!

See you soon”

Skipper - George Nounesis

Name - Amy Graydon

Current Role – Nikiana Beach Club Yacht Instructor

Instructor Qualifications – RYA Dinghy Senior Instructor, Multihull Instructor, RYA Cruising Instructor, Commercially Endorsed Yachtmaster, RYA First Aid Instructor

“I started sailing at the age of 10 when my family started going on slightly more adventurous holidays than our traditional camping. My dad had sailed when he was younger and he saw this as an opportunity to get my brother and I into the sport as well. We were lucky being the only kids in kids club and so got pretty focused tuition on the boats. From then I was hooked and upon our return home we found a local club and started sailing every weekend, first in a Mirror dinghy and then I progressed on to Topper then Lasers, occasionally jumping in to race with my dad in his Laser 2000.

As I approached the age of 17 I’d done various bits and pieces of assistant teaching voluntarily at my club and decided to sit my Dinghy Instructor at Cumbrae in Scotland. It was a riotous course and the instructors knew how to make the lessons fun. Since that first jaunt out in Greece those 7 years ago I’d known I wanted to get a job instructing for a gap year before university so the second applications opened for summer positions I was all over it.

Fast forward a year and the day after my final exam at high school I was hopping on a plane to Halkidiki and since then I’ve never looked back! The sun, sea and sand made it for me. The fact that I was able to teach in shorts and a t-shirt instead of thick wetsuits was nothing short of a dream. In the end I never went to university, my savings and ambitions switched over to focus on widening my instructor quiver.

Last year, after teaching dinghy sailing for 7 years I decided a sight chance was in order and, using my yachting experience I’d managed to gather over time off on seasons and the occasional (absolutely freezing!) winter, I went through my Yachtmaster Offshore training followed by my Cruising Instructor qualification. Now I’m gearing up to start my first season teaching on bigger boats and at no point do I wish I’d spent money on anything else!”

Offshore Sailing

Name - George Hodgkison

2016 Role – Dinghy Instructor

Instructor Qualifications – RYA Dinghy Instructor

“I first began sailing on a friend’s yacht in the solent. These were Sunday winter mornings, and the competitive environment and cold weather was brutal yet thrilling. As a result, I became a big fan of the sport.

From there, I had a large change of scene and went on a family sailing holiday in Greece. The warm winds and water opened my eyes to how sailing could be a fun, relaxing pastime as well as a serious competitive sport. As well as a change in surroundings, the holiday taught me the methods and ways of dinghy sailing – vastly different to yachts.

I continued with dinghy sailing for quite a while, joining a sailing club in Southampton and going on occasional sailing holidays to the (much warmer) Mediterranean. Just before I started University however, I decided I wanted to get my Day Skipper qualification, and so spent a week doing that in Greece, which bought back my love for yachts.

In my first summer of university I had plenty of time in my hands and so decided to join the Instructor Academy at a holiday resort I had been to with my family a few years before – Nikiana. I spent 5 weeks here having an absolutely fantastic time; we had a great course instructor and learned so much over the intensive 5 weeks. In the final week, external assessors came to judge our sailing and instructing abilities, which was a bit nerve-wracking but very informative and instructive.

I used my new instructor qualification to return to Nikiana the following two summers. Both were great seasons, and the different approaches to running the resort in the consecutive years meant I got the chance to improve my methods and improve my sailing! I recommend the course to anyone that wants an expansive, fun experience and wants to learn how to teach”.

george sailing

Name - Becky Law

Current Role – Ionian Sailing School Cruising Instructor

Instructor Qualifications – RYA Cruising Instructor, Commercially Endorsed Yachtmaster, RYA Dinghy Instructor, Multihull Instructor


“I have sailed for as long as I can remember. I was only  a few months old the first time I was rowed out to my parents Cornish Shrimper in a baby car seat. My Dad built my first dinghy when I was 5 and taught me and my sister how to sail in Poole harbour. I spent many weekends racing ABs then Cadets and later Laser 4.7s including taking part in national championships. We were lucky to have RYA training courses at my sailing club – one with Ben Ainslie and and Shirley Robertson! We enjoyed learning getting our log books signed off. During the summer holidays my family would often sail around the French coast on a 25ft yacht. My first experience of Greece was a flotilla holiday when I was 10 where I remember lots of swimming and cheese pies!

