You may have heard of the Greek Island, Ithaca, once or twice. It’s generally thought of to be Homer’s Ithaca. Yes, that would be the home of Odysseus, where the classical Greek tale The Odyssey takes place.
As far as Greek Islands go, it’s far from the most popular. Heading here to explore all the best things to do in Ithaca will be a different experience if you have been to some larger and busier Greek Islands.
In Ithaca, you can have all the beautiful bays and beaches, scenic drives, and amazing feta without the crowds. Getting here takes a bit of work, but I promise you’ll be happy when you’re having a glass of wine amongst locals.
Ithaca is also referred to as Ithaki by locals. We will reference both Ithaca and Ithaki in this best things to do in Ithaca article!
Where is Ithaca?
Ithaca is a small Greek island in the Ionian Sea, located just off the coast of nearby Kefalonia. It’s the second smallest of the seven main Ionian Islands, the first would be Paxi. At just 96 square kilometers and a population under 4000 people it’s easy to travel here and be transported to a different Greece. One that you may have been hoping for, but have been unable to find on more popular islands like Corfu, Santorini, and Mykonos.
You are back to traditional Greek life on Ithaca, which makes it a fabulous Greek island to travel to.
How To Get To Ithaca Island
All visitors to Ithaca will have to arrive via water. There are a few main ferry ports in Pisaetos and Frikes, as well as some cruise companies that will take you into Vathi port. If you are sailing around the Greek islands Vathi, Kioni and Frikes have marinas where yachts and sailboats can dock at.
Ithaca is best connected via ferry from Kefalonia, Lefkada, or Astakos on the mainland.
The Best Things to do in Ithaca
Visit the Ruins of Odysseus Palace
The Ruins of Odysseus Palace, also known as Homer’s School, is one of the top historical landmarks and one of the best things to do in Ithaca. Until recently, it was the stuff of legends until an archaeological team discovered what’s believed to be the mythical palace.
You can walk to the site and explore it on your own and see the workings of archaeological digs and Melanithros Source. These ruins are approximately 3,000 years old and are surrounded by stunning vistas of Afales Bay. It’s located off a dirt road near Exogi which is about one mile from Stavros and is free to visit on your own.
A company called Island Walks offers a guided tour of the ruins. The three-hour walking tour includes a stop in Stavros to visit a scale model of the palace. If you choose to hire a guide through Island Walks, the cost is €20 per person.
Go Beach Hopping
It’s a well known Greek fact that there are endless beautiful beaches on the islanes, and Ithaca is home to many of them. Most of these beaches are pebbly, but a few are sandy. All are suitable for swimming and sunbathing, are surrounded by stunning scenery and feature crystal clear, warm waters.
The best beaches include Filiatro, Gidaki and Agios Ioannis which are all within six miles of the capital of Vathy. Frikes Beach is on the northern coast about 12 miles from Vathy. Loutsa Beach, three miles from Vathy, and Platia Ammos, which is in the Bay of Afales on the Northern Coast, are two popular sandy beaches.
Most of the beaches are pebbled so it’s wise to invest in a pair of water shoes to protect your feet. Every time we ventured out to the beach I wish I had water shoes in my beach essentials bag!
Explore the Town of Vathy
Vathy is the capital of Ithaca and the main center for shopping, cultural attractions and restaurants. Whether you make your base in the town or not, it’s worth it to spend at least a day exploring this quintessential Greek community with pedestrian streets, sidewalk cafes and little shops.
It’s an old town that has been around since 1,500 AD. It’s also very pretty with alleys of colorful houses perched on the hillsides. The town square is a nice spot to take a break, sip on a coffee or have lunch while admiring the statues of Odysseus and Homer.
In the evening, you’ll find live entertainment and many places serving drinks but the atmosphere is relaxed unlike some towns in the bigger touristy areas around Greece.
Vathy is in the center of the island at the head of Vathy Harbor and known for its spectacular sunsets. The best place to enjoy one is near the harbor where you can watch the sun go down behind the hills.
