The south of the island is empty but for a few Homeric sites and the main port of VATHI. The port has one of the most idyllic seafront settings in Greece, nestled at the end of a long, deep bay and embraced by mountains. The wooded islet of Lazaretto sits in the bay where a quarantine station was built in 1668. It was converted to a prison in 1864 and demolished by the earthquake in 1953. All that remains are trees and a picturesque, whitewashed church. Unfortunately the idyl ends as you step ashore onto an unprepossessing quayside lined with functionally bland buildings that owe something to pre-quake architecture, but not much. A preservation order in 1978 prevented unsightly building and protected the town from naked commercial development but the results are nothing to send postcards home about. The utilitarian view is not enhanced by a large car park and some seedy looking tavernas on the quayside. There is also a small and impressively dull archaeological museum that appears to survive only on daily diet of whistle-stop tour visitors. The best of the island treasures were carted off to Athens or looted by European archaeologists long ago. The poor state of island roads makes Vathi the best base for exploring by boat although there are several out-of-town walks to sites that claim a mention in the Odyssey. There are two pebble beaches, also within walking distance, one at DEXIA which gives the bay its name and has water sports and a snack bar. The other is at LOUTSA where there are the ruins of a French fort built in 1805 overlooking the bay and where narrow tracks lead to even quieter coves.
Over the headland is SKINOS with a deserted pebble beach and further east SARAKINO BAY, which has no beach but whose well protected coves are ideal for swimming. The only drawback is an incessant drone from a nearby factory which spoils the atmosphere for miles. The CAVE OF NYMPHS, where Odysseus is said to have hidden some treasure, is on a hillside to the west above Dexia while the beach itself lays claim to being Odysseus' landing point on his return to the island. The cave is, well it's a cave, and has a hole in the roof and a clump of cypress at the entrance. What atmosphere it may have had has been lost in a blaze of tacky coloured lights. Some say this is not even the original cave anyway, the real one being inadvertently demolished in a nearby quarry some years ago. Around 10 km south of Vathi is the ARETHOUSA SPRING where the swineherd Eumaes supposedly brought his pigs to drink. The landscape and sea views are breathtaking but the route is precipitous and you are not advised to walk alone. A difficult rock-strewn descent down a ravine brings you to an unnamed beach opposite the island of PERAPIGADIA. The spring itself is little more than a dribble and many may wonder at the effort taken to get there. The only other sites on interest are PERACHORI, where most of the island wine is produced and where small tavernas open in summer. A wander round the village will reveal the ruins of fortified houses. Nearby is the Monastery of Taxiarchis built in 1645 near the top of the mountain.