Are you an extreme escapist?

Voutoumi Bay, AntiPaxos

On Paxos you can escape the crowds. There are no large hotels, only 3 small ports and the island is covered by olive groves hiding sleepy hamlets. It’s not that strenuous to get there: a 3 hour flight from UK to Corfu, a 10 minute taxi to the port and a 1-hour hydrofoil journey. If, for you, Paxos does not provide enough of an escape but you are still expecting comfort and a swimming pool – try AntiPaxos.

The idea of a holiday escape to a tiny Greek island will appeal to many people. Ingredients of a real escape will probably include a completely different environment, peace and quiet, balmy evenings, warm seas and the freedom to do what one wants when one wants. The tiny island of AntiPaxos has all these ingredients but it’s important to peek under the surface to make sure it’s the right escape for you.

Villa Violetta and Phoenica provide total privacy. Pathways lead from each house to two sandy beaches. There are no roads, no street lights and no traffic lights. You might spot the odd beaten-up jeep but donkey transport is predominant. Goat paths criss-cross the island – many walking trails. With a population of around 20 one is unlikely to bump into many people. With no light pollution the night sky is theatrical.

But – there are no shops (Violetta’s & Phoenica’s caretaker can deliver provisions from Paxos or the regular speedboat service between the islands allows you to shop on Paxos). There are only 4 tavernas and they do not always open at night. Excursion boats call into the two sandy bays most mornings and disgorge scantily clad day trippers for a few hours.

AntiPaxos is 4 kilometres long, 2 kilometres wide and lies 1 mile south of Paxos (a 20 minute speedboat trip). A wilderness of maquis and wild olive trees hides a small number of cottages and private vineyards. When the last inter island speedboat departs at 5.30pm you should have the sandy beaches to yourselves. There are only 3 villas for rent on the island.

A stay on AntiPaxos will provide an unusual and romantic escape but without the usual trappings and distractions of a more built-up resort, it’s important that you get on with your partner!

Book a Greek Island Holiday Now or Later?

Understandably the Greeks are finding it hard to accept punitive austerity measures and their future still remains uncertain.

It might appear flippant to talk up tourism to Greece but visitors to Greece are needed this time more than any other. The opportunities to forgo our busy lifestyles for a relaxed escape on a beautiful Greek island are still there.

Athens no doubt will continue to be the central stage for Greeks to protest against these measures but on the islands, where there tends to be more self sufficiency in lifestyles, people are more philosophical. Here you will hear Greeks complain about price and taxation increases but most are self employed or dependent on tourism for income and they are therefore not all affected as seriously as the employed or unemployed on the mainland.

It would appear that most tour operators (companies selling package holidays) are suffering from a very slow start to the holiday booking season for Greece. For Ionian Villas , a new business, we have been busy with enquiries for all Ionian islands.

If you are thinking about a holiday on a Greek island this year but you reckon that it’s best to wait a while before booking – you might benefit from panic offers but you might also be faced with a limited supply and therefore increased cost of flights (caused by tour operators “consolidating” their programmes and charter flights being cancelled). Scheduled carriers like Easyjet watch the supply and demand of charter flights very carefully when pricing their own flights.

Naturally we would advise to book early to secure what is best for you and to take your money now rather than later! At Ionian Villas (we are booking agents for individual property owners and not a package holiday company), we are happy to help if a price is outside your budget. If a particular property appeals but the price is too high, let us know and we can speak to the owner to see if a reduction can be made. No guarantees but it’s always worth asking – and it might help you secure your flights before a possible price increase.

A Godly view on Cephalonia

Villa Artemis

Zeus, the “big cheese” God, was God of the Sky & Thunder. In Greek mythology he was named as Dias the “Divine King”. It is said that when he created the world he threw his last remaining building stones into the seas of Cephalonia and that one of these stones became what is now the tiny island of Dias Rock. The island is home to a 500 year old chapel, which was built on the remains of the ancient temple of Thios.

A mix of history and mythology tells us that a sanctuary for priests once existed at the top of Mount Aenos and that sacrifices were made whenever they saw smoke rising from the altar sacrifices at the temple of Thios.

Villa Artemis overlooks Dias Rock and has views across the sea to Zakynthos.

Hire a boat from nearby Makris Yalos beach, tie up at Dias Rock and climb the 100 steps to visit the chapel of Panayia Diotissa. On 2nd July there is a festival to honour Saint Diotissa and the villagers of Pessada, who own Dias Rock, go across to celebrate.

Discover the Real Ithaca

Walkers rest in Ithaca olive grove

Ithaca is an island which will appeal to those wanting to escape a busy, noisy lifestyle. But will there be enough to occupy the wound-up mind, which sometimes needs more than a week to jettison unwanted pressures and can refuse to sit happily with simple and peaceful island distractions?

Recharging batteries is important and the small ports of Kioni and Frikes are perfect sleepy venues to do little but gaze at fishermen cleaning their nets. Island exploration however, will introduce many more natural delights to help the mind forget home based anxieties.

Hiring a boat (with outboard engine) is a great way to find a deserted beach and explore a beautiful coastline with just the company of seabirds. Pack a picnic or moor up alongside one of Kioni or Frikes’ waterfront tavernas for lunch.

Hiring a car will provide easy access to many parts of Ithaca but the more hidden parts are more difficult to find.

Katrina Parsey is our Ionian Villas agent on Ithaca. Katrina is a poet, storyteller and walker. With a few winter breaks back in UK as an actress, theatre director, writer and teacher, Katrina has spent the last 12 years on Ithaca. Over these years she has discovered a variety of walking trails and now leads daily walks (when the weather is not too hot) to introduce Ithaca’s more inquisitive visitor to the island’s people, history, mythology, flora, fauna and hidden landscapes.

Katrina says “Join me on a cultural walk exploring the sites and stories of Odysseus and Penelope. Or come along to the Folklore Walk, taste local wine, cheese, oil and olives on an ancient land. See the old olive press and wheat mill at Agrotiri. Walk along shepherds’ trails and discover the past and present of Ithaca’s farming culture.”

Leave your worries on the doorstep and discover an island which many have heard of but few visited.