It was when I went to University that I really started teaching others. The University of Surrey had a very social sailing team but did not have a lot of experienced sailors. I helped to teach new members when they joined the club. We were involved in dinghy racing and yacht racing and I found that I had a lot of useful information to pass on. We didn’t always do that well in competitions but we always had fun!

In 2011 I took my Dinghy Instructor and then Multihull Instructor qualifications and taught at Datchet Water Sailing Club on weekends alongside my ‘proper’ job. In 2012 I had a couple of friends working in the Ionian who kept sending me annoying pictures of how much fun they were having and whilst on holiday to visit them I got offered my first job as a Yacht Trainer with Neilson. One month later I was back in Greece and teaching guests how to sail. I then spent a year working on flotilla before completing my RYA Yachtmaster Offshore in the Solent in 2014. That year I was mostly doing skippered charters which involved a lot of unofficial teaching so the next logical step was to do the Cruising Instructor in a very cold March 2015. Since that point I have been doing a combination of courses and skippered charters around the Ionian so this year will be my seventh season there.

I feel that I was very lucky to have been able to sail from a very young age. I am glad that I can now pass this information and experience on to others who did not have the same opportunities as I did in what I think is one of the most beautiful locations for learning to sail”.


#FeefoTrusted: Seafarer Awarded Feefo Trusted Service Award



February 2018, Seafarer Holidays has won the Feefo Trusted Service award, an independent seal of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers.


Created by Feefo, Trusted Service is awarded only to those businesses that use Feefo to collect genuine ratings and reviews. Those that meet the high standard, based on the number of reviews they have collected, and their average rating, are awarded. A badge of honour, this accreditation remains unique, as it is based purely on the interactions with verified customers. As all reviews are verified as genuine, the accreditation is a true reflection of a business’ commitment to outstanding service.


Seafarer Holidays met the criteria of collecting at least 50 reviews between January 1st 2017 and December 31st 2017, with a Feefo service rating of between 4.0 and 4.4.


Chris Lorenzo, Seafarer Holidays commented: “It’s a real honour to receive this award from Feefo. To be recognised for delivering exceptional experiences to our customers is a great achievement. We’ve been working hard to ensure our customers receive the best service possible, and being able to listen, understand and respond to their needs has enabled us to improve our offering in 2017. We’re looking forward to another successful year ahead.”


Speaking on this year’s award, Andrew Mabbutt, CEO at Feefo, commented: ‘The Trusted Service award has always been about recognising those companies that go the extra mile. Once again, we have seen many incredible businesses using Feefo to its full potential, to provide truly memorable experiences for their customers – and rightly being awarded with our most prestigious accreditation. I look forward to the continual success of the businesses that work in partnership with Feefo throughout 2018.’.

Yacht Sailing

How to Become a Skipper


Is Sailing for me?

As many of you are aware, Seafarer regularly exhibits at the London and Southampton Boat Shows, and whilst it is predominantly the stomping ground for those who have an existing interest in sailing or boating of some kind, it also attracts those who are curious about our sport and are keen to find out more.

We often get asked questions about sailing – “Is this for everyone?” or “So, what experience would I need to charter one of your yachts in the Mediterranean?”, amongst others. Many people have seen the freedom of Flotilla and Bareboat Holidays while abroad and wondered how they can do these themselves.


