In Homer’s The Odyssey the Trojan War hero, Odysseus, must face a 10-year battle to return to his beloved wife Penelope at his Kingdom, the Ionian island of Ithaca, Greece.
Sailing into the port town of Vathy you can’t help but think about what it must have been like for Odysseus to see his homeland again after 20 extraordinary years away. Certainly, the verdant green hills spilling down into the azure waters is a sight to behold!
Today Ithaca is a much smaller and quieter version of its close neighbor, Kefalonia, and is an authentic example of a Greek Island that has managed to strike a perfect balance with seasonal tourism.
It is easy to see why Odysseus found peace on this island and a holiday in Ithaca will likely leave you feeling relaxed and yearning to stake out a place of your own.
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When to visit Ithaca
The best times to visit Ithaca is April to September. High season is late June to early September, and prices will reflect that as will accommodation availability.
Summer is great in Ithaca. The water is warm, there are blue skies every day and a fun holiday atmosphere. It doesn’t get as busy as many of the other islands and retains a chilled, laid back vibe.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: April to June and September/October
Where is Ithaca?
Ithaca is located in the Ionian islands in the far western part of Greece.
It is very close to Kefalonia and south of Lefkada.
How to get to Ithaca,Greece
There is no airport on Ithaca so the only way you can get there is by ferry.
There are ferries to Ithaca from Greece mainland, Kefalonia and Lefkada. The closest airport to Ithaca is on Kefalonia island and it is connected with Ithaca by ferry.
Kefalonia to Ithaca
Ferries run daily from Sami on the eastern side of Kefalonia to Pisaetos on the /SouthWestern side of Ithaca. There is a local bus that then runs to Vathy.
If you want to see more of Ithaca it would be better to rent a car and take it over, or you can hire one in Vathy.
There are also day trips to Ithaca from Fiscardo at the northern tip of Kefalonia. It’s a great day out with lots of swims and fun for all ages. Group Day trips are also on offer from Agia Effimia during Summer as are private sailing cruises.
Mainland Greece to Ithaca
Ferries depart from Killini in the Pelopponese ( a popular port for visitors to Olympia) and also from Astakos on the western mainland.
Lefkada to Ithaca
There is a regular ferry service between Kallithea on Lefkada island and Vathy.
Trying to fit it all in?
Pressed for time and overwhelmed with information?
This 7 day sailing tour for up to 8 people starts in Lefkada and stops in Ithaca, Fiskardo & Sami (Kefalonia), and the islands of Kalamos and Meganisi!
Where to stay on Ithaca
Most accommodation on Ithaca is in the main town of Vathy.
Vathy is also the capital and was entirely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1953 so it has a sense of order and planning that is often missing from many Mediterranean destinations. The buildings are all painted yellow, pink and cream and it wraps around a sheltered bay with the deepest blue water.
There is little traffic and during the day you would be forgiven for thinking the place has been abandoned. That all changes at night as the locals come out for dinner and coffee and perhaps some music too.
Cavos Seaside House is a lovely 2 bedroom house 5-minute walk from Dexa Beach and is right on the seafront.
Perantzada Art Hotel is also in the port and is housed in a 19th-century neoclassical building that is beautifully decorated. It also has a swimming pool.
For budget travellers Epicharis Studios have comfortable rooms with port views and great reviews.
Elsewhere on Ithaca
Kioni apartments in Kioni are well appointed and have lovely views over the harbour.
Where to eat in Ithaca
Some of the best tavernas in Ithaca are in Vathy and many of them are on the water around the harbour. It’s a great spot to sit and watch the boats coming and going and you can join the local men at the various Cafenions as well.
Soneto is also excellent.
Kanenas in Stavros is considered one of the best taverna’s in Ithaca. Some say the whole of the Ionian islands!
Lizzy’s in Kioni again and Dona Lefki is on the west side of the island so gets amazing sunsets as well as excellent mediterranean food with a modern spin. This was probably our favourite meal of all.
