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What to do on Ithaca

Ithaca is the second smallest island in the Ionian group. Ithaca’s mountainous interior falls away to deep valleys of olive groves and a rugged coastline with many beautiful beaches and hidden coves.

The island has always been fairly self-sufficient with a good olive harvest, citrus groves, vineyards and at one time wheat was grown on many of the hillside terraces – the remains of old windmills can be seen across the island. Goat and sheep farming is still evident particularly in the mountain village of Anoghi and Marmakas. Festivals to celebrate Saints’ days and seasonal harvests are a big part of the island’s tradition and culture.

Ithaca’s population depleted during the Civil War just after the Second World War when many emigrated to countries such as Australia and South Africa. There are now just over 3,000 residents but with many having returned from overseas quite often you will hear an Australian or South African twang.
Sue, our Ithaca Manager
Sue, our Ithaca Manager

FACILITIES

Our Ithaca Manager is Susan White – you can contact Susan for any help or advice at info@ithacatravelservices.com or phone/text on (0030) 6944289428.

The Ithaca doctor is called Rania and she is based in Vathy: mobile (0030) 6944470735 and landline (0030) 26740 33701.

The Ithaca dentist is Nikos Kolivas: mobile (0030) 6980474736 and landline (0030) 26740 32644.

Boat Hire:
Kioni - George (0030) 6972 594090
Vathy - Stephanos @ Capt Yannis (0030) 26740 33311 or (0030) 26740 33312
Polis Bay - Lucky (0030) 6979 581205

The capital town of Vathy has 3 major banks all with ATM machines, a post office, the health centre, 2 chemists and a dentist. Vathy has 2 museums – the Archaeological and the Folklore; a good selection of bakeries, shops, supermarkets, greengrocers and butchers as well as café bars, restaurants and tavernas.
In the northern part of the island, in the village of Stavros you will find an ATM machine, chemist, bakery, butcher and 2 mini markets.
In each of the villages of Frikes and Kioni there is a mini market and in Kioni – a bakery. 'Bread vans' also visit all the villages each morning selling bread and fresh croissants as well as a van selling fresh fruit and vegetables.
Fishermen come back to each port with their catch quite early in the morning and sell from their boat - ask locally who, where & what time!

Beach near Frikes
Beach near Frikes
Dexa beach
Dexa beach
Minimata beach
Minimata beach

BEACHES

All the beaches are pebble or very fine shingle. In the north below Stavros, Polis Bay holds a small fishing boat harbour and two beaches. One beach has a cantina, sun beds and umbrellas, showers, toilets and motor boats for hire.

Further north in the village of Kioni is Cemetery Beach, the name given as it is situated in front of the village cemetery, here you will find a cantina serving snacks and drinks all day and also on certain evenings it is open for simple meals.

Below the village of Lefki are the beautiful beaches of Agios Ioannis – blindingly white pebbles lapped by turquoise blue sea. Sun beds are available for hire here but you will need to take your own refreshments.

In the south, Dexa Beach is said to be where the Phaeacians returned Odysseus. The beach is very narrow but behind it is a grassed area with olive trees for natural shade. A peak season cantina serves drinks and snacks.

Out along the coast and a boat ride away from Vathy is Gidakia Beach, a stunning beach backed by a sheer rock face with crystal clear waters. Small “water taxi” boats run regularly back and forth from Vathy to the beach.

For something more lively, 3 kilometres outside Vathy is the fine pebble beach of Filiatro - the 'party' beach of Ithaca – a cantina, sunbeds and umbrellas and music played all day long.

Most beaches however are natural and sunlounger-less.

WATER ∓ LAND ACTIVITIES

There are boat hirers in Kioni, Polis Bay and Vathy. Outboard engines range from 15HP to 140HP – you need a power boat license to hire over a 30HP. July and August can be busy but for other months boat supply usually exceeds demand but if boat hire is to be an integral part of your holiday then best to prebook. For more information or advice contact our manager, Susan.

Kayaking, scuba diving & snorkeling are available in Vathy. Bicycle hire is available in Vathy but be warned that Ithaca is a mountainous island! For the less active who would like to find inner peace why not try the yoga centre in Agios Ioannis.

Kioni
Kioni
Frikes
Frikes

EXPLORING THE ISLAND

Although Ithaca has only one town and eleven villages the interior has a beautiful wilderness with dramatic views and a diverse landscape hiding the remains of a busier past.

The best way to explore the hidden parts of Ithaca is to seek local advice. Talk to them! If you want to discover a nearby beach, a fresh fish taverna, the bakery, a walking trail or even an idea of the island’s history – smile & ask!

Ithaca offers some excellent walking trails taking you off the beaten track and to the ancient ruins of Ithaca’s past.

Kathara Monastery – the only monastery on the island and situated near to the summit of Mt Niritos, the island’s highest mountain – magnificent views over the southern part of Ithaca.

A walking trail from the Kathera Monastery takes you along the old goat herders footpath to the medieval village of Anogi and then on down to Kioni.

A mountain climb above Piso Aetos takes you to the ancient citadel of Alalkommenae.

The sleepy, old village of Anoghi is at the remotest point of the island - home to a 15th Century church with the original wall frescoes still intact – the key for the church can be obtained in the local kafenion in the village square - just ask Nikos for the key and maybe also enjoy an ouzo with him whilst admiring the unusual artifacts he has on display in his shop.

