Ithaki Island or Ithaca or Ithaka - To those in pursuit of high living - chic boutiques, discos, pubs and the like - Ithaki island may appear to be little more than steep rocks linked by a vertiginous narrow ridge in the middle of the sea. They'll understand why Odysseus left home for so long and was not in a hurry to get back. But for sailors, hikers and people looking for something different, Ithaca seems a paradise. Its tourists are definitely not run-of-the-mill, and the herd instinct does not manifest itself here.
As the ferry approaches Ithaca it passes a seemingly endless succession of tantalizingly inaccessible coves and beaches interspersed along in an inhospitable rocky shoreline. At last, around the umpteenth bend, Vathy appears in the distance. It's aptly named,placed as it is at the end of the deep bay on the east coast. Surrounded by wooded mountains and shaped like a large horseshoe, Vathy is pleasant to look at it. Its low house was badly damaged in the ruinous 1953 earthquake, but many of them were reconstructed using the original stones and there are few eyesores. It's important to remember that Ithaca has always been extremely poor, and a large percentage of its population has had to take the sea, or even emigrate to make a living.
Vathy has a population of 2.000, can be taken at a glance. Its quay is also in the main square, around which all village life resolves.
Vathy has a decent Archaeological Museum, a cultural center where lectures on the Homeric tradition (among others)are frequently given, and it sponsors two festivals each summer.
One of the local's favourite spots , the Kathara Monastery, lies up a mountain opposite the bay of Vathy.Sooner or later everyone this pilgrimage, not because of the monastery but because of the magnificent view.
The northeast coast of Ithaki island is picturesque rather than dramatic. The shores are perfect for swimming: quite and unspoiled, indented with lacy coves and rimmed with cypress trees and pines. The main attractions over here are the two delightful fishing villages of kioni and Frikes. Consisting of little more that a cluster of houses around a tiny port, a handful of tavernas, and more cypresses, they have been discovered but not at all destroyed by tranquility-seeking vacationers. For some Ithaca has indeed supplied the "enchanting voyage" promised by Cavafy.
There are daily ferries from Patras (sometimes twice a day in summer; 4 hours and 30 minutes) and from Astakos on the mainland(2 hours); you can also hop from Frikes to Nidri on Lefkada and to Sami and Agia Evfymia on Kefallonia. Tiny ferries leave Piso Aetos for Sami and Fiskardo on Kefallonia and Vassiliki on Lefkada.
Though buses and boats connect Vathy with Stavros, Frikes and Kioni, you may want to rent your own car, motorboat or scooter in Vathy. Sailing yachts can be rented from agencies in Nidri or Corfu well ahead of the season, or you can join a flotilla holiday group in Great Britain.
As for walking, it is what you want it to be, from leisurely strolls to beaches to arduous hikes up Mount Aetos. Some paths are well marked, some you will find by asking locals or following faded signs.
Since antiquity, Ithaca has been identified as the home of the mythological hero Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s epic poem.
This island is an ideal place for a quiet holiday, for enjoying pleasant walks in nature, for discovering isolated beaches and crystal-clear seas, which does not mean that it does not also offer opportunities for various sports and leisure activities.
The communities and villages of the Ithaca are:
* Vathy (Itháki's capital town)
* Agios Ioannis
* Agia Saranta
* Kioni (the most famous place in Ithaca)
* Piso Aetos
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