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Ionian Islands - Off the beaten track


The Courtyard in the Monastery of Paleokastritsa, Moni Theotokou, Corfu Island

Antikythira

Antikythira is the most remote of the Ionian islands, a drawcard for independent travellers wishing to notch up a visit to a remote destination. The island was fortified by the Venetians in 1207, but piracy remained a huge problem for the inhabitants; today these are mainly descended from Cretan colonists who settled here in 1792. The island's sole major settlement is Potamos, whose facilities can similarly be counted on one finger. Even yachties give the port a wide berth, as the harbour is unsafe if the weather is unsettled - which it usually is. Ferries making the trip from Crete to Kythira stop here twice weekly, but only if weather permits. Kythira's port of Agia Pelagia is 38km (23.5mi) away.

Antipaxi

That rough red you've been cursing while on Paxi will most likely have been grown on Antipaxi, Paxi's offshore vineyard. Like Paxi, the island is also a virtual olive grove, but it's most (in)famous for its wines. Beachwise, there's the gently sloping, sandy Vrika Beach on the island's northeastern tip, linked by a coastal path to pebbly Voutoumi Beach, a couple of headlands further on. You can pretty much ignore the island's west coast, and besides it's impossible to get to, but the walk inland to Vigla is a riot of vineyards. Boats make the run out to Antipaxi from Gaïos daily (nine a day in summer), usually pulling in at the small port of Agrapidia.

Diapondia Islands

Scattered like forgotten stepping stones to Italy, this cluster of little-known and rarely visited islands lies a day trip away from Corfu's northern tip. Of the five islands, only Ereikousa, Mathraki and Othoni are inhabited, and even these are depopulated as most residents have high-tailed it to New York City. Ereikousa is the most popular of the three inhabited islands, and closest to Corfu. It's not quite the deserted island getaway of its promotional literature, although its beaches are great and you can count the accommodation and eating possibilities on one hand. Mathraki is wild, wooded and peaceful, with some great solitary walks and a lovely long beach. Othoni is the greatest distance from Corfu, and popular with Italian yachties - there's even an Italian restaurant on the island. Beach bums may find Othoni's pebbled beaches hardgoing, but the interior is wooded and the inland village of Horio has great views. Boats head out to the Diapondia Islands from Corfu Town three times a week in summer, and day excursions make the jaunt from Sidhari.



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