Paxos Travel Guide
The tiny island of Paxi is located south of Corfu, on the northern side of the Ionian Sea. This is a place with intense cosmopolitan style due to the many yachts that moor in its ports in summer. Paxi island is mostly famous for the wonderful beaches with the exotic blue color. Particularly the uninhabited islet of Antipaxi has few of the most wonderful beaches in Greece, with true Caribbean water. The islet of Antipaxi can be visited by boat from the port of Gaios, the capital of Paxi. Gaios, Lakka and Loggos are the three main villages of the island, with traditional architecture and relaxing beach promenades.
GEOGRAPHY - CLIMATE
Paxi, the baby of the Ionian Islands, is a cluster of small islands and rocky islets, the largest of which are Paxi and Antipaxi. They are located 7 miles south of Corfu, at a distance of 8 miles from the coast of Epirus in north–western Greece and 12 miles from the town of Parga. Both Paxi and Antipaxi have a lizard-like, long and narrow shape. The islands cover an area of 19 square kilometers and 3 square kilometers respectively. Paxi and Antipaxi along with Corfu and the Diapontia islands (which are located in the northwest of Corfu - 6 km away - and about 40 km away from Italian coasts) constitute the Corfu regional unit.
Paxi is an island of endless olive groves and Antipaxi one large vineyard. The eastern coastlines of the island are smooth, while the west coasts are bold and abrupt with remarkable natural formations: caves, arches, dome-shaped forms, sheer cliffs etc. The capital of Paxi, Gaios, is a picturesque village build around a port which is protected by two small islands, Agios Nikolaos and Panagitsa. At the northern tip of the island sits beautiful Lakka, whilst on the east coast nestles the charming village of Loggos. Today, Paxi has a permanent population of approximately 2,300 inhabitants and during the summer months, the island welcomes more than 200,000 visitors.
As in all of the Ionian islands (called Eptanisa in Greek, which means "Seven islands"), the landscape of Paxi is mostly covered with olive oil trees, which were put since the times of the Venetian rule. Oil olive making has been the main source of income for the locals for centuries, along with fishing. Later on, soap manufacturing was added to these occupations, until tourism came to the island in the mid sixties and has replaced all the other occupations to a great extent.
The climate of Paxi is Mediterranean, with mild winters and cool summer, as well as being particularly wet, with its frequent rainfall during autumn and winter, which usually lasts a long time.
The history of Paxi follows the history of the Ionian islands in general and that of Corfu particularly. According to Greek mythology, the island would be the southernmost tip of Corfu, if the God of the Sea, Poseidon, had not broken it off with his trident when he needed a god-deserving place to live his love with the Nereid Amphitrite.
Homer was the first to refer Paxos, whose inhabitants were Greek–speakers from Epirus. The first colonists were probably the Phoenicians who had a colony on neighboring Kephalonia.
In 432 B.C. the largest naval battle up to that date amongst the Greeks took place in the waters off the coast of Paxi - referred to as "the islands of Syvota" - between the inhabitants of Corfu and the Corinthians. There, 70 Corfiot and 30 Corinthians triremes were sunk. Later on, in 229 B.C., the powerful fleets of the Illyrian pirates (inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Adriatic) and those of the inhabitants of Corfu, clashed off the coast of "so-called Paxi". The Illyrians won and occupied Corfu and, as a result, the islands of Paxi too. This victory precipitated the first direct Roman intervention into Greek matters. One year later, the Romans gained victory over the Illyrians and forced them to concede lands and pay taxes.
In 31 B.C. the fleets of Caesar Octavius and Mark Antony in alliance with Cleopatra were defeated in the region of Paxi and ended with the sea battle of Actium. It is thought that at the end of the battle the fugitives Mark Antony and Cleopatra anchored in Paxi due to unfavorable winds.
In 960 the historian Liutprand, bishop of Cremona, went to Paxi to write the third volume of his Histories in a tranquil environment. During the second half of the 13th century Corfu was incorporated into the sovereignty of Anjou, annexing Paxi as well.
