Some of the most beautiful (and famous) beaches in Greece belong to the cluster of islands off the west coast known as the Ionians.
The Ionian islands have long been popular beach holiday destinations thanks to their wide variety of stunning beaches. You can find some of the best sandy beaches in the Greek islands here, as well as wild and photogenic stunners wedged underneath cliffs or between intriguing rock formations.
With several international airports in the vicinity (Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, and nearby Preveza on the mainland for Lefkada and Meganisi), the Ionians are easy to access too.
If you’re heading to the Ionians for the beaches (which is quite likely) then these are the top 10 most spectacular you’ll want to check out.
On the island of Kefalonia is Antisamos, the memorable star of the Hollywood adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It’s the colours here that will mesmerise you – vivid green mountains, crystal-clear emerald waters and bright white pebbles. It all makes for a memorable swimming experience.
Despite its fame, the beach hasn’t been ruined by development – although in high summer beach bars and noisy watersports do make an appearance.
Also on Kefalonia is the stunning beach at Myrtos, one of the best beaches in Greece as well as the most famous on the island thanks to its luminescent waters and the amazing panoramas from the top of the cliffs. This wild and undeveloped beach is a popular day trip. There is one small cafe-bar at the beach (although you can find more tavernas up along the main road) and sun loungers during the summer.
Probably the most famous beach in Greece, you’ll no doubt have seen photos of the Navagio on Instagram and postcards. This picture-perfect beach on the island of Zakynthos (also known by its old Italian name Zante) lies in between some steep cliffs, and a rusty shipwreck graces its sands (it’s popularly known as Shipwreck Bay).
During the summer daytrippers arrive by boat and pack out the tiny beach. You can’t access the clifftop viewpoints from the beach though – you’ll need to rent a car or take a separate tour.
Zakynthos is one of the best Greek islands to visit for a beach holiday, with plenty of organised sandy stretches to discover. After Navagio, the most special is arguably Marathonisi – also known as Turtle Island. A short boat trip from the busy and popular resort of Laganas, the island is a natural paradise and protected nesting site for the Caretta caretta turtle with unspoilt golden sands and crystal clear waters.
Enigmatically-named Xi beach has unusual golden-orange sands flanked by white and grey cliffs. It’s certainly different to the rest of the Kefalonia’s beaches. The grey clay of the cliffs is rumoured to have therapeutic effects.
It’s worth noting that Xi is a popular family beach resort and does get crowded in the peak summer months. The sea is shallow and suitable for kids, although due to the presence of clay it’s not as clear as other places on the island.
PORTO KATSIKI, LEFKADA
Sun-baked Porto Katsiki is another of the Ionian’s famous cliff-drop beaches with dazzling cerulean seas and golden pebbly sands. Buy your snacks before descending the 80 steps down to this remote beach, or take a boat trip from Nydri or Vassiliki.
Don’t forget to bring your camera, and stay for sunset if you can.
A completely different swimming experience (but equally popular) is the Canal D’Amour in the resort of Sidari on Corfu, where turquoise waters have carved out channels and strange rock formations where the sandstone meets the sea.
Legend has it that couples who swim through the channel will marry soon – hence the name Canal D’Amour (which means ‘Channel of Love’).
If you find Sidari a bit crowded for you, the sandstone formations continue along the coast to Cape Drastis.
Gorgeous Egremni on Lefkada will wow you with its glowing blue waters and 2.5km of bright white sands. This paradise beach is what dreams are made of.
An earthquake in 2015 triggered a landslide and closed the beach for a while. It’s now possible to access the beach again but only by boat, the road is still off limits.
Less crowded than nearby Porto Katsiki, there are no facilities on Egremni so take your sunhat and provisions and be careful of the strong waves.
Some of the best white sandy beaches in the Ionian Islands are on the tiny and unspoilt island of Antipaxos. The seas around here have some of the best crystal waters for swimming and snorkelling in Greece.
And Voutoumi is the best of the lot, with its exotic colours and secluded feel. Catch a taxi boat from Gaios. It’s connected by a fragrant footpath with the equally beautiful Vrika Bay.
Corfu has such a staggering variety of beautiful beaches that it’s hard to narrow it down, but there are several gorgeous coves (such as Rovinia) around the village of Liapades that really encapsulate up the appeal of Corfu with their rugged and verdant charm. It’s less busy here than at nearby Paleokastritsa.
But if you really want to beat the crowds then take a boat to the section of coastline just south of Liapades to the wild, dramatic (and empty) beaches Paradise, Stelari and Xomoi.
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Image credits: Antisamos © miladavidovic / Adobe Stock, Myrtos © Dimitar Georgiev / Adobe Stock, Navagio © GKor / Adobe Stock, Marathonisi © Samuel B. / Adobe Stock, Xi © kwasny221 / Adobe Stock, Porto Katsiki © cristianbalate / Adobe Stock, Sidari © Netfalls / Adobe Stock, Egremni © Ljupco Smokovski / Adobe Stock, Voutoumi © Freesurf/ Adobe Stock, Liapades © Lucian Bolca / Adobe Stock