Four Little Known Islands of The Ionian Sea

Everybody knows the major Greek Ionian Islands, Corfu, Zante, Lefkada and the like, but what many people are unaware of is that the Ionian Sea is home to a much larger collection of relatively unknown Greek island paradises. Sapientza Found right down south, in the furthest reaches of the Ionian Sea, is the quaint isle of Sapientza. Close to the coastline of the Peloponnese, the island is a natural beauty, with near total coverage in lush vegetation. Just the animals call this island home — the only sign of a human presence is an old, unmanned lighthouse, built by the British in the late 1800s. A gorgeous piece of architecture, the lighthouse is definitely worth exploring while visiting the island. Completely untainted by tourism, the beaches of Sapientza are untouched, pristine and bordered by stunning azure waters. While this might all sound like your Greek island perfection, what is really special about this island is what lies beyond its shores. Beneath the waves, divers will be treated to some of the most stunning shipwrecks in all of the Mediterranean. The most notable of the several wrecks that lie in the waters off the island's south tip is the one that belonged to the ancient Romans. While the vessel’s woodwork has since been taken by the sea, the large granite columns it was carrying from the Temple of Herod still lie there, along with a number of sarcophagi and other relics. Sphacteria Heading north from Sapientza, travellers will find the remarkable island of Sphacteria near the port town of Plyos on Greece’s west coast. With a rugged coastline, surrounded by dramatic rock formations, this unpopulated and peaceful looking island has a violent and bloody past. During the Peloponnesian war, a conflict which saw the famous city-states of Athens and Sparta fight one another for control of Greece, Sphacteria was home to one of the most crucial battles of the age. A crushing defeat by the Athenians saw the surrender of elite Spartan warriors, something they were believed to have never done before. The victory for Athens changed the tide of the war, taking Sparta years to recover. Now, no fighting occurs on Sphacteria, but it is great for hiking, with stunning views of the Greek mainland to the east and the Ionian Sea to the west. Visitors with a fascination for history can also travel here, and relish in the historical importance of this unassuming little island. Marathonissi Following our journey north through the Ionian Sea, we come across the vibrant white shores of Zante’s Laganas bay. In this sheltered bay sits the tiny island of Marathonissi, a protected loggerhead turtle nesting ground. Anchoring is illegal here, as it would damage the seabed of this protected area, but boats are allowed to float offshore as visitors swim or row to one of its two stunning beaches. On Marathonissi, you can explore rustic woodlands and hike the island’s steep hillside, relax on the soft sandy beaches and take in the views of Zante, or snorkel in the clear azure waters around its coast. Mathraki Our final stop on this trip is the small island of Mathraki, right off the northern tip of Corfu. For the first time on our journey, you’ll find an inhabited and lively island with a small, yet flourishing traditional Greek population. Completely unspoiled by tourism, Mathraki is home to unadulterated island culture. The island is not so far out the way that it is impossible to reach, but not so close to the airport that the culture is being watered-down by the tourism industry. You can explore quaint little villages and the lone harbour on its eastern shore, enjoy classic Greek seafood at one of their taverna's and relish in all the other things you’ve come to expect from an island in Greece, like gorgeous beaches, heavenly waters and stunning scenery. In essence, this quiet little island is perfect for those looking for a unique getaway. Words by Cliff Blaylock of Deep Blue Yachting.