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.
The only way of getting from Corfu to Paxos in 1965, my
first visit, was aboard a weather-worn, wooden caique called “Aspasia”. A
central deckhouse cum cockpit provided hard bench seating for around 40
passengers. The Aspasia’s crossing time varied between 5 and 7 hours depending
on the weather.
The journey south from Corfu Town, hugging Corfu’s eastern
coastline until Cavos at the island’s most southerly point, is along a channel,
sheltered by the coastline of the Greek mainland, and is usually comparatively
In those days, Cavos was a small fishing village with just a
few houses above the beach and a simple taverna run by the Roussos family. The
Roussos taverna is still there but engulfed by a confloption of holiday
If anyone missed the Aspasia’s departure from Corfu Town’s
port there was the opportunity to take a taxi to Cavos and wait for the caique
to arrive there. Quite often there would be passengers plus barrels of wine waiting
to board at Cavos – and on one occasion, I saw a donkey plus boxes of chickens
waiting their turn.
When the Aspasia could be seen from the Cavos jetty, one or
two small boats containing people, animals and provisions would be rowed out
and helped up on to the waiting caique. A small man-powered winch would hoist
up donkeys and barrels.
From Cavos to Paxos (around 9 miles) an afternoon swell could
make the 3 – 5 hour journey seem even longer. A sudden winter storm would
either cause the caique to turn back or would test the stomachs of even the
Despite the possibility of a rough crossing it was important
to bring adequate food and drink to help you through a good part of a day. Many
of the crew felt that a pack of cigarettes was ample.
The Aspasia’s single loo was a small hut on the bow deck.
Facing the entrance to the hut was a wobbly bench, where 2 or 3 Paxiots would
sit (usually men with worry beads while the women sat inside crossing
themselves as each wave hit). I once watched an unsuspecting female passenger
(a non-Paxiot like me) enter the hut just as the Aspasia left the sheltered tip
of Corfu’s south east coastline and the first waves of the open sea hit the caique’s
prow. The hut door swung open to the hut’s side – out of reach of the enthroned
lady, with her skirt around her ankles – and in full view of the audience on
During the summer months the Aspasia would make the return
journey about 3 times per week but in the winter, Paxos could be cut off for
A large car ferry (called the “Kefalonia”), connecting
Patras and Corfu and calling in at Kefalonia, would appear about half a mile
offshore from Gaios on a Friday night. Small fishing boats would take Paxiots,
wanting a faster journey to Corfu, out to the ferry. A large net was hung over
the side of the ship and passengers would climb up and on board.
The arrival of the Kefalonia, with its lights splaying
across the calm night sea, was often the highlight of the week.
I cannot remember when the first car appeared on Paxos.
There were no car ferries between Corfu and Paxos in the 1960’s so island transport
was boat, donkey, foot and the odd scooter.
The Aspasia (and future ferries until the age of the
internet) brought newspapers to Paxos to keep islanders abreast of outside news.
The islanders thronged at the port when the ferry arrived – a dockers’ union (6
burly fishermen) reserved the right to offload all items (if I was carrying a suitcase,
it would be snatched away and a charge made for carrying it all of 20 feet to
the quayside). A bag containing the newspapers would be taken to the village’s
two “periptero” (kiosks) in the main square.
Greece was under the rule of a military junta from 1967 to
1974. All news was fervently censored to the extent that often the pages would
only have a few small columns of print, leaving large empty white spaces.
In the event of bad weather and no ferry from Corfu, Paxos
winters could be hard. The electricity supply (powered by diesel at the station
in Gaios) would cut off sporadically if the diesel ran out. I remember fridges
run on gas but no freezers (the first fridge on Paxos was bought by Peter Bull,
the actor who lived on the hillside above Lakka Bay). As nothing could be
frozen, the island’s staple winter diet tended to be fresh sardines and squid;
soups of bean and lentil; salted cod stored in large wooden barrels and feta
stored in brine. Occasionally a caique from Parga on the mainland would bring
fresh fruit and vegetables to be sold on the village waterfronts.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s the ferry boat “Kamelia” started
taking passengers, donkeys and cars between Paxos and Corfu. There was also the
smaller “Aetos” which was just for passengers and provisions. The two ferries
would depart at exactly the same time, despite being only half full, and would
race each other to reach their destination. Journey time was around 2.5 hours
and their rounded boat bottoms usually meant adding extra time to avoid
uncomfortable rolling. The Aetos’ bottom was the roundest and would usually
limp in second to the Kamelia.
The Kamelia had room on its deck for 3 small cars, wedged in
so that any late arriving passengers would have to climb over the cars.
Repainting of the ferry, when there was more rust than metal, was done in
spurts so that its appearance took on an oddly camouflaged look. The ship’s bar
served thick Greek coffee, ouzo and cognac (recognised medicinal remedies for
bad weather – together with pungent cigarettes called Stukas) and Tam-Tam (a
sickly Greek version of Coca Cola).
The present day hydrofoils, fast boats and speedboats (and
who knows, a possible return of the 10-minute seaplane hop) have introduced
speedier communications between Paxos and Corfu. For most visitors however,
life on Paxos is still led at a comparatively slow pace and long may that
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.