Ithaki has been disputed as the real home and kingdom of Odysseas for years, as there are many clues in the famous epic of Homer referring to this island. Greek archaeologists have recently found the ruins of a palace in the area of Exogi which is evidently of the same era Odysseas lived in. Ancient inscriptions have also been discovered referring to Odysseas and images of a boat depicting his long travel.
Other archaeologists believe the place described by Homer may have been the western peninsula of Kefalonia which had been an island at those times but later was united with Kefalonia as a result of landslides and geological changes. Archeologists are still researching this area and claim that according to their recent discoveries this was the site where Odysseas' central palace was located. The research is still going on so I will keep in touch if I have any news...
I think this confusion can be explained. Odysseas was the king of the whole region including all the islands in this area, so it is obvious he had two or more palaces built on both islands.
The vague descriptions and clues Homer gives in his epic can be explained by the fact that Homer lived far away from Ithaki and Kefalonia and that he had based his work on the stories he had heard which had survived over so many years and had been carried over from mouth to mouth. After all, Homer was writing an epic and not a travel guide...!
I liked this beach very much as I could put up my tent under the trees and enjoy a few days swimming in the beautiful water of the bay. It is a rocky bay with two nice beaches separated by a small rocky passage. So only the devoted natural lovers pass on to the second beach.
The scenery is really beautiful and the small fishing and sailing boats give a nice touch to the picture.
- Budget Travel
Lefki is a small quiet and beautiful village on the road to Stavros exactly 11 km from Vathy and 11 km from Kioni on the other side of the island. The most important asset of the village is the beach of Aspros Gialos which is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island. I had the most enjoyable swim there!!! I didn't want to leave.
The village is built on the slope and gives spectacular views of Kefalonia!!!
"Ithaca" by Constantinos Kavafis
Inspired by the familiar story of Odysseus (Ulysses) in the famous epic poem of Homer “Odyssey”, Kavafis has used Ithaki as a symbol of the high goals you set in life. The journey is more important than your arrival to your destination. The longer your journey is, and the more experiences and wisdom you gain, the “richer” your will be when you arrive in “Ithaki”. So wish your journey to be long and don't avoid the difficulties. So “Ithaki” is the personal journey in life for everyone.
When you arrive there, “Ithaki” may look poor and simple but “it has not deceived you” because the journey it has offered you has been invaluable!
But the island is of particular natural beauty in fact!
The roads around the island are carved on the slopes of the friendly mountains and the views they offer is astonishing. Although the transport is almost non existent, you will get enormous pleasure exploring the beautiful quiet coves and the all green mountain views
Don't avoid the difficult dirt roads and don't be afraid of the dangerous turns, as Kavafis has taught you in his poem...Dare to reach the difficult spots as these will give you the greatest pleasure...
Here is a translation of Kavafis' poem “Ithaca” I found on the Internet. You can find more if you are interested. Enjoy it!
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
(translation by George Barbanis)
There are beautiful recitations of the poem of Kavafis in U tube : Click here to watch one with the voice of Sean Connery and music by Vangelis in translation
And for those who want to hear it in Greek – with a good translation written on screen – click here
- Arts and Culture
Afales is a beutiful deep bay with a set of stunning beaches on the northwest side of the island. The setting is wonderful with lush green vegetation and the best blue seawater of the island!
You can go from Frikes towards Platrithias and then go on to Agioi Saranta. There you will find a sign which leads you to the beach of Afales. Ask the locals in Frikes and then in Platrithias to be sure where to go.
If you have a strong car or you are adventurous enough you can take the dirt road going north which runs for about 10 klm, goes on to the top of the hill, and leads to Marmangas beach through allgreen scenery and amazing views !!!
Stavros is the main town of the north so a lot of action goes on here. It is found on the 16th kilometer from Vathy and it is one of the most important commercial centers of Ithaki.
The area is considered as the most probable site of the mythological home place of Ulysses. Many ruins of the period have been excavated as well as a mask with the inscription “Bless Odysseus” (Ulysses) in the nearby cave of Loizos.
There are rooms, restaurants and cafeterias around the pleasant square of the village. The festivities on 5&6 of August bring a lot of people from all over the island and there is a lot of fun.
The nearest beach is that of Polis beach just a short way down the road.
Aspros gialos or Ai-Giannis beach
On the way to Stavros, on the 11th klm from Vathy you will meet Lefki.
