KEFALONIA AND ITHACA
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Tracing a ragged line down the west coast of Greece at no more than 30 km from the mainland, the Ionian Islands form an independent group of small and large islands, each with its own distinctive character. They comprise a core group of seven – Corfu, Paxi Antipaxi, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Lefkada and Zakynthos.
Traces of settlements on the islands date back to the Paleolithic period, whili Homer’s epics provide valuable evidence regarding their early years in history. Their position at the south of the Adriatic put them at the mercy of northerly invaders, primarily the Venetians and later, the British, whose cultures fused with those of the islands, importing language, art, music, law, architecture, education and local government.
Sailors, merchants and businessmen, energetic and ingenious, the inhabitants of the islands are polite and hospitable and have gained distinction in literature, science and the arts.
Boasting a rich cuisine based on the bounty of nature, the islands are a gourmet’s paradise particularly renown ofr the fresh and delicious fish and vegetables available in abundance, as well as meat dishes, superb cheeses and exquisite wines.
A variety of relaxing trekking routes through the lowlands and a number of hiking on foot or on bike is still the best way to discover the hidden charms of the islands. Vast tracts of forest cloak the rugged landscape with peaks topping 5.000 feet, while plenty of beautiful golden beaches with hundreds of secluded white coves provide small havens to sun lovers.
There are over 1.200 difference species of flowers and plants and a local fauna that boasts at least 30 different species of birds. Loggerhead turtles (Carreta – Carreta) has used the southern shores of Zakynthos to nest and lay their eggs.
Age – old events are still celebrated here, with the festivities during the Greek Orthodox Holy Week and Easter being the most impressive. Numerous art galleries house exhibitions featuring works of international and local artists and various romantic out door locations provide the venue for a variety of events, ranging from rock concerts to classical music performances, ballet, theatrical plays and dances. In September 2003, the local government of the Ionian Islands organized seminar on “Cultural Tourism in the Balkan Countries”.