Of the 6,000 or so Greek islands, there can’t be many prettier than Paxos and Antipaxos in the Ionian Sea. See them both in a day on a minicruise from Corfu.
Although there are quicker and cheaper public transport ferries and hydrofoils from Corfu to Paxos, we took Ionian Cruise’s excursion – for €30 you get a return coach transfer from your hotel in Corfu to the port at Corfu Town, and a day at sea.
It was a long day and an early start (we were picked up from Kalami at 7.20am), so we were grateful for the on-board shop for some breakfast. It sold water and coffee, while the ‘chef’ cooked pork souvlaki on his George Foreman grill (€1.50 a skewer) as we made our way on the two-and-a-half hour journey to Paxos.
The towns of Paxos lie on the island’s east coast, but we cruised down the west coast and didn’t see a soul. The coastline here is punctuated with limestone cliffs, caves and the bluest of blue seas.
Our boat entered some of the bigger caves before reversing out – there was a queue of tour boats lining up to do the same. Apart from the boats, this side of the island appeared to be deserted.
Our next stop was the tiny island of Antipaxos, just 2km south of Paxos. I say stop, but this could be the most gorgeous island I’ve seen but never actually set foot on. The colours of the sea here made even those around Paxos look a bit rubbish. Our boat stopped amongst the millionaire’s yachts in the aquamarine water, letting us jump off for a half-hour swim.
Frustratingly, we were too far from dry land (and the gorgeous sandy beach) to say we’d actually been to Antipaxos, so all I’ve got to remember this paradise island by are photographs (and the spikes in my foot I’ve still got after stepping on a sea urchin).
Before we headed back to Corfu, we had a measly two hours in Paxos’s busy main town, Gaïos. The narrow harbour here is protected by a small island, while bars and tavernas line the waterfront beside a pretty Venetian square with a church.
Seeing all the posh yachts, we had a feeling it might be a bit pricey here, but were pleasantly surprised when our late lunch cost us less than we would have paid in Corfu. We were less impressed when two glasses of Aperol Spritz set us back €16.
As we wandered the lanes crammed with souvenir shops and packed with day-trippers like ourselves, we both said Paxos is a place we’d definitely come back to one day (ideally for more than two hours).
Before boarding the boat for our return to Corfu, we had time for a quick drink at a harbour-side bar, taking in the pastel-coloured buildings as we watched yachts from Norway and Croatia attempt to reverse moor.
The highlight of the trip back was the water fight between us and Ionian Cruise’s second boat. There was one boat for the Greeks, Brits, Germans and Italians, while the Russians had a boat all to themselves. I’m not sure if anti-Russian sanctions had begun early, or this just made things easier for the multi-lingual tour guide on our boat.
Crew members passed around water balloons before declaring war on the Russians. I’m not sure what a conservationist like Simon Reeve would say about the hundreds of burst balloons ending up in the Ionian Sea every day!
After that, there was time to enjoy a Mythos in the sun and reflect on an excellent bit of island-hopping before our 7pm arrival back in Corfu Town.