WHY IONIAN ISLAND HOLIDAYS?
AWARD WINNING HOLIDAYSIONIAN & AEGEAN HOLIDAYS ARE PROUD TO HAVE BEEN VOTED BEST TOUR OPERATOR TO HELLENIC EUROPE AT THE BRITISH TRAVEL AWARDS 2011 AND 2012.
EXPERT ADVICEOur team of experienced and knowledgeable advisers are here to make your holiday to the Greek islands memorable - and for the right reasons!
First there is the Ithaka that you can see. It is the sixth largest of the seven Ionian islands, two mountains joined by a narrow ridge, rugged in the west, with a more gentle and fertile eastern shore, indented with bays and sheltered harbours. Only 3000 Ithakians live on the island, but you will find thousands living as far as Melbourne, Cape Town and New York. They are a people who for hundreds of generations have gone to sea, as did their illustrious forebear Odysseus. Ithakian sailors opened up the trade on the River Danube in the early 19th century and when Aristotle Onassis built his huge fleet of tankers after the war, it was to Ithaka that he came to find his crews. Even today the island’s high school offers courses in navigation and marine engineering to its senior students.
Homer described the island as “rocky and unfit for horses, but fertile… a good place for goats”. Drive along the island’s single main road and you will understand. The Ithakian goat will stand firmly in the middle of the road and fixing you with her beady eye, defying you to pass, until she deigns to move, the bell jingling at her neck. The main road connects the small capital town of Vathy, at the head of a fjord-like bay in the south, with the scattered settlements in the north. Kioni lies at the end of the road, an idyllic jumble of pretty houses above a sheltered cove, guarded by the remains of three prominent windmills on the headland. Elegant Venetian houses that have survived war, earthquake and mass emigration, are now fully restored and once again inhabited by locals and visitors.
A loop road branches off above the beach at Aetos, zigzagging up to the lonely 16th century monastery of Kathara, high on the slopes of Neritos the island’s highest mountain. From the bell tower near the church, the eagle’s eye view of Molos Bay and Vathy harbour far below is magical. The view across the sparkling sea to the Gulf of Corinth and the Peleponnese mountains, is one of the finest in the whole of Greece. Further on the road passes through the isolated village of Anoghi, where an unassuming small church contains a magnificent series of late 15th century frescoes.
Vathy is a thriving port and administrative centre where the visitor is made to feel part of the community. Small hotels and apartment houses sit side by side with homes that have been lived in by the same families for generations. Most of the tavernas and kafenions are situated near the large plateia on the waterfront. They are popular gathering points where parents can sit, under shaded awnings, whilst a game of football is played by the children on the flagstones.
The second Ithaka is the mythical home of King Odysseus, conqueror of Troy and hero of Homer’s epic tale. The island is full of Odyssean associations, and many are easily reached by car or on foot. Eumaius’ Cave, Arethusa’s Spring, Laertes Field are all real places to be explored. Without doubt the Mycenians built their fortresses here over 3,500 years ago, but it is no wonder that the massive blocks of the Acropolis walls at Aetos have been called Cyclopian. Only a giant from the earliest myths could have placed them one upon the other!
On Ithaka the boundaries between fact and fiction are tantalisingly blurred. All the natural beauty and mystery of the Ionian is encapsulated in this one small island, making it a paradise for walkers, artists, photographers and all lovers of wild places. There are a hundred beaches, most of them small and secluded, consisting of dazzling pebbles and translucent water. Many can only be reached by boat. Only two or three have bars and one of these, at Dexia, has recently won a coveted Blue Flag for clean water and environmental protection. The final Ithaka cannot be seen for it is found in the heart. A poet described it as the feeling inside when we think of coming home, a sigh deep in the soul at the end journey. Whether you stay for one week or a thousand years you will undoubtedly feel it.
