On one of my first visits to Paxos, I found myself staying in a simple cottage that seemed to be incredibly remote and was surrounded by ancient olive groves. I arrived there at night, and as the taxi drew away the power, already flickering unsteadily, went off completely. Luckily I had a torch and picked my way out into the stone paved courtyard and sat on the wall. An owl hooted.
I looked up at the sky – what else was there to do? – and was stunned by the awe-inspiring sight of a sky free of light-pollution, where galaxies and unthinkably distant planets and constellations blazed and where shooting stars flared brightly on their journey to infinity. This was my first introduction to the magic of Paxos.
In the years to come I was to return many times, and would see some inevitable changes, but would also be relieved to observe the continued absence of what passes for progress elsewhere.
Magical is a word that continues to be apt and not just tour operator-talk when applied to this small and incredibly beautiful island, about an hour’s journey south by hydrofoil from Corfu. The island is so small that its vital statistics can be dealt with in a short paragraph – created by the god Poseidon according to the myths as yet another love-nest for yet another nymph; nine kilometres long and three wide, home to over 60 ancient churches; 14kms south of Corfu; three main settlements, all with harbours, Gaios, Loggos and Lakka; tilted so that the east coast undulates gently from one beautiful beach to another while the west coast is the epitome of ‘rugged’.
It has never been easy to get there – no airport and ferries that change year by year but never seem to cut the journey time. For a brief and rather glamorous period it was possible to get there by sea-plane from Corfu, but this venture sadly failed. The visitor to Paxos requires almost as much patience and perseverance today as a Victorian traveller in times long gone, but it is this that has kept Paxos unspoilt.
Is it worth the trouble? Oh yes.
The local people are kind and hospitable to visitors but do not fawn over them – tourism takes its place with the production of olive oil as the chief sources of employment and income and as a result the olive groves of Paxos are well maintained and productive and not left to decay and decline as they are, sadly, in parts of Corfu for example. Those olive groves are intersected by countless paths which make the island a walker’s dream, especially in early and late summer, when the heat is considerably less oppressive. Butterflies and birds enliven the peaceful hillsides and in spring the carpet of wild flowers takes the breath away. Many of the paths end at a beach, where water of the most startling clarity laps against the large, egg-shaped white pebbles.
Think of a word for ‘blue ‘ or ‘green’ and it will be present in the sea that surrounds Paxos and its tiny neighbour, Anti-Paxos. From aquamarine to indigo, from jade to malachite green, it is hard to imagine waters more vividly coloured. When it is too hot to walk, hiring a small motor boat enables the visitor to explore the eastern shores of Paxos – the west coast is better left to professional seafarers who will gladly take you to see the caves and rock bridges and the immense monolithic rock that rears out of the sea like a breaching whale. The small harbours of Gaios, Loggos and Lakka are favourites with yachtsmen and in high summer are packed with the glittering craft of rich Italians and Russians, who bring a fleeting sense of sophistication and international glamour to the island and provide amusing people-watching for the rest of us.
There is nothing much to do on Paxos, if living at a quieter pace, languishing on a lovely beach or by a villa swimming pool, eating good, simple food and drinking the local wine far into the night can be called nothing. Re-charging the batteries is a phrase that comes to mind.
CV Villas is one of the best of the few travel companies that offer villa rentals on the island. Its properties are comfortable, idyllically located, and have that combination of traditional Paxos charm and modern amenities that makes a holiday here quite unforgettable.
Oh – don’t forget the torch – the power still flickers from time to time.
- Read more by Angela Papageorgiou in her entertaining blog.
- Read Silver Traveller Angie Curtis’ Star Review about neighbouring Corfu.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends CV Villas