For our final trip of the summer, we spent 5 days in the Ionian Islands of Greece. We visited the Greek Isles last September as well because the mobs of tourist recede, the waters are still warm and the sun shines everyday. This year, we chose the island of Paxos, known for its vivid seas, rustic landscapes and more secluded beaches than many of the more well-known islands in the area.
London to Paxos
Leading up to the trip, we spent a few days in London on business. The plan was to catch the first flight out of Gatwick in the morning of our last day, so we set our alarms for a 2:40am wakeup. However, we accidentally overslept after a night out at a trendy dinner spot, waking up exactly 2 hours before the flight while our hotel was a solid hour from the airport. Upon realizing our mistake, we jumped out of bed Home Alone-style and hailed a black cab for a 5am race against time to the airport. By ditching all our liquids, carrying on our bags and sprinting a mile through the terminal to gate 101, we made it just as the gates were closing. Relieved that we caught the only flight of the day to Corfu, we caught up on 3 hours of sleep on the plane.
Since we had visited Corfu before, we booked the first ferry out to Paxos immediately. In Greek mythology, Poseidon created Paxos by striking Corfu with his trident to create a peaceful place for him and his wife. We hustled to the front of an over-packed boat and braved the choppy 2 hour ride out to the island whilst being intermittently sprayed with ocean water. We arrived in the early afternoon and headed to our spot just outside the main town of Gaios for the next few days - a simple, all-white villa covered in bougainvilleas. Our balcony peered out over the harbour, dotted with yachts and sailboats. The owner of our flat spent 15 minutes debriefing us by pointing out the rocky cliffs and grottoes along the west side of the island and his favorite out of at least 20 beaches dotted along the eastern coast's inlets.
Emiritis Sunset Bar
We kept it simple the first day. We rented a scooter and took a quick dip off the rocks just outside town. When the sun started to dip, we drove about 10 minutes to the west coast of the island to Emiritis Restaurant and Sunset Bar, known for its dramatic cliffside location and clear views of the setting sun. To reach the popular spot, we turned our scooter off the paved main road and spent about half the drive on a winding, unpaved rocky path. Once we arrived, we climbed a few steps up to the simple, chic bar with an all-time view. We had a few drinks, some killer truffle risotto, homemade bread, Greek salad and pasta as the sun set over the Ionian sea. We bounced along the bumpy road in the dark, as there were no street lamps, back to our villa to count the stars.
Exploring the Island
The following morning, we cruised about 15 minutes to the north east side of the island to check out Ben's bar, a beach bar and restaurant recommended to us for an active beach day of snorkeling and paddle-boarding with Greek lunch and sun loungers. We drove down a very rough hill of loose stones to find a pristine lagoon perfect for paddle-boarding, but also a gaggle of kids vying for the same equipment we wanted. Apparently, there are only a few spots on Paxos with "built out" beaches, meaning beaches with bathrooms and loungers, and the spot of Ben's bar is one of them. We decided to explore on our own to find a more undiscovered and hard to reach stretch of seashore.
We spent the morning scouting down dirt roads, intentionally getting lost, and discovering completely empty grottoes and stone beaches. We would take a dip or a snorkel, dry off in the sun, and then head to the next hidden hangout. We drove through the hills past tiny one-street towns dotted with bakeries, produce markets and tavernas. We wound along coastal roads lined with olive trees. We stopped for lunch at the second largest town on the north side of the island for a vegetarian feast of tzatziki, broad beans with stewed vegetables, zuchinni fritters, bread with local olive oil, stuffed tomatoes and Greek salad.
After lunch, we decided to explore a few beaches on the rougher west side of the island that is exposed to heavy winds. With no one in sight, we drove down a very steep hill of loose stones to the entrance to Emiritis beach. After nearly wiping out when the front wheel of our scooter got jammed in a pothole, we parked the bike and hiked down a rough path with a few cliffside stairs to one of the most spectacular beaches we had ever seen. Emiritis beach was formed in 2008 when a seaside cliff collapsed, leaving a fairly small stone beach and a cove filled with smooth ghost-white rock. We stared at the gradations of turquoise, teal, neon blue and sapphire waters. Staring down at the water almost burnt our eyes it was so bright. We spent the next few hours snorkeling, swimming, exploring and just taking in the rugged yet pristine and untouched beach.