Getting Started

So I guess the first thing to establish is whether you are actually going to enjoy being on a sailing yacht, and of course all the words in the world can’t replace a bit of experience. Luckily, at Seafarer we have a number of ways that one could enjoy a fantastic holiday in the sun and answer that initial question for themselves. One option would be to join one of our Cabin Charter yachts in the Ionian or the Cyclades, enjoying a week’s cruise on a 50 foot sailing yacht, crewed by a professional skipper and 1st mate, who would be responsible for looking after the yacht and the guests on board. This is an opportunity to see the islands of Greece, and to whet your appetite for sailing – this is no Gulet cruise in Turkey, we sail every day! Alternatively, you could choose to enjoy a relaxing week at our Beach Club in Nikiana, Greece, which, as well as including all the watersports you could want: Dinghy Sailing, Windsurfing, SUPing & Kayaking, you could also take a 2 day RYA Start Yachting course, an ideal way to dip your toe in the water (quite literally!) to see if yachting is for you.

RYA Cruising Courses


As an RYA training centre, we are, of course, huge advocates of the RYA training system, and we believe that the quality of training provided by RYA centres in general rivals the best maritime training worldwide. If you enjoyed your initial taste of yachting in the Mediterranean, then it makes sense to consider the Mediterranean as your training ground also. For those with very little or no practical sailing experience, we would always recommend the RYA Competent Crew course – this is conducted over a one week period aboard a fully safety coded training yacht and will teach you all the skills required to become an active crew member, experience life on board and really get to know the boat.

At this point, you will have some experience under your belt, and you will have had a great holiday at the same time. The next stage, for those who wish to progress, is to consider a RYA shore based theory course to while away those bleak cold winter evenings…and to set you up with the theoretical knowledge to compliment your existing practical skills in preparation for the next step. Following the RYA Competent Crew we also recommend getting some practice in different waters and conditions. Numerous Sailing Schools around Britain run weekend trips with an instructor onboard making this the ideal way to improve your sailing and will be ideal for the next stage, RYA Day Skipper.

Again, if your likely sailing is to be predominantly in the Mediterranean, a “blue water” cruising ground would be a great choice – you’ll get all the practical skills offered in the UK, with the addition of the crucial “stern-to” or Mediterranean style mooring – the essential skill that will be put into practise every day in Greece, Croatia, France or indeed the majority of holiday cruising destinations.


The great thing about a course with Seafarer Training is that our tuition yachts generally follow our flotilla routes, which gives you a chance to partake in the social side of Flotilla sailing and to experience first hand the considerable benefits of having a professional flotilla crew on call to take the guesswork out of your first sailing holidays. Once you have your practical RYA Day Skipper course under your belt then the world is your oyster – join a Seafarer Flotilla in one of our less challenging sailing areas, or go Bareboat if the sense of adventure takes you. Either way, our experienced team are on hand to offer you the best suggestions to make your sailing dream a reality.

Sunset Yacht
Photo Credit John Atkinson
French Riviera flotilla

Spotlight on our new French Riviera flotilla


At Seafarer we are fast gaining a reputation for offering unique flotilla destinations, and the newest addition to our portfolio is our Côte d’Azur flotilla on the French Riviera. Everyone knows the allure and the glamour associated with this beautiful coast and assumes that this is the exclusive haunt of the rich and famous, particularly if looking seaward towards the Superyachts moored in Saint-Tropez and Cannes. John Connolly, our product manager, has family along the coast in Nice and had sailed in the area since the late eighties. In October 16, he had the opportunity to take our Sales Consultants, Suzie, Nevena and Simos sailing in the region to explore our new flotilla route, to Port Pin Rolland Flotilla Basesee some of the iconic spots, but also to explore idyllic locations, a nice contrast from the typical image of the region.

Our flotilla holidays start from Port Pin Rolland, located close to Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, a peninsula close to the historic port of Toulon. The marina is accessible from both Marseille and Toulon airports, with many daily flights available, particularly to Marseille, which is approximately 100km from our base. Once in the marina, our routes take you either west or east, depending upon your choice, although we would recommend two weeks to see everything the coast has to offer.

