Paxos – Limestone and Little Villages

Paxos – Limestone and Little Villages

Paxos and Antipaxos, together called Paxoi, are the smallest island group in the Ionian, just south of Corfu. On September the 7th we sailed to Lakka, a small village on the northern end of Paxos. We knew Lakka is a popular anchorage, so we wanted to be there early in the afternoon in order to secure a place. We had some mayhem along the way, however, so we didn’t arrive until 7 pm – the bay looked absolutely packed as I was looking through my binoculars, but we sailed closer to have a look. After all, there’s always room for an optimist – and there was! In fact, more than ten boats came after us, and somehow they all managed to squeeze in.

There sure were a lot of boats! The large, protected bay of Lakka is only about 3 metres deep, so you get by with very little anchor chain. And once you’ve stayed for a while, you get used to being close to other boats and it no longer bothers you. But we’ve heard stories about sudden strong winds turning the place into total chaos – anchor chains crossing and wrapping together, boats dragging and taking other boats with them. In a crowded place the “chain reaction” happens quickly, and the only way to save your boat is to get your anchor up as quickly as possible, and get to the open sea, where there’s always room. Fortunately, the forecast for the next few days was very benign, so we had no worries.

Lakka is a very pretty little village. There’s a row of seaside restaurants, and a few more in the narrow streets and small squares behind. There are small boutiques and a good little supermarket – the owner was pleased to see Finnish customers, and told us that he likes to watch ski jumping on TV every winter! He was also an enthusiastic traveller, and had visited the Scandinavian countries many times.

The anchorage was full of buzz in the evenings, as people headed into town for dinner. The town quay was full of rubber dinghies! Lakka seemed to be a particular favourite among charter and flotilla boats, who Med-moored at the town quay. It was nice to see so many charter tourists as well as customers in the many restaurants, because the travel industry in Greece has suffered greatly during the corona spring and early summer. In the Ionian islands in particular, that rely on tourism, the situation had been severe, and everyone was trying to make the best of it now that they had the chance. We had slightly contradictory feelings about the busy, crowded tourist towns – it was great for the local economy, of course, but a bit awkward for us, because we had lived the last six months in almost total seclusion.

We dinghied around the northern tip of Paxos. The limestone cliffs had petrified into fantastic shapes. There were small caves, deserted sandy beaches and rugged rocks. The water was incredibly clear and turquoise, and you could see the bottom more than 10 metres deep.

After a few leisurely days in Lakka, we pulled up our anchor and sailed down the western coast of Paxos. We wanted to see the the great stone walls and caves, frequented by tourist boats many times a day.

At the famous Blue Cave we encountered two of these big boats. One of them turned the disco speakers on while inside the cave, as loud as can be – we really hoped they had a defibrillator on board! But the caves were magnificent.

Then we anchored for a few nights in the small bay of Mongonissi, at the southern end of Paxos. It was a tranquil, pleasant place with a couple of restaurants on the beach. One had the best pizza we’ve had in the whole of Mediterranean, with very authentic Italian taste. The bay seemed to be popular with day boaters.

From Mongonissi we made a day trip on our dinghy to Gaios, about a mile away. Gaios is the main town of Paxos. It’s built along a canal of sorts, formed by the island of Agios Nikolaos. The little town has a very Venetian air with small squares, churches and cafes, all bordering the canal. The sides of the canal are packed with boats. In the evening, when the ferry traffic stops, cruising boats can moor at the town quay.

Gaios, Paxos

The views along the canal were very pretty.

The quaint little streets are full of tourist paraphernalia, but a little further on you will find more peaceful and scruffy neighbourhoods.

Now it was time to leave Paxos behind. On September the 15th we sailed back to the mainland. The next morning we would read a hair-raising weather forecast, but as yet we were blissfully ignorant. What do you think was on its way to Greece? Next time I’ll tell you.

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