After getting our fill of the beach scene, we went on a journey to find the elusive Tripitos Arch, a 100-foot high stone arch towering above a crystal lagoon. Because Paxos is not so developed for tourists yet, there are no signs anywhere, so we plugged in some coordinates we saw on a blog and drove about 15 minutes on the scooter until we came to an unmarked donkey path winding through olive groves. We hopped off the scooter and walked along the path, trying to use the GPS coordinates to find the natural wonder. After about 20 minutes of hiking through the overgrown terrain, we saw a tiny sign for the arch. We continued the hike, and just around a bend it became apparent we had found it.
We'd climbed on sea arches before, but this one was special due to its height, the narrowness of the path along the top of the arch, and the crazy beautiful colors of the lagoon below. Apparently, the few people who find the arch typically do so on a private rented boat, so to be able to see it from above and to walk along the top felt like we'd accomplished a feat. On this windy day not safe enough for small boats, we had the whole spectacular scene to ourselves.
Sunset at Emiritis
After heading back to our place for a quick nap, we drove and hiked back down to Emiritis beach for the sunset. Since the beach faces directly west, we had a great view of the sun dipping down over the horizon. Only about 10 people hung out to watch the sunset, and there was a fun, happy group vibe, as we all felt lucky to be in such a wild, undiscovered spot. Dave swam in the rough waves as the sun dipped below the horizon.
More Beaches, Trek to Galazio and Wild Waves
We awoke to a perfect pink sunrise and a cacophony of roosters crowing on our third day. The wind picked up, so our planned boat trip to a nearby island was canceled. We made the most of the day by grabbing Greek baked goodies like spinach pie and baklava scouting more rugged coves, alternating snacking with swims and scooter exploration.
In the afternoon we headed out on another adventure to find Galazio, an insane electric blue cove and beach allegedly only accessible by boat. We saw a few pictures online and again only had GPS coordinates to go on, so we ventured out ready to explore. The coordinates led us to a narrow channel of clear blue water surrounded by sharp lava rock cliffs. Although we were only wearing flip flops, we spent about 30 minutes climbing the jagged rocks to the next cove over to try to find the mysterious beach. We could both sense that we were in a place that no other humans go to, so we realized that we must be treading in the wrong direction. On our way back to the scooter, we decided to try a rough stone road we'd seen on our drive down, and it led us on a wild goose chase through an abandoned building site and down a hiking trail. We ignored the No Entry signs and snooped around. After about an hour of hiking through prickers, we came to a forested cliff, looked down a few hundred feet, and saw the most stunning color of blue either of us either of us had ever seen. We hung out for a while, taking a break from the stinging thorned vines surrounding the other-worldly cove and just took in the view.
After a quick nap at our place, we headed back to Emiritis for sunset, only to find the smooth crystalline waters turned into giant waves. Dave enjoyed a swim in the churning sea as the sun went down. It isn't very often on our trips that we take a chill day on our vacations, and despite the crazy hikes and rock cilmbing, this was one of the more low-key travel days of our summer.
Last Day of Summer '17
We spent our last travel day of the summer swimming and lounging in the Ionian Sea as much as possible. The wind held, so we stayed on Paxos and found a few more hidden spots, including a natural rock pool filled with ocean water that looked out on the rough seas. After a very chill day of beaches, we had a gusty outdoor lunch in another picturesque seaside town and then took a nice, coastal scooter ride back to Gaios.
We packed up our stuff, headed to the port and hopped on our ferry, to be crammed in with about 60 other people for a very rough, wavy ride back to Corfu. At one point, the boat felt like it was going to tip, babies were screaming and even locals were moaning each time the boat was smashed with a huge wave. After about 90 minutes, we made it back, headed to the airport, and landed in rainy, fall-like Luxembourg by 10pm.
We had an out of this world summer, starting with our wedding in Mallorca, and following up with seaside trips in Portugal, Southern France, Dubrovnik, Puglia and Greece. Next up, a long 6 weeks in dreary Luxembourg before heading out on our "honeymoon" around the world to Vietnam, Tokyo, Seattle and London.
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