PAXOS – ANTIPAXI & THE DIAPONTIAN ISLANDS (OTHONOI, ERIKOUSSA, MATHRAKI)
20 kms south from the island of Corfu is Paxos, the smallest of the seven Ionian Islands. It was the love shelter of Poseidon and Amphitriti in mythology and also for Anthony and Kleopatra during Roman times. The name Paxos originates from the Latin word PAX meaning PEACE. No more suitable name could ever be given to this wonderful island, every inch of which wears a crown of olive branches. The emblem of Paxos is the trident of the ancient Greek God Poseidon, the ruler of the seas.
According to the legend, Poseidon created the island as a lovenest for his mistress Amfitriti by striking his trident on the sea. In doing so the trident broke and it was later found by the inhabitants of the island.
There are three natural harbours around, which developed the main villages on this picturesque island: Gaios, Loggos and Lakka. There, houses built in the traditional style overlook the sea, keeping their local character despite the passage of timeand tourism. You will enjoy discovering, amongst these buildings, a blend of old tradition and pulsing modern lifewith all its conveniences in shops, bars, cafes and tavernas.
Walking in Paxos is a delight. Hidden by olive trees, in fields covered by wild flowers, you will discover old churches, develict mansions still proudly standing and whispering tales of past glory, old stone windmills, picturesque secluded landscapes, enchanting sunsets.
What may impess you most, however, is the sea; crystal waters shading from pale turquoise to dark ocean-blue, and so clear that you can study the sea-bed from the rocks or the bow of a boat. In the beautiful natural sea caves on the west coast, the water becomes an almost luminous blue as the sun’s rays are reflected off the submerged rocky floor. Thus the caves are known as the ‘Blue Grottos’.
Is a beautiful microscopic island in south-eastern of Paxos. Located 3 nautical miles from Paxi, it is acquaintance for its homonym beaches. It has less tourist infrastructure since the inhabitants are few. The exotic beauty beach Voutoumi is considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Other two wonderful beaches are the Vrika and the Mesovrika. Its magnificent beaches Rodovani and Kaloroi attract a large amount of tourists that come to Island for a few days.
The visitors can also admire the church of Agios Aimilianos that dates back to the19th century. The Island has many vineyards, with a wide range of varieties of grapes, where quality wine is derived.
Antipaxi constituted the shelter of Souliotes in the beginning of 19th century. Opposite of the southern coasts exists clump of rocky islands. It is undoubtedly a quiet island just made for truly relaxing holidays.
The islands have no airport but can be reached by ferry-boats or speed-boats from Corfu, Parga and also from Brindisi (Italy).
At the north-west corner of the map of Corfu, three small islands of barren appearance, of barren soil and of barren recollection, are now beginning to develop for tourism. If you are seeking solitude and peace, search for the Diapontian Islands.
The Diapontian Islands were colonised after the sea battle of Naupactos in 1571, when the islanders, who were under Venetian rule, started to move away in search of greater safety. It was then that people from Paxos and Parga came to Othonoi and once their families increased in size, they crossed to the other two islands. Thus is explained the number of surnames which are common to all three islands and also to Paxos. A strong characteristic of the islanders is their intense desire to emigrate to America and Australia, a tendency which began in 1850.
Othonoi forms the westernmost point of Greece. It covers 10.8 square kilometres, with a width of about 3.6 kilometres, a length of about 5.6 kilometres, and a coastline covering 30 kilometres. Five settlements are scattered over the island, but during winter only Ammos and Stavros have any sort of life. It is a wonderful place for visitors, perfect for a sailing holiday but also for quiet holidays ashore. It is a poor region, and the few islanders who have not emigrated live from fishing and from their few olive trees (36,000 in number).
The way of life led by the people today, however, is not indicative of the island’s history. At one time, boats approaching and leaving the Adriatic Sea used to stop here and the harbour of Ammos was always busy. Some ruins on nearby Kastri Hill, probably of a Venetian fortress, and the former Italian name of the island, Fanos, indicate that a lighthouse of great importance to shipping once stood here. The Othoniots were skilled seafarers and built their own caiques. In addition, the island was famed for its good climate, and it is said that during the British Protectorate sick soldiers would be sent here to recuperate.
Today, the boat will leave you at Ammos, a little bay with a pretty beach, where the few shops that exist on the island are located. Footpaths and tracks connect with the interior of the island, a paradise for lovers of walking. In the centre of the island lies the settlement of Stavros, on the slopes of ‘Mount’ Kalodiki (217 metres). Most of the seashore is rocky and precipitous, but in the west there is the beautiful beach known as ‘Aspri Ammos’ (White Beach), with the ‘Calypso’ cave, and to the north is the Bay of Fiki.
Erikoussa is a round island two kilometres in diameter with a population of around 90. It is said that the name is derived from the heather (reiki), which is to be found all over the island. The configuration of the landscape resembles that of Sidari, on the coast of Corfu opposite. The south coast, where the solitary settlement of Porto is located, is one immense stretch of sand which attracts many visitors from Corfu. A footpath leads northwards through lush vegetation to Pangini Beach. In all, there are 6 settlements on Erikoussa, with about 20 houses each.
The smallest of the Diapontian Islands, Mathraki is located 4 nautical miles from the Cape of Arillas and is 3 square kilometres in size. Its coastline forms bays, of which the two largest, Ammos and Apidies, are used as harbours by the small boats operating the route between Corfu and Mathraki. It boasts beaches of fine sand and is encircled by reefs, shoals and rocks which attract all the fishing boats of the region. At the two extremities of the island stand the twin villages of Ano and Kato Mathraki. You will also find two hotels with fine views and several picturesque little tavernas.
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