Good morning in Greek, this was my favorite way to start each and every day for the 2 weeks I was in Greece in June. Well, that along with an iced cappuccino and a giant bowl of Greek yogurt topped with fruit and honey. So flippin’ tasty!
Hot off the boat from traveling from Brindisi, Italy to Corfu, Greece, I knew I needed to schedule in some alone time away from large groups of people, preferably on a secluded beautiful beach before starting up another hectic month and a half of Euro travels. Not to mention I was glow-in-the-dark pale. My poor skin needed some sunshine!
Trying to pick the perfect island in Greece to visit is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
With 1,400 to chose from, I could only start researching for about 5 minutes before my ADD kicked in and my head wanted to explode. Lucky for me, Lonely Planet still publishes photos in their print guide books, and once I saw this photo of Paxos, I knew that was the island for me.
Waving goodbye to Corfu, I boarded a tiny ferry boat, dropped my bags and climbed out in the front of the boat to sit in the sunshine for the hour-ish journey to Paxos. Slightly sunburned but content to finally have arrived where I wanted to be, I met Ioanna at the little port, who was giving me a ride to where I was staying.
Throwing my backpack in her car, we were off to her family-owned Olympia Paxos Villas & Apartments, a ways up from Gaios, the main “town” in Paxos. Considering the entire population of Paxos is 2,500 and the island is only 10km long, I use the term “town,” loosely; Gaios is approximately the same size as any Walmart Supercenter in America.
Just what I was looking for. A small town, that is. Not Walmart.
The villa apartments are set up high on the island, tucked away from the “hustle and bustle” of the port town off a narrow winding “road” enclosed by crumbling old stonework fences, reminiscent of a bygone age. Again, I use the terms “hustle and bustle” and “road” loosely here.
Paxos is rustic charm at its finest. It is exactly what you would imagine old world Greece to be like.
By the time I settled into my apartment and downed a reviving espresso, I could see the sun starting to dip over the tops of the olive trees turning the walls of the whitewashed apartment gold and pink. Settled in nicely at the bar by the pool, I started chatting with Ioanna’s mom and dad, asking for some tips on the best place to watch the sun set on the island.
With many a hand gesture and pointing willy-nilly, I was off with my camera down a goat path towards what promised to be a spectacular cliff lookout point over the sea on the west side of the island. Or maybe I was going to be eaten by goats. There was plenty of room for misinterpretation.
Ambling amongst the old farms and ancient olive groves, I passed by one elderly local taking out the trash. Whispering a quick yasas (hello) to her, I hip hopped down the lane, proud of myself for making an effort to say some things in Greek, which is not exactly an easy language to pick up. Though I noticed if you make any effort to try, people respond well to it. The people in Greece have to be some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered in Europe, and Paxos is no exception.
By this point the lane ended and turned into a goat path. Adventure time.
The further I walked, the more decrepit the walk turned. Some of the crumbling farm walls had fallen in on the goat path and I began to wonder if I came the right way. Picking up a big stick, eventually I started having to knock down big spider’s webs strung up between the old pine trees. There are only so many times you can walk through a spider’s web and screaming bloody murder pulling the invisible strings off your face before you really want to turn around.
Squaring my shoulders and swinging my stick, I forced myself to go on. In that moment, running quickly away from spiders through a path half a foot wide between towering trees and climbing over some big rocks, I felt like I was channeling my 10 year old self. It really felt like one of the imaginary adventures I used to have as a kid.
Growing up an only child with a working mom and a big overgrown backyard and garden, I could easily entertain myself for hours sneaking over the fence and “going exploring.” My overactive imagination would run wild, envisioning quests in a forest and adventures on the high seas. Ahoy.
Not much changed except this time I exchanged my wellies for TOMS and my stuffed animal companion for a Canon 60D. Reconnecting with my inner child and knocking down Shelob-sized spiders with my sword, I mean my stick, eventually I began to hear sounds of the sea and the clanking of goat bells in the distance. As I turned the last corner, I stepped out on to the edge of a cliff, rewarded for my perseverance with one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.
Expecting to see Odysseus moored out in the crystalline waters, or hear the sounds of the Sirens calling over the waves, it truly felt like I stepped back a millennia in time.
It was breathtaking. It was spectacular. All the cliches converged at this edge of the world. Without a soul in sight, unless you count the mountain goats, I sat there with my feet dangling over the edge, completely at peace. I don’t even remember how long I sat there watching the sun set over the Ionian Sea, just that it was something I’ll not soon forget.
An important lesson was learned that first night in Paxos: when an old man tells you in broken English to follow a goat path in the woods, you listen.
The next day, I pretended to be a grown-up and rented a car. Well, like most things in Paxos, I hesitate to call it a car since I’m fairly certain the red and yellow Little Tykes toy car I had growing up was bigger, but still, narrow roads call for narrow cars I guess!
Paxos only really has one main road, so getting lost is quite an accomplishment! Just following it and making random turns down gravel roads that looked promising, I managed to get the car stuck only twice. After wandering around for a bit I ended up at Monodendri Beach on the north side of the island. It’s one of the few “official” beaches, meaning it has a bar (with wifi OMG) and you get to use a beach chair when you order.
Beer at 10am? Hell yes, I was on vacation! Bring on the Mythos!
Sticking around til early afternoon, my day consisted of apply some sunscreen, drink a beer, roll over, check my Facebook, go for a dip, repeat. Life is hard.
After downing a massive seafood and pasta lunch, a quick snooze and two espressos later, I piled back in my toy rental car and zoomed off in search of the elusive Kipiadi Beach.
Having been advised by Ioanna and her family that this was one of their favorite beaches on Paxos, I was determined to find it. Cue incident two of getting the car stuck. If you think the “main” road is iffy, just wait til you see the back ones. Slamming on the brakes when I’d see a sign for Kipiadi, I excitedly turned down the last gravel road til I hit a dead end. With only one car parked there, I climbed down a long path of stairs hacked into the stone in the woods leading me on to a huge empty beach.
Just when I thought Paxos couldn’t get more beautiful.
And like any sensible young woman who finds herself alone on deserted beach in Greece, I immediately threw my bag down, pulled my clothes off and went skinny dipping.
If anyone were to ask me now what my favorite place I visited in Europe this summer was, I would be hard-pressed to find a more peaceful or beautiful place than Paxos, Greece.
Whether it’s the untouched, pristine beaches, the friendly folks, or the hidden surprises, Paxos is certainly worth a visit if you want to see a less touristic more traditional side of Greece, goats included. It was just what I needed. Some time for myself to relax, swim, tan, and occasionally get naked in public places. I wouldn’t change my time there for the world and I would go back in a heartbeat.
I loved returning back to the apartment every evening, recapping my day with the family and swapping stories from around the world. It made the trip much more special and memorable, and it truly felt like I fit in there. So I guess my question now is….anyone know a Greek man who wants to marry me so I can move there forever?
Have you ever been to Greece? Heard of Paxos? Would you like to see some of the lesser-known Greek Isles one day?
Many thanks to Olympia Paxos Villas & Apartments for hosting me during my time in Paxos. Like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own.