In the age of post-pandemic “revenge travel,” few options are more rewarding than a luxury cruise. Not only can you enjoy the on-board high life — decadent foods, incredible entertainment, and phenomenal views — but you can also partake in excursions and visit the port stops along the way.
Should you choose a trip to the Ionian Sea, you’ll likely get to explore stops in mainland Italy, the Italian Islands, mainland Greece, and the Greek Islands. You’ll find exquisite places to visit, foods to eat, wine to drink, and plenty of entertainment. Here are some of the best things to take part in while cruising the Ionian Sea.
No cruise in the Ionian Sea would be complete without a trip to Athens, the capital and heart of Ancient Greece. While in Athens, be sure to visit the Acropolis and Parthenon. The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, and the Acropolis is a hill with many ruins from Ancient Greek times. These are beautiful and magnanimous parts of history and shouldn’t be missed. You’ll find plenty of tours to see the entirety of the Parthenon, the Acropolis, and the Acropolis Museum. These can be done on foot by yourselves or with a guided tour. Often, guided excursions are part of what is included on a luxury cruise.
Experience History at Delphi, Greece
To continue your historical visit to Greece, make sure you don’t skip out on Delphi. Here, you can view the Temple of Apollo and learn about the incredible history of the Oracle of Apollo as well. You’ll see breathtaking views along the coast with ruins and historical sites peppering the hillside. You can visit the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia and cleanse yourself in the sacred waters of the Castalian Spring, believed to be where Ancient Greeks purified themselves before seeking the aid of the gods. There are museums aplenty and even the Corycian Cave if you’re up for an adventurous trek. Delphi is a UNESCO world heritage site said to have “outstanding universal value” for all travelers and history-seekers.
Enjoy the Island of Kefalonia
One of the best stops on the Ionian Sea cruise is the Greek island of Kefalonia. The island boasts a lot of quiet and secluded places to enjoy the beautiful scenery and white sand beaches. While visiting Kefalonia, you will want to spend some relaxing time at Petani Beach. It’s a great spot to take your family since the beach is gorgeous and large, but be wary of the waves if you have small children as the waves can become overwhelming. Taking advantage of the beach early in the day means you won’t have to fight other tourists for space, but if you choose to wait till the end of your Kefalonia day, you’ll find a gorgeous and lush spot to view the sunset.
Escape the Crowds at the Lesser-Known Greek Isles
Greece has over 220 islands that are inhabited and can be visited by tourists. While there are definitely stars on the list, there are others that don’t draw the crowds and can be an incredible addition to your Ionian Sea cruise. Here are a few top-rated and less-traveled Greek Isles to visit:
- Alonnisos – surrounded by marine parks and scattered with monk seals, dolphins, and sea birds, you can enjoy local Greek foods while viewing incredible sea life at the same time.
- Kythira – Enjoy family-run taverns, explore local caves, and even bathe under a waterfall in Mylopotamos. Additionally, you can traverse gorgeous beaches and soak in the indigo-blue sea without other tourists everywhere.
- Meganisi – Experience fun and fanciful nightlife after you spend the day looking at tremendous mountainous and ocean views.
Don’t Skip Sicily, Italy
A common stop on an Ionian cruise is the Italian island of Sicily. Known for fresh seafood meals, gorgeous beaches, mountainous views, and even active volcanoes, Sicily has it all. While visiting here, there are a plentiful amount of cathedrals, ruins, and archeological sites to take in if you’re looking for a less-active visit. But, for the more adventurous, Sicily is known for soft and varied beaches and secluded coves offering watersports to enjoy. Plus, you can finish your visit with some of the best seafood, coffee, and gelato around.
While you’re in Sicily, make sure you visit Scopello, a gorgeous little village so beautiful, it attracts photographers and film directors for its incredible views. You can enjoy a soak in the sea followed by an incredible meal with a view. Then, make sure you take in the following three main sites of Scopello:
- The Tonnara – a small inlet featuring one of the oldest tuna fishing stations still in existence. You can also view buildings from the 1300s and swim in one of the most beautiful places in Italy at the same time.
- The Baglio – While this section of Sicily features enchanting pebble beaches and beach clubs, it is most known for its varied selection of cafes, shops, and boutiques.
- Zingaro Nature Reserve – within this protected reserve, you can view 40 nesting bird species and some 800 species of plants scattered above the pristine blue waters of the sea.
Visit Rome and Its Nearby Cities
If you have the freedom on your cruise to head more inland, make sure to visit Rome. The cobblestone streets, incredible espresso, and the best food you’ll ever have spread out in every direction from the capital city. Take in ancient architecture like Saint Peter’s Basilica and Colosseum. Visiting Rome also puts you close enough for day trips to other Italian cities not to be missed. If you have the ability, take a trip to Verona and enjoy the cultural and historical activities or venture to Tuscany. While there, enjoy its historic countryside filled with vineyards and take in some wineries. You don’t want to skip out on seeing Pisa. Not only can you view the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but can venture to the Duomo di Pisa Cathedral and the Palazzo dei Vescovi as well. All of these Italian cities are worth the visit, so take the time and add them to your day trips if your cruise allows.
Incredible Food and Drink!
While taking in the stops on your Ionian Sea cruise, you’ll be privileged to find some of the best foods and drinks you’ll ever experience. While in the Greek Isles, make sure you sample some keftedes. These are Greek meatballs typically made of minced meat or even fish and spiced with Greek herbs and spices.
Don’t miss out on souvlaki — this Greek street food is made of small chunks of meat typically served on a skewer. They can be eaten off the stick or wrapped in pita bread and are a savory treat you don’t want to miss.
Try something new by eating taramasalata which is a Greek dip made of fish roe. It is usually served with bread or potatoes and is something you won’t find as fresh elsewhere.
While in Italy, indulge in the best coffees, espressos, bread, and gelatos you’ll find. Plus, wash it all down with the freshest and most-flavorful wine directly from the Italian countryside.