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Ithaca in Greece
Ithaca. Ithakia. Ithaca. Ithaki. Dear child has many names. At least many different spellings. The island with the many names belongs to the Ionian Islands, which consists of twelve inhabited islands, in the far north is Corfu and in the south is Zakynthos. Ithaca is located just east of Kefalonia.
Vathy in Ithaca.
Ithaca (as we say in English) has about 3,230 inhabitants, distributed in three villages, and some smaller communities. The capital is Vathy, and has about 1,920 inhabitants. The area is 95 km2 and the highest peak - Mount Neritos - measuring 806 meters above sea level.
Ithaca is an exceptionally beautiful island. Kefalonia is widely known to be a beautiful island with plenty of greenery, but Ithaca is actually a cut above. Of the 65 Greek islands I've been to, Ithaca belongs to one of the most beautiful. Some places have such a nice view that you have to rub your eyes. Too bad there are so few people that know that.
Ithaca is a very beautiful island. Like here in Vathy. The mountains to the right also belong to Ithaca.
It is a relatively unknown island for the majority. Why one may ask? Is it because no one wants to tell about the beauty of the island? No, it's not. It rather depends on that almost no one has been here. I think that many would have a new favourite island if they gave Ithaca a chance. When I came to Ithaca for the first time, it took no more than half a day before I placed the island on my top-five list.
If Ithaca is an island unknown to ordinary people, it is more than known for all those who are interested in Greek mythology. Ithaca is namely the home island of Odysseus. Although it in recent years have been a dispute whether it really is Ithaca which Homer describes in his epic Odyssey. I've decided that Ithaca is the right island. There is so much more fun then.
The English poet Lord Byron wrote following after a visit on Ithaca: "If this island belonged to me I would bury all my books here and never go away." I could not have said it better myself! :-D
The small port in Frikes.
As most people surely know, Odysseus was a wandering hero who fought against all sorts of things. Among other things, he played a crucial role in the war in Troy. It was Odysseus who came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse. He was away from Ithaca for ten long years. At home his wife, Penelope, was waiting faithfully for his return. Well, it's a long story that I'm not going to tell know. It does not matter if there is any truth or not in the myth of Odysseus, he and Penelope have put many traces on Ithaca.
TRAVEL TO ITHACA
If you travel independently it is easiest to fly to Kefalonia. From Kefalonia, the ferries to Ithaca sail from Sami and Fiskardo. There are three ports on Ithaca: ferries from Fiskardo call at Frikes, while the ferries from Sami call at Vathy, or at Piso Ateos. Ithaca also has boat connections with Vasiliki in Lefkada.
GETTING AROUND IN ITHACA
The bus runs between Vathy and Kioni, via Stavros and Frikes, twice a day. As the bus connections are not so good, many people take a taxi instead. Taxi between Frikes and Vathy cost about 25-30 €. I think that the best way to see Ithaca is to rent a car or moped. Rental companies are to be found in Vathy.
VILLAGES IN ITHACA
Vathy is Ithaca's largest village, in addition there are a few small villages, and a couple of tiny ones. Ithaca has a peculiar shape; the northern and the southern parts of Ithaca are connected by a narrow strip of land in the middle. It's almost as if it were two islands.
Vathy is situated on the southern part in a delightful and beautiful bay which is often full of sailing boats. The village spreads out on both sides of the bay and it's a pure pleasure to slowly walk back and forth. The centre is located in one corner of the bay. This is where most facilities are available. Along the waterfront and on the charming square, there are many tavernas and cafes. The best taverna can be found on a side street that begins in the square. The taverna is named Ó Nikos and it is one of the most enjoyable tavernas I have eaten at.
The diamond on the northern Ithaca is called Kioni, and it is just as nice village as Vathy, though on a smaller scale. The village is surrounded by lush greenery and turquoise water in a horseshoe-shaped bay. In the water the fishing boats and sailing boats rock along. The small waterfront promenade is lined with several tavernas and a few cafes. Kioni is incredibly nice, and I could image to stay here a week or two. There is even a small pebble beach if you want to have a dip.
The cozy village of Kioni on the north Ithaca.
The other villages in the north of Ithaca are so small that they are barely visible. Except from Frikes that revive when a ferry pull in from Lefkada or Kefalonia. Here is a small beach and a few tavernas, including one called Penelope.
The villages of Exogi and Kolieri may be small, but interesting nevertheless. In both villages there are remarkable monuments and sculptures. In Exogi there are some pyramid-like rock formations. Why they stand here, I have no idea about. In Kolieri there are a collection of monuments, sculptures and olive presses. There is even an obelisk. It is dedicated to all parents in the world. On a rusty thing that probably has been an olive press, it is to be read: The only monument in memory of a lunatic.
BEACHES IN ITHACA
Beaches are not Ithaca's strong point. If the beaches were on the same high standard as on Kefalonia, Ithaca would have been invaded by tourists. The water is nevertheless fantastic, so it doesn't matter that the beaches are not so good. There are no sandy beaches, only pebbles are offered.
One of the beaches around Kioni.
Where Ithaca is at its narrowest is Dexa beach, which is said to be where Odysseus went onshore when he came home from the war in Troy. As a beach it is not much to see. That is, however, Polis beach from where it is said that Odysseus left from Ithaca when he went to Troy to make war. Polis beach is considered by many to be the best beach on Ithaca.
Others think that Gidaki beach is the finest. Gidaki is located northeast of Vathy and is accessible only by boat. I prefer the beaches around Kioni. There are many small beaches around the island, so you will surely find your own favourite. I like the small beach Filiatro which is very beautiful.
SIGHTS IN ITHACA
For me, it is the beautiful scenery that is Ithaca's great gift to humanity. For others, it is the mythological footprints from Odysseus that arouse the interest. Are you interested in Greek mythology, you should visit the beaches of Dexa and Polis as mentioned above.
Above Dexa beach is the Cave of the Nymphs where it is said that Odysseus hid his booty, including gold, copper and textiles. The last time I visited the cave it was closed to the public. However, there was an elderly gentleman who for some Euro lent a flashlight and showed where the cave was. I did not enter the cave, but so did my dear wife Camilla. She does not do it again. The cave was dangerous.
Do you like to hike; you can walk to the Fountain of Aretousa on south-eastern Ithaca where Odysseus's swineherd Eumaeus gave his pigs water. It sure sounds exciting.
Vathy is the best village in Ithaca.
ACCOMMODATION IN ITHACA
Almost all tourists stay in Vathy. The range is quite small, and it is not easy to find room on location. Many hotels and pensions are pre-booked by charter companies, and the few family pensions is poorly signposted. Next time I travel to Ithaca I will make a reservation ahead. Something I recommend everyone to do.
Here are suggestions for accommodation in Ithaca.