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|The islands of Mathraki, Othonoi or Othoni, Ereikoussa, Paxos and Antipaxos near Corfu in Greece|
Mathraki - This quiet island is situated about 45 minutes away by boat off the coast of Corfu. Together with Othonoi and Ereikoussa it forms the so-called group of "Diapontia islands". Mathraki is the smallest of the three islands and is only about 3 km2. There are approximately 300 people living on the island in the harbor and in the two closeby small villages Ano Mathraki en Kato Mathraki which are connected to the port by road. Kato Mathraki is situated in the north and the village closest to the port. Kato Mathraki is situated in the south. In Mathraki there are three restaurants that also serve as a kind of supermarket and there are some rooms for rent in two hotels, but not many tourists come here. Mathraki is accessable three times a week in summer from the port in Corfu Town, Sidari and Agios Stefanos.
Mathraki is a nice island for people that enjoy making walks. It is a green island with a beautiful nature and there are many pine trees and cypresses. From the road that leads from the port to Ano Mathraki and Kato Mathraki, there are several paths that go to beaches, bays and harbors. The largest beach on the island is called Portello and is situated in the northeast of the island. This is a sandy and shallow beach with fine sand where it is easy to get into the sea. Other smaller beaches are Arvanitiko, and Agouridi Kontrakas. These beaches have some rocks in the sea in front of them. In the summermonths the Loggerhead Turtle lays its eggs on the sandy beaches. To the island Marthraki belong two small islets called "Diaplo". On one of them you find a church, the Aghios Nikolaos, which dates from the Venetian period.
Mathraki accommodations - Argiros K. +30. 26630-72097 - Kasimis A. +30. 26630-71700 - Argiros A.+30. 26630-71937
Othonoi or Othoni - This is the largest of the three islands, almost 11 km2 in size. It is the most western of the Ionian islands, it has about 600 inhabitants(?) and it is even quieter than Mathraki. Most people here live from fishing and olive cultivation. Othonoi is a rocky island with lots of olive trees and beautiful beaches. Once there were also many pine trees and cypresses here but the people of the island exported wood and once also a major fire raged over the island destroying much of the original forrest. The harbor of the island lies on the east side and is called Ammos. Here you find the church of the Holy Trinity and you will also find the few shops that Othonoi has. There is also a hotel and there are a couple of tavernas, a post office, an ATM, a police station and a medical center. There is an attractive sandy beach in the village.
Footpaths and unpaved roads link the thirteen small villages and the beaches of the island. In Dafni there is the church of the Virgin Mary and in the southwest is the Kalypsos cave. This cave is believed to have been the one where Calypso kept Ulysses as her captive. The cave is about 100 meters in length and is at least 20 meters high. At this part of the island you can also find the beautiful Aspros-ammos (meaning: white sand) beach. The Kalypsos cave can only be visited by boat. In total there are 4 Byzantine churches on the island, remains of Venetian fortresses and there is an attractive lighthouse which dates from 1872. It has always been an important lighthouse because of the position of Othnoi in between Italy and Corfu / Greece. Nowadays the ligthouse is electrical but on the groundfloor you can still see the old reflector. Close to the lighthouse are the remains of the small venetian fortress called Kastri. One of the prettiest villages on the island is Vitsentziatika, from where you have a wonderful view over Othonoi, the sea, Albania and Italy.
Although it was inhabited earlier the first residents of Othoni mainly were families that came from Paxos and Epirus and colonized the island. Like many of the Greek islands it was often attacked by pirates during the Venetian period. In the center of the island on a hill (at a height of 217 meter) there is a monument of a white stone Cross. It was put there in memory of a slaughter by pirates in 1537 under the command of Barbarossa.
Othonoi can be reached from the port of Corfu Town every Tuesday and Saturday by the ferry-boat Alexandros (departure 6.30 in the morning!). During the summer season there are extra trips with the same ferry on Sundays. The journey to the island takes about 4 hours because the ferry makes a stop at other islands first. Othonoi is the last one on the list.
Othoni Accommodations - Hotel Kalipso, +30. 26630-71578 - Rooms for rent: Katehis. +30 26630-71586 - Bakalakos +30. 26630-71640
Ereikoussa - This Ionian island is 4.5 km2 in size and has a population of about 700 people. Many of the houses in the seven villages of the island are the propery of wealthy Greeks, who spend their summer holidays here. Most people on Ereikoussa life from fishing and farming and on a small scale also from tourism. The port where the boats arrive is located in a bay in the southwest of the island and is called Porto. The capital and only town of some size is called Ereikoussa. This village lies more inward a little east of the port at about 200 meter distance. On the island there are some rooms for rent for people that want to spend their holiday here.
