Home Destination Guides Accommodation 20th February 2019





General
Greece 

  
 
ITHACA
(Also written as Ithaka)
     
 
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General
  
Ithaca is a small, traditional Greek island situated a mere 2 nautical miles off the north eastern coast of Kephalonia and some 20 plus nautical miles from the western coast of mainland Greece.
  
By-passed by mainstream tourism, Ithaca has remained refreshingly unspoilt and totally uncommercialised. In common with many of the other smaller Greek islands, it has no airport, and the only means of reaching the island is by boat.
 
Legend
 
There are varying tales of how Ithaca was named, but my favourite is that the island was named after Ithacos, son of Poseidon.
 
According to Homeric legend, Ithaca was the home of Odysseus (alias Ulysses), protagonist of Homer’s epic tale ‘Odyssey.’ It was Odysseus’s cunning idea to build the Trojan Horse which enabled the Greeks to conquer the city of Troy.  Ancient Greek sculptures and ceramics often depict poor Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife, during her lonely 10-year vigil, waiting for him to return to her in Ithaca.
 
History
 
Ithacan history follows in the footsteps of the other Ionian Islands.   Once part of the province of Illyria, Ithaca succumbed to the Normans in 1185 and during the 14th Century the island was subjected to successive raids from both Turks and pirates, resulting in the decimation of the local population.
 
Under Venetian rule in the 15th Century, local people from the surrounding areas resettled on Ithaca and built protective fortifications for the first time.
 
Being a small island, Ithacans took to the sea for trade and commerce and in the 17th Century the island had a fleet of merchant shipping trading all over Europe.  Later, Ithaca supplied ships and played its part in the Greek War of Independence, finally being liberated in 1864.
  
Geography
 
Ithaca is split almost in two halves by the deep bay of Molos, and is only joined in the middle by a ridge of land barely half a mile wide, called the isthmus of Aetos. The island is rugged with steep mountainous hillsides in the west offering fantastic views across the sea channel to Kefalonia.  The highest point on the island is Mount Neritos, rising to just over 800 metres. In the east the slopes are more gentle and fertile, olive groves and grape vines abound and the locally produced wines and olive oil are first class. 
  
Inland, Ithaca is ideal for those who enjoy walking and the hillsides are covered with an abundance of wild flowers in the Spring.  The coastline has a myriad of small and secluded coves, their beaches covered in dazzling white pebbles lapped by a crystal clear sea - perfect for snorkelling.  The beach at Dexia, close to Vathy, purportedly visited by Odysseus, has been awarded a coveted Blue Flag for its clean water and environmental programme.
 
Getting around
 
In order to explore the island fully, it is advisable to hire a car, as there is only a limited bus service. However, the coast cries out to be explored by boat, so why not hire a small motorised boat and set off in search of all those secluded coves and small beaches. Taxi’s are available, but it is advisable to agree a price with the driver before setting out.
  
  
The South
 
Vathy (also known as Ithaca Town)
        
To the south of the narrow isthmus, tucked inside a deep bay, lies the thriving port and capital town of Vathy.  Here the local houses with their red tiled roofs cluster around the bay, alongside small hotels and apartments. The harbour takes pride of place along the attractive water front and local fishermen vie for position alongside the marina and ferry berths.  Just offshore, outside the harbour entrance, is the tiny islet of Lazaretto, meaning quarantine, as it was once use as a quarantine facility.  The islet is also referred to as Saviour Island, after the church that remains there.
 
Vathy has a range of amenities including tavernas, restaurants, cafeterias, shops, taxis and car hire.  Boat hire is also available for those wishing to explore the secluded coves accessible only by sea.  Sights worth visiting include the Archaeological Museum, renowned for its collection of pottery and artefacts from the Geometric Period. There is also the Cultural Centre Library, home to some very rare books, including the only edition of the Odyssey and the Iliad in Japanese. Vathy also has a Cathedral dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin.
 
Just over 1km from Vathy is the cave of the Nymphs, a large cavern which legend claims was used by Odysseus and the Goddess Athena to store treasure given to them by the Phaeacians.
 
