IthacaArea of island: 93 sq.
km/36 sq. miChief town: Vathy (Itháki)Ithaca (popularly called Thiaki) is a rocky island separated from Kefalloniá by a channel 4 km/2.5 mi wide and almost cut in two by the long Gulf of Mólos on its east side; the isthmus joining the two halves, at Mt Aetós (380 m/1,247ft), is only 600m/660yd wide. In the north of the island rises the Ani range of hills (Mt Neritos, 808 m/2,651ft), in the south Mt Stefani (671 m/2,202 ft). Much of the island has been marked by karstic action, but agriculture is possible in a few fertile valleys.Present-day Ithaca is generally accepted as being Odysseus's island of Ithaca, as described in the "Odyssey", though Wilhelm Dörpfeld located the Homeric Ithaca on the island of Lefkás.The earliest finds of pottery point to a first settlement of the island towards the end of the third millennium B.C. A number of Mycenaean sites have been identified, though their poverty is difficult to reconcile with the wealthy Homeric Ithaca, which is dated to the Mycenaean period. During the first millennium B.C., however, the island seems to have attained a degree of prosperity through an active trade with mainland Greece and Italy.From Roman times Ithaca shared the destinies of the other Ionian Islands. During the Middle Ages the inhabitants were driven out by pirates, who established their base in what is now Vathy. In the 17th century the island was resettled by peasants from Kefalloniá. After a long history of devastating raids and earthquakes practically all Ithaca's older buildings have been destroyed.Ferry from Patras via Sámi (Kefalloniá), several times weekly.
The chief place on the island of Ithaca is the sheltered port of Vathy or Itháki, probably founded by the Romans. It is charmingly situated in a bay - generally accepted as being the cove of Phorkys, in which the Phaeacians put the returning Odysseus ashore ("Odyssey", 13, 96 ff.) - defended by two Venetian forts.
Itháki Archeological Museum
The Itháki Archeological Museum contains artifacts from the excavations at the Heraion sanctuary. The collection of small votive offerings is one of the richest in Greece. The largest free-standing sculpture to have survived from ancient Greece is the museum's star exhibit.
Cave of the Nymphs
Two km/1.25mi west of Vathy, on the slopes of Mt Áyios Nikólaos, is the Mármaro Spília, a stalactitic cave and ancient cult site which is identified as the Cave of the Nymphs ("Odyssey", 13, 107-108).
Mt Aetós - Castle of Odysseus
Five km/3 mi west of Vathy, on Mt Aetós, is the acropolis of an ancient city (seventh century B.C.), perhaps Strabo's Alalkomenai, which was excavated by Schliemann and is popularly known as the Castle of Odysseus.
Fountain of Arethusa
Six km/4mi south of Vathy on a difficult path is the Fountain of Arethusa, beneath the Ravens' Crag ("Odyssey", 13, 408-409). Farther south is the plateau of Marathiá, with extensive plantations of olive-trees, from which there are good views. Eumaios's farmyard ("Odyssey", 14, 6) is supposed to have been in this area.
Three km/2mi south of Vathy is the site of Palaiokhorá, the capital of Ithaca until the 16th century.
The numerous ancient finds made in the vicinity of the village of Stavrós, in the northwest of the island of Ithaca, have suggested this as the most likely site for Odysseus's town and palace.
Panayía Kathará Monastery & Museum
Six km/4mi south of Stavrós is the monastery of the Panayía Kathará, from which there is a magnificent view; festival celebrated annually on September eighth.The monastery also houses a small museum.
Address: Stavrós, Greece
Excavations at Pelikáta revealed signs of a Brzone age settelement.
Below Stavrós, to the southwest, is the beautiful Pólis Bay, the only harbor of any size on the west coast of Ithaca. A cave on the west side of the bay was a shrine of Athena and Hera in Mycenaean times. Offshore, near the coast of Kefalloniá, lies the tiny islet of Daskalio, identified as the island of Asteris where the suitors planned to ambush Telemachos ("Odyssey", 14, 6).1km/.75mi north, on Mt Pelikata above Pólis Bay, are remains of a settlement dated between 2200 and 1500 B.C.1km/.75mi farther north is the chapel of Áyios Athanásios. West of Stavrós are the picturesque inlets of Fríkes and Kióni.
Átokos, 10km/6mi northeast of Ithaca, is the rocky and uninhabited island of Átokos.