Throughout the ages Ithaca has been known as the home of
Odysseus. For years Homer’s hero wandered before he finally
returned to his island kingdom. Though he visited beautiful,
exotic, far-flung lands, Ithaca never left his mind for a
And even today, once you’ve been to Ithaca, it’s difficult to
forget this small, mountainous island with its captivating coves
that conjure up some earthly paradise.
Ithaca is separated from Cephalonia by a channel some 2 to 4
kilometres wide. The west coast of the island is steep and
almost barren in contrast to the green, gentle shoreline on the
The capital and largest settlement is Ithaki or Vathi; its
red-roofed delightful houses set amidst enchanting scenery at
the end of the deep closed bay of Molos. Taking the capital as a
starting point, it’s easy to get to know the island’s landmarks.
Three kilometres to the northwest lies the so-called Cave of the
Nymphs (Nimfon Cave). Here according to the myth, Odysseus hid
the gifts bestowed upon him by the Phaeacians who deposited him
upon Ithaca’s shores ten long years after the end of the Trojan
Also worth visiting is the medieval Monastery of the Archangels
North of the capital and 600 meters above sea level, the Kathara
Monastery (Moni Katharon) has a unique view of the island from
its bell tower. On the horizon you can make out the mountains of
Akarnania, the Echinades islets, the peaks of Zakinthos, the
eastern coast of Cephalonia and even the entrance to the Gulf of
The bay of Polis to the west is the site of another cave (Loizos’
cave). This one yielded up sherds on which were carved
inscriptions testifying to the worship of Artemis, Hera and
Athena. Even more interesting, in the cave were also found
recently twelve tripods similar to the other that the Phaeacians
were supposed to have given to Odysseus.
Stavros, a village 17 kilometres northwest of Ithaki, is a good
base from which to explore the northern section of the island.
About 1 kilometer north of Stavros is Pelikata; excavations on
this hillside between the bays of Polis and Frikes brought to
light remains of a small Bronze Age settlement. The finds
unearthed there reinforce the theory that the ancient city of
Ithaca lies somewhere in the vicinity.
Kioni and Frikes, typically Ionian villages, on the northeast
coast are unspoilt, wonderful places for a short excursion or an
Ithaca offers lovely beaches for bathing, caves for exploring
and uncrowded hamlets where noisy nightlife is unheard of.
“When you set out for Ithaca”,
wrote the poet Constantine Kavafis. He was refering to Ithaca as
one’s ultimate destination. Thus, Ithaca, this verdant Ionian
island, may become your own favorite place, a place that draws
you back year after year, when you plan your summer holiday.