Ionian 12 Islands

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ionian 12 islands

Lefkada island is situated in the clear, warm and calm waters of the Ionian Sea to the West of mainland Greece and is positioned in a haven of numerous inhabited, deserted and unknown islands. The area which is also known as the 'inland sea' as it is protected from the wind, combines unique scenery such as untouched beaches, breathtaking coastlines, hidden caves, stunning clear turquoise waters and the Greek 'Delphinus Delphis' dolphin, making the island-to-island crossings and coastal routes an unforgettable experience. The Ionian 12-islands trip, will take you as far as the legendary islands of Ithaca and Kefallonia and allow you to experience real Greece, from the sea.

Trip Dates

  • Sun 1 - Sun 8 June 2025
  • Sun 8 - Sun 15 June 2025
  • Sun 15 - Sun 22 June 2025
  • Sun 22 - Sun 29 June 2025
  • Sun 29 June - Sun 6 July 2025
  • Sun 6 - Sun 13 July 2025
  • Sun 13 - Sun 20 July 2025
  • Sun 24 - Sun 31 August 2025
  • Sun 31 Aug - Sun 7 September 2025
  • Sun 7 - Sun 14 September 2025
  • Sun 14 - Sun 21 September 2025
  • Sun 21 - Sun 28 September 2025
  • Sun 21 - Sun 28 September 2025
  • Sun 2 - Sun 9 June 2024
  • Sun 9 - Sun 16 June 2024
  • Sun 16 - Sun 23 June 2024
  • Sun 23 - Sun 30 June 2024
  • Sun 30 June - Sun 7 July 2024
  • Sun 7 - Sun 14 July 2024
  • Sun 14 - Sun 21 July 2024
  • Sun 25 Aug - Sun 1 Sept 2024
  • Sun 1 - Sun 8 Sept 2024
  • Sun 8 - Sun 15 Sept 2024
  • Sat 14 - Sat 21 Sept 2024
  • Sun 22 -Sun 29 Sept 2024
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Full Week's Routes

Big Swim Week Map

Lefkada - Trip Introduction

Lefkada island is situated in the clear, warm and calm waters of the Ionian Sea to the West of mainland Greece and is positioned in a haven of numerous inhabited, deserted and unknown islands. The area which is also known as the ‘inland sea’ as it is protected from the wind, combines unique scenery such as untouched beaches, breathtaking coastlines, hidden caves, stunning clear turquoise waters and the Greek ‘Delphinus Delphis’ dolphin, making the island-to-island crossings and coastal routes an unforgettable experience. The Ionian 12-islands trip, will take you as far as the legendary islands of Ithaca and Kefallonia and allow you to experience real Greece, from the sea.

This 7-day, approximately 5K swim per day programme starts on Sunday and finishes the following Sunday morning. We will greet you on your arrival on Sunday evening with a welcome drink followed by an introduction to safety by our Lefkada based team. During the week there will be an optional opportunity for a filmed swimming analysis and open water swimming coaching from our qualified guides.

Each morning we will board our spacious, traditional 15m wooden sailing boat Mowgli and ‘cruise’ the Ionian and head for the start of the swim, either an island to island crossing or a coastal swim. We will visit places, coastlines, caves and locations inaccessible from the road that few people have seen or visited before. At lunchtime we visit a different harbour every day to sample the mouth watering Greek cuisine of the Ionian’s traditional tavernas.

We have extensive local knowledge of the area and this 7-day programme of varied swims ensures you experience a variety of stunning swimming locations in a safe and fully supported environment.

What is included in the holiday

The trip starts on your arrival at Ilios Club Hotel. On your arrival day you will be welcomed and in the evening have a chance to meet your fellow swimmers and be briefed on the week’s itinerary and safety issues over relaxing complimentary drinks.

On the first day of the trip our guides/coaches will video your swimming technique for an analysis session. We then view this with you and offer advice on achieving a more efficient, injury-free stroke. Individual advice can also be given during the swims.

Buffet style breakfast is offered every morning at the hotel and we will then travel in our traditional wooden boat Mowgli to the swimming location (which is different every day). We will escort the swimming groups with the support boats and drinks will be offered at regular intervals during the swim. The boats will be manned by fully qualified first aid experienced swimmers who will keep a watch over you.

