Paxos is small enough that a leisurely day’s hiking can take you from one end of the island to the other; yet it manages to squeeze in around 30 beaches. In fact, while renting a car is an easy option, it’s quite feasible to do without one altogether. There’s a bus (yes, one bus) which links the three villages of Gaios, Loggos and Lakka; it ambles across the island four times a day and will stop at any point for passengers. Bikes are another option, although be prepared for some very steep hills; hard work on the way up and ridiculous fun coming back down to sea level. For occasional ventures to the villages (or for a trip back to the villa after an evening at the local taverna), there are 5 taxis on Paxos. And there’s even an option of hiring a motor boat to make your way around the island, as the main settlements all have their own harbours.
By far the most relaxing option is to explore on foot. In true Greek style, few paths are marked, so heading off without a bit of forward planning can lead to some confusion and may end up with a walk along the ‘main’ road. But there are many off-road tracks, old routes used by locals for generations, and these offer the best way to get beneath the skin of Paxos.
The natural attractions of the island are readily found on almost any walk. Butterflies are plentiful, and in the spring there’s a profusion of wild flowers along the trails. Late April and May herald the short firefly season, where these tiny buzzing torches can be seen lighting up the olive groves. And on the other end of the size scale, you’re quite likely to encounter one of the island’s donkeys while walking; they’re typically friendly creatures who will often seek out a bit of human company if they get the chance.
Olive trees are everywhere – around 300,000 across the island, and they produce some of Greece’s finest oil. They were introduced to Paxos by the Venetians, and before tourists arrived it was the olive trees which brought Paxiots their main income. You can still visit some of the old olive presses around Paxos (a few still work, while others are now museum pieces).
It’s worth picking up a walking map of Paxos before you set off on a cross-island adventure – The Bleasdale Walking Map is recommended; they’re readily available on the island and will help you distinguish between a footpath and a long dead-end path leading to a farmer’s house; invaluable when the only signs along the way are probably in Greek.
by Andy Jarosz