A walking holiday in Paxos
The moment you arrive at the harbour in Gaios, you feel a sense of relaxation and tranquillity, making Paxos a wonderful island for a peaceful and restful holiday. However, it’s also a great place for a walking holiday. Measuring about 8 km long by 4 km wide, Paxos is well-suited to walkers. Exploring on foot is the best way to experience the terraces of twisting olive groves, wildflower-filled trails and rocky paths leading to quiet coves of aquamarine water.
My friends and I stayed at GIC’s Villa Pelagos, located within walking distance of Erimitis Beach – one of Paxos’ most lovely beaches, with dramatic limestone cliffs that plunge into the sea. The villa was in small, centrally-located Magazia, which was the perfect base for our walking excursions.
You might think that, because the island is so small, you wouldn’t need a car, but we were glad to have one. Our trusty little rental made it possible to get to all the starting points of our walks in less than 10 minutes in any direction.
We began each day with breakfast on our patio at Villa Pelagos, sometimes including a dip in the pool or a walk to the bakery up the road. We then drove eight to ten minutes to one of the main towns, where we would park the car and begin our walk.
Consisting mostly of tourist shops and restaurants, the coastal towns on Paxos are small, quaint and always worth a stroll. Before setting off, we made a habit of stopping for a café frappe and a late-morning snack just as the sun was high in the sky and beginning to radiate warmth. In the summer months, I would advise making an earlier start, but in May the days are long and mild enough for a leisurely pace.
Being shoulder season, we rarely saw other walkers, and the trails were not always well marked, so it was nice to have an accurate and detailed walking guidebook with descriptions of where to go.
Our first walk started in the town of Loggos, skirting north along the east coast, dipping into coves along the way. Here we saw the first of many derelict windmills that are scattered all over the island. We also visited Glyfada Beach and Monodendri Beach. The latter is where we found Ben’s Bar, which we would return to later in the week to do some paddleboarding, and to sip wine in celebration of my friend’s birthday.
Another enjoyable walk was a circuit around Cape Lakka, via Ipapanti Church. We followed a trail along the cape, admiring the peek-a-boo outlooks of crystal-clear water framed by bright yellow gorse. At Missorachi Beach we kicked off our trainers to feel the cool water between our toes. We also stopped at Plani Beach and carefully made our way over the flat tables of limestone for views of hidden caves and coves. The Byzantine church of Impapanti is kept locked, but we were excited to find the staircase to the nearby bell tower open, so we climbed up for a panoramic view of the church on one side and the coast on the other.
Before travelling to Paxos we were told a few things about the island. One was that the sunset from Erimitis Bar and Restaurant was worth witnessing. Another was that, in May, the sea would be too cold for swimming. Only one was true. We witnessed the sunset (and it was beautiful), and though it was cold (that part was true), we did swim in the sea – it was irresistible.
Another favourite part of the week included a boat trip to tiny Antipaxos, where we walked the full length of the island. Despite the dazzling sandy beaches where the boats arrive, we found a gorgeous rocky cove in which to swim, far from other tourists. The natural beauty inspired us to do an impromptu beach clean-up of plastics we found washed up on the shore. My resourceful friend rigged up a stick and fishing net full of plastic bottles and other items and we took turns carrying it back to one of the restaurants, where it could be properly discarded.
We also walked from Gaios to the Tripitos Arch and Mongonissi Island. The view of the arch is impressive, but the entire route was stunning, offering vistas of a teal coastline, with Antipaxos in the distance. We were awed by deep, plunging cliffs and gracefully swooping seabirds. Mongonissi Island is a good finishing point, with a few waterfront tavernas to choose from before heading back to Gaios.
In the evenings we were as exhausted as we were content. We were also hungry, and looking forward to a Greek feast! Paxos has a fantastic selection of restaurants and, whether we decided to eat in the town where our walks finished, or drive back to Magazia, there was no shortage of places to choose from.
Ending a holiday with achy muscles, scratched legs and a sock tan might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect trip, but we also went away with incredible memories and the knowledge that we saw more of salty and sun-soaked Paxos than most people do. Maybe next time I go to Paxos I’ll spend more time in a lounge chair by the pool, but now that I know what awaits if you choose to hit the trails, I’m not so sure…
By: Mandy Haakenson
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