Ithaki (or Ithaca) has been identified as the home of the mythological hero Odysseus of the Homeric epics (though some recent research indicates it could have been Levkas). With an area of 45 square miles and about 3,000 inhabitants, it lies off the northeast coast of Kephalonia. The capital, Vathy, has one of the world’s largest natural harbours. The community, declared listed in 1982, has maintained a distinctive Italianate architectural style. The natural harbour of Vathy encloses the islet of Lazzaretto. North of Vathy is the socalled Nymphs’ Cave, where Odysseus is said to have hidden on his return from the “island of the Phaiacians” (probably Corfu). The Cathedral has a wood-carved altar screen dated to 1793 and a bell tower built in 1820. The village of Levki with its stunning sunset views, and a little farther on, Aghios Ioannis with its immensely old olive tree 15 yards thick, dubbed Odysseus’ olive tree by the locals, are definitely must-visits. Frikes, built in the 16th century, has its well-kept windmills. Here you can board a boat to Kephalonia, Levkas and Kioni.
Hiking on Ithaki requires care, as the ubiquitous thorny bushes that are everywhere on the island, not to mention pointy stones, can wreak havoc on the unprotected legs and feet. Short-sleeved or sleeveless shirts are also risky, as the thorns can grow quite high and pierce unprotected flesh.
Festivities & Local Traditions
Οn the island of Ithaki on 21st November they celebrate the “bourbourelia”, which is a mixure of wheat and other fruits. This custom dates back to antiquity, which is also known in other areas as “polysporia” (multi seeds) and constitutes the revival of the crop offer to the goddess Demeter.
• Kalamos to Exogi
• Kalamos to Perivoli
• Platrithias to Exogi
• Exogi to Rousano, Kalyvia, Poli or Stavros
• Anogi to Kioni
• Anogi to Vigla and Rachi (Kioni)
• Frikes to Piso Kourvoulia
• Aetos archaeological site to Kastro Alalkomenes
• Anemodouri to Arethousa Krini
• Anogi to Kathara
• Perahori to Spiliotissa
• Perahori to Kaminia, Pigi Arethousa and Elliniko
• Marathias to Kaminia (less than 1mile)
• Vathy to Gidaki, Sinos and back to Vathy (4 miles)
• Marathias to Elliniko, Petra Korakos and Eumaios’ Cave
• Taxiarches monastery to Piso Aetos (1.5 miles)
• Paleohora to Nymphs’ Cave and Vathy (2.5 miles)
• Vathy to Piso Aetos (Odysseus’ Castle).
In Anoghi region, you will also see remains of the medieval era, you will admire the Venetian bell tower or you can taste local dishes and appetizers at the traditional coffeeshop. Here is the only heliport on the island.
Cavern of Nymphs: The cavern of Nymphs is also known as “Marmarospilia”. It has two entrances and, according to the myth, is one for the Gods and one for the mortal people, as well as wonderful stalactites. Odysseus, also according to the myth, has hidden the gifts given to him by the King of Feakes, Alkinoos.
Evmeos/Eumaeus cave: The cave is located near Arethousa spring, at Marathias plateau. Here, according to the myth, Odysseus had been waiting for the goddess Athena. You will find it only if you know very well the region around.
Paleohora: From Perahori village, you will take a path leading to the ruined medieval Paleohora. Here you will find churches with great Byzantine frescoes. Paleohora, literally meaning “Old Village”, used to be the capital of the island during the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Venetian period.
Piso Aetos: It is the name of the wide region extended in the southwest of Aetos village (in Greek means “back Aetos”. Here, is the port of the island connecting with Kefalonia, Lefkada and Astakos (Etoloakarnania, Western Greece).
Loizos cave: It is located at the bay of Stavros village. Here, the archaeologists have found within its corridors carved inscriptions testifying to the worship of Artemis, Hera and Athena dating back to the 9th century B.C., a rich collection of ceramics, dating from the Mycenaean to the Roman period and, recently, twelve tripods, similar to those Odysseus is supposed to have received from the Phaeacians. Also, an ancient city is considered to have been sunk here.
