If you’re looking for a quiet Greek island, somewhere there won’t be hordes of 20-somethings trying to figure out the fine balance between just waking up with a raging hangover or in hospital with alcohol poisoning, then Paxos could possibly be the place for you.
Located 14 km’s south of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, Paxos is only only around 10km’s long and 4km’s wide. It started life waaaaay back in ancient times when the god of the sea, Poseidon, was looking for a little weekend getaway spot for himself and the wife. So, being a god, he simply swung his super cool trident and chopped off the bottom bit of Corfu. Sorted.
If you’ve discovered Paxos for yourself but you’re still not sure if it’s the right Greek island for you, hopefully the below will help you make up your mind. Here’s what I think you should know about Paxos before you go.
Hire a Boat
A boat hire is must do for at least one day on Paxos, even if you’ve never driven one before. The west side of the island is the choppy/scary side, so often the boat companies won’t let you even attempt it on windy days, but the east side has plenty to keep you occupied. Starting from Gaios (which we did) there’s oodles of small beaches and calm inlets to pull into ans explore all the way up to the northernmost village, Lakka.
Starting at only 40 Euros a day (plus petrol) boat hires in Paxos are surprisingly affordable, a whole heap of fun and kind of freaky at times if you’re a complete novice. But surviving a near death experience will just make for more exciting holiday stories. Kidding. Just be sensible, relax and trust that your little boat can actually handle much mightier waves than what you’re freaking out about in the open sea sections and you’ll be fine.
There are many boat hire companies in all of the Paxos villages and I’m sure you’ll get similar quality boats and prices, but I should mention the guys we used are called Paxos Real Estate and Boats for Hire in Gaios and found them to be great. Eleftheris gave us a detailed lesson and safety briefing in the harbour before we set off and Katerina was just as helpful (and hilarious) during the paperwork part.
Below is an example of the secret little spots you might discover when exploring by boat. Not too bad, huh?
Hike to the Tripitos Arch
Located on the western coast of Paxos, Tripitos Arch is somewhere most visitors will find whilst in a boat. It looks like this…
As you may have guessed by the fact that I was able to take this shot, you can get there on foot too. But it’s not easy. Well, not easy to find I mean. The actual hiking bit is not too bad. I’d read as many blogs as I could for clues but except for quite a few sites telling me I should have ordered myself a detailed hiking map before I left the UK, there were no really helpful instructions. So I went to one of the tourist shops in Gaios and bought the most detailed looking map of the three basic ones they had on offer and asked the shop guy to point out to me where it was. It took him and about five of his friends and relatives to find it eventually on the south coast, so if you actually manage to find the thing, give yourself a big pat on the back.
We hired bicycles and set off to see if we could find the right hiking trail to start with. Here’s a big tip. Paxos is hilly. Bicycling is hard.
Feeling like we’d missed the hiking trail, we asked the owner of a store on the side of the road if he knew where it was. When I said the arch was proving difficult to find, he agreed it should be better sign posted and clucked in understanding, saying “We have a stupid Mayor”. Unfortunately, his instructions went like this – “Go back down this road. Where the hill is the flattest, turn left. Walk 400m up. When you are facing the sea, go right. You will think you should left here, but no, first go right. Then when you are facing the sea again, go left. And then you will be there.”
Ummm… well, yes… on reflection he was absolutely correct, but it’s always easier to decipher cryptic clues in hindsight. After a bit of doubling back and lots of frustration we eventually saw a little sign pointing into an overgrown ‘path’. So yes sorry, this is now unhelpful Tripitos Arch blog post number 205 and I have in no way helped you with how find the bloody thing. But maybe the pictures are inspiration enough to go on an adventure.
Can you spot the human in that shot? Yep, you can walk right out onto the arch!
Don’t Expect Food Heaven
Finding amazing food is normally top on my wishlist for a fantastic holiday but even the owner of our apartment admitted that Paxos is not known for its food. I’m sure we could have found some places where the dishes were a cut above, but three times it cost 30 Euros for a couple of mezes (nothing fancy – dip, cheese, tomato salad), a beer and a coke and the food was average at best. Even the bakeries were a disappointment. A bag of 10 small brioche buns had 7 that were hard as stone and a mix of local style cookies were so tasteless we threw them away. Boo. We did have very tasty ice-cream almost every day though, so they get that right. After a day or two I accepted we weren’t going to be blown away in the food department so we switched to cooking our own meals and taking lunch out with us.
Except for one place we tried in Lakka (the northernmost village) we ate all of our food in Gaios. This Lakka meal was easily the best of the trip, so maybe that’s where you have to go for value for money, tasty food.
Yeh OK, it’s a must. But we were probably the first people in the history of Paxos tourism who chose not to return to Anti-Paxos for a second visit. Yes it’s undeniably stunning and most likely to be the clearest water you’ve ever seen in your life, but it was touristy with a capital T.
If taking a taxi boat from Paxos, you’ll most likely be dropped off at Vrika Beach which has three tavernas, lounge chairs, umbrellas and music to entertain you with. So it’s very well catered for. Voutoumi, the second and arguably more attractive beach a half hour’s trek away, had just one taverna, but still had facilities like a shower and lounge chairs.
What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, it’s just not what we were looking for. We much preferred spending the day hanging out at one of the few beaches close to our apartment that had almost as nice water, no facilities and just the odd local who came by for a swim. As well as us tourists dropped off by taxi for the day, Anti-Paxos attracts each and every tourist boat from Corfu and Paxos and probably even further afield. So even though they may not drop anchor and let their passengers off to swarm the beach, the bays were constantly filled with boat after boat that came by for an ooh and an ahhh and a quick swim. I counted 20 boats and yachts while we were at Voutoumi. I shudder to think how those numbers increase further into summer. Yes, shudder.
But that’s just us. You’ll probably love it.
Anti-Paxos is the little place on the right, as taken from Tripitos Arch on the Paxos south coast. Very doable for a day trip.
Voutoumi Beach. This is absolutely no filters and no editing. Ridiculous. isn’t it?
Vrika beach from one of the tavernas.
Don’t expect typical Greek Architecture
You know what I mean, the whitewashed cliff face villages seen on postcards of places like Santorini. Paxos architecture was actually more Italian looking to me, not a surprise since they were once occupied by both the Romans and the Venetians. There was quite a bit of pizza and gelati on offer too and even an Italian restaurant in Gaios, so the Italian influence must run deep.
If you’re like me, there’s always a fantasy property on every trip that you’ll pretend to come back and buy. This was the one for Paxos. Embarrassingly I discovered it was also on the list of my fellow travel blogger A Bit of Culture when he visited Paxos in 2014 on a day trip from Corfu. Proof once again that no idea is ever original.
Discover Freddo Espresso
If you’re a coffee person this will rock your coffee world. It’s an espresso with ice. The espresso is first blended with ice to make a creamy looking frothy head and then poured over more ice to keep it super chilled. Just what you need in such a hot Meditteranean climate if you still need a caffeine kick to get you going.
Don’t forget to schedule in some ‘Nothing’.
Paxos was exactly what I had been looking for – a quiet little Greek island – but for some silly reason I spent the first few days worrying that we weren’t doing enough, we weren’t seeing everything, discovering all the best food and immersing ourselves in their way of life. Once I’d let the sunshine and water properly wash over me and settled the f***k down, we spent the rest of the holiday doing not very much at all. And it was amazing.