You will be given a Lefkada-theme Big Blue T-shirt, a water bottle and a swimming hat to use and keep and we have a range of snorkeling gear and fins you can borrow for exploring in caves or along coastlines.


  • On Arrival: Complimentary drink, T-shirt, Water bottle
  • 1st Day: Individual underwater video, Individual stroke analysis, Swimming hat
  • 7 nights’ Hotel accommodation
  • Breakfast
  • 3 motorised boats (One main and 2 auxiliary)
  • 3 qualified swim guides
  • Local Greek boat captain
  • Cold drinks along the swims
  • Variety of snacks at the end of each swim
Day 1

The start of something Big and Blue! Arrival of all swimmers at Ilios Club Hotel, Yeni, Lefkada. Swimmers have the option of a relaxing afternoon in the hotel’s swimming pool and chilling out in the hotel’s bar.

Swimmers also have the chance to swim in the nearest bay, Desimi Bay, about 30 mins walk from the hotel, which would be their own responsibility, outside the remit of The Big Blue Swim. Swimming in the bay where Ilios Hotel is located is not recommended due to boat traffic.

In the evening we all meet at the hotel’s pool bar and formally welcome you to the island. Complimentary welcome drinks give you a chance to get to know your fellow swimmers and this is followed by an introductory briefing to the trip by our Lefkada based team.

Day 2

Today kicks off with an initial open water acclimatisation swim and optional swim analysis session and your chance to meet the azure hues of the Ionian. Our qualified coaches and guides will split the week’s swimmers into 3 speed groups, will then film each swimmer and later provide feedback on technique.

We then board the boat and journey East to the island of Meganisi, with its impressive lacework of coastline that forms deep enticing coves. According to myth in ancient times the island belonged to King Tafios, the son of Poseidon God of the sea and it was here that Odysseus left his boats before he travelled to Ithaca.

On Meganisi we will moor at Vathi, a picturesque village harbour, where we will have a leisurely light lunch at a traditional taverna overlooking the harbour and a chance to relax and practice your Greek with the locals.

The afternoon involves a short boat ride to Abelakia Bay where we start our 1.6k swim following a North East direction along the scenic winding coastline, finally crossing to the uninhabited islet of Megalo Nisopoulo with its clear blue water.

Daily swim total: 2k approximately (swim route and acclimatisation swim).

Type of swim: Technique & coastal with small crossing.

Location: Desimi Bay and Meganisi.

Day 2 - Swim

Day 3

Today we will experience four very different islands. We board the boat and take a 30 minute ride to the island of Meganisi and its stunning rocky coastline.

We first visit the ‘famous’ cave of Papanikolis for a unique snorkelling experience and an initial ‘warming up’ dip. For more information on the cave visit: Papanikolis Sea Cave: The Papanikolis Sea Cave in Meganisi Lefkada Greece, Ionian.

We then continue the journey south and start the swim from one of the small bays on the west side of the island, following a southerly direction. Here we swim along the ‘lower leg’ of this scenic sculptural coastline exploring the caves and small bays only accessible by sea. We then make the crossing to the small, pretty island of Kithros where the 3k swim ends at one of its caves on the north side.

Whilst swimmers rest and replenish energy with various snacks on the boat we travel east to the island of Kalamos, famous for its unusual mix of maritime pine and olive trees, Monachus seals and sea caves. We dock on the east side of the island at the crescent shaped harbour and have lunch in one of the traditional tavernas. After lunch a chance to explore, relax and sample the local freshly squeezed lemonade.

The afternoon 2.2k swim starts from the old windmill, just south of the Kalamos harbour and follows a south easterly direction. We swim across the short channel to the island of Kastos passing the small island of Provati as we go and end our swim on a secluded crystal clear deserted bay on north east of Kastos island. We then return back to base via Asproyiali (north Kalamos) with its beautiful small and intimate beaches, the favourite swimming place of Aristotle and Jackie Onassis (opportunity for a photograph with large sunglasses!)

Daily swim total: 5.2K.

Type of swim: Coastal & Island crossing.

Location: Kithros, Meganisi, Kalamos and Kastos islands.

