The Greek Islands and Athens

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Ithaca, also called Ithaki, is a small and rugged island and much quieter than its popular neighbour Kefalonia. According to Homers epic, The Odyssey, it is the legendary home of Odysseus who, as king of Ithaca, joined the Greek expedition against the city of Troy. The island comes in two parts, north and south with a narrow strip of land joining the two, and is popular with both foreign and Greek tourists alike.

Ithaca

Ithaca 1

In the southern part of the island stands the capital, Vathy, also known as Ithaca Town. The above picture shows a small part of what is a much larger harbour, looking towards the town square where most of the shops and tavernas are situated.

The earthquake of 1953 destroyed most of the houses on Ithaca, leaving only a few remaining as a reminder of its past grandeur. The Drakoulis mansion in Vathy is one such example and is a good place to sit and enjoy a drink and just watch the world go by.

In the middle of the port lies a small island called Lazaretto. Created during the British occupation, it has served as a quarantine area and later as a prison. The buildings collapsed during the 1953 earthquake, and the Church of the Saviour was built to replace them. Trees were planted giving the island a pleasant appearance that belies its history.

The largest settlement on the northern part of the island is the town of Stavros. Once a densely populated settlement, it is now very quiet with a population of less than 250. The red domed church of the Saviour dominates the town square, built in the Neo-Byzantine style in 1922 after the destruction of the Greek community in Asia Minor. Opposite stands a park and a few bars and tavernas.

In the park in the centre of Stavros stands the only bust of Odysseus on the island, near to this, stands a map showing the route of the voyage made by Odysseus during his return from the Trojan wars. This homeward  journey is said to have taken 10 years during which Odysseus had to face such dangers as the one eyed Cyclops, the witch Circe, a visit to the underworld, and the seductive charms of the goddess Calypso.

The small fishing village of Frikes is one of the tourist resorts on the island. There are a few hotels and rooms to let but the main source of income for the handful of bars and tavernas that line the harbour side comes from the many yachts that sail around this part of the Ionian Sea who call into the recently built marina.

Ithaca 6

Ithaca 7The picturesque village of Kioni managed to avoid the worst of the 1953 earthquake and so retains some fine examples of pre-twentieth century Greek architecture. This is a popular stopping off place for yachts with a good deal of the best accommodation being snaffled up by British holiday companies. The atmosphere here like the rest of the island is very quiet and laid back. With no banks and very few shops. this exclusivity results in prices here being higher than the rest of the island.

Ithaca 8Life in Kioni revolves around the beautiful tiny harbour which has a good selection of bars and tavernas, most of the time it is very quiet and relaxed, but it can get very busy for a few hours during the afternoon when the resort is visited by tour boats. The island boasts an almost non existent bus service so getting about is mostly limited to either walking, hiring a car from Vathy, or taking a taxi. Another option is to hire a small motor boat for the day which will enable you to explore the local costal area.

Ithaca 9The beaches on Ithaca, like this one, a short walk away from the village of Kioni, are mainly made up from pebbles which can be uncomfortable. Many of the beaches are backed by trees which gives you the option of moving out of the sun and into the shade during the hottest part of the day. As this is a very quiet and comparatively un-commercialised island, do not expect to find facilities such as parasols and sun beds, and very few have tavernas, so plan to take what you need with you.

Ithaca 10There were 31 windmills on Ithaca. These 3 windmills are set on the hillside just around the coast from Kioni and are visible from the harbour side. They can be reached by walking out of the village along the costal path until you come to a beach, walk along the beach to the end and up the other side, follow the path for a short while until the path forks to the right, follow this path which is marked with paint spots and small piles of stones until you get to the windmills.

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