Take the road going down to the beach and in about 1 klm you will find the spectacular beach of Aspros Gialos. The quality of the water is unbelievable. This was the most enjoyable swim I had in Ithaki. The crystal clear sea has an amazing turquoise color. I didn't want to get out of the water. If you want to stay around you may find a room in Lefki, easily out of season.
Frikes is small fishing village built in a picturesque bay, in the northeastern part of the island, just 13 klm from Vathy. It carries a lot of history as it may have been the port referred in Homer as the port of Reithron.
It is a romantic small port on the road from Kioni to Stavros. The road from Frikes to Kioni offers some of the best views of the island.
Two well kept windmills stand there for years adding a traditional touch to the picture. A few restaurants can offer you delicious Greek food and fresh fish! Really fresh and tasty!! The rest of the village is perched on the slope around the small port.
You can have nice walks in the area. Visit the windmill or the small beautiful beach of Limenia a few minute-walk from the port.
The ferry-boat connecting Lefkada (Vasiliki) with Ithaki (Frikes) comes and goes everyday at 11.00 and 18.30 in July and August.
[Dellas Tours tel: 26740 33115 in Ithaki/Samba Tours tel : 26450 31520 in Lefkada]
Filiatro is a beach with particular natural beauty and although it is usually very crowded with deck chairs and umbrellas, it offers a wonderful swim to those who are interested in having a meal in the small taverna sitting in the shade of the trees...I, personally, couldn't stay more than 5 minutes there.... But if you are the type, or if you come out of season, you will find it very good as it is famed as the best beach of the island. The water is really really clear and beautiful and you will enjoy your swimming.
Kioni is one of the most beautiful villages in Ithaki. It is perched on the slopes of the surrounding mountains and although it hosts a lot of tourists, it is very pleasant and quiet. The port is very picturesque with the sailing boats and the old fishing boats rocking softly on its safe waters.
The houses are nicely restored keeping its traditional image.
There are also beautiful beaches close to it.
You will enjoy really fresh fish and delicious traditional local dishes and pies in the clean tavernas around the port.
Vathy - The capital
Vathy, the capital, is a picturesque port with nice traditional buildings, pleasant restaurants, quiet atmosphere during the day and lively night life. It is a deep natural bay and gives nice views wherever you stand around it. In the middle of the port there is a tiny island, Lazaretto, which is pleasantly lit during the night.
The National Pinakothiki is responsible for maintaining the cultural, historical and artistic elements of the island of Ithaki but also of those of tall the Ionian islands.
There are banks and super markets for all your needs. And a plethora of places to stay, from luxurious hotels to small rooms or apartments.
I didn't stay much in Vathy as I was most interested in enjoying the nature of the island. I found some beautiful beaches near Vathi, in 1 to 3 klm away. One is Myninata, about 1 kilometer away, Filiatro which is too touristic for me and Sarakiniko where I could put up my tent so I stayed for a few days.
This cove has a wonderful scenery with trees coming down to the waves and crystal clear water. The only disadvantage, for me, is the hotel built just on the wave and the little cement port which spoils the magic of the picture. You should leave your vehicle on the road some 100 meters away and then walk on a scenic path to get to it. If you go on to the far end you will like it more as it is more secluded and romantic.
Myninata is a clear, inviting beach only a couple of kilometers from Vathy. It is completely unspoilt and it is just on your way to Skinos. So have a stop there and enjoy your first swim before you go on. It is narrow but quite long and it is not so crowded...
This is a lovely quiet beach with a row of trees giving a lot of shade. You can relax under the trees and have something to eat in the little caravan-restaurant. You can spend a whole day there, visit the next beach which is completely unspoilt and have nice walks in the forest.
I put up my tent under the olive trees and spent more than a week enjoying superb days and nights listening only to the pure natural sounds and enjoying the marvel of nature.
The tiny island of Agios Nikolaos with the church of St. Nikolaos is right in front of you in the bay. You can swim to it and climb up to the church. Sit there for a while and experience some serene moments gazing at the stunning views of the bay and the sight of Kefalonia island in the background. It is a real therapy for your soul....
Just next to it there is another unspoilt beach with amazingly clear water.
Marmangas lays on the northwest side of the island, but you need a private means of transport to go there.
- Sailing and Boating
If you are carrying your camping gear with you you will have the chance to enjoy unforgettable days in the quiet beaches and superb nights listening only to the wonderful sounds of nature!
It is possible to camp unofficially in remote beaches but the best I discovered was the beach of Marmangas and that of Sarakiniko where you can camp under shady olive trees . I am sure you will be able to find more.