The Best-Shaw family are regular visitors to Paxos and this
year they were our first clients of the season to experience the journey after Greek
airports opened to British airlines on 15th July.
Here is their report of the experience:
“We weren’t sure what to expect on our journey to Paxos this
year but I’m pleased to report that it was far easier and less stressful than
Early morning of 16th July – we arrived at
EasyJet check-in to find no queue and were checked in within two minutes. We
then sailed through security to find a relatively quiet departure lounge where
everyone was social distancing. There were a few shops and food outlets open,
all with minimal queues.
The plane was almost full, with everyone wearing masks but
very civilised boarding and disembarking with passengers and crew respecting
the EasyJet guidelines. There was a reduced trolley service and no hot drinks
but you are allowed to take your own food and drinks on board and remove your
mask while eating and drinking.
On arrival at Corfu airport the plane parked just outside
the terminal so we could walk to passport control, which was very efficient and
went smoothly. Approximately forty people off our flight were selected for a
Covid test. One member of our party was tested which only took a couple of
minutes. She was not told to self-isolate and was never contacted with the
The baggage claim was quick and efficient and no risk of not
being able to social distance due to the reduced number of flights arriving.
There were plenty of taxis available at the airport, we all
wore masks, as did the driver and he kept the windows open.
The Hydrofoil from Corfu to Paxos was busy, but there were seats blocked off to enable groups to be separated. This was the only part of the journey where wearing a mask was not very comfortable due to the heat – but a small price to pay as Paxos quickly came into sight!
We are now ensconced at Eagle’s Nest and will not feel daunted by the journey home when it comes.
On Paxos we have been made to feel welcome – a genuine friendliness coupled with a respect for safety guidelines. We wish we could have self-isolated here for the last 3 months!”
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Do supermarkets deliver?
Most supermarkets and minimarkets are usually happy to
deliver to local properties providing you spend a reasonable amount in their
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.