Whether you’re walking through an olive grove or tucking into tzatziki in a little fishing village, you can rely on a daily dose of Greek culture on a holiday to Paxos.
The littlest Ionian
As far as Greek Islands go, Paxos is a case study in best practice. Measuring just 10 kilometres by 4 kilometres, it’s not big enough to have an airport, so it’s never been developed to cater for planes full of passengers. Instead, discerning travellers head over here by hydrofoil from Corfu, to explore a coast contoured with secluded pebble bays and coves, and an interior covered with some of the oldest olive groves in Greece.
Gaios and Loggos
Paxos’ micro population of 2,500 people is most concentrated in its harbour towns. The capital of Gaios is the busiest, relatively speaking. Visitors here distribute themselves around the waterfront and the Venetian Square. Five kilometres up the coast, there’s Loggos, where the smile-shaped waterfront is lined with tavernas, serving homemade Greek classics like tzatziki and meze.
It’s a similar story in Lakka. You’re more likely to see boats with masts rather than motors at the moorings here – the harbour is sheltered inside a horseshoe-shaped bay, so the conditions go down a storm with sailors. What’s more, the beaches in the part of the island offer swathes of sand around all the pebbles.
Things to See and Do in Paxos
30 beaches and counting
There’s a beach for every day of the month on Paxos’ east side alone. And, for an island that flies below most tourists’ radars, some of them are surprisingly well organised, with sand-side tavernas and sunloungers. Of course, deserted beaches are here for the taking, too – some parts of the island’s coast can only be accessed by boat, so headcounts are low.
The big beach
Kipiadi Beach is the longest on Paxos. It’s a pebbly stretch, backed by scrubland, so it’s got a wild look to it. Most people get here by boat, so you’ll often see yachts bobbing in the water. You can drive here, though. There’s a little car park a few hundred metres from the beach, and a walking trail that leads to the sand.
The secret beach
Some of Paxos’ beaches are so incognito they don’t have names to identify them. The island is scalloped with bays and coves that can only be accessed by boat. If you hire a motorboat you can go searching for them. The best place to look is the west coast, around the Ortholithos Stack.
You won’t find identikit jewellery in Paxos. Most of the island’s jewellers are metal smiths, who customise each piece individually. A good portion of Paxos’ artisan jewellers have set up shop in and around Loggos Harbour.
Apart from a few seaside souvenir shops and the handful of women’s clothing stores in Giaos Square, shops are a bit thin on the ground in Paxos, so serious spenders should catch the ferry from Gaios to Corfu Town.
After centuries of production, Paxos has got olive oil down to a fine art. Pick up a bottle from the source at the Olive Oil Museum, just outside Magazia. This is also the place to stock up on olive oil soaps and beauty products. If you’re in Lakka, meanwhile, you can pick up cheap and cheerful souvenirs, like magnets and beach bags, in the gift shops near the waterfront.
Paxos subscribes to the ‘slow and steady wins the race’ school of thought. Most evenings on the island are exactly that. Visitors gravitate to the waterfronts in Lakka, Loggos and Gaios in search of good tavernas and low key cocktail bars, like the ones at the south end of Loggos harbour. Eremitis Bay, meanwhile, is the place to go to watch the sunset over a cocktail.
Lively isn’t a word that’s often used to describe Paxos’ nightlife. That said, there is some after-hours action to be found if you look hard enough. In Lakka, there are a couple of bars in the harbour that offer 2 for 1 happy hour cocktails. In Gaios, a few bars on Panagioti Kanga and Gaios Square offer the right kind of warm up for late nights in the island’s only two nightclubs. One is near the petrol station and the other is by the harbour. In both places, DJs play sets of dance and R&B.
Paxos fish stew
This dish breaks a golden rule of serving fish, by pairing fresh white mullet or sea bream and prawns with red wine. It’s worth the culinary rebellion, though, because this stew, with paprika, potatoes and cloves, is served in some of Paxos’ best restaurants.
Essentially, this is a grown-up cheese on toast, except it’s served without the bread. To make it, chefs take a local Greek cheese, like feta, grill it until it bubbles, and drizzle it in honey, and sometimes sesame seeds. The finished product is then served in a bed of fresh salad.
Every town in Paxos has a bakery, and tropita are their hot cakes in terms of sales. These savoury snacks are made by layering pastry with a cheese and egg mixture and baking them until they turn golden brown. They taste even better when eaten on the beach, after a swim.
Paxos flies the flag for traditional Greek dishes and kleftiko is no exception. This melt-in-your-mouth dish is made by slow cooking lamb with vegetables and herbs. Some chefs stir a little feta into the dish to add flavour and give it a more creamy texture.
The tiny population of Antipaxos take their wines seriously. As such, there are more vines on the island than there are people. Antipaxos wine is red, rich and arguably the best in the Ionian Island chain. You can tell it apart from other wines due to its slightly black colouring.
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