Day 3 - Morning Swim

Day 3 - Afternoon Swim

Day 4

Today we take a 60 min ride due south to the uninhabited island of Arkoudi (Bear Island). This small island is in between Lefkada and Ithaka and we have often encountered dolphins on the way, as this area is their rearing place and playground.

We will start this 2.9k swim from the south tip of Arkoudi next to a cave; we will follow the coastline round anti-clockwise and finish on the first sandy beach we encounter in a bay, where Mowgli will moor.

Then onto the beautiful bay of Sivota where we rest and lunch in one of the many tavernas in this colourful harbour; a chance to buy souvenirs and replenish on personal supplies.

The afternoon 2K swim starts in the turquoise waters of Mikros Gialos bay just next to Sivota harbour. We hug the coast, stop and explore a cave half way into the swim and finish on a small beach where we moor for a short while.

Daily swim total: 4.9k

Type of swim: Coastal.

Location: Arkoudi & Mikros Gialos, South Lefkada.

Day 4 - Morning Swim

Day 4 - Afternoon Swim

Day 5

Today we start with a short boat trip to the north side of the small rocky island of Thilia, situated between the islands of Lefkada and Meganisi.

In this 2.9k swim, we circumnavigate this island in a clockwise direction, whilst spotting the tiny isolated sandy beaches, the birds’ nests on the small cliffs and the very agile mountain goats! When we find ourselves back at the starting point we then swim eastward and cross to the island of Meganisi, then swim along its coastline and end the swim at the tip of a bay on the northwest side of the island.

We take a well deserved lunch at Spilia situated at a bay only ‘round the corner’ from the end of the swim.

The shorter 2k afternoon swim starts at Perigiali, in the familiar bay of Nidri and takes us past the tiny green island of Heloni. From here we swim onwards toward our finishing point, the island of Sparti. Sparti is an excellent spot for snorkelling and exploring the rocky coast, so swimmers can warm down with some watery sight seeing!

Daily swim total: 4.9K.

Type of swim: Circumnavigation & island crossing.

Location: Thilia, Heloni and Sparti islands.

Day 5 - Morning Swim

Day 5 - Afternoon Swim

Day 6

An early start for our Heroic Big Swim of the week.

After an hour and 50 min boat trip South West we find ourselves in the channel between the islands of Ithaka and Kefallonia.

The swim starts off the east coast of Kefallonia heading east and bypassing the tiny island of Daskalio in the distance. This channel of water is breathtaking and also is home to the ‘Delphinus Delphis’ Dolphins who are unique to the area between Lefkada and Kefallonia.

We aim for the quiet confines of Polis Bay on Ithaka where we land after this ‘heroic’ crossing for a well deserved rest and snack refuel. We then go back to the boat and cruise north west to the fishing harbour of Fiskardo on Kefallonia. This is a cosmopolitan harbour and we stop here for a long lunch break and a chance for sightseeing, shopping and coffee.

For the more ‘restless’ amongst you, we strongly recommend that you take a walk around the harbour and after a short walk through the woods opposite, visit the beautiful old Venetian stone lighthouse. From here there are amazing panoramic views of the morning’s swim from Kefallonia to Ithaka and a good spot for photographs.

We then depart Kefallonia, heading north east towards Lefkada and back to the hotel at the bay of Yeni.

Daily swim total: 5K

Type of swim: Island crossing.

Location: Islands of Kefallonia and Ithaka.

Day 7

Today’s last swim is a special one, starting from the island of Skorpios.

This 2.3k swim sees us heading along the green coastline of this famous island and finishing on a ‘permitted’ beach on this privately owned island for relaxing and photographs. The island was, until very recently, owned by Aristotelis’s granddaughter Athina Onassis who has sold the lease of the island to a Russian tycoon. She is the only remaining ‘Onassis’ from the era of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotelis Onassis. Nowadays the self-made millionaire as well as his beloved son Alexandros and daughter Christina are at rest on the island. Although privately owned we can spend a short while on this very small beach for drinks, snacks and a rest, admiring the lush greenery and calm of this beautiful island.

The guided swims end this lunchtime and there is the option to visit the busy town of Nidri for shopping, strolling, lunch and more activities! Alternatively you may wish to relax and soak up the sun in the tranquil setting of Ilios Hotel.