In 1386 the island was conquered by the Venetians and ruled by princes and barons as a feudal holding for many decades. Baron Adam II San Ippolito asked for Venetian permission to build a fortress to protect the island from pirates in 1423. As a result, two fortresses were built, one on the island of Agios Nikolaos, opposite Gaios, and the second in Lakka.
An important sea battle against the Turks by the allied fleets of Spain, Venice and the Papal States took place near Paxi in 1537, under the leadership of the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. The Turkish ships were sunk and the sea around Paxi was filled with bodies. Hayrentin Barbarossa wanted to take revenge for the catastrophe caused by Doria. After plundering and taking prisoners, Barbarossa decided to lay siege to Corfu. He soon found himself in a untenable position, disbanded the siege and withdrew his forces, but not before causing immense destruction. In retaliation, the Turkish fleet under the leadership of admiral Barbarossa, went to Paxi and ravaged the island from end to end. Not a stick was left standing. The catastrophe was completed the following year, when Paxi became the base of operations for Turgut. The island became deserted. Thirty-four years later, in 1571, the Turkish fleet once again, under admiral Lutsali Pasha this time, pillaged the island, slaughtering the remaining inhabitants and laying waste to everything they encountered. Any inhabitants lucky enough to escape resettled on the neighboring islands.
In 1797, after 411 years of occupation, the Venetians surrendered the Ionian Islands to the Republican French who remained there until 1799, when the Russians and Turks occupied Corfu (and, thus, Paxi as well). In 1800, under the Constitution that was formed, the Ionian Islands were declared a Republic under the dominion of the Sultan and with the protection of Russia. In 1807, under the Treaty of Tilsit, the Ionian Islands were granted to Napoleon's Imperial French. The English blockade brought starvation to the island and, as a result, the inhabitants of Paxi revolted in May of 1810, gained power from the French and raised the English flag. The French invaded once again and punished the revolutionaries severely.
In 1814, the English army, under Major Theodore Kolokotronis, landed in the area of Plani near Lakka and conquered the fort of Agios Nikolaos in Gaios without resistance. The English granted a constitution to the Ionian Islands in 1817, which became known as the Republic of the Ionian Islands under English protection and with the first English Governor, Metland. Although its status as a protectorate strictly forbade involvement, the inhabitants of Paxi took part in the Greek Revolution of 1821 and offered their services to the struggle for freedom. At the top of the list of heroes is the name of Georgios Anemogiannis, captain of a fire ship who gave his life to the cause at the age of 23 at Nafpakto (Lepanto). A statue on his memorial stands until now in Gaios. The flame of unification with Greece, which had for long been slowly burning, spread to Paxi as well and on 21 May 1864 the parliamentarians from Paxos, Ioannis Vellianitis and Dimitris Makris, voted for unification in the Ionian Parliament.
During the Balkan Wars in 1912-13 the inhabitants of Paxi offered their lives once again as well as during the Asia Minor campaign and catastrophe of 1922. They welcomed all refugees driven to their shores with open arms and incorporated them into the local community. Later, in 1923, the Italians landed in Corfu and Paxi for one month as retaliation by Mussolini for the assassination of the Italian general.
During the Greek-Italian War and the German occupation of 1940-4, the blood tax continues, finally ending with the tragic civil war. During the difficult years of the occupation the inhabitants of Paxi made their living from the olive oil trade. Most dealers crossed over to the shores of Epirus in their rowing-boats by night to exchange their oil for wheat, maize and barley.
ACTIVITIES - LEISURE
Paxi is the ideal island for a peaceful holiday. Fjord-shaped beaches, underwater caves, small bays and green hills welcome the lucky visitors. Innumerable ravishing beaches await the fitter ones as a starting point for scuba-diving into underwater caves, snorkeling and, of course, swimming in the amazing turquoise water of the sea.
Apart from the water-sports, the tree main villages of the island, Gaios, Loggos and Lakka, are picturesque and enchanting and, consequently, worth visiting.
