At the north-west corner of the map of Corfu, three small islands
of barren appearance, of barren soil and of barren recollection,
are now beginning to develop for tourism. If you are seeking solitude
and peace, search for the Diapontian Islands.
The Diapontian Islands were colonised after the sea battle of
Naupactos in 1571, when the islanders, who were under Venetian
rule, started to move away in search of greater safety. It was
then that people from Paxos and Parga came to Othonoi and once
their families increased in size, they crossed to the other two
islands. Thus is explained the number of surnames which are common
to all three islands and also to Paxos. A strong characteristic
of the islanders is their intense desire to emigrate to America
and Australia, a tendency which began in 1850.
Othonoi forms the westernmost point of Greece. It covers 10.8 square kilometres, with a width of about 3.6 kilometres, a length of about 5.6 kilometres, and a coastline covering 30 kilometres. Five settlements are scattered over the island, but during winter only Ammos and Stavros have any sort of life. It is a wonderful place for visitors, perfect for a sailing holiday but also for quiet holidays ashore. It is a poor region, and the few islanders who have not emigrated live from fishing and from their few olive trees (36,000 in number).
The way of life led by the people today, however, is not indicative of the island's history. At one time, boats approaching and leaving the Adriatic Sea used to stop here and the harbour of Ammos was always busy. Some ruins on nearby Kastri Hill, probably of a Venetian fortress, and the former Italian name of the island, Fanos, indicate that a lighthouse of great importance to shipping once stood here. The Othoniots were skilled seafarers and built their own caiques. In addition, the island was famed for its good climate, and it is said that during the British Protectorate sick soldiers would be sent here to recuperate.
the boat will leave you at Ammos, a little bay with a pretty beach,
where the few shops that exist on the island are located. Footpaths
and tracks connect with the interior of the island, a paradise
for lovers of walking. In the centre of the island lies the settlement
of Stavros, on the slopes of 'Mount' Kalodiki (217 metres). Most
of the seashore is rocky and precipitous, but in the west there
is the beautiful beach known as 'Aspri Ammos' (White Beach), with
the 'Calypso' cave, and to the north is the Bay of Fiki.
Erikoussa is a round island two kilometres in diameter with a population of around 90. It is said that the name is derived from the heather (reiki), which is to be found all over the island. The configuration of the landscape resembles that of Sidari, on the coast of Corfu opposite. The south coast, where the solitary settlement of Porto is located, is one immense stretch of sand which attracts many visitors from Corfu. A footpath leads northwards through lush vegetation to Pangini Beach. In all, there are 6 settlements on Erikoussa, with about 20 houses each.
The smallest of the Diapontian Islands, Mathraki is located 4 nautical miles from the Cape of Arillas and is 3 square kilometres in size. Its coastline forms bays, of which the two largest, Ammos and Apidies, are used as harbours by the small boats operating the route between Corfu and Mathraki. It boasts beaches of fine sand and is encircled by reefs, shoals and rocks which attract all the fishing boats of the region. At the two extremities of the island stand the twin villages of Ano and Kato Mathraki. You will also find two hotels with fine views and several picturesque little tavernas.