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Ionian |

Ionian Islands

Ithaca

The second-smallest Ionian island is famous for inspiring Homer’s Odyssey, and after visiting Ithaca, you’ll soon understand why Ulyssesy was so eager to come back. With bustling port towns, endless azure beaches, and lush nature, it’s a wonderful destination adored by yachting aficionados.

The capital Vathi offers a unique mix of celeste-blue seas and culture. It has served as the main harbor since the renaissance and surrounds a sheltered bay. Although it only has 2000 residents, the vibrant atmosphere provides entertainment that caters to all tastes. Start by exploring Filiatro beach, a wonderful spot for snorkeling surrounded by verdant olive groves. Ideal for families, the crystal-clear cove has shallow waters and tiny pebbles children love playing with. 

Gidaki beach can only be accessed by boat and offers electric blue seas beautifully juxtaposed by dramatic cliffs, without any crowds to interfere with the soothing sound of waves hitting the pebbly shore. 

When all that swimming leaves you hungry, you can choose from numerous restaurants offering traditional Greek cuisine. Poseidon tavern is a revelation for seafood lovers - make sure to try the grilled octopus paired with a glass of fine white chardonnay. Each day, the restaurant offers a different pie with home-made pastry that’s simply to die for. For some seaside dining, book a table at Tsiribis, a restaurant far from the tourist traps you might come across strolling the streets of Vathy, with a small, but well-curated menu. 

A curiosity that you should make sure to visit during your stay is the tiny islet of Lazareto that served as a quarantine station during the Venetian rule. Covered in pine trees, the uninhabited island hides the church of Transfiguration of the Savior and provides stunning vistas of the glittery Ionian seas.

To catch a glimpse into the rich history of this Greek village, visit the Archeological Museum with exhibitions encompassing the Geometric period and Roman times, or the Folklore and Nautical Museum with original belongings of prominent 19th-century aristocracy living in the island. 

The small cathedral of Agios Nikolas is decorated with wood-carved iconostasis and homes a wonderful icon of Jesus Elkomenos, considered to be the work of the famous renaissance painter El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos).

Put your dancing shoes on because it’s time to have some fun! The Mezza Volta beach bar is a place where you can sip on cocktails late into the night with upbeat music playing from the speakers. Situated near the twin standbys of Ble and Escape, this is famous for its hip ambiance and hosts theme nights when guests dress up in the style of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. 

Not far from Vathy, you’ll find one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Pisaetos is a serene village where you can enjoy an authentic Greek lifestyle and an enchanting beach mercifully spared from mass tourism. 

Protected from the winds by verdant mountains, the virgin cove has no facilities, just unspoiled nature where you can enjoy swimming and snorkeling in limpid sapphire-colored waters. 

Keen on some vigorous activity? Ithaka is heaven for hikers, with trails that are bejeweled with mysterious historic sites. Trekking Aetos Acropolis of Alalkomenes offers panoramic views of the Ionian seas, as well as several archeological ruins such as the castle of Odysseus. The Trekking trail of Perachora village starts at the old Panaghia’s church and leads through several medieval churches, ending at Nymphs Cave, where, according to the legend, Odysseys was abandoned by Phoenicians.

History enthusiasts will have their hands full while visiting Ithaka. The island was inhabited since the Neolithic Era, so it comes as no surprise that numerous monuments of bygone times are still here to witness the importance of Ithaka through the centuries. Some other ancient sites to explore are Tikti Crini, an artificial reservoir used in Mycenaean times, Alalkomenes with an ancient acropolis, Marathias plateau, a playground for historians interested in ancient Greece. 

Luff up to discover new harbors. Kioni village is built amphitheatrical on mountain slopes and overlooks the translucid seas perfect for relaxing and swimming. Built by the residents of Anogi village in the 16th century, it was heavily damaged in the 1953 earthquake, although some Renaissance buildings survived the catastrophe. What was once a serene fishing village quickly transformed into a modern tourist attraction, with numerous yachts mooring in the charming port surrounded by colorful bars and restaurants. Book a table at Kanenas, a lovely taverna surrounded by the spice garden where many ingredients used for the dishes are grown. The saganaki - a fried cheese Greek specialty - will definitely leave you wanting more. 

