Ithaca Today

Without an airport, this small island of farmers and fishermen and their traditional villages has managed to retain an innocence and ambience unsullied by resort hotels, crowds and anything resembling a fast food outlet. It’s gentle beauty remains for a select few who discover its green valleys, the slow pace of village life, ancient pathways to mountaintop villages and its many crystal clear white pebbled swimming coves. The island is the perfect all seasons' holiday for every age.

As the kingdom of Homer's hero Ulysses, the wandering Greek hero who is the main character in the epic poem 'The Odyssey' Ithaca is well known to students of history and amateur classicists who like to scramble over Mycenean ruins and delve into 3000 year old history. However, it remains less known as a holiday destination.  The English word ‘odyssey’ is an apt description even today - it’s somewhat of an odyssey to reach this geographically stunning island of wooded mountaintops protruding from the Ionian sea on the Western side of Greece.

One of the seven Ionian islands, Ithaca is essentially two heavily wooded mountain tops rich in flora and fauna, which protrude steeply from the Ionian sea, joined in the centre of the island by a thin stretch of land. Ithaca combines its history, religious tradition, culture and its seafaring and agricultural way of life - unchanged for generations - with a geographic beauty that captures the most widely travelled visitor. With its many mountain pathways linking historical villages and shores dotted with small white jewelled beaches, it offers a destination which you will find difficult to leave and compelled to return to.

Throughout the ages Ithaca has been known as the home of Odysseus (Ulysses). For years Homer's hero wandered before he finally returned to his island kingdom. Though he visited beautiful, exotic, far-flung lands, Ithaca never left his mind for a moment. And even today, once you've been to Ithaca, it's difficult to forget this small, mountainous island with its captivating coves that conjure up some earthly paradise. Ithaca is separated from Cephalonia by a channel some 2 to 4 kilometers wide. The west coast of the island is steep and almost barren in contrast to the green, gentle shoreline on the east.

The capital and largest settlement is Vathi; its red-roofed delightful houses set amidst enchanting scenery at the end of the deep closed bay of Molos. It's easy to get to know the island's landmarks. Three kilometres to the northwest lies the Cave of the Nymphs. Here according to the myth, Odysseus hid the gifts bestowed upon him by the Phaeacians who deposited him upon Ithaca's shores ten long years after the end of the Trojan War. Also worth visiting is the medieval Monastery of the Archangels at Perahori

North of the valley and 600 metres above sea level, the Kathara Monastery (Moni Katharon) has a unique view of the island from its bell tower. On the horizon you can make out the mountains of Akarnania, the Echinades islets, the peaks of Zakinthos, the eastern coast of Cephalonia and even the entrance to the Gulf of Patras. The bay of Polis on the west coast, near the village of Stavros, is the site of another cave (Loizos' cave). This one yielded up shards on which were carved inscriptions testifying to the worship of Artemis, Hera and Athena. Even more interestingly, this cave has also yielded twelve tripods similar to the others which the Phaeacians gave to Odysseus.

The village of Stavros is 2 km from Levendi's and is the central village of northern Ithaca. About 1 kilometre north of Stavros is Pilicata; excavations on this hillside which is between the bays of Polis and Frikes brought to light remains of a small Bronze Age settlement. The finds unearthed there reinforce the theory that the ancient city of Ithaca lies somewhere in the vicinity. Kioni and Frikes on the northeast coast are both typical unspoilt Ionian villages with many small tavernas along their sea fronts.

As you set out for Ithaca, Hope your road is a long one...... Keep Ithaca always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years,...

The poet Constantine Kavafis was referring to Ithaca as one's ultimate destination; but Ithaca, this verdant Ionian island, may become your own favourite place, a place that draws you back year after year, as you plan your holidays..

(In part, from Gogreece.com)