Ionian Sea Kayaking, Greece

Trekking Hellas S.A.
7 Filellinon Str., 10557 Athens
Tel: +30.210.3310323
Fax: +30.210.3234548

Sea kayak in crystal blue seas, sleep under the stars on isolated beaches on traditional islands, where you can sample real Greek life. This programme is designed for those who enjoy sea kayaking and desire to discover the hidden beauties of Greece. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy the beauties of the Ionian Sea, stopping at delightful authentic Greek Islands and sampling the natural and cultural delights. Ever since mythical sailor – explore, the Ionian Sea has held an irresistible fascination for seafarers. It is easy to see why. Set in crystal – clear waters, dozens of islands extend from uninhabited sandy beaches to forested mountains rearing high out of ocean. Every day, we are paddling in the area’s protected waters and every evening we explore the islets interior offering excellent hiking opportunities amongst cypress lines whilst enjoying sweeping views and idyllic sunsets.

The Ionian gulf is part of the Adriatic Sea, which separates Greece and Italy. Its waters are calm, clear and still, sheltered from the prevailing northeastern winds of the summer by the bulk of the Greek mainland. It has seven main islands - Kerkyra (in English "Corfu"), Paxi ("Paxos"), Lefkada ("Lefkas"), Ithaki ("Ithaca"), Kefallonia ("Cephalonia"), Zakynthos, and, for some reason known only to Greek regional planners, the distant island of Kithira ("Cythera") off the south coast of the Peloponnese. These islands are often called the "Eptanissa" in Greek. There are also dozens of smaller islands, many of them inhabited seasonally or not at all.

The central part of the sea is enclosed by a ring of islands on the west (Lefkada, Kefallonia, Zakynthos) and by the mainland and the Peloponnese on the east. This makes it especially calm and stable. Within this circle are the islets of Kalamos, Kastos, Atokos and Meganissi, all within a few miles of each other. This circle forms the route for our loop-cruise, starting and ending on the mainland just south of Preveza and the Amvrakikos gulf.

The islands are mostly hilly (up to 500m) or, in the case of Kefallonia, Ithaki and Lefkada, mountainous (over 1000m). The land is covered with pine forests, marquis (dry shrubs) and (over 1000m) fir forests, with cultivated olive and cypress groves dotted around. Their coastlines are very indented and largely rocky, with small sandy/shingly coves tucked in amongst the cliffs.

Historically, the islands have often belonged to western powers (Venetians, Franks) when the rest of Greece was under Byzantine or Turkish rule. As key stopover points on the sea route to the Middle East, with fertile land to boot, they have been fought over for centuries. Unfortunately a large earthquake in 1953 destroyed most of this cultural and architectural heritage. They have been Greek since the 19th century.

Flora and Fauna
The Ionian islands boast extensive forests of maritime pine and small patches of an endemic Black Pine, as well as cultivated trees, notably cypress groves. Cypress wood was used for shipbuilding and traditionally a grove was planted at the same time as the birth of a daughter, so that when the trees had grown and were cut after about 20 years, the money could be used for her dowry.

Prickly pear (Frankish fig) bushes and other cactus species abound, as do wild herbs such as thyme and oregano. Flowers in summertime are few and far between, but the hillsides are covered with herbaceous bushes.

Aquatic animals abound. Southern Kefallonia and Zakynthos are among the few breeding grounds for the protected loggerhead turtle ("caretta caretta"), which can reach 1 metre in diameter. Small populations of monk seal ("monachus monachus"), which is highly threatened, also inhabit the seas. Although we would be lucky to see either of the above, the sight of a dolphin coming to greet us is much more common, sometimes from as close as 5 metres.

Land animals are rare, apart from lizards and other small reptiles, but we have seen a sea otter in Ithaca. Bird life is varied, but mostly stays further inland than our route takes us. We may see kingfishers, terns and just possibly an eagle (there are golden eagles on Kefallonia's Mt. Ainos) in addition to the ubiquitous seagull.