Gaios is on the south of the island and is the capital of Paxi. This picturesque village is built around a port - the main port of the island - which is protected by two small islands Agios Nikolas and Panagia. It is named after the Apostle Gaios, who played an important role on the island when he preached during the first years after the death of the Christ. The village, which has Venetian architecture, displays some of the most picturesque 19th century buildings that can be seen from the port between the narrow alleys. It retains its strong traditional character despite the cosmopolitan crowds that constantly arrive on the island with private yachts and boats (Paxi has always been a popular destination among the Italian and the English). In Gaios, one shouldn't miss the Venetian fortress of Agios Nikolaos, the English Governor’s House, the Paxi Museum and the churches and chapels of the area.
Moreover, one should visit the picturesque villages of Loggos, Lakka and Ozias, tucked away in pine and olive trees. In the areas of Ozias, Yana and Glyfada, sulphur thermal springs offer an alternative treatment for rheumatics and other health conditions. It is also pretty interesting to walk through the vast olive groves inland. In the area of Magazia, don’t forget to drop by the Olive Museum, once a traditional olive press. In the areas of Agia Eleoussa, Vlahopouliatika and Boycatica look for the clusters of stone cisterns, carved on the rocks as rainwater collectors. If visiting in July or August, one should check out if one of the music festivals is held on the island and when exactly.
• caique-sailing around the island
• exploring the islets around Paxi and especially visit Antipaxi, with its wonderful beaches with white sand and turquoise blue water that are ideal for swimming and snorkelling, and are said even to rival those in the Caribbean
• visiting the extraordinary 40-odd sea caves with the majestic domes on the south coast of the island
• hiking the old trails, among which the Mousmouli-Porto Ozias and the Manessatika-Ypapanti ones are suggested.
Paxi is famous for its fresh and delicious fish, which one could accompany with wine from the Antipaxi vineyards. Lobster, delicious tuna fish and recipes of the Ionian islands make up the gastronomic landscape of Paxi. Tsiligourdopita is a local specialty with jellyfish, like meat pie.
BEACHES OF PAXI
The perimeter of Paxi and Antipaxi is like a lacy work of art, making it a must for every visitor to take a tour of the island by boat. Beaches in Paxi are actually small coves with crystal, blue-green waters. Some Paxi beaches are organized with few umbrellas and sunbeds, but the majority are secluded places to enjoy privacy. Apart from Paxi beaches, visitors are strongly advised to visit the stunning beaches on the close Antipaxi island by boat.
The beaches of Paxi, most of which are small in size and pebbly, have clean translucent waters. The most impressive are those of Gianna, Soulanenas, Balou, Agia Marina at Mogonissi, Kloni Gouli, Kamini, Kaki Lagada, Alati, Kipiadi, Marmaria, Levrehio, Glyfada, Monodendri, Arkoudaki, Orkos, Kanoni, Harami (sandy beach), Ahai and Avlaki Galazio.
On Antipaxi, the clear, turquoise water and sandy beaches of Vrika & Voutoumi, popular yet idyllic, as well as the pebbly deserted beaches of Rodovani and Sarakiniko.
The magical caves of Mogonissi will impress (the caverns of the Sea Nymphs according to the bishop Paramythias Athinagoras), Tripitos with its natural stone bridge, the cliff of Mousmouliou, the Ortholithos (a great rock formation standing in the middle of the sea), Ahai with its continual caves, the impressive cliff of Erimitis (the sunset from Agii Apostoli in Boikatika in the area of Magazia, with a view of the cliff is a spectacular sight indeed) and the cave of Ipapantis are sights that nature carved over time for everyone to admire and enjoy.
HOW TO GET TO PAXI
Paxi island has no airport. Nevertheless, apart from Athens airport, there are many international direct flights to Corfu, which is the closest island to Paxi, and to Aktio airport. The main port of Paxi is in Gaios, which is connected with Igoumenitsa, Corfu and Lefkada by hydrofoils, ferry boats and boats. One can get to Igoumenitsa by car or bus from Athens or from the Balcans, as well as by ferry boat from Italian ports.