Let’s start with the Ionian islands, located just west on the coast of Greece. This group of islands consists of seven lush green islands that are very different in nature from the Aegean islands; you could even say they are quite opposites. As the Aegean islands hardly have any green vegetation with a rocky landscape and smaller cozier bays. Sure, they do have some trees here and there to provide some necessary shade. However, this doesn’t spoil its beauty at all; it’s just a different cup of tea. Witness views dominated by the gorgeous blue sea, white chalk houses, and characteristic blue domes.
Eptanissa in Greek means “seven islands,” hence this name for the Ionian islands. Some of its most famous islands are Zakynthos, Corfu, and Lefkada, which all have fantastic sailing opportunities. You’ll see that the color of the sea in the Aegean looks deeper blue, whereas the Ionian appears mystically green/turquoise.
Navagio beach on Zakynthos, otherwise known as shipwreck beach, is a must-see if you are nearby due to the washed ashore shipwreck and impressive high surrounding rocks. The obvious advantage is that with your own yacht you can visit such beaches that are only accessible by the sea at your own pace and avoid the masses of tourists as much as you can.
You’ll find the Aegean islands in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. There are over 6.000 islands in Greece! No wonder you are having trouble choosing just one or two for your holiday. To help you make a choice, you can first decide which archipelago you want to go to. This area consists of: North Aegean Islands, the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Argo-Saronic Islands, or Evia. Maybe this doesn’t directly ring a bell for you. The Cyclades belong to the most popular island groups with well-known islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Paros. Each one of them offers something different. Whether you are looking for luxury, relaxation, or adventure, they have it all available for you.
Ionian vs Aegean Islands
Now that you know a little bit about the two island groups, we’ll continue with some of the differences; essential for sailors like you!
Good to know that there are distinctive differences in sailing circumstances in both areas, which determine how difficult it is to sail there. In the Ionian sea, beginning or less experienced sailors should have no problem sailing comfortably on their yacht, enjoying the perfect sailing conditions. Giving sailors of all levels a chance to enjoy their time here!
This is because of the so-called “Bora” wind that is present in the Ionian sea. A very calm wind that rises in the morning up to 4-5 bft and then in the evening eases again. So you can have a relaxing night of sleep, reliving the adventures of the day in your head again, wondering about tomorrow.
On the other side of Greece, it is a different story. If you want to sail in the Aegean sea, you have to bear in mind the fierce “Meltemi” wind that has a force of 5-7 bft that blows from the north-west in summer. It can blow for a day or sometimes for an entire week. This is why we recommend this area for the more experienced sailor. In spring and autumn, the wind is usually 2-4 bft coming from the south-east. The winds are steady and strong, but they are also predictable, allowing you to chart and follow your course with ease. Combine that with the abundant sunshine, crystal clear blue sea, and you will understand why the Aegean Sea is such a popular destination for boaters.
Yes, the climate of both archipelagos differs. The climate of the Ionian Islands is a hot Mediterranean climate with temperatures quickly racking up mid 30℃. Luckily, there is always a gentle sea breeze present. The Aegean islands have a slightly cooler Mediterranean climate due to the strong wind and presence of the Aegean Sea. But don’t worry, average temperatures still lie between 21 and 28 degrees Celsius in summer.
Ionian islands culture
Greece is full of culture; its history goes back thousands of years. Both island groups have their own specific hyper-local cultures due to the different empires that have fought over these areas to conquer them.
The Ionian islands are heavily influenced by various European empires such as the French, Italians, and Brits. This brings a unique concoction of cultures for every island to explore. Which explains the cobblestones and Venetian-styled houses you’ll find in Corfu Town, for example.
Aegean islands culture
An entirely different outlook when you compare it to the Aegean Islands; where you’ll find influences from Middle Eastern culture due to the fact that a large part of the Aegean Sea was long ruled by the Ottomans, who have left their mark. Nowadays this area contains famous party islands like Kos and Mykonos where youngsters from all over the world spend their holidays. Do not forget that you are in Greece, and try one of the best Greek liquorice spirits called ouzo to accompany your lunch with fresh Mezedes (small seafood plates) as fishermen tradition dictates. To learn more about this tradition, you can find the best ouzo distilleries on the island Lesvos. You can taste this drink, of course, in every restaurant in Greece.
First of all, both island groups will give you a unique sailing experience that you won’t easily forget. It mostly depends on the kind of sailing vacation you’d like. If you are looking for idyllic beaches, comfortable sailing conditions, and beautiful harmonious nature, then the Ionian islands are a perfect match for you. In case you are looking for those charming whitewashed buildings with mesmerizing views. In combination with a more cosmopolitan vibe where you can really explore your sailing skills, you will find your happiness in the Aegean Sea.
Do you feel completely inspired to take on a new adventure? Here are a few examples of what your perfect Island Hopping Itinerary can look like: