Ithaca

Ionian Islands

Ithaca is one of the smaller Ionian Islands, very close to Kefalonia, and great if you want to get away from it all and relax. It's well-known for being the legendary island of King Odysseus, whose adventures are told in Homer's Odyssey. Although there are no hard facts to support this, there's plenty of circumstantial evidence and some archaeological finds on Ithaca which back up the theory.

If you let The Odyssey be your guidebook you will recognise Ithaca from Homer’s description, being narrow and rocky and with a heavily indented coastline. The symbolic Ithaca exists too, the notion of a homeland to which we all want to return, and a sign in the port greets visitors with the reminder that ‘Every traveller is a citizen of Ithaca’. If you bring any thoughts like this with you at all, then arriving at Ithaca is like arriving at no other island.

On approach it looks forbidding and barren, with high rocky hills, perhaps having a haunting covering of mist at certain times of the year. Ferries arrive in several different places, calling at Frikes in the north if coming on the Lefkada-Kefallonia route, while other ferries from Kefallonia or the mainland port of Astakos call either at Piso Aetos Bay in the shadow of Mt Étos, or at the deeply-indented bay at the capital, Vathi.

To arrive at Vathi is itself something special, as the boat sails into the picturesque fjord-like harbour, past the remains of two French fortresses built in 1805 to guard the harbour entrance. There are mountains on either side, and the ferry passes the lovely little island of Lazaretto, covered in trees. Lazaretto was made into a quarantine station by the Venetians in 1668, then used as a prison from 1864 onwards, although today it only contains a small chapel. At the far end of the horseshoe bay is the welcoming sight of the tiny main town.

Although ferries arrive daily it is still an event on the island, with people waiting to greet friends and family, or offering rooms to visitors. There are a handful of hotels and pensions too, and plenty of eating places, especially around the harbour. Despite its rich history in legend, not too many remains have been found which shed any light on whether there might actually have been a palace here belonging to Odysseus, though the locals will insist that this was certainly the case and it is only a matter of time before it is proved. They may well be right.

The island certainly trades well on its Homeric connections, and several sites have been linked with episodes in The Odyssey. A local map will guide you to some of these, which are pleasant places to visit in their own right, with or without a legendary link. Four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Vathi is the Cave of the Nymphs, and it is about 11km (6.8 miles) to the Fountain of Arethusa. 

In Vathi itself there is a small Archaeological Museum with a few Mycenean finds, and next door to it is the Library, which collects editions of Homer, including a rare Japanese edition from 1600. There is also a charming little Folklore Museum, with displays on local life. The other place of note in the town is the church of the Taxiarchos, containing an icon of the Crucifixion said to have been painted by a young El Greco.

In the south of the island the only other settlement of any size is the village of Perachori, which stands at 300m (984ft) on a fertile plain where most of the island’s vineyards are to be found. From here a rough track leads around the slopes of Mt Stefano (648m/2,126ft) to the stunningly set Monastery of the Taxiarchis. This was originally built in the 17th century but destroyed in the huge earthquake of 1953, with its church later rebuilt.

The second largest town on the island is in the north, Stavros, a lively market town in the hills, where a statue of Odysseus stands. On the edge of the town is a small Archaeological Museum with more local finds including a part of a mask on which the word ‘Odysseus’ can be seen. It was found at nearby Pelikatas Hill, where there are the remains of a building which is the closest anyone has come to establishing a possible location for the Palace of Odysseus, if such a thing did exist in reality. Down the hill from Stavros is the delightful small resort of Frikes, from where ferries take the visitor away again after their Ithacan odyssey,

Flights to Ithaca

There is no airport on Ithaca, and the easiest way to get there by plane is to fly to Kefalonia and take the ferry, or take a flight to Lefkas and catch the ferry from there. There are numerous cheap charter flights to Kefalonia and Lefkas in the summer holiday season. Kefalonia also has flights from Athens and other Greek destinations.

Ferries to Ithaca

For a small island, Ithaca is quite well served by ferry connections. In the summer holiday season daily ferries go from Ithaca to the islands of both Kefalonia and Lefkas, to Astakos on the west coast of northern Greece, and also to Patras in the Peloponnese on the Greek mainland. Ferries from Kefalonia take about 60-90 minutes, depending which two ports you are travelling between. Ferries to Lefkas take about 90 minutes.

Note that ferries go from different ports on Ithaca:

  • From Frikes in the northeast to Lefkas, and to Fiskardo on Kefalonia
  • From Vathy to Sami on Kefalonia, and to Astakos and Patras
  • From Pisaetos on the southwest coast to Sami on Kefalonia

Ferries in Greece

Ferries in Greece has an excellent and very thorough website where, in addition to checking ferry schedules and times, you can also book tickets and get lots of useful information about travelling by ferry in Greece.

Where to Stay on Ithaca

,/center>

Check out our other Ionian Islands pages...

  • Kefalonia, or Cephalonia, in the Ionian Islands of Greece

    Travel information about Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands in Greece, including ferries and flights to Kefalonia and the best things to do, like visiting Fiskardo

  • Best Things to do on Kefalonia

    The Best Things to do on Kefalonia include visit Fiskardo and Assos, see Myrtos Beach, enjoy the capital, Argostoli, and visit the Drogorati and Melissani Cave.

  • Lefkas

    Travel information about Lefkas in the Ionian Islands in Greece, including ferries and flights and the best things to do beaches, sailing, windsurfing.

  • The Ionian Islands of Greece

    The Greek Ionian Islands are Corfu, Paxos, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkas, Ithaca and Kythira, and some smaller islands too.

  • Kythira, or Kithira or Kithera, in the Ionian islands of Greece

    Travel information about Kythira in the Ionian Islands in Greece, including ferries and flights to Kythira and the best things to do

  • Zakynthos, Zante, in the Ionian Islands of Greece

    Travel advice and information on Zakynthos (Zante) in the Greek Ionian islands, with information on ferries and flights and the best things to do..

  • Zakynthos Winemaker

    Antonis Maroudas is a Zakynthos winemaker who lives on the 'wine road' and is one of the people who make Zakynthos.

  • Photos of Zakynthos

    Greece Travel Secrets publishes a page of photos of Zakynthos in the Ionian Islands of Greece to perhaps inspire you to visit.

  • Paxos

    Travel advice and information on Paxos near Corfu in the Ionian islands, information on ferries and flights, what to do in Gaios, Lakka and Longos or Loggos.

  • Life as a Waiter on Zakynthos

    Life as a waiter on Zakynthos tells what it was like for travel writer Mike Gerrard to work in a Greek restaurant, the Mantalena in Alykanas.

Latest Posts

  1. Greece Extends Travel Restrictions for Russians

    The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on Monday issued an aviation directive (NOTAM) which extends the travel restrictions imposed on Russian citizens traveling to Greece. The directive, which…

    Read More

  2. Olympic Air Announces Flight Cancellations, Reschedules

    Olympic Air has announced flight cancellations and reschedules due to a work suspension of the PanHellenic Union of Licensed Aeronautical Telecommunication Officers between September 21-23. According…

    Read More

  3. Greece Announces Relief Measures for Households, Businesses in Flood-hit Areas

    The Greek government on Monday announced support measures, including state aid and tax relief, for people and businesses in areas affected by flooding caused by the “Ianos” storm over the weekend. The…

    Read More

  4. Fraport Greece Takes Part in Rescue Campaign of Ithaki’s Green Toad

    Fraport Greece, the manager of 14 regional airports in Greece, is actively supporting the campaign for the rescue of the green toad (bufotes viridis), an endangered amphibian species living on the Gre…

    Read More

  5. Greece Sees 86% Drop in Tourism Revenue in Jan-July Period

    Greece saw revenues from inbound tourism nosedive during the first seven months of the year, according to provisional data released by the Bank of Greece on Monday. Greek tourism’s poor performance du…

    Read More

  6. GNTO to Support Tourism Promotion of Salamina Island

    The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) is exploring ways to promote Salamina, a historic island located in the Saronic gulf, a few kilometers off the coast of Piraeus. “GNTO actively supports…

    Read More

  7. 100 Destinations Now Have ‘Safe Travels’ Stamp of WTTC

    The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) on Friday announced that the Philippines has become the official 100th destination using its ‘Safe Travels’ global safety and hygiene stamp. The stamp was dev…

    Read More

  8. Athens-Attica: New Covid-19 Measures Include Teleworking, Suspension of Concerts

    A series of additional restrictive measures to curb the further spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the wider Athens area of Attica were announced on Friday by Greek Civil Protection Deputy Minist…

    Read More

  9. Ireland Announces 14-day Quarantine for Arrivals from Greece

    The Irish Government on Thursday removed Greece from the list of exempt countries for quarantine due to the coronavirus (Covid-19). As of Monday, September 21, all travelers arriving to Ireland from G…

    Read More

  10. Victoria Hislop Officially Becomes Honorary Citizen of Greece

    British best-selling author Victoria Hislop was officially sworn-in as a Greek citizen during a ceremony in Athens on Thursday. The author in July had been granted the Greek citizenship by Hellenic Re…

    Read More