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Second smallest of the seven Ionian islands, sleepy Ithaca is perhaps best known for its links with Homer's epic tale, The Odyssey. This tranquil jewel boasts a remarkable list of sights to explore and is a paradise for walkers, artists, historians and photographers alike.
The capital of the island, Vathy, benefits from one of the most idyllic seafront settings in all Greece. Invisible from the open sea, its narrow fjord-like entrance, guarded by twin headlands, each adorned with the ruins of Venetian gun emplacements, and overlooked by Mount Neritos, the island’s highest peak. Nestling in the middle of the sweeping harbour sits the tiny islet of Lazaretto with its picturesque, whitewashed church while around the edge of the sheltered bay small boats bob in clear waters alongside local tavernas. The pace of life here is laid-back. At most!
Perched just above Vathy, the traditional village of Perachori, is the centre of Ithaca’s wine production and home to several small tavernas renowned for the freshness and quality of their food. Whilst here a visit to another of Ithaca’s gems, the nearby monastery of Taxiarchis, built in 1645, is well worthwhile. Numerous small, secluded and dazzling white pebble beaches grace Ithaca’s coastline among them the delightful bays of Filiatro, Sarakinikos and Gidaki, all extremely pretty and all seldom busy, even in the height of summer. Awarded the coveted Blue Flag for clean water and environmental protection, the beach at Dexia merits particular attention.
Inland the landscape is as alluring as the coast. The mountainous countryside and scenery of this tranquil island is astonishingly beautiful, especially in early summer when wild flowers create a colourful perfumed carpet across the hillsides.
Heading west from Vathy, as you pass over the high ridge above the bay of Aetos, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ithaca is almost two islands in one. Looking across the straits to Kefalonia and only 600m wide, this narrow strip connects the northern and southern peninsulas and is a favoured spot for walkers. Nearby, a steep mountain track leads you to the 16th century monastery of Kathara, on the slopes of Mount Neritos. From here, the view back towards Vathy harbour is magical.
The traditional northern village of Stavros (meaning crossroads in Greek) boasts some fine churches, an imposing bust of Odysseus and some of the island’s most respected restaurants. From Stavros, drop down through the lush valley to the tiny harbour and port of Frikes, a sleepy seaside village with dazzling white stonewashed houses, luxuriantly decorated with bougainvillea and jasmine, and a good selection of unpretentious waterfront tavernas.
Beyond Frikes, follow the scenic coastal road to the atmospheric harbour of Kioni. Here, smart houses punctuate the hills around a secluded horseshoe bay of this extremely pretty Greek village.
Ithaca represents timeless, quintessential Greece, where time may not exactly stand still but definitely ambles along at its leisure.
As Ithaca does not have its own airport all flights arrive to the neighbouring island of Kefalonia. At time of going to press the best choice of charter flights are from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester with Newcastle and Luton also served. We offer a transfer service from Kefalonia airport to the ferry port and onward to Ithaca included in the rental rate.