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The word ‘Odyssey’ (meaning to travel) is inherently linked with Odysseus, the warrior king who having fought in the Trojan wars took 10 years to travel back to his doting wife Penelope. Well, at least that’s the story as Homer (the blind Greek poet, not Simpson) told it. And Odysseus is inherently linked with Ithaka, the second smallest of the Ionian islands, under 100 km² in size with a residential population of less than 3,500 souls. 

It’s rather off the beaten track and you can only arrive and depart by ferry from next-door Kefalonia, Lefkada or the mainland – no wonder Odysseus made such a meal of his trip home! On the map it actually looks like two smaller islands joined together by a narrow isthmus. It has a mountainous spine covered in trees and olive groves – Homer famously called it ‘good for goats’. In contrast the coastline has lovely (if small) beaches, authentic fishing villages and enormous charm.  

The capital and main harbour is Vathy, the waterfront of which is tucked away in a large, elongated bay in the southern half. It’s a very sheltered mooring spot with restaurants, cafes and bars set out around a central square which fills up in the evening as locals and tourist alike come to eat and drink. 

The northern half of the island is much more mountainous and even less visited – much of it is only accessible by boat or on foot. If sailing in these parts the fishing harbour at Frikes is good for lunch or an overnight.  

Our recommendation: If you’re island-hopping in these parts you really do owe a sense of duty to Homeric history to visit Ithaka, even if just to tick the ‘Odyssey’ box. If you stay a day or two and like to pursue ancient culture, there are some ancient sites worth checking out.  

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