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The Blue Caves of Zakynthos island
The village of Fiscardo in Kefalonia
The beautiful town of Corfu island
The Ionian islands are located on the western side of Greece. This Greek islands group actually form the sea boundary of Greece with Italy. Their official name is Heptanisa, which means seven islands in Greek. The seven main islands of the Ionian are Corfu, Paxi, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Zante, and Kythira. There are some smaller islands in the Ionian Sea with few permanent inhabitants.
The characteristic of the Ionian islands is the lush green nature and the large bays with crystal water. Their vivid nature is completely different from the barren, rocky landscape of Cyclades.
The history of the Ionian islands was marked by the Venetian occupation in the 13th century. The Venetians gave a boost to the cultural development of the islands, through music, literature, and architecture. In fact, the architecture of the Ionian islands is marked by the Venetian style with tall two or three-storey buildings, no balconies, paved paths, large squares, and arches. Even the accent of the locals has been affected by the Venetians, as their talking has an Italian-like singing accent.
The Venetians were followed by the British, who conquered the islands in the late 18th century. Eventually, on May 21st, 1864, the Ionian islands were donated to the modern Greek state as a gift of the United Kingdom to the new king of Greece. This day, May 21st is a regional festival for the islands.
Corfu island is the most cosmopolitan island of the Ionian Sea and among the first Greek islands that opened to tourism. Due to its strong connection with Italy and the United Kingdom, Corfu has a rich cultural background. The first university of modern Greece, the Ionian Academy, was founded in Corfu in 1824 and also the island was the homeplace of important poets, musicians, and politicians.
Zakynthos island is also an island with rich culture and impressive Venetian architecture. Almost all islands have strong castles that protected the locals from enemies and pirate attacks. The Old Fortress of Corfu, the Castle of Santa Mavra in Lefkada, the Venetian Castle of Zakynthos, the Castle of Saint George in Kefalonia and the Castle of Kythira are typical examples of Venetian fortification architecture.
Apart from the rich culture, visitors to the Ionian islands are also attracted by the wonderful beaches. Myrtos beach in Kefalonia, Porto Katsiki beach in Lefkada, Navagio Beach in Zakynthos are the most characteristic beaches of the Ionian Sea and they are frequently included among the best beaches in Greece and in the world. The exotic blue water and the impressive surrounding nature makes them popular.