General Information on Ithaca
Ithaca belongs to the Ionian islands and has a surface area of about 118km² and a population of approximately 3,100 inhabitants. The island is famous as the homeland of Odysseus –Homeric hero in the Odyssey– where faithful Penelope waited her husband's return from Troy for twenty years. After many adventures, the long voyage of Odysseus ended with his arrival at his island, Ithaca. Due to Odyssey, Ithaca symbolizes the long, difficult and sometimes joyful journey of a lifetime.
Ithaca is a wonderful and verdant island, which is separated from the island of Kefalonia by a narrow 3-km wide canal. The island is small and quite difficult to reach and as a result, does not get the mass tourism of neighbouring islands. You won’t find an exciting nightlife or large, crowded beaches; Ithaca is a calm and beautiful destination, ideal for those searching for relaxation, peaceful walks, and swimming in clear emerald waters.
History of Ithaca
Ithaca has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as excavations at Pilikata proved. Due to its position, situated on the trade and invasion routes to and from the Balkans, Italy and the Levant, Ithaca and the other Ionian islands were very rich. In ancient times, the island was inhabited by Mycenaeans (around 1500 B.C.).
Later, during the Classical Period, Ithaca and all the Ionian islands were home to several independent city states, which became members of the great league organized by Corinth, Athens and Sparta. Its division led to the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C. In the 2nd century B.C., the island was occupied by the Romans, and later became part of the Byzantine Empire (4th century A.D.). During the Venetian rule, Ithaca was given to the Tocchi Family, which kept its authority until 1479, when the family abandoned the island in fear of the forthcoming Ottoman attack. In the same year, the Ottomans took the island by force.
During the following years, the Ottomans and the Venetians were in conflict for the control of Ithaca, which ended in 1500 A.D. when the Venetians finally regained the Ionian islands, expect for Lefkada which stayed under Turkish rule. Ithaca stayed under the control of Venice until Napoleon conquered it along with the other Ionian islands in 1797. In 1809, the Ionian islands came under English rule and the “United States of the Ionian Islands” were formed, governed by a constitution imposed in 1817. When the Greek Revolution against the Turks started in 1821, the inhabitants of Ithaca contributed by offering hospitality and medical care to revolutionaries.
In 1864, after a series of negotiations between the involved European countries, Ithaca was finally liberated and, along with the rest of the Ionian islands, became part of the New Greek State. The island suffered a lot from the Italian and the German occupation during World War II, and in 1953 when a series of strong earthquakes resulted to great damages to the Ionian islands.
Towns & Villages in Ithaca
Vathi: It is the largest village of Ithaca as well as the capital and main harbor of the island. The village has one of the most idyllic seafront settings in Greece, situated at the end of a long deep bay. On both sides of the port entrance stand the ruins of a fort, built by the French in 1807 as a protection from the powerful fleet of the English. The earthquakes of 1953 destroyed most of the Venetian buildings of the capital. Fortunately, most of them were rebuilt in the same style. Today, Vathi is considered a traditional settlement and the tourist centre of the island.
Perahori: It is situated 3km south of Vathi and it is a mountainous village with a breathtaking view towards the sea. Perahori village is known for its wine and it is generally an agricultural village, although taverns, cafes and rooms to rent can be found here.
Exogi: It is one of the oldest villages of Ithaca and lies 20km north of Vathi, at an altitude of 340m, surrounded by a verdant spot with wonderful views over the sea. A few rooms to rent and a café can be found here.
Stavros: It is the capital of the northern part of Ithaca, situated 17km away from Vathi, standing at the foot of Mountain Neritos, at an altitude of 110m. Stavros, which means crossroad, also includes the small settlements of Pilicata and Kalyvia. The village was founded in the 16th century by inhabitants of the mountainous villages Agoni and Exogi, after a drop in pirate raids. There are a few traditional houses that survived the 1953 earthquakes and some rooms to rent and taverns.