Swimmers have this afternoon ‘free’ and we all meet up later that evening for an organised evening (and last) meal at a taverna by the surrounding hills.

Daily swim total: 2.3K.

Type of swim: Coastal.

Location: Skorpios island.

Day 7 - Swim

Day 8

The week has gone too fast and it is our final goodbye, “sto epanithin” (until we meet again). This is the last morning in the accommodation and swimmers are asked to vacate rooms at Ilios Club Hotel by 11am. If you need to stay for a little longer please ask Georgia the owner or let Michael, Lisa or any of the guides know.

If guests are staying longer in Lefkada we can suggest accommodation options and places to visit in and around the area.


Flights that feed Lefkada island land at Preveza airport (a.k.a. Aktion, PVK) which is 20 minutes away by car from Lefkada Town, the capital and 50 mins away from our hotel in Yeni. International charter flights operate from May to October and connect most major European cities and capitals. From the U.K the feeding airports are that of Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham and usually operate on a Thursday or Sunday, there and back. The typical operators are Torair, Thomson, Olympic Airlines and EasyJet.

There is an online flight search facility specifically for Lefkada on www.lefkas.net

PLEASE NOTE. The welcome briefing takes place on the first Sunday at 7.30 pm at our hotel in Yeni (Ilios Club Hotel) so please book your flights accordingly so that you can attend.

Ryanair operate flights to neighbouring Corfu and Kefallonia. There is a local plane skyexpress that flies between Corfu, Kefallonia and Lefkada (Preveza Airport). Skyexpress flight timetables are released in May of each year.

Alternatively from Kefallonia you can catch a ferry from Fiskardo (North Kefallonia) to Vasiliki (South Lefkada) and then a bus to Nidri, approx. 20 mins away. The ferryboat ‘Captain Aristides’ operates a service to and from the Islands of Kefallonia (Fiscardo). The ‘Captain Aristides’ carries both cars and foot passengers. The phone number of their agent on Lefkada is + 30 (26450) 93278. You can also fly to Athens International Airport and then catch a flight or coach to Lefkada.

By Road


The recent construction of the beautiful bridge of Rio-Antirio and the very recent upgrading of the road infrastructure have greatly accelerated the travel by road from the capital Athens, 385 km away. If you were to travel on your own by car please be aware that there are motorway toll charges, approximately 25 euros each way and you will need cash for this.

By Bus

Buses from Athens cost about 34 euros, leave regularly and take 5 hours and this might be a good way to get to Lefkada if you first want to visit Athens, as part of an extensive holiday. There are several buses per day to/from Athens. In Athens the Lefkada bus operates from and to the Leoforos Kiffisos Bus Station. A taxi between the Leoforos Kiffisos Bus Station and Athens Airport costs about 35 Euros and takes about 40 minutes.

Bus Tickets between Lefkada and Athens can be booked online with KTEL

Lefkada KTEL bus station phone : Lefkada offices : +30 26450 22364

Athens KTEL bus station offices : (Kiffisos area) +30 210 5150108



From Preveza airport we recommend you catch a taxi to the hotel and the cost for this is approximately 50 euros, which might be worth it for a company of 3-4 people. We will send you a group email prior to your trip, so that you are able to liaise with swimmers from your week if you decide to make a group taxi booking. The email will contain taxi booking information so you are able to book a taxi direct via email.


You can catch the local bus from the airport to Lefkada Town (the capital of the island). This will take approx. 20 minutes and the cost is 2.20 euros. From Lefkada Town bus station you will then catch a connecting bus to Nidri, a further 20 minutes ride and this should cost 2.20 euros.

There are 6 buses a day, Monday to Saturday, that run from Preveza Town via Preveza airport (Aktion) to Lefkada Town. They depart Preveza Town at: 7.00, 9.45, 12.30, 14.45, 16.45 and 20.00 and 15 mins after departure they arrive at Preveza airport. On a Sunday there are 3 buses at 14.30, 16.45 and 20.00, (again 15 mins later they arrive at the airport).

