Destinations, Ionian Islands

Ithaca

Ithaca

Rugged Ithaca, Odysseus’s legendary homeland, has yielded no substantial archeological discoveries, but it fits Homer’s description to perfection: “There are no tracks, nor grasslands … it is a rocky severe island, unsuited for horses, but not so wretched, despite its small size. It is good for goats”.

In Constantine Cavafy’s splendid poem Ithaca, the island is symbolized as a journey to life:

When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca
Pray that your journey may be long
Full of adventures, full of knowledge.

Despite the romance of its name, and its proximity to Kefalonia, very little tourist development has arrived to spoil the place.

Vathy is the main port and capital of the island. This snug town is compact, relatively traffic-free and boasts the most idyllic seafront setting of all the Ionian capitals. Like its southerly neighbors, it was heavily damaged by the 1953 earthquake, but some fine examples of pre-quake architecture remain here and in the northern port of Kioni. Vathy has a small archeological museum on Kalliníkou, a short block back from the quay.

There are two pebble beaches within 15-minute walk of Vathy: Dóxa, over the hill above the ferry quay, and tiny Loútsa, opposite it around the bay. Beaches at Sarakiniko and Skínos are an hour’s trek along paved roads.

Locating Odysseus’ sites

Three of the main sites are just within walking distance of Vathy.

The walk to the Arethusa Spring – allegedly the place where Eumaeus, Odysseus’s faithful swineherd, brought his pigs to drink – is a 3-hour round trip along a track signposted next to the seafront telecoms office. The unspoilt but shadeless landscape and sea views are magnificent, but the walk crosses slippery inclines and might best be avoided if you are nervous of heights.
Near the top of the lane leading to the spring path, a signpost points up to what is said to have been the Cave of Eumaeus. The route to the spring continues for a few hundred meters, and then branches off onto a narrow footpath. The ravine sits below a crag known as Korax (the raven), which matches Homer’s description of the meeting between Odysseus and Eumaeus. You have to return by the same route but you might have time to swim in a small cove a short scramble down from the spring.

The Cave of the Nymphs (Marmarospíli) is about 2.5km up a rough but navigable road on the brow of the hill above Dóxa beach. The claim that this is where the returning Odysseus concealed the gifts given to him by King Alkinous, is enhanced by the proximity of Dóxa beach, although there is some evidence that the “true” cave was just above the beach, and was unwittingly demolished during quarrying many years ago.

Alalkomenae, Heinrich Schliemann’s much-vaunted “Castle of Odysseus”, is on the Vathy–Pisaetós road with views over both sides of the island. Schliemann’s excavations unearthed a Mycenaean burial chamber and domestic items such as vases, figurines and utensils (displayed now in the archeological museum), but the ruins actually date from three centuries after Homer. In fact, the most likely contender for the site of Odysseus’s castle is above the village of Stavrós.

Stavrós, the second-largest town on the island, is a pleasant town, with kafenia edging a small square dominated by a rather fierce statue of Odysseus. Stavrós’s Homeric site is on the side of Pelikáta Hill, where remains of roads, walls and other structures have been suggested as the possible site of Odysseus’s castle.
A scenic mountain road leads 5km southeast from Stavrós to Anogí. The center of the village has a free-standing Venetian campanile. Don’t miss the annual paniyiri on August 14th, the eve of the Virgin’s Assumption.

On the outskirts of the village are the foundations of a ruined medieval prison, and in the surrounding countryside are some extremely strange rock formations, the biggest being the eight-metre-high Iraklis (Hercules) rock, just east of the village. The monastery of Katharón, 3km further south along the road, has stunning views down over Vathy and the south of the island. The monastery celebrates its festival on September 8 with services, processions and music.

Kióni, avoided the very worst of the 1953 earthquakes, and so retains some fine examples of pre-twentieth-century architecture. It’s an extremely pretty village, wrapped around a tiny harbor. It has a small beach, 1km along its south side. Better pebble beaches can be found within walking distance towards the more quite village of Fríkes.

[hfe_template id='2782']
close
Start typing to see posts you are looking for.
Scroll To Top
¡Bienvenidos a Trip Tailors!

¿Te gustaría recibir nuestra guía personalizada?

Suscríbete a nuestra lista de correo y recibe la guía de Grecia gratis.

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.