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Othoni island

Othoni (also known as Othonoi) is a small Greek island in the Ionian sea bordering with the Adriatic sea. The island is located northwest of Corfu, and is the westernmost point of Greece. Othoni is the largest island in the Diapontian Islands Archipelago. Othoni  has an area of 10.078  km2 and population of around 400 people.


By the 19th century the island was the capital of the municipality of the Diapontian Islands which included the nearby islands of EreikoussaMathraki, the islets and rocks of Diakopo, Diaplo, Karavi, Kastrino, Leipso, Ostrako, Plaka, Plateia and Tracheia.


Othoni is about 40 nautical miles from Corfu Town, 9 nautical miles from Northern Corfu and 45 nautical miles from Cape Santa Maria di Leuca in Italy.




The first name according to ancient texts (Hesychius, 3rd cent. BC) was "Othronos", "Othronoi" and by Procopius "Othone" (6th c.). According to Pliny (1st cent.) it was "Thoronos" . Other names were "Fidonisi" (Snake island) because of the many snakes that are said to have invaded the island, and "Fano" (Lamp) which is used on nautical charts and by the Italians because of the lighthouse situated on the northeast extreme of the island.



According to legend, in ancient times it was the island of nymph Calypso, who lived in a large cave. Odysseus fell in love with Calypso and remained as her prisoner there for seven years. Homer called the island, Ogygia. Due to his scriptures there was a strong scent of cypress on Ogygia. Othonoi is still home to an unusually large amount of cypress trees. Odysseus  finally left the island on a raft and was shipwrecked off Scheria, the modern island of Corfu. This is an extra element that justifies the legend of Othonoi being Ogygia, because of the short distance that separates the two islands. According to Hesychius, after the Trojan WarElephenor, king of Avantes from Euboea fled to the island after the fall of Troy, to atone for the murder of his grandfather, Abas.



At the beginning of the second millennium, the island was conquered in turns by the Franks (11th century), the Venetians (12th century), while being plagued by the pirates of Barbary and Algeria.

From the end of 1383 until 1386 the domination of Corfu was held by Charles III of Naples. In a letter from April 19, 1383, he granted the usufruct of Othoni, Ereikoussa, Mathraki, Diapolo and Vido, to the knight Theodore Skaliti as fief.

In 1537, the Turkish fleet under the command of Hayreddin Barbarossa laid waste to the island and massacred the inhabitants of Othoni island after a long battle. In the district of Stavros at an altitude of 217 meters a lone white stone cross commemorates the souls lost.


The last large migration to Othoni came from PaxosIoanninaParga and the region of Epirus, most, sailing in the wake of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when the destruction of the Turkish fleet allowed for safe intra-island travel. After the last migration, residents of Othoni colonised the two other small islands, Ereikoussa and Mathraki. In 1815, the English took over Othoni.


With the Treaty of March 29, 1864, between the three powers (EnglandFranceRussia) and the Kingdom of Greece, the Ionian Islands including the Diapontian islands passed to the then Kingdom of Greece on 21 May 1864. The island Sazan, west of Albania, was ceded to Greece with the rest of the Ionian Islands as part of Diapontia Islands, but not occupied, coming under de facto Ottoman control. After the end of the Second Balkan War in 1913, Italy and Austria-Hungary pressed Greece to evacuate the southern part of modern Albania. Finding the island too unimportant to risk war with Italy, Greece ignobly evacuated it.



Most Othonians (local dialect: Thoniotes) have migrated to Corfu, Athens and the U.S.A. (1900-1960). The islands main industry was olive oil production while there was a significant cultivation of vines, beekeeping and livestock.

Most men were mariners (sailors, bosuns, ships-carpenters, captains and worked in the merchant marine as well as war ships around the world. Today tourism, fishing and agricultural production are the main occupations on the island.



Othoni is divided into two regions,  Ano Panta and Kato Panta . There are more than 20 settlements scattered around the island.



Most beaches on the island are accessible by boat, including Ammos, Molos, Kamini, Kanoula, Kontosykies, Rogi, Fyki, Xilosermi, and Aspri Ammos. Othoni is well known for underwater photography because of the peculiar geomorphology of its seabed and its many caves. Other points of interest are the Moshopontikas, Xylosermi, Fyki bays (in the last there is a sunken wreck). Othoni was frequently visited by the French naturalist Jacques Yves Cousteau and his exploratory vessel Calypso which was named after Calypso cave in Othoni.



The traditional trails were cleared and used by the first inhabitants, and were subsequently reopened by the municipality and private initiatives. Locals and visitors can use foot trails to reach almost every nook and cranny of the island on foot, as well as Mount Imerovigli (Merovigli) the highest peak of the island at over 390 metres (1,280 ft), with views of the other Diapontia Islands, Corfu, Albania, Italy and the Ionian and Adriatic sea.



Othoni island and its seabed are part of the pan-European  NATURA 2000 network of protected habitats. The island remains an unspoiled Mediterranean paradise.



The island is almost completely covered by trees which produce a small species of olive, the "Elea the cherry" (Olea microcarpa), commonly Lianolia or ladoelia, with a high content of high quality oil, which is common in all the Ionian Islands. It was densely planted during Venetian rule, so most are aged 300–400 years exceeding a height of 7 meters (23 ft). There are cypresses and fruit trees on almost all mountain slopes. The tall mulberry (or Skamnia) and fig (or Skeria) are found in nearly all districts and gardens that host many species of fruit and vegetables, and features large cabbage called by Othoniotes cramps, as in Cyprus. Most houses have, instead of tents or sheds, pergolas with vines or pergoulies. Oregano, sage and many other herbs.



Othoni is the first migratory bird station in southeastern Europe from Libya, especially for turtle doves. There are also grouse and snipe (xilokotes) during the winter months, and Petritis falcons, the European bee-eater birds, martinsravens and several species of eagles. There are several hares and rabbits. The most common species of reptile is the viper (Vipera ammodytes or astritis). Marine mammals have been observed off the island's coast, including the bottlenose dolphin, at least three species of sharks (including white shark), while sporadically near the cave of Calypso there have been monk seals. Also found are almost all varieties of marine fauna, such as the white sea bream, red mullet, the snapper, the grouper, the bumpkin (weighing up to 30 pounds), octopusmoray, the stingraylobster. Remarkable is the presence of barnacles and sea urchinsZooplankton is in small coves of the island and especially in seaweed is abundant at night, and when the sea is calm, the plankton illuminates the sea bed.



The climate of Othoni is mild, and generally warm and temperate. The winters are rainier than the summers. The average temperature in Othoni is 16.7 °C and the island sees 1026 mm of precipitation annually.



A dialect is spoken resembling that of Corfu and having a similar prosody. It is heavily influenced by Italian.



The island is accessible by boat with regular services from Corfu Port and Agios Stefanos Avliotes. On the island there is a port in Avlakia district (with fishing harbour), for several small private yachts and boats.The island has a heliport for emergencies. Asphalt roads are available on many parts of the island, about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) of which are extended to settlements. There is complete electrification and a telephone network with Internet access.

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