An Ancient Footpath to Erimitis Spring

Paxos has three ports and the central village of Magazia. Magazia means “shops” and was once the main shopping centre of the island (it even had a ginger beer maker!). In surrounding valleys and on olive-clad hilltops are family hamlets consisting of a cluster of houses and a family church or two.

When the island was more self-sufficient (important when winter bad weather could prevent any supplies reaching Paxos for weeks on end) and the olive was king, a well-trodden network of pathways connected villages and hamlets with olive groves, vineyards, pasture land, terraces of wheat, schools, shops, friends and a supply of water.    

During the British occupation of the Ionian islands in the early 19th Century, tracks (wider than the goat paths) connecting the three island ports were turned into a central road – donkey tracks became a donkey road!

During the earlier, four centuries of Venetian rule, cisterns to collect rainwater were introduced to island house building. River and stream beds still traverse the island with fast flowing waters in the winter but the only source of natural spring water was and still is just above Erimitis beach on the west coast.

A series of stone-floored pathways, bordered by dry stone walls, lead from the hamlet of Boikatika (the hamlet of the Boikos family) down a wild valley of untended olive groves to a point above Erimitis Bay where soaring limestone cliffs look down onto a chalky turquoise sea.

A steep, stepped path winds down to the spring’s source and a well, enclosed by stone. Even in the heat of summer, water oozes and seeps through the rock face to give life to a variety of small wild plants, just above the sea.

In 2008 a large chunk of limestone cliff broke away and slid into the sea. What was a rocky inlet beneath the cliffs suddenly became a beautiful beach of limestone and pulverized stone – now turning into golden sand.

Look carefully at the surrounding hillsides of maquis and myrtle and you will see the remains of stone houses and overgrown terraces, which were once cultivated – a perfect place to live with fresh water on your doorstep. Prime position is now given to two modern villas at the top of the last flight of steps to the beach but there is still a dominant feeling of a rich, green wilderness, framed by the Erimitis cliffs.    

First glimpse of Erimitis cliffs

There is now a road down to the last flight of steps but parking is nigh impossible so choosing one of the ancient footpaths is the advisable (and more interesting) alternative. Tall olive and cypress trees provide a canopy of shade and the first views of the cliffs and blue sea are breathtaking. A good path to choose starts close to the cat feeding station on the track leading from Magazia to Erimitis Sunset Bar.

Old untended olives
Start of the last section
Final flight of steps to the spring

Take a stick to carefully detach spider webs and a non-plastic container to drink from the Erimitis well (you will find a bucket & rope attached to the well’s lid). On my last visit I saw “I was here” styled graffiti on the rock face close to the well – resist the urge to leave any mark of having been there and enjoy its natural beauty – one of Paxos’ many treasures.

Remember to take a spider stick
Descent to the beach
Erimitis Spring

On Paxos there are 2 organisations dedicated to the preservation of the island’s heritage and culture Volunteers of Paxos and Friends of Paxos – they work with the Paxos Municipality to open, clear and maintain the network of ancient footpaths on the island.

ITHACA FAQ’S

When is the best time to visit Ithaca?

When is the best time to visit Ithaca?

Visit Ithaca any month of the year and you will never be part of a crowd. Ithaca has no cruise ships and no crowded beaches. Athens based Ithacicians will return for their summer break in August but there are still many deserted beaches to be found.

April & May: Normally mild with lots of sunshine and the one-off shower. The olive groves are carpeted with wild flowers – ideal conditions for trail walking. Rivers and waterfalls that have dried up in the summer months are flowing.

June: Pool and sea temperatures are comfortably warm and the views to offshore islands are crisp and clear.

July & August: Higher temperatures, warmer seas and more visitors to the island.

September: Perfect conditions for escaping the crowds but still with high temperatures.  

October: similar to May.

Are beaches sand or pebble?

Apart from some beautiful sandy beaches in Afales Bay (only accessible by hired boat), all beaches on Ithaca are pebble and fine shingle. Most of the beaches are natural (no sunloungers etc) and usually deserted. The following beaches have “cantinas” (serving drinks & snacks): Filiatro, Vathy, one of the beaches in Kioni Bay, Aetos, Marmaka, Gidaki, Polis Bay. Polis Bay beach has sunbeds and umbrellas, toilets, showers, kayaks for hire – all supervised by Takis the beach manager .

What is there to do for teenagers?

Life on Ithaca tends to be low key. There are a few music bars on the Vathy waterfront but the other villages are for those wanting a quieter alternative to city living. Family activities on offer include boat hire, kayaking & paddle boards at Filiatro Beach just outside Vathy, scuba diving, snorkelling trips; hiking trails, electric bike hire.

Eating out costs?

There is a good selection of tavernas in all the island’s villages plus a few off the beaten track. In the main they will be traditional Greek cuisine with Mediterranean twists & fusions. The average cost is around 30 euros per person for a 3 course meal including house wine – freshly caught fish however, will be more expensive.

There are some excellent and very innovative waterfront tavernas in Frikes.  