Ereikoussa is a green island with pine trees and cypresses, but also with many olive trees. The island has two beautiful large beaches, one in the harbor of Porto and the other is called Braghini. Both names are Italian and date from the period of the Venetian domination. These are sandy beaches that are facing the south and thus the sand can get very hot. There are no umbrellas or sun beds for rent, but there is a tavern in the port. During the summer months there are regular organized boat trips from Acharavi to Erikoussa. The trip to the island takes about two hours.
Hotel Ereikoussa: +30 26630 71555 or 26630 71110 (20 rooms, 38 beds, with restaurant, open May - October).
Paxi, Paxoi or Paxos - This is a small and green island of about 25 km2 with a population of 3000 people. The shores of Paxos are rocky and white and there are caves along the turqoise waters of the coast. The eastside consists mainly of hills and the west side of the island has dramatic cliffs and beautiful vistas. The inland of Paxos is green with many olive trees (200.000 in total and plenty of really old ones), pine trees and fields with grapes that are used for making local wine. There are only a few farming and fishing villages. The olive trees that grow here in large numbers are still a major part of the island's economy.
Paxos has no airport of its own. The nearest airport for Paxos is on the island of Corfu and the journey from Corfu to Paxos takes about three hours time. Paxos is quiet, up market and also a bit more expensive than most of the other islands in the Ionian Archipelago.
The capital of the island Paxos has about 800 inhabitants and is called Gaios Town. It is situated in a bay that is protected by two islets (Agios Nikolaos and Panagia). These two islets are covered with pine trees and shelter Gaios from the sea and the wind. The islet of Panagia has a small church and a lighthouse on it and on Agios Nikolaos island there are remains of a 14th century Venetian fortress (called "Kastro"). From Gaios there are excursion boats to these two islets and to the small island of Antipaxos (south of Paxos) where you can find some nice sandy beaches. Paxos itself also sees a lot of visitors that make a daytrip from Corfu and from Parga (on the mainland). Once these daytrip boats have arrived on Paxos the island capital Gaios Town gets quite busy. This lasts until the excursion boats go back home and the tranquility returns again.
Although many of the buildings on the island of Paxos were destroyed in an earthquake in 1953, most of the attractive buildings in the harbour of Gaios have survived.
It is a charming little village with red-tiled houses, a square with a kafenion and a couple of shops, a bus station and a small pebble beach. In the harbor stands the green statue of Constantinos Canaris, a hero of the Greek resistance. The busses from the capital will take you north to the coastal villages of Longos and Lakka, with its Byzantine church. Both of these villages have a beach.
Gaios Town has two ports: the old port is for the excursion boats and the caiques (traditional wooden boats) and the new port just outside the town is for the larger ferries. This is because the "canal" in between the island of Paxos and the islets in the bay is too narrow. The ferries connect Paxos with the island of Corfu, and with Piraeus (Athens), Igoumenitsa (the major port of western Greece) and Parga on the mainland.
Antipaxos or Antipaxi island - The island of Antipaxos is situated about three kilometers south of the island of Paxos. Instead of olive trees, as on Paxos, here you will find many fields with grapes from which wine is made. These vineyards are mainly owned by inhabitants of Paxos. There only live a few people on the 5 km2 island of Antipaxos and the number of accommodations is very limited. Most visitors are people who make a day trip from Paxos.
On Antipaxos there are some beautiful beaches that can be visited by tourists. The boats to the island Antipaxos depart from the old harbor of the main town Gaios to the beaches in the northeast of Antipaxos. They stop in the only harbor of the island, which is called Agrapidia. Here are the three most popular beaches. Voutoumi Beach is the best beach and it has pebbles. If you enter the water the pebbles turn into sand. Vrika Beach is the only sandy beach and the colour of the sand is white. On this beach you will sometimes see some people that are camping unofficially. Mesovrika Beach is another pebble beach. Everywhere the water is clear and has a beautiful colour of turquoise because of the white pebbles and white sand in the sea.
For those that want more tranquility, there are a number of more secluded bays on the island with smaller more private beaches where you can sunbathe. These are south of Vrika and Voutoumi Beach and they are not as difficult to reach. Antipaxos is a popular destination because on the island of Paxos itself there are not really a large number of very good beaches to be found. For tourists that stay in the village of Gaios on Paxos a visit to Antipaxos is a nice option.
During the summer season there are regular boats going up and down between the capital Gaios on Paxos and the island of Antipaxos. The trip takes less than half an hour and is not very expensive. You can enjoy the whole day at the beach if you wish and for those that want it there are also some umbrellas for rent (cheap). There are a number of taverns and and a few shops where you can buy the locally made wine.