Sunday, 25 August 2013

No country for sand lovers 2 (aka the beaches of Northern Ithaca)

Do you remember what I said about sandy beaches on Ithaca?
Exactly: no trace of sand on the island, so once again, sand lovers...OUT OF HERE!

In general the northern part of the island is probably slightly less exciting than the southern, but it still offers one or 2 great spots.

Let's start from the one we didn't like: Polis. Just our of Stavros, easily accessible and with sunbeds available (not that we really care about those!). We arrived there in order to visit the Loizos cave (that has been destroyed by the earthquake so nothing is visible) and we didn't stop, not even for a quick swim. Don't get me wrong, the water was perfect, but the beach in itself was quite dirty for the island standard.

 A bit further north there is Afales, a nice and not crowded place, but when we got there were quite a lot of seaweeds (although they don't appear on the picture).

Also getting there could be quite difficult if you don't know the place. There is a sign after Platrithias village but then you get lost in unpaved roads in the countryside with no further indications. We managed to find it just because we were guided by an extremely kind man we met on the way (well, we were completely lost so he was probably moved by compassion)!

From the same road you can reach another amazing beach, Marmaka. To be honest, in order to get there, you need to be a bit adventurous and try not to get loose your courage when seeing the road.
(We were not brave enough and decided to come back after 200 mt!)

But there is slightly easier way to get there from the port of Frikes. The road is unpaved (of course, what were you expecting?!) and not in the best condition but the first bit is actually the worst and going very slowly, your car should be fine.

Once there you won't regret the drive, since the place is heaven. Astonishingly beautiful ad extremely quiet.

Now, if you are still not happy with the level of isolation offered by Marmaka, here is another little secluded beach all for yourselves: Rachi, just out of Kioni.

Shall I say something else?

Enjoy the colours!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

No Country For Sand Lovers (aka the beaches of Southern Ithaca)

Here we are, back on Ithaca....
First of all let me give you a tip on this post: this is no country for sand lovers. If you are looking for undulated sandy beaches you should stop reading this and start looking for another destination.
Here you won't find anything else (!!) than gorgeous, secluded pebbly coves.

In a week strolling around the island we made a point of checking all the beaches and finding our favourite, and this chart is the result of our tireless researches!

When we finally arrived after a day of traveling we were so exhausted that we went straight for a bath in the beach just below the apartments where we were staying, to discover later that was one of the most important beaches of the island, Dexa.
Only a thin stretch of pebbles overlooking a bay with olive trees behind you  and a little islet in front of you. Quiet and relaxing atmosphere (so much that we had a nice nap!). This was the view from our studio:

On the second day we were suddenly starting to feel the urge for some sun and sea waters. So we jumped on our car and started our journey to discover the island. We stopped only 5 minutes later in front of  the calm and pristine waters of Aetos beach. Once again just a thin stretch of pebbles and a magnificent blue view in front of view.

Only drawback is that you have a road just behind you. Ok there is not that much traffic, but still the place is not completely quiet. So after a couple of hours and baths we decided to continue our search for our perfect corner of Ithaca!

It didn't take long to find another little paradise. More secluded this time, since Agios Ioannis beach is down a little road just at the entrance of the village of Lefki. And once you have parked, a few steps take you down to the cove. You won't believe it. The colours are just astonishing.

White small pebbles and all the shades of blue.

We decided to spend some time there and later in the week we also got back and followed another little passage on the right (from the parking) that took us to another little cove. Not sure if that has a name, but we were completely alone there.

The day after we started our beach-raid with what is considered the most touristic of the beaches of Ithaca, Filiatro.

The beach is well equipped with sunbeds, a little bar and (almost) a proper parking. As we were expecting, it was busier than the others we have seen, especially because it is very close to Vathi and it is easily accessible, but not overcrowded.
It is a great cove to swim, since the waters are very calm and there are lot of fishes around the rocks, but after a couple of hours snorkeling we decided to leave since for our standards there were too many children around!