The house wine offered in tavernas is usually very good but there are now some very good Greek wineries on so well worthwhile trying them.

Kioni Taverna

Is it easy to buy fresh fish?

You can often buy fresh fish direct from the fishing boats on the harbour front during the mornings. You will also find a fishmonger in Stavros and Rigos (the man with the fish van) sells in all the villages.

Are supermarkets well stocked?

You will find everything you need. Most also sell fresh fruit and vegetables. Many have a butcher’s and a deli counter. British products are readily available, although may be more expensive.

Local Store in Rachi, Kioni

Do supermarkets sell gluten free/dairy free products?

The majority of the larger supermarkets sell a good range of dairy and gluten free products. Supermarkets in coastal resorts will also generally sell them, although the range may not be as good as in the larger supermarkets.

Do supermarkets deliver?

Most supermarkets and minimarkets are usually happy to deliver to local properties providing you spend a reasonable amount in their shop.

Are pharmacies well stocked?

Yes – and more treatments available over the counter than in British chemists. You will also find well known brands of baby formula and more specific baby supplies that may not be stocked in the supermarket such as creams, dummies etc.

There are 3 chemists: 1 in Stavros and 2 in Vathy.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Most shops, supermarkets and tavernas now accept credit/debit cards but you’ll get a bigger smile when paying in cash.

Best parts of the island to stay?

Ithaca’s east coast hillsides of olive groves, pine and cypress forest, shelve gently to small coves – with distant views of the Greek mainland. Ithaca’s west coast is steeper and has dramatic views to the east coast of Kefalonia.

The seaside villages of Kioni and Frikes are picture postcard pretty. Vathy is more of a working town but has beautiful views across the bay to the east coast of the island.

The drive from Frikes, in the far north, to Vathy, in the south, takes around 30 minutes so wherever you stay, you are never far from a beach or village.

View over Vathy Bay

How child friendly is Ithaca?

Greeks love children and Ithacicians are no exception.

Very few pools are gated and some gardens can be uneven with prickly shrubs.  Most tavernas have a childrens’ menu or are happy to provide child-size portions.

Is Ithaca good for boat hire?

There are boat hirers in Vathy, Kioni and Polis Bay. A speedboat licence needs to be shown for hiring a boat with an outboard over 30HP. Hiring a boat is the best way to find your own private beach and to explore the coastline.

Frikes

Are there good medical facilities?

There is a Medical Centre in Vathy and a smaller medical centre in Stavros. The GP and Head of Vathy’s Medical Centre is a good heart surgeon!

Ferry service to other islands?

There are ferry services connecting Ithaca with Patras and Killini on the mainland, Kefalonia and Lefkas. The ferry from Piso Aetos on Ithaca to Sami on Kefalonia takes just 30 minutes – alternatively, private speedboat charter takes just 15 minutes.

IONIAN ESCAPES ON LAND & SEA

The Ionian islands of Greece have some of the most beautiful, natural coastlines and crystal clear waters in southern Europe.

The islands offer a diverse playground for both explorer and cushioned deckchair enthusiast.

Say you are the one responsible for planning the family holiday or for trying to get a party of friends together – say Sally wants to escape city pressures and read a book in the shade of an olive tree; Malcolm only has a week off and wants to experience a different island coastline each day; Isobel just wants everyone else to be happy (especially Malcolm as he just won’t sit still); twins Frank & Fiona can’t do boats as they fear sea sickness; Pops and Granma want to be pampered. The Huddlestones and the Brinkmans don’t yet know if they can join the party.

How do you choose the right compromise for everyone’s holiday enjoyment?

A more conventional decision might be to either book one Greek island villa for all or one crewed yacht for all. But why not mix the two and satisfy everyone?

Fleewinter Yacht Lunous

Ionian Villas offers a wide selection of Ionian island properties for parties of 2 to 20. Fleewinter offer luxury crewed yachts in the Ionian for up to 10 people.

Why not spend a week in a comfy Ionian island villa to keep everyone except Malcolm happy, followed by a week on a Fleewinter yacht exploring the other Ionian islands. If Sally and the twins don’t want to join the yacht party, they can fly back home or extend their villa stay. In any case there’ll be plenty of room on board for the Huddlestones and Brinkmans.

Villa Marina Paxos

Fleewinter’s yachts have from 3 to 5 cabins taking up to 10 and each one has a skipper and private chef.  You can get involved in the sailing or just take it easy and let the crew do the work. Each day you decide with the crew whether to take it easy in a beautiful bay or explore some of the villages and tavernas.

Fleewinter Yacht Lunous

It’s a bit like having a floating luxury villa, and like all great houses each yacht has a garage full of toys:  waterskis, wakeboards, paddleboards, windsurfers and inflatable toys that are towed behind the private speedboat.  All meals are included except dinner where you have the option to dine onboard or head ashore to explore.

If you book a 2019 Fleewinter yacht charter through us before the end of March, a 10% price reduction will apply.

Call us on 01243 820928 to get more information.

© 2018 Ionian Villas Limited

Call us on: +44 (0) 1243 820928    ..or email enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

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