Car Hire

If wishing to explore before or after the trip you might also choose to hire a car from the airport:

The Big Blue recommends Parga Car Hire (If contacting Parga Car Hire please mention The Big Blue for special rates). Parga Car Hire also own the franchises for National/Alamo and Budget and they deliver cars from as far as Igoumenitsa ferry port all along the coast up to Preveza aiport. They guarantee excellent customer service and also guarantee their cars are in excellent condition.


Swimmers stay at Ilios Club Hotel situated in the exclusive area of Yeni, Lefkada, a very green and tranquil wooded waterside location.

The individual rooms and apartments of the hotel are spacious with kitchen facilities and are situated amongst matured olive groves and well maintained gardens offering shade and a relaxed Greek atmosphere.

The hotel offers a buffet-style breakfast, has wi-fi in the communal areas, a swimming pool and a poolside bar where swimmers can unwind and indulge in a drink after a hard day’s swim. Ilios Club Hotel has a terraced restaurant with views across the water where Big Blue swimmers can have the day’s specialities at special discounted prices and a traditional ‘Greek night’ is also on offer once a week.

Along the green coastline of Yeni are also a number of small traditional family-owned tavernas, dotted along the edge of the water, offering you the chance to sample the local fresh fish and other mouth-watering delights, while watching the sun set behind the hills.

Big Blue Swim Accommodation

Click to Enlarge


Mowgli, The Big Blue’s main boat, has been purchased recently and has undergone considerable restoration at the local boatyard in Lefkada by a master craftsman. She is a beautiful 15 metre long motorsailer, constructed in mahogany throughout with a teak deck, by the famous Picchioti shipyards who are in operation still today constructing wonderful boats. Originally commissioned in La Spezia, in Italy in1963 she has in the past sailed the world over and has even reached as far afield as Hong Kong! She was designed by the Italian boat designer F.A. Boretti who must have been in love with unusual traditional shapes as there are only 2 boats of this unique design worldwide; one of the deciding factors in her purchase!

Although there is still quite a bit of cosmetic work to be done, everything on her works well, complying with all the latest and stringent maritime safety laws and offering speeds up to 13 Knots with her brand new 320HP diesel engine, ideal for cruising around the Greek seas. From the comfort of her ample teak deck and the huge bean bags especially purchased for lounging on, swimmers indulge under the welcoming Greek sun and peruse the diverse coastline of the Ionian Sea, in the gentle and unassuming luxury of Mowgli.

Apart from the ample sunbathing space at the front of the boat there is also ample shaded area at the rear of Mowgli where swimmers can have a break from the sun.

The pilothouse in the middle section is big enough for people not only to escape from the sun but also have an indoors rest with plenty of comfortable seating. We normally use this area as the ‘dry room’ where swimmers deposit their bags and change into dry clothes ready for the lunch stops; towards the back of the boat and down a few steps there are 2 comfortable beds for people to have a proper rest and this is where the toilet is located with a shower facility.

There is also sunbathing space at the top but only for a small number of people offering 360o panoramic views of the islands and interesting landmarks we cruise by; a small luxurious experience not to be missed by anyone!

The Boat - Mowgli

Click to Enlarge


A magical week spent in the great abyss with wonderful people. Thank you big blue, for sharing this experience and making it so brilliant, and to new friends made.

Dizzy, Brighton, U.K


Loved every minute of the trip. Every island was different, the swims were sometimes relaxing, sometimes challenging, but always fun, with the clearest water I've ever swum in. Accommodation is in an idyllic location and the local knowledge is evident in the careful planning and the choice of crossings and coastal swims. I'll be back!

Kate, Newquay, U.K


It was the holiday of a lifetime, absolute heaven.

Victoria & Angela, Cumbria, U.K


I would class this as a fantastic holiday, first class accommodation, good food, lovely boat for chilling out, warm water, breath taking scenery, more calories burned than consumed and great fun.

Patricia, Leeds, U.K


It turned out to be even better than I imagined! I really discovered the big blue! Thank you!

Nathalie, Austria


The Kefalonia to Ithica swim was sensational and such a swimming highlight for me. My tour had a fabulous group of people and we had such a great time. Michael is such a nice, caring, responsible and welcoming host - he made our holiday.

Graham, Reigate, U.K

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