Anogi: It is one of the oldest villages of Ithaca, located 16km northwest of Vathi, at an altitude of about 500m. Anogi was founded in the Middle Ages, but after the 16th century, most of its population moved to the coast; its inhabitants are currently less than a hundred and have a dialect that is strongly influenced by the Venetians. Very few rooms are available in Anogi and the only café of the village is also the only place serving food. A very interesting sight to see is the enormous rocks of incredible and various shapes around the village, creating a magical atmosphere.
Frikes: It is a beautiful coastal settlement located on the east coast of Ithaca, 20km from Vathi. The village was founded after the 16th century, when inhabitants of Axogi and Stavros moved closer to the sea. Nowadays, Frikes is a tourist resort and its population, which is about 100 people in winter, increases considerably in summer. The harbor area is full of cafes and taverns and the surrounding area has many beaches, with Kourvoulia being one of the best.
Beaches in Ithaca
Marmaka Beach: The beach is situated 4km from Asfales and can be reached by a dirt track, suitable only for brave drivers. The beach owes its name to the derivation of the word “marble”, as the beach has white pebbles looking like bits of marble shimmering under the sun, contrasting with the emerald waters and the green of the surrounding trees. It is considered one of the finest beaches in Ithaca. However, due to the access, it is often very quiet and has no facilities.
Kioni: It is the biggest tourist resort of the island, but that does not mean it has anything to do with the tourist resorts of the other Ionian islands. Kioni is a traditional village that lies 25km from Vathi in the southeast of Ithaca. It is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of a mountain and has small tile-roofed white houses and a lovely port, where fishing boats moor. The town beach, below the windmills, is small with crystal clear waters, pebbles and trees.
Dexia: This small bay is situated in the Gulf of Molos. The beach at Dexia is narrow, with a magical combination of sand and white pebbles. This is, according to a legend, the place where Odysseus landed upon his return. Nearby, at Loutsa are the ruins of a French fortress built in 1805 overlooking the bay and where narrow tracks lead you to even more quiet beaches.
Agios Ioannis: It is a beautiful beach with sand and pebbles located on the west coast of the island. Access to the beach is rather difficult and the best way is the road from Lefki, which is less difficult and ends about 100m from the beach. The view from the beach is splendid, but there is no shade or facilities on Agios Ioannis.
Polis: The bay is located on the west coast of Ithaca. It is a beautiful, medium-sized bay of white limestone and pebbles. This is one of the few organized beaches of Ithaca and thus, it is always crowded during summer.
Filiatro: It is a popular beach and also the closest one to Vathi. The beach is full of trees and has pebbles and shallow waters. Camping facilities are available at the back of Filiatro beach and there is also a food truck during summer.
Sarakiniko Bay: The bay of Sarakiniko is located on the southeastern coast of Ithaca. The cove gives its name to a couple of pebble beaches separated by a rocky outcrop into the sea. The bay is reachable by a path (1 hour) and there are regular taxi-boats in summer.
Skinos Bay: It is situated in the southeast side of the island of Ithaca. The pebbly beach is set in a very attractive countryside and it is surrounded by verdant trees covering the mountain slopes. It is approached down a dirt track.
Gidaki: It is considered by many as the best beach of Ithaca. It has a mixture of golden sand and pebbles and amazing emerald waters. It is unorganized and only reachable by taxi-boats from Vathi port (20 minutes).
How to Reach Ithaca
Sea: Daily boats connect Ithaca to Kefalonia, Lefkada and Patra. Also, there is a ferry between Piso Aetos on the west coast and Vasiliki in Lefkada via Fiskardo and on to Sami in Kefalonia.
Air: You may reach Kefalonia by plane and then take the local boat to Ithaca.
Getting Around in Ithaca
The single bus of the island runs twice daily to Kioni via Stavros and Frikes from the Bus Terminal at Vathi. Because the bus is actually a school bus, the schedule is limited and not well suited to travelers on day trips.
Weather in Ithaca
The climate in Ithaca is similar to the climate of the other Ionian islands. It is a mild Mediterranean climate, with dry and hot summers, and rainy and mild winters. The high precipitation of the Ionian islands makes them verdant, with dense vegetation, large forests and many fertile plains.
Top 10 Destinations in Ithaca
All Destinations in Ithaca
Map of Ithaca