Attend the Annual Wine Festival
The small village of Perachori comes alive during the last weekend in July when residents and visitors alike come together to celebrate the high-quality wine that’s made in the region. It’s one of the best things to do in Ithaca and one of the biggest festivals on the island.
Attendees enjoy a constant flow of delicious locally-produced wine, food, dancing and live music into the wee hours of the night.
The Annual Wine Festival takes place in the yard of an old school in the village of Perachori in the south of Ithaki. Pay a small admission fee and this covers your food and wine for the night.
When attending it’s best to arrive early in the day to explore the pretty village of Perachori which is home to several beautiful structures and some of the island’s best beaches.
Visit the Monastery of Panagia Kathariotissa
The exact date that the Monastery of Panagia Kathariotissa was constructed is unknown but a refurbishment was completed in 1696 so we know it’s much older than that. Panagia Katharon is said to be the protector saint of the island so the site is sacred to the local people.
At 600 meters above sea level, you can bet that the views from this location are incredible. You’ll get a birds-eye view of the island and the town of Vathy.
The Monastery is located on the side of Niritos mountain about four miles from Anogi in the center of Ithaki and is free to visit. Make sure to check out the old church dating back to the 1500s and walk to the bell tower where you’ll find the best views. If the church is locked ask the Anogi center for the key to get in.
Have the Best Greek Salad in the World
After you are done at the Kathara Monastery venture into the Anogi Center. It’s here you can enjoy a frappe, or an amazing Greek salad. We didn’t know what we were in for when we ordered a traditional Greek salad here, but were amazed at what came to our table (photo above).
Embark on a Kayaking Adventure in Afales Bay
Crystal clear, calm waters make the waters around Ithaca a kayakers paradise and one of the best places to kayak is Afales Bay in northern Ithaca. Odyssey Sea Kayak Club offers an amazing day tour for all levels for €45 per person. The tour offers a combination of paddling and exploring on land at Platinammos Beach, one of the best beaches on the island.
As you paddle the gentle waters of the bay, you’ll see steep cliffs and little beaches. On the beach, you’ll have the opportunity to do some snorkeling, cliff diving and beachcombing.
Feast on Delicious Greek Cuisine at Kohili Garden Restaurant
Kohili Garden Restaurant is one of the best eateries on Ithaca. The food is fresh and delicious, the service is amazing and the sea views are a welcome addition to your meal. On the menu, you’ll find a wide variety of Greek specialties including seafood, pasta and vegetarian dishes.
You can choose from two outdoor dining areas. One area is in the garden while the other looks out over Vathy Bay. This Greek restaurant is located in Vathy just two doors up from the Council Building with meals from €6 to €12 per dish.
Tip: The onion pie and seafood pasta are two of the most popular dishes on the menu.
Take a Walk Through an Old Oak Forest
While the coastal areas are what draw people to the Greek Isles, on Ithaki, there’s a magical place where you can escape the crowds and the summer heat that isn’t a beach or harbor. The Forest of Perachori is a large, dense forest in the center of the island that provides shade from the sun and a relaxing place to get away with your thoughts.
As you stroll through the forest, you’ll see many old trees including pernars, felikia and oaks that can grow up to 25 feet high.
The best path to take starts on the highest street above the village and passes the chapel of Agios Gerasimos.
Some places are steep and there are fallen leaves in places so be careful not to slip. Shoes with a good grip are recommended on any Greece packing list.
9. Check out the Pyramids of Exogi
Although seemingly misplaced, the Pyramids of Exogi are worth checking out if you find yourself in this lovely village. These two pyramids were constructed with millstones by Ioannis Papadopoulos around 1930 and are about three meters high.
During the day, you can also enjoy stunning views of the area and at night, the pyramids are lit up so you can see them from a distance.
You can reach the pyramids via the main road through the village. The pyramids are near the cemetery at the end of the village.
