Lefkada holiday guide
In the Ionian family of islands, Lefkada is the black sheep. For a start, it is connected to the mainland by a causeway and bridge, and so does not have to rely on ferries. Unlike the rest of the archipelago, it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, and pronounced Turkish influences give it more in common with the mainland. Lefkada holidays take you to something of an under-appreciated—and slightly oddball—gem, with intricate lagoons and marshes, spectacular cliffs, bays, and headlands, and some of the best beaches in Greece. In addition to Lefkada Town and Nidri, there are smaller resorts on the east coast at Perigiali and Nikiana; and regular ferries ply between Lefkada and the nearby islands of Meganissi, Ithaca, and Kefalonia.
Towns and Villages in Lefkada
Lefkada Town, capital of the island, sits at the northern tip where the mainland causeway makes landfall. It is all narrow alleys, pastel-coloured, balconied houses, and—clustered around the central square of Agios Spiridonos—pedestrianized streets with little private churches. Outside the centre, the accent is more maritime, with lagoons, marinas, marshes, beaches, and windmills. Nidri, half-way down the east coast, is the island’s major resort, set amongst mountains, headlands, and small islets, and at the entrance to a huge wooded inlet.
Countryside in Lefkada
With the lagoons and wetlands of its northern tip, the headlands, bays, and islands of the east, and the soaring cliffs and blinding sands of the west coast, it is remarkable that Lefkada is not better known. Add a sparsely populated, cypress-slashed, and mountainous interior, rising to 1,158 metre Mount Stavrota, and you have enough variety to keep all but the most restless traveller happy. And Lefkada has an ace up the sleeve that no other Ionian island can match: if you do get itchy feet, you can cross to the mainland in a car.
Arts and culture in Lefkada
Check out the lush private churches in the capital, not only for their religious trappings but also, in some, for works by Panagiotis Doxaras, the 17th –18th-century founder of the Ionian School of Greek art. The island’s only working monastery, Faneromeni, outside Lefkada Town, is worth a visit for its typical religious art, though nothing you see has any great antiquity—the monastery burned down in 1886. The Lefkada Cultural Centre mounts contemporary exhibitions through the year.
Active pursuits in Lefkada
Apart from walking or cycling in the interior, most active pursuits on Lefkada involve the sea. Nidrihas water skiing and wakeboarding. In Kathisma on the west coast you can paraglide from the hills on to the beach. Mylos Beach is known for wind- and kite-surfing. Sivota and its picturesque ‘flord’ attract yachts, and Vassiliki’s huge, windy, south-facing bay has become a hotspot for water sports in general and windsurfing in particular. In season, the bay becomes a vast nautical Medieval tournament of flapping sails and bright colours.
Eating and drinking in Lefkada
The capital’s eating places, for the most part, have the enchanting views and fractured reflections of waterside locations, or the intimacy of city squares and labyrinthine back-alleys. Elsewhere, beach and village taverns provide laid-back, multi-dish mezzedes and fresh seafood, washed down with Greek wine, brandy, and beer. Look out for Siflogo wines, produced in Lefkada since 1994—you can visit the small winery on the road between Vassiliki and Nidri
History in Lefkada
The star of historical research on Lefkada is Wilhelm Dorpfeld, the fruits of whose labours are displayed in the Lefkada Archaeological Museum. There is a statue dedicated to him in the capital. Dorpfield—who died on the island in 1940—was a pioneer of modern archaeology, though his claims that the bay of Nidri, not Ithaca, was the real home of Odysseus get little credence outside dyed-in-the-wool Lefkada patriots. The workaday past is commemorated by the assorted bric-a-brac of the Phonograph, Radio and Tradition Museum.
Relaxation in Lefkada
Most visitors slip right into the sandals-and-shorts informality of the island, with eating, sunbathing and napping high on the agenda. But there is ample room for more active relaxation: walking, riding, or water-sports. Although not stuffed with places to visit, there are enough to keep the holiday ticking over: drive in the mountains, explore Santa Maura castle or the windmills west of the capital, visit little villages like inland Karyaand its little Folklore Museum located in a lace-maker’s cottage, or nip over to the Greek mainland.
Coast in Lefkada
For populous, usually shingle, beaches near a variety of facilities and with complex headland and island views, look to the east coast. For vertiginous cliffs dotted with caves and sandy beaches, with unrestricted views out to sea that are especially dreamy at sunset, then head west. Particularly good are the ones on pretty Dessimi and busy Rouda bays near Nidri, and on the west coast Mylos Beach, accessible by water taxi from Ai Nikitas. As for the colour of the sea, ‘blue’ just does not cover it.