John commented “We arrived a little late, so decided to head east, and out to the island of Porquerolles, around 15 nautical miles from base. It was a great way to start, we got to know our yacht, a lovely Dufour 450, and had a gentle sail across to the island. Arriving at dusk, we secured a berth in the marina and headed out to explore. The main pedestrian street heads out from the marina, with plenty of choice of bars and restaurants before it opens out to the main square, popular with locals for an afternoon game of Pétanque. We rounded off the day with a delicious dinner of moules marinière – a bargain at €10 – before enjoying a peaceful night in the marina.”

Porquerolles Seafarer French Riviera flotillaThe island group of Îles d’Hyères includes the islands of Porquerolles and Port Cros, both recommended stops on our Saint-Tropez flotilla route, heading east.  The laid back charm contrasts beautifully with the chic cosmopolitan locations on the coast, such as Saint-Maxime and of course Saint-Tropez. Nevena, a keen photographer, loved Saint-Tropez: “The stylish town is everything you would expect, but for me the old village, sloping away up the hill from the quay is fantastic – beautifully restored old buildings, hidden courtyards and cute little restaurants make for great photo opportunities!”

When it was time to head back towards our home port, we decided on a stop in Le Levandou – not such a well known coastal resort, but, as it turns out, a real gem. Simos, our resident connoisseur of the finer things in life noted “Le Levandou is fantastic – we enjoyed an apéritif – an ice cold pastis overlooking the sea before a great value fish supper on the sea front and a wander through the backstreets. A bright morning followed with a rich coffee before an essential trip to the boulangerie for fresh bread and pastries to set us up for a great day’s sailing”. Suzie, our senior sales consultant, was pleasantly surprised by the prices: “The marinas are cheaper than in Croatia, and the excellent food is good value for such a location – 16 euros for a 3 course dinner is fantastic for anywhere, let alone the South of France!”

John takes up the story after leaving Le Levandou – “We set sail early, as we wanted to get as much sailing in as possible – the Rade d’Hyères is nicely protected – we had a fantastic sail with a 15 knot north-westerly, and explored the big bay under sail. A lovely shelving coast means plenty of places to anchor and swim, and to anchor overnight when the weather is kind. Great islands, a beautiful coast, superb food and good winds – this is a fSeafarer French Riviera flotillaantastic place to sail.”

After our first season in 2017, we have made a couple of changes to the routes for 2018: Our Cassis route has been altered to offer a fantastic mix of islands and mainland destinations, and now includes Port Miou (one of the Calanques in the National Park) as well as the historic Vieux Port (Old Port) of Marseille. For the foodies (and how can’t you be in the South of France!) Marseille is the place to try the famous bouillabaisse – a fish stew that defines Provencal cooking. On our eastern route, we have includes both Port Cros and Porquerolles islands as regular stops, after great feedback from clients in 2017, as well as Cavalaire sur mer, which offers a better mooring solution to St Maxime, whilst still giving the opportunity to vist the iconic St Tropez.

To find out exactly what our team are so excited about, feel free to give us a call at the office and explore the French Riviera section of our website – we are always happy to talk about our sailing areas and our flotilla destinations.
We can organise the whole package for you, including your flights and transfers, with yachts available from 32 feet up to 50 feet, suitable for parties of 8 or more – explore the fleet here. Yachts are selling fast, so we would certainly recommend booking sooner than later, also meaning that you can save more on your yacht and flights, leaving a few extra euros for that bottle of wine after a great day’s sailing!

Sun-loungers at Nikiana Beach Club

New in Nikiana Beach Club 2018


Nikiana Beach Club

We’ve had a great year at Nikiana Beach Club and were really looking forward to next summer so we thought we’d share some of the exciting new things coming to Nikiana next season.

1. Start Yachting Course

Start Yachting

For 2018 we will start running the RYA Start Yachting Course on our Nikiana Club Yacht. The course includes the yacht, ropework, underway, rules of the road, man overboard recovery, clothing and equipment, emergency equipment and precautions, meteorology and is the perfect way to start your yacht sailing journey if your not sure you want to commit to the Competent Crew Course. We will be running this every week and it is pre bookable for £129 with any Nikiana Holiday. It will be run over 16 hours so plenty of other time in the week to enjoy all the other activities on offer.