Take your time making your way to the pyramids and enjoy the sights of the historic village of Exogi including beautiful 17th-century homes.
Trek to the Aetos Acropolis of Alalkomenes
In southwestern Ithaca find the Church of Saint Georgios in Piso Aetos and take the path to the top of the hill. The Aetos Acropolis of Alalkomenes is an ancient city that has been excavated numerous times and to date, incredible walls made with huge boulders, tombs, temples and dwellings have been unearthed and can be seen at this site.
This was once a main settlement and dates back hundreds of years. It’s recommended to put aside at least two hours to get the most out of your visit. The walk isn’t very long but it’s steep.
If you want to stay in a centrally-located area of the island with easy access to many services and attractions, Vathy is your best choice and the Perantzada Hotel is a great place to make your base.
This small guesthouse is not only beautiful with its chic design, but it also has an infinity pool with a bar and sunbeds. The breakfast served each morning features delicious, homemade pastries and pies. This awesome hotel is located on Odyssea Androutsou Street in Vathy and rooms range from €90 to €200.
Bicycles are available to rent so you can easily explore the town of Vathy.
Visit the Mythical Cave of the Nymphs
The Cave of the Nymphs is a place of myths that was once a place of worship. At 190 meters above sea level, it’s only accessible via one entrance now and although you can’t go far past the entrance, you’ll still be able to see inside.
Tip: Make sure to wear shoes with a good grip for hiking and climbing on potentially slippery surfaces. It’s a good idea to have some water shoes in your pack.
Learn About local History and Culture at the Maritime – Folklore Museum
At the Maritime – Folklore Museum of Ithaca, even the building the museum is housed in is historic! Inside, you’ll find over 1,500 exhibits showcasing many artifacts, rare photos, paintings and replicas of rooms from Colonial times. The cost is €4 per adult.
Put aside at least two hours to get the most out of your visit. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays during the low season and has evening hours during the summer.
Spend a Day in the Lovely Village of Kioni
In Ormos Kioni Bay on the northeast coast of Ithaki about 15 miles from Vathy is this charming village.
Kioni was founded in the 1500s and has since been a favorite retreat for Ithaki islanders and visitors alike. The little fishing village with its picturesque harbor lined with boats and pretty houses is made all that more unique by the fact that it’s built on the slope of a mountain.
While there are some cafes, restaurants and shops, you won’t find large crowds which means you’ll enjoy a peaceful escape. It’s truly one of the most romantic places in all of Greece.
Venture inland further where you’ll find a more authentically Greek atmosphere with grassy areas and orange trees.
Visit The Archaeological Museum of Ithaca
While exploring the ruins of Ithaki, you may wonder where uncovered artifacts end up. Many of these fascinating artifacts are on display at The Archaeological Museum of Ithaca. Most of the items are from the south of the island and include well-preserved pottery, vases, statues, precious stones, coins and jewelry. Some of these items date back to 1000 BC. I wouldn’t miss visiting as here as it’s one of the best free things to do in Ithaca.
Check out the ruins and archaeological digs around the area and match the sites with their objects.
Go on a Scuba Diving Adventure
Whether you’re new to scuba diving or you’re a seasoned expert, there’s a dive for you. The waters around Ithaki are known as a top scuba diving spot due to the clear, warm waters. Colorful fish, reefs, rock formations and wrecks are some of the interesting things that you’ll see when you take a dive into these waters.
Manawa, in collaboration with Odyssey Outdoor Activities, offers adventure dives and some of their dives include Poseidon Ship Reef, Gidaki Cape Reef, Remanda Rocks and Kritami Wreck.
The meeting place for the dives is at Epar.Od. Kioniou – Pera Pigadiou, Vathy and dives start at €52 per person.
Take the Ferry to Nearby Kefalonia or Lefkada
Many islands around Ithaca are easy to reach and fun to explore. Kefalonia and Lefkada are two popular Greek Islands and you can go there via ferry. It takes 30-60 minutes to sail to these beautiful islands.
