Off the northeast coast of Kefalonia lies the island of Ithaca, mythical birthplace of Homer’s hero Odysseus. The moment you arrive you’ll understand why he was so desperate to return here after the Trojan War, even if it did take him 20 years to get back. Arrival is easier for today’s visitors – a flight to Kefalonia, then a two-and-a-half-hour ferry hop. Its beaches are the stuff of legend, and you’ll want to visit the best – so read on and get ready to relax.
Glassy blue waters and a slim curl of platinum pebbles – take your camera along for a day at Gidaki, paradise beach of Ithaca. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is a 40-minute, rugged hike from Vathy Port; or you could take a more mellow 20-minute boat from the same point, skirting around the pretty Schinos Cape and passing the Agiantrea chapel en route. It’s a particularly popular pilgrimage with sea swimmers, thanks to its luminous waters.
This three-for-one string of sleepy pebble beaches lines the road that leads from Frikes to Kioni in the north of the island. Families pull over from the coast road or walk from nearby apartment complexes to find the clear, swimmable shallows sheltered by pine-topped rocks – bring swim shoes or jelly shoes to tackle the sharp pebbles. Whichever of the three you choose, you’ll find it picture-perfect, albeit without facilities. Go in the afternoon for some natural shade.
On the slim strip of land that connects the northern and southern halves of the island, this waning moon of white pebble meets a bay so shallow it turns the water shades of turquoise and azure. Roll up well after lunch to shelter under the fig trees at either end, as this isn’t the type of beach that has parasols. As a rule it attracts scatterings of locals who pull over on their way home from work to kick off into the clean, picturesque waters.
A cloud of pine trees billows over the skinny strip of pale-gold shingle at Skinos, beloved of swimmers who plunge into the transparent shallows. Being so close to the capital’s port, Vathy, means that it’s popular among islanders, who put towels under the trees for lazy, low-maintenance afternoons; many tourists stop only briefly on their way to the more famous Gidaki Beach. Come here for a peaceful paddle and lovely views of the verdant slopes of Ithaca.
The name means white sea, but the waters here merge from baby blue to rich teal to inky navy within metres, backdropped by fertile slopes of wild lilies, olives, cypresses and pines. This west coast beauty has some facilities, so is popular with families and older travellers – come early enough and you can rent a lounger-and-parasol combo. With some of the clearest waters around, and silvery pebbles, it’s free of boats and water sports touts, so it’s ideal for swimmers.
Here’s another raw beauty close to central Vathy, with waters so glassy you can see the pebbles beneath your feet. Beach bars serve iced coffees, and there are umbrellas for rent among the aged olive trees. Bring your snorkel and fins to head off around the nearby caves and rocky outcrops. And make sure you’ve got cash for the small-scale vendors; you’ll find it busy(ish) in peak summer, but it’s absolutely worth it for some of the clearest water you’ve ever swum in.
Shrouded in emerald cypress forest, with waters just as green as the trees, Kaminia in southeastern Ithaca is the nature lover’s pick. You’ll have to drive to the closest point, then descend a steep dirt track – have your camera ready, as the views down will be among the best of your trip. Fishing boats drift between here and the visible islet of Nisopoulo – a meditative view from the sun-baked pebbles. There are no facilities to speak of, just craggy, exotic rocks either side of the bay.
If you want to explore Greece further, then check out our recommendations of the best hotels in Paxos, or the best boutique hotels in Nafplio. These stays are bookable with Culture Trip. During your adventure, explore the 11 best things to do in Zakynthos, and relax on the most beautiful beaches in Kefalonia. Make sure to visit at least one of our recommendations for great local cuisine on Zakynthos, to sample some delicious Greek dishes.
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