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ITHAKI

Quick Facts: Ithaki
Pronunciation ith-i-ka
Alternate Spelling Ithaca
Transportation Ferry
Main Attractions Odyssean Studies, Trekking
Food Many good choices
Accommodations Many good choices

Ithaki Characteristics

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek island Ithaki lies 2 nautical miles from Cephallonia. Its land mass is 96 sq. km and its coastline 101 km. It has a population of about 3,675 people.

It's a favorite with sailors because of its fine harbors.

Island Features

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandThe island is mountainous and has a rugged coast and good harbors but no really nice sandy beaches (wave walker shoes recommended). Its western coast is green while its eastern is rocky and barren.

Vathi, the main town and harbor sits in a beautiful bay, surrounded by mountains, with the ruins of two fortresses at each side of its entrance. There are other small villages, Stavro, Frikes and Kioni.

Many come here in search of proof of Homer's Odyssey. Every four years at Vathi's Center for Odyssean Studies there is an international congress.

This is a good island for walking. There are excellent trails.

Vathi, Ithaki's Harbor and Capital

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek island The harbor, Vathi (or Vathy) is guarded on its two sides by the ruins of the forts Loutsa and Kastro, built by the French in 1805. The small wooded islet of Lazaretto, with its chapel, lies within their embrace. At one time the islet was a quarantine station and then a prison. There is a small beach by the castle of Loutsa.

Vathi is also known as Ithaki Town. The town center is small, with a few shops and cafes around the central square.

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandThe town was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1953 in the traditional style with red tiled roofs and is considered a traditional settlement by the government. This means that unlike many other earthquake devastated island villages, future building must conform.

El Greco fans will enjoy an icon of Christ attributed to him in the Church of the Taxiarchos. The Archeology Museum rests one street back from the Limani (port) in a low modern building and displays a variety of finds from around the island. The Cultural Center next door houses a very rare Japanese translation of Homer from 1600. The Folklore Museum is also nearby.

Local beaches are reachable by water-taxi or road and include Sarakiniko, Bimata, Skinos and Filatro.

Southern Ithaki and Traces of Odysseus

Some of the sites identified as being on the Trail of Odysseus are within walking distance of Vathi. Marmarospillia (The Cave of the Nymphs) is a 4 km walk west of Vathi and purportedly where Odysseus hid the gifts of King Alcinous. Bring a flashlight and ask before going as it may be locked.

Just below, the inlet of Dexia is thought to coincide with the Harbor of Phorcys where the sleeping Odysseus was put to shore by the Phoenicians who brought him home after 20 years of travail. There is a bar and small cantina.

Seven km south of Vathi is the lovely Marathias Plateau and about 4 km along a donkey path to its left is signposted the Fountain of Arethusa, another mythological spot. Below, by the sea, is the Perapigadia or Homeric Asteris where Penelope's murderous suitors hid, awaiting Telemachus' return from Pylos.

Northern Ithaki and Traces of Odysseus

courtsey NASA Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandIthaki is dwarfed by its neighbor Kephallonia, the larger of the two major islands in the photo. On Ithaki, the narrow mountainous stretch which connects Ithaki's northern and southern sections is called Eagle or Aetos and only 500 m wide. Perched there, overlooking three seas, is the so called Castle of Odysseus even though its citadel of cyclopean walls dates from the 8th Century BC. It's thought to be the town of Alalkomenes. It's an impressive site and has been excavated extensively.

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandBelow that is a pebble beach and to the east in the small harbor of Piso Aetos is another good beach. Here ferries from Kefallonia's port of Sami call in.

North of Aetos is the Field of Laertes where Odysseus was tearfully reunited with his dear old dad after dispatching Penelope's suitors. There's a 2,000 year old olive tree there as well, named for Laertes.

Further north one finds the Monastery of the Katharon high on the slopes of Mt. Nirtos (784m).The Monastery was built on the site of a Temple of Athena. At the summit is the village of Anogi (top of the world). Anogi has Venetian ruins and interesting geological features. If you want to show off a photo of a very phallic 25ft monolith named Heracles when you get home, you can take a photo in Anogi.

