On the Paths of Odysseus

Timeless Ithaca, a poetic haven revered by Homer and Cavafy, has navigated the currents of its enduring mythology for centuries.

In a word, Ithaca is “authentic.” One doesn’t encounter the crowds, extravagance and cosmopolitanism of gourmet restaurants and luxury resorts that typify other Ionian islands. Here, everything exudes a sense of modesty. The beaches are small, often without accommodating infrastructure.

Charming fishing villages dot the island, traditional mountain settlements offer picturesque retreats, and ancient paths crisscross the land, offering countless trekking routes. Amidst it all, one discovers enchanting ruins of Mycenaean palaces and secluded coves with crystal-clear waters resonating with the timeless allure cherished by sailors through the ages. Located a few nautical miles northeast of Kefalonia, Ithaca is ideal for weekend getaways or day trips from neighbouring destinations. Boats from Fiskardo and Sami regularly ferry visitors to and from the island.

The focal point of activity is in the south, particularly in Vathi, the capital. Nestled amphitheatrically in the embrace of a natural bay, Vathi teems with life. The aged and stately mansions showcasing the traditional architecture of the Ionian Islands blend seamlessly with charming cafés, bars, hotels, and restaurants. Two museums house precious treasures, while in the heart of the bay, the petite island of Sotiras (or Lazaretto) peacefully resides, crowned by the 17th-century church of the same name. A must-visit in the area is the white-pebbled beach of Gidaki and nearby the Cave of the Nymphs – boasting impressive stalactites. Legend has it that Odysseus concealed gifts from the Phaeacians within the cave upon his return to Ithaca. A five-minute drive to the south unveils the lush, mountainous Perachori, acclaimed as one of the island’s most stunning heights for unobstructed vistas. If you venture northward, visit the monastery of Panagia Kathariotissa, a significant pilgrimage site. Continuing the journey, you’ll encounter the mediaeval village of Anogi distinguished by the presence of the Menir – colossal rocks scattered around the outskirts of the settlement. Further north, nearby Exogi, archaeological excavations have unearthed Mycenaean palatial artefacts – possibly the remnants of Odysseus’ palace.

Take a break for lunch in Frikes, a quaint fishing village on the northeast coast exuding a nostalgic 60s ambience, before reaching the most picturesque corner of Ithaca: Kioni. An enchanting traditional settlement adorned with vibrantly-hued stone houses arranged along a sheltered cove that’s perfect for mooring boats, Kioni captivates with its cosmopolitan allure. The village will win you over with its blooming courtyards, refined cafés, and windmills. From here, rent a boat and embark on Afales, an expansive bay adorned with the island’s most ethereal stretches of whitesandy beaches and rugged cliffs rising from emerald waters. It’s a landscape of otherworldly beauty that beckons, inviting you to lose yourself in introspection and to depart and rediscover your essence. In the words of Cavafy, “Ithaca gave you the marvellous journey.”