2. RYA Advanced Courses

In 2018 the RYA Advanced Courses will now be pre bookable with any Nikiana Holiday and we hope to run plenty of RYA Seamanship Skills, Sailing with Spinnakers and Performance Sailing Courses throughout the season. Because of the nature of each of these programs if possible we ask for 2 people to sign up together but if not we can work something out. These courses are available for £99 each.

3. More Picos, Lasers and Bahias

Laser Racing Bahia

We love how much people sail at Nikiana and thus were increasing our fleet sizes for Picos, Lasers and Bahias. We’ve got 3 more Picos on the way, 2 more Lasers with the option of 4.7 rig and 1 more Bahia. We feel we’ve been neglecting the more traditional classes a little bit over the last couple of years so the Bahia will be fitted with a symmetric spinnaker which is great if people are hoping to use skills learned at Nikiana to get into booming classes such as the Wayfarer, GP14, Scorpion or Fireball.

4. RS400


Were looking to fill the gap between the 2000s and Bahias and the Performance Classes and we’ve decided to get a RS400 for the Beach Club. Its an amazing boat to sail which is really accessible to Intermediate and Advanced Sailors. Its a 2 person Hiking Performance Dinghy with an Asymmetric Spinnaker. It also means we will have the full set of boats with Wing Wangs (Swinging Spinnaker Pole) if that means anything.

5. Wind SUPS & Sea Kayaks

Red WindSup

To build up our windsurf and paddle boarding options at the Beach Club were getting a number of Red Windsurfer WindSups. These can be used for both Windsurfing and Paddleboarding and offer a great light wind option for an experienced windsurfer.

Were also looking to get a number of sit on top Touring Kayaks which will offer a great option for seeing more of the coast in comfort and we will be running regular kayak trips up and down the coast which should be pretty exciting.

6. Performance Week with Ed Powys


Were going to be running a Performance Sailing Week hopefully with Ed Powys, one of the BAR team from the Americas Cup and a former member of the Olympic 49er Squad. The week will consist of 4 hours tuition a day in the numerous Performance classes we have such as the Laser 4000, RS800 and Alto along with video coaching and some great socials. Overall it’s a great opportunity to learn to sail a performance dinghy so watch this space for dates and booking. 

Nikiana Chairs

History of the Ionian Islands


While the history of the Ionian Islands is not as well documented or maybe as glamorous as that of Athens, Sparta, Corinth or Rhodes, many events in the Islands between Corfu (Kerkrya) and Zante(Zakynthos) have shaped the history of Europe. While we sail through this stunning area we take the same routes as many ancient mariners so sit back and have a read.

Map of the Ionian Islands

Bronze Age Ionian & The Odyssey

Legend states that the Ionian Sea is named after Io, the lover of Zeus who swam across the turquoise waters to reach the Zeus in Egypt. It is thought the Ionian was settled in the Bronze age with Corfu and Kefalonia being the main settlements. Kefalonia especially has quite a number of Mycenaean sites and in 1991 a tomb from roughly 1300BC was discovered near Poros hinting at a larger Bronze Age settlement in that area.

One very interesting area of research is the location of Odysseus’s palace from Homer’s epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey. Legend states that Ithaca was the famous island home of the legendary leader but the island’s topography doesn’t match with the descriptions in the poem. The famous German Archaeologist Wilhelm Dorpfeld always thought the location of Odysseus’s Palace was in the bay of Nydri due to the following passage from the Odyssey.

“I dwell in shining Ithaca. There is a mountain there, high Neriton, covered in forests. Many islands lie around it, very close to each other, Doulichion, Same, and wooded Zacynthos— but low-lying Ithaca is farthest out to sea, towards the sunset, and the others are apart, towards the dawn and sun. It is rough, but it raises good men.” Homer, Odyssey 9.1:”

These islands could refer to Kalamos, Kastos, Meganisi and the smaller satellite islands around Nydri.

