Written by Missy Johnston

Aerial view of Lekuresi Castle in Saranda, Albania

Aerial view of Lekuresi Castle in Saranda, Albania

Ancient ruins, white sand beaches, and turquoise seas: these are all part of a luxury yacht cruise from Saranda to Saranda, Albania.

Though the route begins and ends in Saranda, it’s primarily a private yacht charter through Greece, highlighting the Ionian Islands. Below are several destinations ready to be explored throughout the journey.

Saranda, Albania

Saranda`s port at ionian sea. Albania

Saranda`s Port

At various times falling under control of the Ottoman Empire and Mussolini’s Italy, Saranda, Albania has seen its fair share of historical events. After World War II, British troops ended Italian occupation and gave control over the port to Albania, in spite of Albania’s communist affiliation.

Today, Saranda is a popular tourist destination with museums and historical monuments that detail the region’s interesting past.

Butrint

Burtrint, archaeological site

Burtrint Archaeological Site

Butrint has an extensive history that dates back to prehistoric times. Since its early beginnings, Butrint has seen Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian occupations.

During the Middle Ages, Butrint was deserted because it became too wet and marshy to comfortably inhabit. Today, explore ruins and historical sites that represent each major stage of the city’s evolution throughout history. Butrint is such a fascinating snapshot into different civilizations that it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Diapontia Islands

Compared to many of the other sites on this list, the Diapontia Islands were officially settled more recently. In 1571, inhabitants of nearby islands rebelled against their Venetian rulers and escaped to the Diapontia Island chain that includes Orthoni, Mathraki, and Erikousa.

Orthoni

The largest of the Diapontia Islands, Orthoni, was the first to be settled by refugees from the battle of Nafpaktos. However, the island has been mentioned as far back as the third century BC by Hesychius of Alexandria, a Greek grammarian, who referred to it as “Orthonos.” In historical texts from Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, in the first century AD, the island was called “Thoronos,” and then finally “Orthoni” by Procopius, a Byzantine historian, in the sixth century AD.

The island is, among other things, stunningly beautiful. The western beach of Aspri Ammos, including Calypso’s Cave, and Fiki on the northern edge, are both amazing spots to dive, swim, snorkel, and soak in the once-in-a-lifetime views of the area’s natural beauty.

Corfu

Corfu, Greece

Corfu, Greece

Corfu, Greece is popular because it’s conveniently accessible by air and it’s a fascinating and lovely island with plenty to explore.

Named after the Greek god Poseidon’s lover, the water nymph Korkyra, Corfu has strong mythological roots as well as historical ones. The island endured many battles under Venetian rule, and it still bears the mark of its wartime history with abundant castles and other defensive installations on the coast and even further inland.

Castle, Wall, Temple and Coast Corfu, Greece

Castle, Wall, Temple and Coast Corfu, Greece

Stroll along the streets of Old Town Corfu to shop and dine on fresh Greek fare. The sea around Corfu is just as attractive as the city center with amazingly clear blue water and beautiful caves and rock formations. Access the caves in Paleokastritsa Bay via smaller watercraft.

Ithaca

Ithaca Greece

Ithaca, Greece

If the name Ithaca seems familiar, that’s probably because it was the homeland of Homer’s Odysseus. The novel used Ithaca to symbolize home, where Odysseus must return to his wife and son having achieved all of his goals. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Today, there are no battles to fight or mythical creatures to evade to reach Ithaca, just a tranquil sea journey on a private yacht charter. The island is gorgeous and thriving in spite of multiple occupations—the most recent one was during World War II—and a devastating earthquake in 1953.

Delphi

Delphi, Greece - Ancient Theater of Delphi in the Sanctuary Athena Pronaia

Delphi, Greece – Ancient Theater of Delphi in the Sanctuary Athena Pronaia

Ancient Greeks constructed temples to their gods in major cities so each citizen could come and pay their respects and get answers to their questions. To answer these questions, most temples featured an oracle, also known as a priestess. This was typically a young woman who, it was believed, could enter into a trance and act as a medium between humans and the gods and provide mystical insights. Historians now believe oracles used drugs or natural gasses to reach that trancelike state, and that their proclamations were probably senseless babble instead of divine knowledge from the gods. However, ancient Greek citizens clearly derived enough value from the practice that they continued it for hundreds of years.