There are many beautiful beaches on Kefalonia including Trapexaki, Foki and Platis Gialos. Some of the island’s attractions include Melissani Cave, a sacred monastery and the hiking trails of Mount Ainos.
If you venture to Lefkada don’t miss out on going to Porto Katsiki! Ferry rides range in price, so it’s best to check Ferry Hopper.
Spend a Day on one of the Best Ithaca Beaches
Paralia Afales is a remote beach in Northern Ithaki is an unspoiled beach where you can spend the day swimming, snorkeling and watching the sailboats. The waters are exceptionally clear and warm and are best for swimming in the morning.
To reach the beach, you’ll walk downhill for about 20 minutes so bring drinking water and good walking shoes.
Head to the Village of Frikes
About 12 miles away from Vathy is this charming village. Dating back to the 1500s, the pretty coastal village of Frikes is a great place to spend a day exploring. The village is quite small, so it’s a great place to go to escape from the crowds. As you walk around, you’ll see olive trees and pretty houses lining a valley overlooking the harbor.
There are several shops, restaurants, cafes and taverns. If you stay after dark, there’s an outdoor nightclub with live music, food and dancing.
There are two windmills overlooking the harbor and village. At night, they’re lit up and are quite the sight!
Go on a Snorkeling Safari
The waters off Vathy are teeming with life and other fascinating sights. The best way to explore this underwater world is with a snorkeling excursion and Odyssey Outdoor Activities offers such an excursion for about €40 per person. You’ll see Nisopoulo Reef, a wreck at Kritami Beach, a sea cave and an underwater wall.
A minimum of 3 guests is required for the excursion to go ahead.
How to Get Around Ithaca
Renting a car in Greece and driving is the best way to get around Ithaca. This will ensure you get to do all the best things to do in Ithaca at your own pace. If you haven’t arrived to Ithaca with a rental car from another Greek island, you’ll have to rent one in Vathy. The winding seaside roads are extremely fun to drive.
It’s also possible to rent a 4×4, but we typically opt out of these in Greece. I prefer my AC and shade while driving, and often a rental car is cheaper than a quad. You can also find mopeds on Ithaca to rent, this is another great way to get around although it will take you longer to get from point to point.
Awesome Things to Do in Ithaca, Greece Map
When is the Best Time to Visit Ithaca?
The best time to visit Ithaca is between June and September. I particularly love visiting Greece in June and September and the temperatures are lower and the crowds aren’t at their peak. Most of the photos in this article were taken in July. With Ithaca being less a tourist island than other nearby islands you may find less to do here if you visit in the off season.
The Perfect Ionian Itinerary?
Every year we try to check out a new chain of Greek Islands. Why? Well because Greece is our favorite country to travel to! During this trip, we visited the Ionian Islands. We started in Corfu, where we rented a car, after we took the ferry to the mainland, drove to Lefkada, and then after speaking with some locals who recommended Ithaca over Kefalonia to us, we took the ferry to Ithaca.
We only wished we had more time so that we could have added on Kefalonia and Zakynthos.
Where to Stay on Ithaca
Best Place in Vathy
Best Place in Kioni
Best Rural Place to Stay
READ MORE GREECE TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on what to do on Ithaca! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Greece!
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Greek Travel Planning Resources
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Yasou” and “Efharisto”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- Weather: The weather in Greece is a Mediterranean climate. This means winters are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- What to Pack: Warm weather clothes and a swimsuit, don’t forget a good pair of clothes to go and a jacket for cool nights. Read about what to wear in Greece.
- Budget: If you’re in the initial stages of planning, check out our awesome post that breaks down how much a trip to Greece costs.
- Rent a Car: We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Cars to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check Price Here!
- Protect Your Trip: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! We always carry travel insurance to protect us from injury, theft, or a canceled trip. We use HeyMondo for our insurance needs.
- Tours in Greece: Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Greece!
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.