Walking with Homer
Ithaki is the most vertically inclined of all the Ionian islands. The land rises sheer out of the sea, and almost the only flat bit of the island is the area immediately around Vathy. Needless to say, then, Ithaki offers some fantastic walking. Unlike on most of the Ionian islands, the trails are well signposted and route information is normally easy to come by. The centre of hiking activity on Ithaki is the village of Stavros.
The following is a superb half-day walk (three hours without stops), beginning and ending in Stavros. Along the way, it takes in a museum, various historic sites, pretty woodlands, some airy viewpoints and high goat pastures.
Start at the village square in Stavros and follow trail markers 14 and 14B. You'll walk along the road out of the village and will quickly come to the small Stavros Archaeological Museum, where you can get a quick overview of the area's long history. After a while you'll leave the tarmac road and turn onto a dirt road before veering off to explore the ruins of the School of Homer. Afterwards, follow the old stone steps sharply uphill through woodland for 25 minutes until you get to the little village of Exogi. Zigzag uphill along the road and past the church. You will now be following trail markers 14A. Carry on for a few minutes to a viewpoint known as the Pyramid – the views down to the coast are stunning.
The trail then takes you through oak and cypress woodland and keeps climbing to a rocky mountain summit marked by old windmills. Chances are there will just be you and some goats up here. The trail now starts a long and fairly gentle descent over a rocky meadow carpeted in wildflowers. You'll be distracted by an abundance of insects, lizards and other small creatures darting out from underfoot. Views take in half the island as well as parts of mainland Greece and Kefallonia. When you hit the cement road head uphill to Pernarakia, where you'll pass a chapel and radio masts. There follows a steep and rocky 20-minute descent where it's easy to lose the trail. Eventually you'll re-enter the forest on the western side of the island and soon you'll come to a grassy clearing with trail markers for 14A and 14B. Be careful here: the signpost is angled wrong; don't follow it. Instead, cross straight over the clearing and after 25m you'll see some blue-and-white trail markers. Follow these along the goat trails and shortly Stavros will come back into view. Carry on back to the village square.
Hiking Around Anogi
The highest village in Ithaki, Anogi (520m) is a beautiful, time-dusted place centred on its church and kafeneio (coffee house). The village is the starting point for a number of excellent walks. The easiest is the 6.5km, roughly two-hour return walk to the monastery of Kathara. An even better walk is the 11.5km, 4½-hour (without stops) 'Travel in Time' hike, which winds all the way downhill to Kioni before climbing 520m back up to Anogi via a different route. Along the way hikers take in historic sites, churches and chapels, wild oak forests and soaring coastal cliffs, and get a chance to cool off with a swim on the way. For this walk, follow signs for route 12 as far as Kioni and then signs for route 12A back to Anogi.