So we drove to Sarikiniko, the next closest beach, but although it was very quiet we didn't like it and both beach and sea were not that clean for some reasons, so we left soon and decided to direct ourselves towards something wilder and more secluded: Kaminia beach.
Unfortunately we never made it to the end as the road is unpaved and in quite bad conditions and being with a rental car it could have been a bit dangerous, so we had to abandon our plan midway and come back to more civilized locations.

But it was not such a bad idea because while looking for our beach of the day we found Skinos, a quite large cove surrounded by pines. Very quiet with a constant soundtrack of cicadas.

We spent there all afternoon and we found out something that would have made our choice for the day after: the trail to Gidaki beach. But before going there I have to explain that Skinos is at the end of an unpaved road (no worries, this is an easy one). At the bottom of the short path connecting the parking to the beach is a sign indicating Gidaki, but it is not very clear and when we got there we thought that Skinos was actually Gidaki. But then we saw this other trail on the opposite side of the beach entrance that just few locals where taking.
We had to walk only a 30-45 minutes on a partly shaded trail to discover the amazing colours of this hidden gem.

A great secluded place if you exclude a few boats bringing people via sea for a bath. But the beach is big enough to give you all the privacy you want. The water is crystalline. And the white limestone wall behind you will offer you enough shadow to keep yourself fresh during the day.

That was certainly a find!!

To be continued....

Saturday, 10 August 2013

On The Road

Our favourite mean of transport when traveling is always car.
And the reason is that it makes us independent: we are free to stop whenever and wherever we want and we can create our route unrestrictedly, that is always the best part of a trip preparation. 

Last but not least, it gives us full responsibility of our destiny, which we find much better than putting our lives in a crazy bus driver's hands!

We have been driving anywhere we have been and it has always been quite an experience. Sometimes a dangerous experience but, for us, it works perfectly.

The most amusing side of it, is what you can see around you and all the weird things that you can capture...

We had the chance to encounter a few characters on our trips, such as the street food stall on the motorbike and the salad transporter of Indonesia....

....or the 2 men trying to saw the road (don't ask why?!)

But there is more to that....a few political creative drawings and boards....

....and some ambiguous signs...

If you are suddenly hungry, you won't resist this inviting breakfast notice board...

...and for your impelling physical needs...

At the end of the day Jack Kerouac was totally right....
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Way to Paleochora

If you are the kind of person that can't travel without packing his trekking shoes, Ithaka will offer you a few options to satisfy your passion.
There are a few trails all around the island that you can easily follow without any guide. There is a full list online, so you can identify the most suitable for you.

Of course the scorching sun of July and August is not the ideal condition to do a long one (unless you like to wake up very early!) but there are also a few short walks that will take you to interesting ancient sites and that you really shouldn't miss during your stay on the island.

The walk from Perahori to the ancient village of Paleochora is absolutely a must.
Paleochora used to be the island capital during the Middle Ages but had been abandoned in the 16th century so what you will be able to see is mainly some ancient house ruins and a couple of old churches.
The latter plus the amazing views of Vathi's bay will make the walk worth.

Once in Perahori you will find directions for the start of the path and you will encounter a little church with a small graveyard that looks completely abandoned. Unfortunately it is also closed but on the southern facade there is a small window that will open you a view over some beautiful Byzantine frescoes....

And this is only the beginning....
After a few extra meters you will find yourself at a junction.

Keep the right for the monastery (beware of the dogs on your left - a  bit nasty and ferocious) and in not more than 5 minutes' walking you will find this tiny little old church all covered in frescoes.

Some of them are still quite well kept....

After a visit to the church you can go back to the junction and follow the trail to the old village. You will be walking on a path among olive trees with a breathtaking view over the valley and the sea on your right hand side.

A few more hundred meters and you will encounter a third church.
Open the door and you will have this great artwork all for you.....

Take your time to wonder a bit around and enjoy the beautiful details in the total peace of this place.

The walk continues up hill.

Around you nothing else that old ruins, ancient olive trees and cicadas singing loud!

The path will bring you up for an extra 20 -25 minutes to a sort of viewpoint where you will be able to enjoy the calm Mediterrean sea of the bays of Dexa and Vathi.

Relax. Breathe the pure air. Enjoy the colours.