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandAt sea level the pleasant village of Aghios Ioannis (or St. John) has a very nice and often deserted white beach, Aspros Gialos. A coast road follows the western shore of the island north from Agros as well.

Two raods meet at Stavros, the largest of the northern villages, which overlooks Polis Bay. This bay at one time was home to the Lost City of Ieroslaem which sank during the earthquake of 967 AD. The Cave of Loizois to its right has now collapsed, but earlier finds of prehistoric ceramics, Mycenaean Amphorae and inscriptions attest to the possibility of it being the Cave of the Nymphs as well.

Just to the north of Stavros another Palace of Odysseus may have been discovered at Pilikata (or the Hill of Hermes). The uppermost ruins are Venetian but below evidence points to occupation as far back as neolithic times. Within these lower Cyclopean wall were discovered inscriptions in Linear A & B which may be seen at the Stavros Archeological Museum (open 9-2, closed Mon).

From Stavros the road leads north to deserted Exogi (Beyond the Earth) and the island's most remote village set high above terraced plots. It provides wonderful views of the surrounding areas. A road descends to the islands eastern shore and the villages of Frikes and Kioni, both enchanting fishing hamlets. There are good beaches and even a hotel. Water-taxis await to take you to surrounding beaches. The area is sprinkled here and there with ancient ruins. Kioni is draped around a green hillside and has a picture perfect small harbor popular with yachties.

Drinking and Dining

There are good seafood and lamb dishes in the cafes and tavernas of both Vathi, and Frikes and Kioni.

History

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandIthaki, much like Arcadia has become a universal symbol for all that is good about "home or journey's end " (and much that isn't come to think of it). If you've read your Homer you'll know what I mean. For those of you who haven't read Homer's Odyssey recently; scholars agree that much of what he wrote coincides with present day Ithaki. It is "narrow and rocky and unfit for horses." Certain caves and springs exist that he wrote about. It really doesn't make too much difference as to your enjoyment of the Odyssey but this island is the likely spot. Ancient inscriptions testify to the worship of Odysseus as a divine hero. Coins bearing his image and pottery decorated with his sigil the cockerel have been discovered. Visit the Archeology Museum in Vathy (open 8:30-2:30, closed Mon) and decide for yourselves.

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandArcheologists have unearthed items dating from 4000 BC and remains of buildings and walls from the early Hellenic era as well. In the Cave of Loizos early relics of pagan worship have been discovered. During Mycenaean times, because of its central location, Ithaki was the capital of the Kingdom of Arikious encompassing parts of the Peloponnese, Kefallonia, Zakynthos and Lefkada. Under Odysseus the island sent 12 ships to the Trojan Wars.

Shortly after his great discovery at Troy, Henrich Schliemann, the father of modern archeology, visited the island and almost immediately discovered a large structure dating from 700 BC. Even though it was from the wrong period, he dubbed the Palace of Odysseus. Homer describes the Palace of Odysseus as "above 3 seas" and the description fits. The palace is just north of Pisso Aelos.

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek islandAfter the Mycenaean's the island lost all importance and remained under the Venetians, French, and then the British until 1864 when it was unified with Greece. This unification resulted in many islanders immigrating to other countries such as Australia and South Africa.

Hints

Reread Homer before you come to remind yourself of what all the sites and references are about.

Maps

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek island

Ithaki map

Ithaki ithaki ionian greek island

The Complete Details

Helpful Information
Transportation Facts
  • In summer there are daily ferries from Patras, Lefkada, and Kefallonia's port of Sami.
  • There is taxi service on the island during certain months. The bus service only runs 10 months of the year. Cars and motorbikes are for rent.
Island Resources
  • Tel. code: 2674
  • Ithaki Port Authority: Tel. 32209
  • Police Vathi, Tel: 32205
  • Vathi Post Code: 28300
  • Frikes/Kioni Post Code: 28301
  • Olympic Airlines in Argostoli, Tel: 28808 / 881
  • Patra Port Authority: (2261) 277-622



FEATURED PROPERTIES:

Ikaria - Armenistis
New Maisonettes

Price: €209,000
 -  125 m2
Bedrooms: 3  Baths: 2



 

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