They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e. “the Seven Islands” (Ἑπτάνησα, Heptanēsa or Ἑπτάνησος, Heptanēsos; Italian: Eptaneso), but the group includes many smaller islands as well as the seven principal ones.
As a distinct historic region they date to the centuries-long Venetian rule, which preserved them from becoming part of the Ottoman Empire, and created a distinct cultural identity with many Italian influences. The Ionian Islands became part of the modern Greek state in 1864. Administratively today they belong to the Ionian Islands Region except for Kythera, which belongs to the Attica Region.
The seven islands are; from north to south:
- Kerkyra (Κέρκυρα) usually known as Corfu in English and Corfù in Italian
- Paxi (Παξοί) also known as Paxos in English
- Lefkada (Λευκάδα) also known as Lefkas in English
- Ithaki (Ιθάκη) usually known as Ithaca in English
- Kefalonia (Κεφαλονιά) often known as Kefalonia, Cephalonia and Kefallinia in English
- Zakynthos (Ζάκυνθος) sometimes known as Zante in English and Italian
- Kythira (Κύθηρα) usually known as Cythera in English and sometimes known as Cerigo in English and Italian
The six northern islands are off the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea. The seventh island, Kythira, is off the southern tip of the Peloponnese, the southern part of the Greek mainland. Kythira is not part of the region of the Ionian Islands, as it is included in the region of Attica.