Undeniably, the most famous of the oracles was Pythia, who served at the temple of Apollo in Delphi. She was so renowned that travelers and kings came from around the world to seek her guidance.

Ruins of Apollo temple in Delphi, Greece

Ruins of Apollo temple in Delphi, Greece

Visit the many ruins in Delphi, which include the partial remnants of the rebuilt temple as well as other fascinating historical sites.

Zakynthos

Aerial view on Zakynthos Greece

Aerial view on Zakynthos, Greece

If breathtaking natural beauty is the goal, cruising around Zakynthos on a private luxury yacht is the solution. From the famous Shipwreck Beach, reputed to be the world’s best beach, to its striking cliff faces and clear turquoise waters, Zakynthos is certainly a sight to behold.

Another island with roots in Greek mythology, Zakynthos is said to be named after one of Zeus’ sons, who first settled there. The island endured centuries of conflict because of its highly valued location. It eventually enjoyed a peaceful stretch from 1479 to 1797 under Venetian rule, even while most of the rest of Greece was under Turkish control. The Venetians allowed Greek religion, art, and culture to flourish, which is one of the reasons Zakynthos is such a great vacation destination in modern times.

Kefalonia

Island of Kefalonia in Greece

Island of Kefalonia in Greece

Kefalonia is another island that developed a strong sense of culture and identity with regard to music, literature, art, and architecture. This culture is blended from the numerous cultures that have inhabited the island, making modern Kefalonia a unique melting pot of Greek, Turkish, Venetian, French, Russian, and British influences, with a sprinkling of American political ideologies on top.

Explore the uniquely Kefalonian culture and tour the island’s many historical sites.

Meganisi Island

Spilia harbour in Meganisi, Greece

Spilia Harbour in Meganisi, Greece

Picture an ideal Greek island vacation, filled with laid-back lifestyles, friendly locals, beautiful scenery, green rolling hills, postcard-worthy bays, and delicious local food. That’s Meganisi Island in a nutshell.

Enjoy breathtaking views around the island’s edges, explore the landscape on shore, and soak up the sun on one of Meganisi’s many great beaches. For those who want to venture a little deeper, Papanikolis and Giovani Caves are excellent for exploration.

Lefkada

Little beach in Vasiliki town, Lefkada island, Greece

Little beach in Vasiliki town, Lefkada island, Greece

The archeologist Wilhelm Dairepfeld, an associate of the famous Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated the city of Troy, found evidence that life on Lefkada dates back to at least 2000 BC, during the Copper Age.

Throughout history, Lefkada has shared the fate of many other Greek islands. It experienced numerous battles for control among major empires that rose and fell over the centuries. Many castles, ruins, and archaeological excavations tell Lefkada’s story of enduring the rise and fall of each of these empires.

Despite this resilience, Lefkada struggled for a long time after Venetian rule ended. Residents felt culturally cut off from the rest of Greece and never developed the strong sense of identity that some of the other islands did. French, Russian, Turkish, and finally British rule added to their Lefkada’s struggles. The British crown taxed Lefkada heavily. This led to poverty and revolts.

Adding to the misery, in 1900, a plant disease ravaged the vineyards on the island, which further impoverished the people. Only in the 1960s did Lefkada begin an upward trek again. Life there has steadily gotten better since the area has been revitalized with tourism.

Antipaxos Island

Voutoumi beach, Antipaxos island, Greece

Voutoumi Beach, Antipaxos Island, Greece

Just three kilometers (less than two miles) south of the more well-known island of Paxos lies the tiny, largely untouched island of Antipaxos. Antipaxos is all about relaxation and peace.

The island is home to many vineyards, which provide a beautiful landscape backdrop to the beaches that are the island’s main attractions. Fine wine and plentiful sunshine with a picturesque natural beauty abound here.

Ready to take a private yacht charter through the Ionian islands? Contact us for a customized itinerary and quote.