The ruins of Ancient Sami

The Ionian Islands in Classical Greece & the Peloponnesian War

Following the Bronze Age collapse the next legend to come from the Ionian is the fate of the famous poet Sappho who is said to have committed suicide for the sake of love by jumping from Cape Lefkada.

It was thought the islands were colonised by the Corinthians from the 7th Century BC with different city states founded on each island. The Corinthians built a channel to separate Lefkas from the mainland and aid navigation through the Inland Sea and the first town on the island was built slightly south of the current capital. Another city of note is the ruins of Ancient Sami above the current town of the same name on the island of Kefalonia. Established after the Greek Dark Age it was a flourishing city in a strong mountain top position until it was taken by the Romans in 188BC. The ruins of the Ancient Acropolis sit above the town of Sami and are well worth a visit.

It was events on the island of Corfu which led to an end of the Classical Age of Ancient Greece. An argument between the the people of Corfu and the city of Corinth drew the Athenians into the dispute which resulted in the Battle of Sybota in 433BC. This acted as one of the catalysts for the Peloponnesian War with Sparta, Corinth (including the Ionian Islands) along with the rest of the Peloponnesian League being arrayed against the forces of the Delian League led by Athens. After many years of war the Peloponnesian League ended up Victorious but it left the Greek City states so weakened that the way was clear for the rise of Macedonia and Alexander the Great.

Roman Times & The Battle of Actium

The city states of Greece fell to the Romans in the 2nd Century BC and the Ionian Islands fell under their rule and it was during this time that one of the most important events in the history of the Roman Empire happened just to the North of Lefkada, near Preveza. Following the death of Julius Caesar in 44BC a series of wars broke out between Octavian Augustus, Mark Antony and Caesar’s killers representing the senate. Through numerous battles and alliances the war ended up finishing in the largest sea battle of the Ancient World with Augustus and his very able Admiral Agrippa beat Mark Antony and his ally Cleopatra to become the first emperor of Rome. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide shortly after.

The Castle of Santa Maura seen from above

The Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

The islands remained under Byzantine rule after the end of the Roman empire before being caught up in the wars of powerful European families. Zante, Kefalonia and some of the smaller islands were conquered by the Normans in the 12th Century. Other French and Italian families became involved and built the beginnings of the Castle of Santa Maura which separates Lefkas from the mainland. The islands gradually fell under Venetian rule over the following centuries and were subject to many battles between the Venetians and the Ottomans. Corfu was never conquered by the Ottoman Empire whereas Lefkas spent the longest period under their rule which included building the castle we see today. Lefkas joined the rest of the islands in 1684 under the Venetians. The architecture of Corfu and Zante owes a lot to this period and both towns are wonderful places to get lost in amongst the colourful buildings.

French & British Rule

With the fall of Venice to France during the Revolutionary Wars the islands became part of France for a while before being conquered by the Russians. They reverted back to French rule with the Treaty of Tilsit before the being captured by the British after a sea battle of Zante in 1809. The British turned the islands into the United States of the Ionian Islands and everyone took up Afternoon Tea, Cricket and other English Pastimes. When Greece became independent in the mid 19th Century the Ionian joined it in 1864. The first leader of Independent Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias was born in Corfu.

A hydrofoil ferry passes Corfu Town

The Ionian Islands in World War Two

During the Second World War the Ionian was occupied first by the Italians then the Germans after Italy surrendered in 1943. These events led to the terrible events of the portrayed in the book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin with 5000 Italian soldiers killed for resisting the Germans. The resistance movement was strong and active in the mountainous interiors and gained much support as the war went on.

Essential Reading

Those interested in the history of this area should read Simon Scarrows “Hearts of Stone” which follows some Archeological Digs on Lefkas just before the Second World War and the events that followed. Another is of course Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres mentioned above.

Please feel free to comment if you know of any other books about the Ionian Islands.




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