Pilikata: According to the Homeric description, Odysseus town is located near Stavros, at Pilikata; “it was at a place with view at three seas and surrounded by three mountains”. It is considered to have been established in the 3rd millennium B.C. and here, even early Helladic objects have been discovered. In this region, you will find the Archaeological museum of Stavros, where you will be able to see findings of the Mycenaean and Corinthian period.
Venetian castle: It is located on the top of the hill, above Vathy. It was built in 1807. the view from here is magnificent, as you will be able to sea even the island of Lefkada.
Archaeological Museum at Vathy: The Archaeological Museum of Vathy is located in the capital of Ithaca, at the back of the quay. The museum includes a collection of findings, from the excavations at the region of Piso Aetos, dating from the Geometric to the Roman period and various finds from the Geometric period coming from many parts of the island, especially from Loizos Cave (tel.: 0030 2674032200).
Cultural centre of Ithaca: It is located in the capital of the island, Vathy. It includes an interesting and rich library, with many rare books, among which the only existing edition of the Odyssey and the Iliad in Japanese, as well as the complete works of Aghios Athanasios dating from the 15th century (1686).
Maritime and Folklore Museum: The Folklore and Maritime Museum (Naval/nautical–Folkloric) is located at Vathy, the capital of Ithaca, and it is housed at a beautiful building, which used to be a generating station. It includes pieces of furniture, traditional clothes, musical instruments, agricultural tools and photographs from the everyday day life in the 19th century and photos of the disastrous earthquake of 1953. The nautical tradition of the island has its roots in the ancient times.
Odysseus bust: It is located at the park at the square in Stavros village and has a sign writing “Efhin Odyssi” (“ΕΥΧΗΝ ΟΔΥΣΣΕΙ” which means “bless Odysseus”).
Archaeological Museum of Vathy Tel. 0030 26740 32200
Archaeological Collection of Stavros Ithaki Tel. 0030 2674031305
Naval – Folkloric Museum Tel. 0030 26740 33398
Ithaca’s Rooms & Apartments Association Tel. 0030 26740 31079
Kefalonia-Ithaca Hotels Association Tel. 0030 26710 23415
Association of Tourist Accommodation Kefalonia-Ithaca Tel. 0030 26710 22593
Ithaca(Vathi)Police Department Tel. 0030 26740 32205
Health Center of Ithaca Tel. 0030 26740 32222
Helth center of Stavros Tel. 0030 26740 31207
Municipality of Ithaca(Vathi) Tel. 0030 26740 32795, 23911
Municipality of Perachori Tel. 0030 26740 32585
Municipality of Stavros Tel. 0030 26740 31309
Municipality of Kioni Tel. 0030 26740 31766
Municipality of Exogi Tel. 0030 26740 51100
Municipality of Anogi Tel. 0030 26740 33509
Municipality of Lefki Tel. 0030 26740-31695
The dense vegetation, the deep blue clear Ionian waters, the traditional settlements and the archaeological sites make Ithaca a unique holiday destination.
Ithaca has been inhabited since the prehistoric times, like the other Ionian Islands. Evidence of an early life in ancient Ithaca is provided by the shards found at Pilikata village, with inscription in Linear A (“Grammiki A”), a type of writing dating back to prehistoric times. According to the myth, Ithaca owes its name to its first resident, Ithakos, the son of king Pterelaos.
The peak of Ithaca’s glory and power was around 1000 B.C. when Ithaca’s kingdom included all the Ionian Islands and part of the Akarnanian coast (Western Greece). The first ancient conquerors of Ionian Islands were the Mycenaean people, who had left their traces.
Ionian Islands (Eptanisa) have the same rich history, mostly due to their location on the trade and invasion routes to and from the Balkans, Italy and the Levant.
Sources: www.ionian-guide.com, www.ithaki.gr