With an area of approximately 400 square kilometers, the Gulf of Ambracia is the largest wetland in Greece and among the most important wetlands in Europe because of its unique diversity of seabirds. It meets the Ionian Sea through a shallow channel only 370 meters wide. Its pebble beaches are surrounded by densely wooded mountains, verdant plains, lakes and rivers, and lively villages. The delta of the rivers Louros and Arachtos supports a rare ecosystem of aquatic and salt-loving vegetation, within an extended network of brackish lagoons, sandy islets, salt flats, reed beds, and mud flats. The rare Dalmatian pelican breeds there, and several other bird species make their homes in the delta, making it an amazing place for birdwatchers. You’ll also, of course, enjoy encounters with charismatic bottlenose dolphins in their natural environment, and likely also spot some of the Gulf’s abundant loggerhead sea turtles.
Vonitsa, a traditional village on the Gulf of Ambracia inhabited by kind and hospitable people, is one of the key highlights of the Gulf. A large, medieval castle looms over the village, and offers rewarding views of the central part of the Gulf. This fortress is a privileged spot to observe the villagers enjoying the local gastronomy in the traditional Greek tavernas and cafes along the seaside. The small harbor right below is frequently visited by foreign sailors that contribute to give to the place a nice and warm atmosphere of camaraderie among boaters.
The area around Vonitsa is dotted with many lovely places to visit. About 16 kilometers to the east, at the entrance of the Gulf, lies Preveza, a relatively large city with nice restaurants and pubs and good shopping opportunities. Nikopolis, eight kilometers north of Preveza, is one of the most interesting archeological sites in the area; the Roman emperor Augustus founded it to commemorate his victory over Antony and Cleopatra in the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.
The Ionian Sea boasts a number of beautiful islands. One of the finest is Lefkada, about 20 kilometers west of Vonitsa and easily reachable by car or public transportation. The scenery varies starkly between the east side and the west side of the island: the east coast has dense vegetation and smooth shores, while the west is steep and has long beaches, among the cleanest in the Mediterranean, with crystal- clear water. The town of Lefkada, on the island, is a popular destination for sailors and provides excellent opportunities for shopping. The village of Nidri is the most popular nightlife spot on the island. Vasiliki, also on Lefkada, attracts many surfers, and traditional houses that have become cafes, restaurants, and cozy hotels line the beach.
A ferry connects Lefkada to the islands of Meganisi and Ithaka, also worth visiting. Meganisi is tiny, beautiful, and unspoiled, with impressive caves and sandy beaches. The ferry arrives at the pretty fishing village of Vathi, whose harbor entrance is flanked by chapels. Ithaka, the home of the famous Odysseus (Ulysses), provides lovely spots for relaxation, natural beauty, and good food. On its coastline the verdant trees coming down to the sea mix their greenness with the color of the sea, creating a scene of wild beauty. Kefalonia, a nearby island with rugged landscapes, countless bays and inlets, and fine beaches, served as the setting of the book and movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Mount Ainos (1,626 meters) on Kefalonia is the third highest mountain in Greece. Even if one is not lucky enough to spot the last wild horses living on its southeastern slopes, the views of the island from the mountain are breathtaking.