Othoni is the largest island in the Diapontia Islands and the most western point of Greek territory. It is 40 nautical miles from Italy and when the weather is good, the Italian cape of Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca, can be seen.
It has two main settlements, a coastal one called Ammos, which is also the port of the island, and a more mountainous one called Chorio, as well as smaller ones such as Kasimatika and Deletatika.
The boat delivers the visitor to Ammos, a small cove, with a nice beach and the few shops of the island. There is also the fishing shelter, “Avlaki“. In the middle of the island is the settlement of Stavros, on the slopes of the Kalodiki mountain. On the east coast of the island is Akrotiri Kastri, where there are ruins of a Venetian castle, but also the impressive lighthouse, which is at an altitude of 100 meters above sea level. The lighthouse, built in 1872, was destroyed by the Germans on their departure, but was repaired and rebuilt, taking its former form.
Another attraction of the island is the white cross in the homonymous area of the island, a monument to the great massacre of inhabitants by the famous pirate, Barbarossa in 1537.
Paths and dirt roads, surrounded by lush vegetation, connect the coast to the interior thus making the island a paradise for hiking enthusiasts.
The vegetation in this fertile haven is abundant. The island is full of cypresses, chestnuts, plane trees, holly trees, myrtles, wild olives, coconuts, tamarisk, squash, oaks, heather, sage, thyme, capers, milkweed and asparagus.
There are many huge olive trees on the island that are more than 400 years old. About 300 species of plants have been identified on Othoni to date. It is also an important station for many migratory bird species.
The area offers guests ultimate peace and seclusion. Accommodation is provided at the hotel and there are also rooms to let on the isle.
If you do not have a boat, frequent trips to the island are made either from the port of Corfu or from the port of Agios Stefanos Avlioton during summer. Strong winds sometimes blow in the area of Diapontia.
A variety of attractions, enchanting landscapes and vibrant blue-green waters compose an unexpectedly wonderful tourist destination, ideal for sailing and quiet vacations.
The physiognomy of the island is similar to that of Corfu. Othoni is characterized by rich vegetation which, when, in close proximity to the sea, creates beautiful green-blue watered beaches and coves.
The main beach is, as mentioned above, at Ammos. Most of the island’s shores are steep and rocky. To the west there is the beautiful beach “Aspri Ammos” with the cave of “Kalypso“. Aspri Ammos, as its name suggests, is a sandy beach with fine, white sand, pebbles and crystal clear blue-green waters. Above it stands a vertical rock face that is surprisingly sharp and chiseled.
A little further from the beach is the Cave of Calypso with emerald waters, where according to legend, the nymph Calypso held Odysseus captive for seven years.
North of the island, the bay of Fyki is ideal for diving, with the sunken shipwreck of the vessel, Sara. Around it there are dozens of reefs and islets, with the most important being Koukouli.
As you can see, if you do not have a yacht, renting a boat is essential for discovering all these unique places that the island of Orthoni has to offer, a service that is also provided in the area.
References to the name of the island are varied. Initially the island appears in sources named “Orthonos”, when mentioned in the report by Isichios in the 3rd Century BC. After the Trojan War, Elefinor, king of the Avans in Evia, took refuge on the island, after the fall of Troy, to atone for him having killed his grandfather, Avanta.
From Pliny in the 1st Century AD, the island is listed as “Thoronos” and then in the 6th Century AD it is mentioned by the Byzantine historian Procopius, on the occasion of the looting of Corfu by the Ostrogoths in 551 AD, as “Othonos”.
Secondary references to the name of the island come largely from folklore research, which has no historical evidence, in the absence of historical sources, thus merely based on the oral tradition of the place.
A typical example is the report of Charilaos Kolla, where, based on the popular tradition of the island, he mentions that the place name “Othonoi” comes from the word “screen” that means white linen cloth, which refers to the sails of the sailing boats.
History - Mythology
According to mythology, Othoni was the island of Calypso, Ogygia, where Odysseus spent seven years in captivity until he escaped by raft to Corfu. According to other mythology, it was Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians, as evidenced by the old name “skaria” that the locals give to the wild fig tree.
The island of Othoni is characterized by a remarkable naval tradition, which is evidenced from the beginning of the 19th century and especially after the Union of Ionian Islands with the newly formed Greek state in 1864, when it could be active in free trade.
Until World War II, Othonian ships crossed the waters of the Ionian, Aegean, Adriatic, Western and Eastern Mediterranean and even the Black Sea. It is worth noting that until the middle of the 20th century, a large portion of the population owned their own sailing boats, yachts and catamarans, many of which were ordered during the two World Wars. The repairs to the vessels took place in the two shipyards on Corfu; in Mantouki and Sidari, also in foreign shipyards on the Dalmatian and Italian coasts.
The main export product was the local olive oil, also the Corfiot oil to the coasts of Epirus, Albania, Austria, Italy and Malta. From there they transported agricultural products or industrial items which served the import needs of the island. Garlic, onions, capers, cod, spices and sails for sailboats were procured from the city of Corfu.
ΙΟΝΙΟ ΠΑΝΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΙΟ. Τμήμα Ιστορίας, ΚΑΡΔΑΚΑΡΗ, Δήμητρα-Χρυσούλα. (2001). “Το Αρχιπέλαγος των Διαποντίων. Οθωνοί, ένα Ακριτικό Νησί”, https://marehist.gr/gr/tributes/07.02.01
ΙΟΝΙΟ ΠΑΝΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΙΟ. Τμήμα Ιστορίας, ΚΑΡΔΑΚΑΡΗ, Δήμητρα-Χρυσούλα. (2003). “Οθωνοί, το Νησί των Ναυτικών”, https://marehist.gr/gr/tributes/07.02.03
Μηχανή του Χρόνου (2015). “Οι ‘χαμένοι’ παράδεισοι του Ιονίου όπου η Καλυψώ παγίδευσε τον Οδυσσέα”, http://news247.gr/eidiseis/mixani-tou-xronou/mhxanh-toy-xronoy-oi-xamenoi-paradeisoi-toy-ionioy-opoy-h-kalypsw-pagideyse-ton-odyssea-kai-h-ereikousa-toy-tsipra.3599573.html 2015
Ortsa.gr: το πρώτο ηλεκτρονικό περιοδικό για τη θάλασσα. (2017). “Διαπόντια Νησιά“, http://www.ortsa.gr/%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%8C%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%BD%CE%B7%CF%83%CE%B9%CE%AC/
IEFIMERIDA (2015). “Τα άγνωστα Διαπόντια Νησιά: το δυτικότερο σημείο της χώρας – κρυστάλλινα νερά, ατελείωτες αμμουδιές, τοπίο μαγεία“, (2015), http://www.iefimerida.gr/news/209356/ta-agnosta-diapontia-nisia-dytikotero-simeio-tis-horas-krystallina-nera-ateleiotes
Naturagraeca: ένας οδηγός για την άγρια φύση της Ελλάδας. “Νησιά: Οθωνοί”, https://www.naturagraeca.com/ws/131,193,228,1,1,%CE%9F%CE%B8%CF%89%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%AF