“As you set out for Ithaca, hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery,” wrote the great Greek poet Constantinos Cavafy.
Can one journey provide myth and immortality? It can if the final destination is Ithaca. Odysseus’ adventurous and tumultuous voyage towards his homeland made this Ionian island mythical. It turned it into a symbol for spiritual journeys, inspiration and solace.
Your own trip to this unique landscape will also be the stuff of legend. Visit gorgeous coves, beautiful beaches and wooded landscapes stretching to the shoreline, so beloved of yachters and sailors. Banter with locals renowned for their wry sense of humour in traditional hamlets, be enticed by Kioni Bay and marvel at medieval Anogi and Exogi. It is an island for lovers of reflection and tranquillity, for travellers excited by discovery and… most of all, for those in search of their own private Ithaca.
The capital of Odysseus’ kingdom, Ithaca was first inhabited in the Neolithic Age. Despite the research, Homer’s Ithaca has still not been revealed. However, excavations have brought to light more than 30 archaeological sites. And we all want to believe that one day, not too far away, Odysseus’ palace will be unearthed.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Kioni – especially when you arrive by sailboat in the sheltered bay, with its picturesque, listed fishing village. Stone dwellings with patios brimming with flowers, little coffee shops and restaurants with tables on the water and stylish bars are the order of the day here. As soon as you step onto the waterfront, Kioni will take you on a charming journey into a history that started in the 16th century.
Art hotels, boutique hotels, luxury villas with private pools… your stay in Ithaca is bound to be unforgettable. The Villa at Schinos beach has become a destination in itself. In addition to being a favourite haunt of Onassis and Jackie O, other celebs that have stayed here include Madonna, The Beach Boys and the cast of Mamma Mia.
Built within this deep-water, fjord-like bay, the capital of the island maintains its charm and traditional Ionian architecture. Museums, cafes, shops, all-day bars, restaurants and stylish hotels make up the main part of town. Just a stone’s throw away is the historic islet of the saviour, Lazareto, with its small 17th-century church.
A religious beacon, the monastery of Panagia tis Kathariotissas, patron of Ithaca, has been standing in Homer’s Niritos, the most beautiful spot on the island and a significant attraction since 1696. Don’t miss its feast day every September 7.
In the medieval village of Anogi, you’ll find intriguing rocky monoliths, known as menhirs. They are entirely the work of nature but look like they could be straight out of a Game of Thrones landscape! The most impressive is called Araklis.
In Ithaca, deep underwater, you’ll find Poseidon’s beautiful valleys, caves and reefs, perfect for scuba diving. You’d be very lucky to see one, but keep an eye out for the incredibly shy Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) that take refuge on the island’s rocky shores.
Located outside Stavro, The Loizis Cave is named after the man who became rich from selling gold coins he found in the cave to looters. The cave was a centre of worship from the Early Helladic Period to the first century AD, as attested to by statues of deities such as Artemis, Athena, Hera and others found there.