Cross the slender isthmus to reach Ithaki’s northern half and you face an immediate choice of onward routes, along either flank of the island’s towering (809m) central spine. Following the eastern road brings you after 5.5km to the somewhat dilapidated hilltop monastery of Katharon, which commands astonishing views back down to Vathy. Another 4km along this fabulously scenic mountain road, you'll reach sleepy Anogi, once the island’s capital. Ask in the village kafeneio (coffee house) for the keys to the restored church of Agia Panagia, which holds incredible Byzantine frescoes.
Further north again, the east- and west-coast roads rejoin at the larger village of Stavros, above the Bay of Polis. A lovely rural walk up the nearby hillside leads to a site long known as the School of Homer, but is suggested by recent archaeological digs to be the long-lost palace of Odysseus himself. It’s all in ruins, and smaller than you might expect, but wonderfully evocative nonetheless. Artefacts associated with the legendary hero are on show in Stavros’ one-room archaeological museum.
Dropping back seawards northeast of Stavros takes you to the tiny ferry port of Frikes, clasped between windswept cliffs and home to a cluster of waterfront restaurants and bars. The beautiful and sinuous coast road beyond ends at pretty little Kioni, a hamlet of mustard-and-cream Venetian houses tumbling down to an irresistibly bijou harbour.