There is a small island complex in this sunny country called Greece, which for me is the dreamiest summer destination: the beautiful and lush Paxi!
We have been to Paxi twice.
The first time was on a day trip from Corfu, and I admit it was the highlight of our trip, no matter how beautiful Corfu is.
The second time, we were there for 8 delightful days—just what we needed to explore inland, discover beaches and live on Paxi in the manner the islands truly deserve!
When we go there for the third time, it’ll be on a sailboat—as is customary and befitting!
So what are the highlights of my favourite islands?
The tiniest, most picturesque and wonderful harbour I have been to! At Lakka, this small blue bay full of yachts, you will find the only sandy beach of the island, which can be reached in just one minute from the harbour via an overgrown footpath by the sea. The bay is ideal for a swim to the deserted beach opposite, while the harbour is ideal for… everything:
There are two of my favourite restaurants in all of Greece here, one with gourmet Mediterranean cuisine and the other with an Italian-style fish menu. This is where I found Il Pareo Paxos, a boutique owned by an English couple, specialising in Balinese items for the beach and the Gypset home. There are many quaint little streets between houses built in the traditional style and, if you walk around, you will discover enchanting gelaterias, charming small squares drowned in bougainvillea, and tiny bars serving perfect cocktails. They are so close to each other in tiny Lakka that you can see them all in a matter of minutes!
A walk to the far end of the harbour, the little tavern and the small church is also a must.
This is the main port of Paxos and where the boat from Igoumenitsa will put you ashore. It is well hidden behind a small pine-covered island which forms an inlet inside the harbour.
Gaios is clearly larger than Lakka, and a good place to stay either inside the village or in one of the hostels in its vicinity. There is certainly much more to do here, unless you prefer the peace and quiet of Lakka.
The village square is very beautiful. There is a church in the centre surrounded by smart boutiques, quaint cafés and gelaterias and, of course, the blue sea. In the narrow streets that lead away from the square there are shops, bars and other attractions, which make your stay feel more complete and those evening strolls last much longer.
In the harbour there is another of my favourite restaurants in Greece, offering Mediterranean seafood flavours with many twists. The restaurant is on the left side of the harbour, and before you get to it you walk past beautiful cafes which offer a pleasant shade and a view of the small pine-covered island.
Perhaps the greatest advantages of both Gaios and Lakka harbours are the boats, which offer a wide selection of cruises and taxi boat trips across the blue waters of the Ionian Sea.
Cruises from Gaios or Lakka are day trips and include a stop for lunch.
Cruises from Corfu to Paxos start very early in the morning. Fortunately, the first stop at lovely Lakka about 10 in the morning totally makes up for the early start. It is peaceful and my favourite gourmet restaurant serves a perfect breakfast with fresh produce right next to the water’s edge.
Why you should be taking a cruise this year
Both cruises take you on a full trip round the island of Paxos, passing by the enchanting blue caves of the rocky northern area, where you are certain to dive again and again. Next you will be able to spend some time at the highlight of the Paxi complex:
Ah, Antipaxos… The little sister of Paxos is also green, covered in olive trees and small shrubs. The north side is also rocky, with breathtaking blue grottos. On the other hand, the south side has two of my favourite beaches around the world: Vrika and Voutoumi. Both are sandy, both have crystal-clear blue waters, rich seabeds, and the right depth for a perfect swimming experience. They are connected by a footpath, have sun loungers and umbrellas for hire, as well as tavernas and canteens. Note that Antipaxos is not inhabited, so for your main meal you’d be better to wait until your return to Paxos.
You can get to Antipaxos on a day cruise from either Paxos or Corfu, but, if you live on Paxos, you can make the trip daily, either by taxi boat or by hiring a boat and driving it yourself. Yes, you’re allowed to.
Excursion to the island interior
I’ve already said how small Paxos is – so small that you can easily explore its lush interior, with its traditional villages, its picturesque taverns beneath mulberry trees, and olive groves… But also to discover, one after the other, its beaches, both hard-to-access and children-friendly ones. Mind you, they are all pebbly. Of course, they are all in exquisite quiet coves which the cold currents of the Ionian Sea and the small waves never reach!
Whether you like it or not, your trip to Paxi is on the borderline of luxury. It is, after all, the top Greek destination for Italian and local boat owners, and you too are likely to enjoy the experience of sailing here by sailboat or catamaran.
This target group raises prices as well as the level of services throughout the island, providing it with the glamour and prestige that can be compared to that of Mykonos or Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda.
Make the most of it! Go for a dreamy beach style every day. Find the 4-5 top restaurants and enjoy pasta with crayfish, caviar, carpaccio and lobster or urchins with every meal (which is an excellent idea if you don’t want to gain a single gram while travelling). If you are not travelling on your own vessel, hire a small boat and plan your own trips across the Ionian Sea. Stop where the clear blue water becomes irresistible and enjoy the experience of diving in the middle of the sea.
Family Friendly? Totally! The beaches in both islands are organized (and in Antipaxos they are also sandy), Gaios turns into a playground in the evenings, and if your kids are up to it, it’s perfect (and usual) to rent a boat and sail away!
Live your dream in the Ionian Sea, on a trip you will never forget!
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