If you’re up for a bit of a walk then Soulatso is right around on the eastern side of the harbour and gets quite lively late at night.
Otherwise Rozes is both an excellent cafe and a great bar that plays good music with a cool vibe late at night.
Things to do on Ithaca,Greece
Towns and villages of Ithaca
The villages of Ithaca are quaint and authentic and many of the old buildings have been well preserved. In Vathy there are building restrictions that prohibit the use of modern designs and limit the colors that can be used which has helped preserve its integrity.
Vathy is the capital and main port of the island.
It has been the capital of Ithaca since the year 1500 and has a population of around 1700 people.
It is home to most of the tavernas, cafes and shops and has a vibrant atmosphere at night.
Points of interest in Vathy include:
- The French Fort built in 1807 which has 2 cannons.
- The ancient town of Alalcomenae where there are remains of a civilization from the 7th century.
- Lazareto Isle lies at the southwestern part of the port. In the 19th century it was used as a quarantine station and later as a prison until 1912. Today there is a small church on the isle called Sotiras (Savior) which is very popular for weddings.
- The Arheological Museum
- The Naval and Folklore Museum
Built on the slopes of a mountain and it has a lovely port, where fishing boats moor quietly. Located 24km’s from Vathy it is one of the prettiest villages in the Ionian group.
The entrance to Kioni is past 3 old windmills and many of the houses were built in the 16th century and survived the earthquakes. There are several quaint churches in the villages and very good beaches in the vicinity.
Frikes is a small seaside village on the northern side of Ithaca that is connected to Lefkada and Kefalonia by ferry. It is 19km from Vathy.
This pretty town has 2 traditional windmills and several beautiful beaches.
A picturesque village on the northern side of Ithaca with traditional architecture and lovely sea views, Stavros is the 2nd largest village on Ithaca island and is 16km’s from Vathy. It was built in the 16th century and it is believed that the Palace of Odysseus may have been situated here.
There is a small but interesting museum with artifacts from the Caves and the School of Homer as well as Neolithic and Mycenaean pottery.
With a reasonably sized coastline, there are some gorgeous sandy beaches on Ithaca. The water is truly some of the clearest I have seen anywhere in the world.
The best beaches include:
- Filatro Beach.
- Agios Ioannis
Things to do on Ithaca cont/
Unsurprisingly many visitors to Ithaca seek out the places that are mentioned in the Odyssey and the tales of Odysseus.
Archaeological sites of Ithaca
People first arrived on Ithaca during the Neolithic Age. There are a number of archaeological sites on the island to explore.
- Evmaios Cave in southern Ithaca.
- Venetian Cannons
- Exogi Pyramids
- The Cave of the Nymphs, where Odysseus is said to hide the gifts of the Phaeacians
- Tikti Crini: An artificial reservoir used in Mycenaean towns
- The School of Homer in Agios Athanasios
- Pilikata which is thought to be where Odysseus’s city lay
- Marathias plateau- home to several different archaeological sites
- Alalkomenes, with the ancient Acropolis of the town of Alalkomenes
Trekking in Ithaca
There is an archaeological site to the right of the highest point of the main road from Aetos to Piso Aetos. From the church of St. George there is a steep path that leads visitors to the top of the hill and the ruins of “Acropolis of Alalkomenes” or “Castle of Odysseus”).
From here you can enjoy the spectacular views of North Ithaca, the Western side of Kefalonia, and all of the East Coast.
Trekking Perachori – Nymphs Cave Ithaca Greece
Another popular trek in Ithaca, Greece. The starting point for this track is the old Panaghia’s church, above the cemetery, at the top of Perachori village.
When you reach the second bend in the path in Paleochora, you will be in the center of the original medieval town with great views out over Dexa Cove.
Follow the path downhill past two small churches until you arrive at Nymphs Cave (Marmarospilia).