THE BLOG
06/03/2014 06:32 pm ET | Updated Aug 03, 2014

Ithaca, a Hidden Aegean Gem

It is only when one visits the beautiful Greek island of Ithaca that they understand the reason Odysseus longed for his return. Ithaca is part of the 7 Ionian Islands, lies east of Cephalonia, and is a breathtaking, quiet, getaway. Everywhere you turn, nature's Mediterranean beauty catches your eye.

I recently visited Ithaca and the unforgettable memories already long for my return. I want to share some wonderful information about this hidden Aegean gem. The journey to Ithaca requires few connections by car and boat. However, despite the fact that the island does not have an airport or direct boat connection, the trip is well worth it. To get to Ithaca you can drive to the town of Astako from Athens or the city of Patra, and jump on the ferry that takes you to the island.

The island of Ithaca is mountainous and serene, with picturesque ports and villages, amazing views and a small local population. If you are looking for a secluded traditional Greek island surrounded by overflowing green mountains, with beautiful sandy white beaches, the clear turquoise Mediterranean sea, and great local organic dishes, Ithaca is your pick.

World reknowned as the land of Odysseus, the origins of Ithaca date back to the Neolithic period, and during the Mycenaean period Ithaca was at its peak. The myth of Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey can attest to the history of Ithaca and the people who are generally known as explorers and navigators. During medieval times, the Ionian Islands were mostly under the rule of the Venetians and thus much of the architecture has hints of Venetian influence.

There are 9 towns to visit on Ithaca; Vathi, Lefki, Polis, Afales, Exoghi, Lahos, Frikes, and Kioni. Accommodations are available in each town, and offer mostly traditional quaint, boutique hotels. Due to its secluded location, Ithaca does not have much tourism. In the height of the summer, it is packed with families who are descendants of the island and have homes there that were passed down from generation to generation.

The port of Vathi is known as one of the most picturesque natural ports in the Mediterranean. It includes a town full of shops and cobblestone roads, quaint hotels and many taverns that offer traditional island dishes.

The traditional cuisine of Ithaca is mostly fish dishes such as savoro (floured fried white fish with rosemary and raisins), and the traditional sweet rovani (sweet cake with honey and ground rice).

Every year the island hosts a summer cultural festival, "Return to Ithaca." The Ionian island is an unforgettable destination for all travelers, and a must see for island hoppers!