Odysseus’ legendary homeland, Ithaka, is almost two very small islands: a high, narrow ridge makes them one. Largely untouched by package tourism (perhaps due to a lack of sandy beaches and an airport), and is a good destination for walkers and anyone interested in Greek mythology and/or tranquillity.
Of particular interest may be the ‘Odysseus sites’ – the Grotto of the Nymphs (sometimes closed for safety reasons) and the Arethoúsa spring. Ancient Alalkomenae was declared the site of Odysseus castle when it was excavated by Schleimann, the great amateur archaeologist who discovered Troy and Mycenae.
recent archaeological finds suggest that his castle was more likely
situated near Exogi, just outside Stavrós, where remains of a
substantial palace have been discovered.
The Korax (raven), a large crag over the Arethoúsa spring, matches Homer’s description of the place where Odysseus met his swineherd, Eumaeus, on his return to his homeland. In high summer the spring is down to a trickle but is still a pleasant 90 minute walk along a sign-posted track south of Vathi.
The Grotto of the Nymphs (Marmarospíli) is about 2.5km south-west of Vathi. According to local legend, this is the place where Odysseus hid his treasure upon his return to Ithaki.
In “Odysseus’ Ithaka” Greek historian, Nikolas G Livadas, proposes that the Paliki peninsular, Kefalonia, was ancient Ithaka and this is currently being propounded by Bittlestone in “Odysseus Unbound” and core samples from a theoretical "Strabo's Chanel" haven't rules this out. Neither have they confirmed this proposal.
Naturally, the people of Ithaka aren’t surprised.
on the south-east coast, is the capital and is situated on a deep bay
(in Greek, ‘váthi’ means deep, hence ‘bathysphere’, a deep water
submersible). A small town with two small museums, Váthi is very
pleasant to explore as many of the old houses were faithfully repaired
or rebuilt after the 1953 earthquake which destroyed most of Kefalonia.
Váthi is the main port, serving ferries plying between Kefalonia and
Patras and, in the summer months, attracts yachts and cruise boats.
Stavrós, roughly in the centre of the north ‘island’, is a small village with an attractive church, small museum and a zakharoplasteion that serves rovani, a local sweet delicacy – delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream!
the north-east coast lay the tiny, traditional villages of Frikes, with
its three old windmills still standing, and Kioni, a beautiful little
fishing harbour with about five sea-front tavernas and a tiny beach,
all surrounded by verdant trees.
It’s quite easy to make your own way to Ithaka if you have transport. The ferry normally leaves Sami at 08:30 but it’s best to check in advance. Aim to arrive around 08:00 as you’ll need to buy tickets (ticket office opposite the ferry) and get the car on the ferry. It’s possible to go as a foot passenger but there’s little to nothing at PisoAetos, i.e. don’t count on a bus or taxi being there. The ferry normally leaves PisoAetos on the return journey at 15:30, check when you buy the tickets / on the ferry.
you're making your own way, bear in mind that there will likely be two
ferries in Sami port: the big one at the end of the ‘pier’ is bound for
Patras. Along the seafront to the left is the smaller Ithaka ferry.
If you don’t have transport there are guided coach tours and boat trips available from most tour offices.