The village of Exoghi (meaning “out of this world”) was once a thriving village with a population of over 1000 inhabitants but now only a few. The village has spectacular views overlooking Afales Bay and Lefkas and surrounding hillside terraces of vineyards.

For those following the footsteps of Odysseus, just outside Stavros are the ruins of the 'School of Homer'. Stavros has a small museum with locally found artifacts as well as a model of how the ancient palace of Odysseus may have looked.

The narrowest point of Ithaca, just 620m wide, is where the old trading post 'The Hani' has stood since the 1800's and now has a viewing platform over the channel to Kefalonia from one side and to mainland Greece from the other side. Spectacular sunrise and sunset views.

Excursions by sea include a trip to the neighbouring uninhabited island of Atakos with a barbecue lunch and a Marine Adventure trip with a marine biologist on board. Private taxi tours are available taking you to visit the island’s highlights whilst at the same time the experienced English guide will tell you all about the island’s history, culture and traditions.

Contact our manager Susan for further details on any of these aspects of exploration.

FOOD & DRINK

Here is a selection of traditional dishes that you can expect to find at some of the tavernas:
Taramosalata: A fish roe dip made with garlic, onion, bread crumbs, olive oil and lemon juice.
Tzatziki: A yoghurt and cucumber dip.
Melitzanosalata: An aubergine dip made with garlic, onion, lemon juice and herbs.
Dolmades: Vine leaves stuffed with rice, egg and lemon sauce.
Zuccini Balls: Fried pates of courgette, dill, feta and lemon juice.
Horta: Traditional local wild greens, boiled. Add plenty of oil, lemon juice and black pepper!
Tiropitta: Cheese pie made with filo pastry
Spanakopitta: Spinach and feta cheese pie made with filo pastry.
Saganaki: Deep fried cheese served with a wedge of lemon
Yigantes: Butter beans cooked in seasoned tomato, garlic and onion sauce.
Scorthalia: A garlic dip made with mashed potato and served cold as an accompaniment to fish or on its own.
Horiatiki: Greek Salad of course!
Moussaka: Layers of aubergine, mincemeat and topped with bechamel sauce.
Papoutsakia: Baked aubergines filled with mince meat, topped with cheese.
Keftedes: Deep fried meatballs flavoured with garlic and herbs.
Stifado: A meat stew with red wine, garlic, bay leaves, sometimes nutmeg, baby onions and tomato.
Kleftiko: A slow cooked lamb stew with onion, herbs, lemon, white wine.
Loukaniko: Spicy sausages.
Yemista: Stuffed tomatoes or peppers. Sometimes the filling includes mince so if you are vegetarian, check before you order.
Fasolakia: Green beans in a tomato and herb sauce.

LOCAL WINES
In nearly all tavernas and restaurants you can buy a half or whole litre of “house” wine – there is a wide variation in taste! It is available in white, red and rose.
There are now many Greek wineries producing some excellent wines but in small quantities so many are not exported and we are therefore ignorant of the present standards. Even in Greece bottled wine can be expensive when compared to the UK marketplace where prices are more competitive. As a suggestion, try a few bottles from a minimarket, remember the names of ones you like and then see if the taverna stocks one of them.

TAVERNAS AND RESTAURANTS
Ithaca’s tavernas offer a variety of local dishes such as a traditional onion pie, an excellent selection of fresh fish caught by the local fishermen, who also sell their catch off the quayside, homemade moussakas, and with locally sourced lamb. The Rovani rice cake is a Moorish dessert.

Frikes and Kioni have a good assortment of waterfront tavernas.

When in Vathy have a wander around the side streets to discover the more traditional tavernas where no menu exists but a visit to the kitchen will show you what is cooking.

For something a little less Greek try the 'Gefyri' situated in Platrithias offering an excellent selection of international dishes – a pleasant venue for a drink and Sunday lunchtime a tempting Brunch menu.

'Polyphemus' in Stavros also offers an alternative menu with an unusual but delicious twist on traditional Greek dishes. The 'Hani', which can be found at the narrowest point of Ithaca where the two peninsulas join, has a café bar and restaurant with dramatic views.

Some tasty wines are produced by local villagers who in turn supply the tavernas. These wines are still produced in the old fashioned way with the grapes being pressed by foot and without the introduction of chemicals.

TRAVEL & TRANSPORT

To get around on Ithaca using local transport requires patience as the local bus service, (which also doubles up as the school bus) is limited to just one early morning trip from Kioni in the north to the main town Vathy in the south and returning to Kioni midday when school has finished. During the high season (July/August) a second run is added.

Typical bus times are:- Low & Mid season 07.00 from Kioni to Vathy and 14.00 from Vathy to Kioni. High season 07.15 from Kioni to Vathy, 11.00 from Vathy to Kioni and 14.30 from Kioni to Vathy (times maybe vary slightly).

Another way to get about is to hire a car, scooter or bicycle: the two car hire companies are based in Vathy one of which also hires scooters and bicycles. There is also a mini market in Frikes which has scooters for hire.

For those who don't want to drive then there are twelve taxis on the island, one of which is driven by our manager, Susan, who can give you a choice of island tours.