To the south west of Vathy are ruins dating from the 8th century BC, known locally as ‘Odysseus’ Castle, and unearthed by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
 
Perahori and Piso Aetos
 
Renowned for its excellent wine, the village of Perahori is only a short drive inland from Vathy, and at the end of August the Perahori Wine Festival is a ‘must’, with food and drink a-plenty! There is a also a good view from this hill-top village. Close to Perahori are more ruins, believed to be of the medieval town of Paliohora, which was once the capital of Ithaca.   On the western coast of southern Ithaca is Piso Aetos.  Little more than a quay and a small beach, this is where the ferry from Sami (Kefalonia) arrives.
 
The North
 
Monasteries, Ruins and Views
 
Leaving Vathy and travelling across the narrow isthmus into northern Ithaca, the 16th Century monastery dedicated to the island’s patron saint, Panayia Kathariotissa,  sits high on the slopes of Mt Neritos.  The main church has beautifully painted icons, one of which, the Birth of the Virgin, is said to have been painted by Saint Luke.  From the bell tower there are the most fantastic, panoramic views across Vathy harbour and to the Peloponnese mainland beyond.
 
There are several ancient settlements and ruins to be found in northern Ithaca, hidden amongst the wild countryside.  On the north western side there are fantastic views of Kephalonia, across the narrow sea straits that separate the two islands.  From the tiny harbour of Poli on the north eastern coast, it takes just 40 minutes (approximately) to pop across to Fiskardo on Kefalonia in a small motorised boat.
  
Stavros
     
The small settlement of Stavros is located on the north west coast.  It has a tree-lined central square with a statue of Odysseus and just outside the village is a small archaeological museum, housing Ithacan artefacts dating from the Mycenaean and Corinthian eras.
 
Pilikates
 
To the north of Stavros lies the very ancient settlement of Pilikates, thought to have been the site of Odysseus’s palace. In this area and the villages to the south opposite Kephalonia are to be found numerous archeological sites, museums and remote ancient villages. In fact the whole island has a wealth of ancient history.  
 
Frikes and Kioni
     
Located on the north eastern coast, with views toward the Greek mainland,  are the fishing villages of Frikes and Kioni.  Life in Frikes is simple and utterly relaxing.  It has a small harbour with a scattering of tavernas and in the high season taxi boats run between Frikes and Vathy.  The natural beauty of the surrounding countryside offers good walks and the beaches of Limenia and Kourvoulia lie between Frikes and Kioni.
 
Picturesque Kioni has a small harbour and attracts a more cosmopolitan set of visitors who arrive on sailing yachts and tie up alongside the colourful boats of the local fishermen.  The waterfront tavernas are delightfully unspoilt and boat hire is available for exploring.
  
  
  
Island Connections
 
There are no flights into Ithaka. Charter flights operate from April to October between the UK and Preveza on the Greek Mainland. From there you can take a taxi either to Lefkas, or the mainland port of Astakos, then pick up a ferry for Ithaka.
 
Travelling from Kefalonia, ferries leave from Sami to Piso Aetos and from Fiscardo to Frikes.  The Fiscardo/Frikes ferry originates in Levkas. Piso Aetos also has a ferry connection to the small port of Astakos on the mainland and occasionally one of the larger ferry boats stops on its way to Brindisi, Italy. Another mainland ferry runs between Patras and Vathy.
 
Ferry timetables are subject to frequent change and weather conditions, therefore schedules should always be checked locally.  Plenty of time should be left between leaving Ithaca and the departure of a charter flight back to the UK, as there is always a danger that adverse weather or a change in schedules could mean that the return flight is missed!
  
  
    
   
      
The foregoing information was last reviewed in October 2007. Things change, and whilst we are often travelling in Greece we do rely to some extent upon others to provide updates in order to keep the site as current and accurate as possible!  If you have any updates or information that you think should be included here, please do mail the webmaster@aguide2greece.com  - thank you.
         

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