“Ithaka gave you a marvellous journey without her you would never have set out. Wise you have become, full of experience And now will understand what these Ithakans mean.” Extracts from “Ithaka” by C.P Kavafy
- Experience the amazing panorama at the top of Mount Neritos (809m)
- Explore secluded coves around Kioni and Vathy in your own motor boat
- Snorkelling tour with the Marine Adventure
- Swim at the ‘Blue Flag’ Dexia Beach
- Visit the Archaeological museum in Vathy
- Visit Exoghi and its church Agia Marina for ancient walks and amazing views
- Odysseus Museum
- Visit the Monastery of Kathariotissa named after the islands saint. It has a wonderful panoramic view of southern Ithaka
- Celebrate the panagiri or festival of Sotiros (the Saviour) over the 5th and 6th August, food, music, dance and fun
- Kioni ‘feast’ day on 20th July with live traditional music, food, wine & dance.
Vathy is one of the more spectacular natural harbours in Greece. Almost invisible from the sea, its narrow fjord-like entrance, guarded by twin headlands, each with the ruins of Venetian gun emplacements, is protected by the huge bulk of Mt Neritos, the island’s highest peak. Once inside the bay opens up to reveal a small town clustered around the far shore.
Although much of Vathy was devastated in the great earthquake of 1953, when many of its classic Venetian style mansions were destroyed, planning controls have ensured that the town has kept its character with well-proportioned houses, carefully painted facades and traditional roofs. It is the administrative capital and main ferry port for Kefalonia and Patras on the mainland.
The countryside in the immediate vicinity is glorious. Quiet lanes and tracks lead up the fertile valley behind the town from where newly opened footpaths can be taken to places straight out of Homer’s Odyssey.
The town itself contains fascinating alleyways and stepped paths often lined with the walls of elegant ruins, their archways and windows covered in wisteria.
On summer evenings everyone makes their way to the plateia beside the harbour, the road is closed off to traffic except where children on their bicycles race ahead of their parents enjoying a traditional ‘volta’ or stroll before their evening meal.
Ithaka is really two islands connected by the narrow ridge of Aetos. The north ‘island’, dominated by Mt Neritos, with the historic Kathara monastery and the Venetian village of Anoghi on its broad flanks, has a whole series of sheltered bays on its eastern shore.
It is hard to believe that this idyllic coastline was once the domain of merciless pirates and, only after the Venetians had gained control of the islands, in 16th and 17th century, was it possible for fishing villages like Kioni and Frikes to be established.
Stavros is the largest of a number of settlements scattered across the north end of the island. The large central plateia beside the church is pleasantly tree-lined and contains the only statue of Odysseus on the island. Just outside the village is the small archaeological museum that contains a fascinating collection of artifacts found in the nearby excavations at the School of Homer and Platreithias.
From Stavros the road drops down a valley to the tiny harbour and port of Frikes with its scattering of waterside tavernas. High above, the hamlet of Exoghi clings to the mountain. The name means ‘the outland’, and it certainly is an away-from-it all community of about twenty people plus a few more summer residents, only reached by a narrow, twisting lane or a series of recently restored mule trails.
Beyond Frikes, the road twists and turns around a series of delightful bays, before a short sharp ascent reveals the picturesque and atmospheric harbour of Kioni with its unspoilt cafes and harbourside tavernas.
The fantastic array of tiny coves and bays around Kioni are mostly only accessible by sea, therefore hiring a motorboat can only enhance your holiday.
Direct flights from London Gatwick and Manchester
You will be transferred to Fiskardo by coach and over to Polis Bay, Ithaka by private boat. If applicable your hire car will be waiting for you at Polis Bay; other transfers will be by taxi. Approx transfer time: 1 hour 30 mins
PRE-BOOKING YOUR AIRCRAFT SEAT
To pre book your seat please contact the airline directly quoting Ionian Island Holidays as your tour operator, your booking reference number, flight number, date of departure and specific flight request. Payments for these seats are direct with the airline.
AIRLINE CONTACT DETAILS
Fly Monarch: 01582 556331
20kg for checked baggage, 5kg hand baggage.
Security restrictions may apply, please contact the airline, the airport or ourselves before departure.
We are able to offer a limited number of flights direct to Kefalonia, Preveza and Corfu. Contact out UK office for further details on 020 8459 0777.
Please also fully inform us of any disability or walking difficulty you may have, so we can provide assistance at the airport. This must be made at least 7 days before departure.