Day 1
Arrival in Athens, welcome dinner. Meet at the airport with your Trekking Hellas guide. There is one major transfer (arranged to fit the majority of clients) from the newly built airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" to the hotel, which is conveniently located in the heart of Athens. Settle to the hotel. In the evening meet with your guide for a short walking tour of Athens and enjoy dinner in a traditional Greek tavern in the old part of Athens, in Plaka.

Day 2
Sightseeing in Athens, drive to Lefkada (Vassiliki). After breakfast, half day sightseeing tour of Athens. Visit Acropolis, the Parthenon and Panathinaikon Stadium, the stadium where the first Olympic games were held in 1896 and the Olympic Games of 2004. By private scudo (around 7 hours drive) transfer to the village of Vassiliki where our Trekking Hellas local office is located. Depending on the arrival time we can either get used to the kayaks by participating to a short trip to a near-by fishing settlement or take a walk to the village and enjoy dinner in a local tavern. For the trip, you’ll be given waterproof bags to pack your gear for the week and the guides will help you take what is useful so that you can safely leave any extra luggage at the site. Overnight at simple hotel in Lefkada.

Day 3
Paddling to the island of Skorpio. We start our paddling heading south first to the sandy beaches of cape Varko, then to the famous island of Skorpio and then finally to our beach. Where we spend the night camping on a beach and walk to the tavern for our evening meal. Overnight camping on the beach.

Day 4
Kayaking to the island of Kalamos. We head south to the island of Kalamos, full of beautiful caves and remote beaches We spend the night in tents under the stars by the long beach near the village. Dinner will be at a local tavern, Overnight camping on the beach.

Day 5
Day trip to the island of Fornicoula. Day trip to the island of Fornicoula (volcanic) full of beautiful caves and interesting snorkeling. Return to Kalamos for our overnight camping on the beach.

Day 6
Sea kayak to the island of Kalamos. From Kalamos we cross to the olive covered island of Kastos with its crystal clear waters In the evening walk to the settlement of the island where we will enjoy dinner in a local tavern. Return to Kalamos for our overnight camping on the beach.

Day 7
End of sea adventure. After breakfast we return to Athens by our private A/C mini bus. If the flight schedule of our guests allows it, we will make a short stop to visit Delphi, the center of the ancient world. Drop of at Athens International Airportshort stop to visit Delphi, the center of the ancient world.

Please note that this itinerary is subject to change at the discretion of the tour leader, according to local and weather conditions.

Land Cost per Person

Price Includes:
8 days/7 nights, accommodation in double rooms in B/B basis in Athens and Vassiliki in a 3 star hotel. The rest of the nights will be spent under the stars in camping freestyle We have arranged there to be access to bathroom facilities. When in camp, tents are provided by Trekking Hellas, based on two per tent. Trekking Hellas English speaking guides, kayak experts All sea kayak arrangements. Full-board as mentioned in the program. During the camp breakfast will be prepared by our guides, light lunches during the activities, dinners mainly in local taverns. Transfer from/to the airport of Athens on first and last day. Support of motor boat, for those who get tired they can relax on the zodiac. Half-day sightseeing tour of Athens (organised touring company). Entrance fees during sightseeing for the Acropolis. Any local transfers.

Not Included:
Personal expenses, drinks, optional gratuities to leader, guides and local staff.

2005 Dates

The Ionian Islands enjoy a stable, predictable maritime climate with fairly cool summers (typically 28-32C by day, 22-26C by night) compared to other parts of Greece. However, whilst travelling in the inflatable boats (Zodiacs), exposure to the sun is deceptively high (disguised by the spray and breeze), so protect yourself! Generally speaking rain is very unlikely, and apart from a regular afternoon breeze there are rarely any winds. The sea temperature is pleasant, though a few degrees cooler than the Aegean.

