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Does the name "Ithaca" ring a bell? It probably does, doesn't it? Ithaca is a compelling and universal symbol. It's Odysseus' long lost home, the island where his wife, the stoical Penelope, patiently waited her husband's return.

Many people who have heard of Ithaca have no idea where it is and those who visit it often have a hard time reconciling the island's reality with their idea of Odysseus' beloved home. That was not the case with me. See, when you hear about Ithaca and Odyssey and Homer your whole life, you just start to lose interest. You don't create a picture in your mind, you don't have expectations. It's the way it is; when something is near you, you don't recognize it. I'm ashamed to admit it, but when I decided to visit Ithaca, I didn't even believe it was really the original Ithaca, Odysseus' Ithaca.

Some ancient and modern scholars have theorized that Homer's Ithaca was elsewhere, Lefkada or Kefalonia, for example. Well, I say don't believe them. From what I've seen, Ithaca is the real thing and, while your expectations may not match what you'll find, it's still exciting.

Ithaca doesn't attract the crowds due to its lack of good beaches. Actually, that's the reason most of my friends didn't want to come with me. The only ones who did were my wife Leela and Hope with her husband. We only spent ten days there but it was the perfect quiet holiday. As Cavafy once wrote, "Ithaca does not deceive, without Ithaca your journey would have no beauty".

map of othaca - ithaki map

Ithaca Hotels

If you search for accommodation in Aegina I recommend you to visit Ithaca Hotel Online Bookings. There, you can make your reservations directly to the hotels and find rooms in low prices and useful guest reviews.

Atenas grego

So, what does Ithaca look like?

Ithaca comprises two large peninsulas joined by a narrow isthmus and is separated from Kefalonia by a narrow strait. As Homer once described it, it's "narrow and rocky, unfit for riding horses". Its interior is mountainous, with pockets of pine forest, stands of cypresses, olive groves and vineyards. Old mansions rise up from the seafront of Vathy, also known as Ithaki Town. Ithaki town has a small centre with a few twisting streets, a large central square, restaurants and a few tourist shops.

Are there any places I should not miss in Ithaca?

ithaca greece - archaeological museum

Well, there are two museums you should not miss. First there's a small archaeological museum behind hotel Mentor, which houses a collection of Mycenaean Classical artifacts. Then there's the charming Nautical and Folklore Museum, housed in an old generating station just back from the waterfront, which displays clothing (including traditional dresses), household items and furniture, as well as shipping paraphernalia. Other than that, I don't think there are any places you should visit, besides the archaeological sites, of course.

What are the archaeological and historical sites in Ithaca, then?

ithaca - odyseeus statue

Ithaca, as someone (that someone not being me though, as, as I said, I didn't think it was the original Ithaca) has a few sites associated with Homer's epic poem.

First of all, there's the fountain of Arethousa, in the island's south. According to the myth, Arethousa wept so much when her son Corax was killed that she turned into a spring. That spring is where Odysseus' swineherd, Eumaeus, brought his pigs to drink and where Odysseus on his return to Ithaca went to meet him disguised as a beggar after receiving directions from the goddess Athena. The walk takes one and a half to two hours.

Then there's Marmarospilia or else the Cave of the Nymphs, where Odysseus concealed the gifts of gold (i.e. the gifts of King Alcinous). This Cave has a hole in the roof ('the entrance of the gods') which permitted the smoke of the sacrifices to rise to heaven.

The field of Laertes is the place where Odysseus encountered his father after killing the suitors. Not the massive 2000-year old Laerte's olive.

Ithaca also has two ruined forts, Loutsa and Kastro, built in 1805 by the French, which stand at either side of the harbor entrance.

ithaca - vathi village

Traditional Villages

Don't leave Ithaca without visiting its traditional villages or you haven't seen anything. All of the following are my personal favorite. Don't choose among them visit all four of them and you won't regret it. Vathi, Kioni, Stavros, Anogi have something different to show you.

Learn more about these villages in my page Ithaca Traditional Villages.

Are there any beaches in Ithaca?

As I stated above, Ithaca doesn't have beaches like the ones in several other Greek islands. That doesn't mean there are no beaches worth visiting, though. Loutsa, Shinos, Mnimata, Sarakiniko, Filiatro, Gidaki, Dexa, Pisaetos, Vrisi, Kedros, Aspros Gialos, Polis, Ammoudi, Marmaka, Kourvoulia, Lagadia tis Markainas, Tsitsimidia, Plakoutses, Kritami, Platiammos, Ammoudaki, Pontikos, Kouloumi and Kathisma are all beaches worth visiting.

For extra information on the island' s beaches visit my page Ithaca Beaches.

ithaca - kioni beach ithaca - kioni beach

Where should I eat in Ithaca?

There are a few places where the food is quite good in Ithaca. One of them is Sirens,in Vathi a classy place tucked away well back from the waterfront. It's run by locals who used to live in New York and their menu offers lots of great small dishes you can make a delicious meal from. Do try baked fetta with tomato and peppers, you won't regret it.

Drakouli Caf is a stylish caf-bar in a waterfront mansion, which was the home of George Drakoulis, a wealthy Ithakan shipowner. The snack menu is limited though.

Finally, there's Kantouni,also in Vathi, a lovely restaurant with a great selection of cheap and tasty casserole dishes such as lamb with potatoes and beef in red sauce. It also has a bit pricier but equally delicious grilled meats and seafood.

In Frikes many restaurants and cafes are setting their tables along the beach. Visit any of them and you won't regret it.

In Stavros visit "Fatouros" and taste the delicious wild goat a delicacy of the area.

What about nightlife?

ithaki greece - nightilife

If you consider wild nightlife an essential part of your holiday, my advice is you shouldn't visit Ithaca. I mean, Ithaca is ideal for people who are looking for a quiet vacation. The only place you will find are two major dance clubs in Vathy (that I personally enjoyed visiting) and some small bars scattered in the villages of the island.

How will I get to Ithaca?

You can take the ship that sails daily from Patra to Kefalonia and then to Ithaca, for more information contact the port police tel. +30 2610-341002.

During the Summer there are many itineraries from Vasiliki (Lefkada) to Vathi and Frikes. The telephone number of the Vasiliki port police is +30 26450-22322.

From Astakos (Aitoloakarnania) there is a small ferry that reaches Pissaetos and then moves on to Sami (Kefalonia). For more information contact the port police tel. +30 26740-32909.

Book online your ferry tickets to the greek islands and have them delivered at home easily.

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