Kioni has three beaches ideal for families traveling with small children, all accessible by foot with emerald-hued seas, shaded by dense trees for a relaxing afternoon swim. If you’d like to pick up some souvenirs during your stay, visit the Tehnima or Afrititi jewelry shops where you’ll find handmade rings, bracelets, and necklaces. 

Next stop - Frikes. A charming coastal town with colorful houses perched from a verdant mountain that surrounds the lovely blue harbor, Frikes was first inhabited during the renaissance and only has about a hundred permanent residents. With enchanting seas and alluring nature, this village is very popular among those looking for a tranquil atmosphere to enjoy with family. Hiking around the area affords some of the most enchanting sites, while those who prefer a more hedonistic way of life will love indulging in culinary spectacles offered in one of the numerous port restaurants. 

Head to Ageri restaurant to try the delicious mushroom and truffle orzo - if after some days of cruising you’re tired of seafood, order the tomahawk steak, artfully prepared by the virtuoso chef. 

Frikes has two incredibly preserved windmills that overlook the harbor. With gorgeous illumination at night, they become quite prominent and add to the romantic charms of the village.  If you find yourself visiting Frikes on June 30th, you’ll enjoy the festive celebration held in honor of the Holy Apostles. There are several Eden-like beaches where you can enjoy splashing in the glittery seas, so clean that you can admire the rich aquatic life without even getting wet. 

One of the oldest towns in Ithaca is the picturesque Anogi, perched high up above the sea at an altitude of 500 meters. The residents - and there’s under 100 of them -  speak a distinct dialect heavily influenced by the Venetians and have maintained their distinct traditions that date back to Roman times. Visit the Byzantine church of Panagia to marvel at colorful frescoes or explore the remains of the ancient settlements above the village. The Menhir prehistoric megalithic monuments are the town’s main attraction and present the Anogi version of Stonehenge. If you’re one to avoid touristy spots, Anogi is the perfect place for you. Although it was once the most important town in the region, today it’s pretty isolated and has a single cafe offering drinks and refreshments. With little room accommodation, it primarily attracts yachties looking to explore the rich cultural heritage of Ithaca and those flying in with private helicopters (as it has the only heliodrom in Ithaca) to start their cruise. 

Thanks to a warm Mediterranean climate and the nearness of the sea, Ithaca is known for marvelous wines - any aspiring sommelier should make time to visit the stunning vineyards. Try the soft whites at the traditional Perahera village, located on mountainous slopes where aside from birds chirping on abundant olive groves, you won’t hear any interruptions of the serene atmosphere. Just by the vineyards, the Monastery of Taxiarchon allows some of the most beautiful views of the region and the gorgeous sheltered bay. 

Kaminia is famous for its organized vineyards and cellars - don’t forget to purchase a few spare bottles to enjoy from the privacy of your luxury charter yacht. When you’re ready to cool off from the sizzling Greek sun, take a dip in the heavenly pebbled beach with an enchanting landscape. After a full day of swimming and snorkeling, try some Ithaca specialties at the Taverna Andreas, where you’ll enjoy a serene, authentic atmosphere. The owners are very friendly and always glad to recommend a dish that suits your taste. The tirokafteri spicy cheese is a rare delicacy you should make sure to try - the flomaria is a local version of the linguine pasta that is a guest-favorite. 

If you’re in the hunt for a virgin beach to spend time soaking in the rays without a single worry on your mind, visit Lefkada, a scenic monotonous village with pristine coves and turquoise seas. With just 50 inhabitants, what this tranquil spot lacks in size, it surely makes up with mesmerizing nature and views of the capital and island of Kefalonia. Many of its beaches are only accessible by boat and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be the only one there. Fokotripa is surrounded by dramatic rocks and mountains and is perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches in Ithaca. Numerous secluded beaches adorn the coast of this tiny village, making it true heaven for anyone looking to relax and soak up the rays. Lefkas is truly a hidden gem, just by the capital where you can finish off your unforgettable cruising experience. 

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