Ithaka

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Getting to Ithaka

Ionian map

Where is Ithaka? This tiny islet lies the Ionian Sea, sandwiched between its large neighbour Kefalonia the Greek mainland.

There is no airport on Ithaka so visitors usuallu fly to Kefalonia and make their way from the east coast airport to the west coast port of Sami to catch regular ferries to the island.

Despite it being such a small island the ferry services are fairly frequent, with sailings not only to Kefalonia but to Corfu, Lefkas and even Athens (Piraeus). The island, with a cast harbour at Vathi is a favourite port of call for yachts and flotillas.

There are few roads on Ithaka and what exists are narrow and twisting and not in particularly good repair. Buses travel to the main resorts, few as they are, and taxis are not plentiful on such a small island.

A mountainous and wild island, Ithaka is crossed by many mule trails and, although they are overgrown in places, much has been done to clear the way and improve the walking in recent years.

Updated for 2016

Ithaka flights: travel by air

There is no airport on Ithaka and most visitors fly to Kefalonia Airport (EFL) which has daily domestic flights from Athens as well as charter flights from all over Europe.

Unfortunately, most ferries to Ithaka are from the port of Sami, on the other side of the island. Flight and ferry times rarely coincide so an overnight stay on Kefalonia is often needed either in Argostoli or in Sami.

It is also possible to fly to Preveza/Aktion Airport (PVK) on the mainland and drive south to the port of Astakos which has ferry connections to Ithaka. The same problems with flight ferry connections apply so flight to Kefalonia are probably the best option.

Yet another alternative is a flight to Zante Airport and a ferry to Ithaka via Killini and Kefalonia.

Ithaka ferries: travel by sea

With a large natural harbour at Vathi and other small port at Piso Aetos and Frikes, Ithaka is served by a remarkable number of ferry connections given its small size.

Kefalonian Lines operates services between Ithaka, Sami on Kefalonia, the mainland port of Killini and Zakynthos with outward sailings from Ithaka on Monday, Friday and Saturday and imward journeys on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

The West Ferry Maritime Company also adds Ithaka on its Lefkas to Kefalonia service in the summer on its 'Captain Aristidis' ferry.

The Ionio Pelagos runs a daily service between Vassiliki on Lefkas, Sami on Kefalonia, and mainland Astakos calling in at the port of Piso Aetos on Ithaka on the way.

The ferry boat Meganissi, run by Coastal Lines Ionios, runs daily between Nidri on Lefkas and the small port of Frikes on Ithaka.

There are daily sailings between mainland Patras by Strintzis Ferries calling at Sami and Vathy.

Also based at Vathy on ithaka is the Odysseas Sea Taxi (+30 26740 33581) which picks up and drops off at ports all over the Ionian.

Ithaka map: getting around

Ithaca or Ithaka is located the Ionian Sea off the west coast of mainland Greece and four kilometres east of Kefalonia. The smallest of the Ionian islands after Paxos, Ithaka has an area of 96 sq km, a coastline of 100 kilometres and around 3,500 permanent inhabitants.

Ithaca is hilly with peaks at Mount. Neritos, at 800 metres, and at Mount Petaleiko. Two land masses are joined at the isthmus of Aetos which is only 620 metres wide. The steep and straight 16 kilometres long west coast contrasts sharply with the jigsaw of inlets in the east.

The port capital of Vathy is the south-east, while the second largest village at Stavros in the north. There is little fertile land on rocky Ithaca but olive oiland currants are produced. Many of its old houses were destroyed in the 1953 earthquake.

Like all Ionian islands Ithaka has long, hot and dry summers and mild, very wet winters. Summers can be very warm, reaching 30°C in August, and humid as the Ionians escape the brisk northern 'meltemi' winds that sweep many Greek islands. The sea stays warm right through to November.

Winter rains are heavy, helping to keep the island green int he summer. The western Ionian islands can get three times the winter rainfall of other Greek islands. Winter temperatures may drop to lows of 9°C but usually hover around the 13°C .

Ithaka transport: travel on land

Car rental

The main method of transport for getting around on Ithaka is a hire car or taxi. Taxis are about but not plentiful, although there are always some on hand to meet ferry arrivals.

Some visitors hire cars in Kefalonia and bring them over on the ferry but there is car, motorcyle, scooter and mountain bike hire in the main port of Vathy and the mini-market in Frikes also hires out cars.

There is a twice daily island bus from Vathy to Stavros, Frikes and Kioni that leaves Vathi at 6.15am and 11am and leaves Kioni at 7.15am and 2.30pm. There is no bus service on Sunday or Bank Holidays. Many find it a hair-raising ride through the mountains and it doubles as the island's school bus.

There is plentyof boat hire on ithaka too, in Kioni (594090), Vathy (33311 and 33312) at at Polis Bay (+30 69795 81205).

Although small, Ithaka is a mountainous and wild island. Many old mountain tracks fell into disuse over the years but have been cleared by the island council and volunteers.

There are maps of local walking trails in many island souvenir shops. The main routes are waymarked and many paths have been cleared by islanders. Some online walks can be found here.

Ithaka rooms: places to stay

Rooms

Ithaca is only a small island and holiday accommodation is mostly limited to the main port of Vathy. There are plenty of places to stay around Vathy, from cheaper budget rooms to luxury villas with swimming pools and sea views.

There are also many small houses, apartments and villas to rent but this is not a place to turn up in the main holiday season of July and August when the small island can become quite crowded.

Frikes is the most northerly of Ithaca's village resorts and there are usually rooms to be found out of the main season and a few rooms are on offer in nearby Stavros, which has the largest population.

Most tourists visiting north Ithaca stay in Kioni but accommodation there will need to be booked well in advance. There are a rooms and studios in other parts of north Ithaca, such as at Lefki and at Agios Yiannis beach. In the south there is Vathy, which takes the highest numbers, but other accommodation is dotted along the coastline.

The hill village of Perahori commands the best views and rooms can usually be found except during the local festival. Perahorihas an agrotourism project which offers rooms in local houses as part of the family.