Kayaking - Walking
Our trips are designed for active people who enjoy outdoor activities. We expect participants to be in good physical condition and have some previous sea-kayaking experience. Most days, there is sea kayaking for 4-6 hours and in some days an optional, organised and guided walk of 1-3 hours' duration (walking time), taking us to a village, beach, cave or another site of interest. We walk on paths, dirt roads and some rocky or cross-country stretches. Participants should bring trainers or comfortable walking shoes (boots are not necessary). There are no technically difficult or vertiginous routes.

You must limit what you bring on the cruise to 60 litres in volume (i.e. the equivalent of a regular rucksack-full) in a waterproof duffle bag, plus a daypack, which you carry in the kayak (we provide waterproof bags but they might get wet as well!! ). You can leave unwanted gear at Paleros for collection when you return, or at the Trekking Hellas office in Athens. Please let us know in advance in this case.

For picnic lunches we carry cutlery and plates/ containers. We also carry first aid equipment.

Accommodation and Food
A foam (closed cell) Karri mat-style mattress and straw mat are provided for each participant; you should bring your own (light or medium-weight) sleeping bag, when sleeping out in tents. Fresh water is also provided, as well as "solar showers" to aid washing. In the extremely unlikely event of rain we can rig up large canvas covers above the sleeping area. Breakfast (tea/coffee, bread/biscuits, butter, jam/honey) is provided by us, the following morning. The other nights are spent in a comfortable hotel with private bathrooms. Hotel provides breakfast. Lunches are picnics taken at a scenic spot en route. Dinners are arranged by your guide in a tavern. We eat at a tavern, sailing from our bivouac (camp) site where necessary; seafood, meat dishes, chips, salads, dips and pies are widely available; vegetarians will also find pasta dishes and omelettes but little else.

All sea travel is by kayaks (one and two seater kayaks); lifejackets are available for everybody. Travel on the islands is mostly on foot (see Walking). There is one major transfer on the first day arranged to fit the majority of the clients, therefore clients are requested to book a flight that will arrive in Athens airport no later than 16:00 o’clock. It usually takes about 40-50 minutes to clear Customs and collect the luggage. Trekking Hellas guide will be waiting for you, outside the exit of your gate. Your guide will be holding a "TREKKING HELLAS" sign and wear a "TREKKING HELLAS" T-shirt. If you arrive earlier than the others you will be asked to wait at the airport and will be given directions from your guide on the spot.

Leadership and Group Size
There will be one skipper/guide per group who will lead the group and operate the inflatable support –boat, and a kayaking guide for groups with more than 6 participants. They are all experienced tour leaders, Greek nationals fluent in English and a second foreign language, who work full-time with Trekking Hellas; all are qualified to drive inflatable motor - boats (Zodiacs). While one guide accompanies the group on a walk or visit, the other(s) can stay and look after the bivouac site where necessary. We expect to operate this trip with a group of 4-16 people.

All accommodation with breakfast, all transport, (apart from any taxis or buses taken on the islands as part of an optional excursion), use of kayaks, camping and other equipment as above, and services of 1 skipper/guide per boat are included in the tour cost. Not included are personal expenses, souvenirs etc - please bring a minimum of € 100 or $100 for these. There are plenty of shops on the islands but you will not find any banks, however you may be able to change money at the hotel in Ithaca if necessary. Note: Flights to Greece are not included in the tour price, which covers the 8 days and 7 nights we are away.

Although it is a moderate sea kayaking, some previous experience is required. A inflatable motor – boat will accompany us during the trip, carry our gear and assist in any kind of emergency. Hiking is considered easy. The weather is stable in the Ionian Sea and during summer it doesn’t rain very often. However, it is not impossible that a brief shower will occur.

Our Other Trips:
We offer a variety of trekking, rock climbing, canyoning, caving, horse riding, mountain biking and other outside adventure trips throughout Greece. Contact us for more information.

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