Lefkada is situated in the Ionian, just to the west of the Greek mainland, to the north of Kefalonia and Ithaka, and to the south of Corfu and Paxos. It is one of the easiest Greek islands to reach, as it is not really an island in the true sense of the word, being linked to the Greek mainland by a long causeway and a swing bridge. By using flights to Preveza or Corfu, a stay on Lefkada can easily be combined with a stay on Paxos or Epirus as well as with a stay on Meganisi to create a two-or even three-centre holiday. By using flights to Kefalonia it is possible to combine a stay on Lefkada with a stay on Kefalonia.
Lefkada has been linked in mythology to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and to Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey. Some people believe that several passages in the Odyssey point to Lefkada as a possible model for Homer’s Ithaca. The island was part of the Despotate of Epirus until 1295 and since then it has been ruled by the Venetians, Ottomans and British. It has only been an island since the seventh century BC when the Corinthians dug a trench across the narrow strip of land connecting it to the mainland.
Although many small resorts have sprung up along the east and south coasts and it is extremely popular with visiting yachtsmen, Lefkada has maintained its traditions and Greek character, and is still considered one of the least spoiled islands in the Ionian. Much of the island’s interior is mountainous with peaks rising to over 3,700 feet, while elsewhere the countryside is gentler and in many places pine and olive trees go right down to the water’s edge. Along the east and south coasts is a string of little bays and inlets with lovely pebble beaches and clear water that provide safe anchorages for the many yachts that visit the island, while on the west coast there are dramatic cliffs, at the foot of which are white sand beaches and water of the deepest turquoise. To the east of the island there are several very pretty little offshore islands, including the island of Skorpios that was once owned by Aristotle Onassis.
Lefkada has a population of about 22,000, about a third of whom live in Lefkada town. Along the east coast there is a string of small resorts (Lygia, Nikiana, and Perigiali) between Lefkada town and Nidri and in the south the world famous windsurfing resort of Vassiliki. Inland are many traditional villages, such as Karya, where centuries-old crafts such as lace-making and carpet-making are still practised.
Lefkada is quite a large island (22 miles long and 9 miles wide) and, although there is a fairly good bus service operating between Lefkada town, many of the villages along the east coast and Vassiliki in the south, public transport to other parts of the island is very infrequent. A hire car is therefore essential for exploring the lovely traditional inland villages and the dramatic west coast. Roads on Lefkada have improved enormously over the past 20 years and the main east coast road is now extremely good for most of its length and even has a few stretches of dual carriageway; many other roads have been surfaced and widened so that they are now wide enough for cars to pass over most of their length. Small motor boats, which can be hired from most of the resorts on the east coast, provide a wonderful way to explore the coastline with its pretty offshore islands and numerous little pebble beaches. They are also a good way to explore the neighbouring island of Meganisi, as the operating area usually extends to the easternmost point of the island (Atherinos Bay) and half-way down the west coast. From Nidri there are ferries to the island of Meganisi and to Kefalonia.
Lefkada town is the largest settlement on the island but it is a very pleasant place in which to spend time, as many of the traditional houses have been preserved and the centre has now been completely pedestrianised. It has a wide range of shops and numerous tavernas, cafés and bars line the waterfront. Many visiting yachts berth alongside the town quay and there is also a large marina. The town doesn’t have a own beach but the nearest is just a couple of kilometres away at at Agios Ioannis.
The village has a very pretty little harbour where the fishing fleet ties up with several very good fish tavernas and bars. It also has a nice little pebble beach and a very pleasant pedestrianised walkway along the seafront with lovely views across to the mainland.
Nikiana is a very long village either side of the main road but it has a good pebble beach that is away from the road, a pretty little harbour and numerous shops and tavernas.
Although only a couple of kilometres from Nidri, Perigiali is a much quieter place. It has a lovely pebble beach (Pasa Beach) and quite a large harbour. It also has a couple of tavernas and small shops, and for a much wider choice Nidri is only a 20-minute walk. The area above Perigiali is one of the favoured positions for villas and many have wonderful views across to the offshore islands and the mainland beyond.
Nidri, half way down the east coast, is the island’s main resort and a very good base from which to visit other parts of the island, as well as other islands. It has a lovely waterfront with a great selection of tavernas, bars and shops, and there is much less traffic since the opening of the by-pass. There is a wide selection of boat trips from Nidri and it is well-connected by public transport to both Lefkada town and Vassiliki; ferries run from here to Meganisi and Kefalonia. There are also some lovely walks from Nidri and a wide range of watersports available from its long shingle beach.
The village is on the main road just to the south of Nidri. It has a relatively attractive waterfront with several tavernas and bars, and many yachts moor here.
Geni isn’t really a village as such but more a number of very nice villas and smart tavernas, many of which have their own moorings, spread out around Vlicho Bay. The nearest beach is a couple of kilometres away at Dessimi Bay.
The old hilltop village has retained its traditional character and is still very uncommercialised but there has been significant development over the past few years around the port, which is a few kilometres downhill. The area is known as Poros Beach, Rouda Bay or Mikros Gialos and is now easily accessible as the road down that used to be single track with passing places for most of its length has now been significantly improved. The bay is divided into two by a little headland: in the southern half is a broad pebble and coarse sand beach that is arguably the best on the east coast and is backed by several tavernas, bars and cafés; in the northern half of the bay the fishing boats tie up and there are some very good traditional fish tavernas.
The village is at the head of a very pretty creek and has developed considerably over recent years. It is very popular with sailors, as it provides a very safe anchorage and is a major flotilla base. It has a wide selection of tavernas and bars around the harbour along with several well-stocked supermarkets. Sivota only has a very small beach but Poros Beach is only a short drive away.
This is a traditional village and a very pleasant place in which to spend time. It has a wide selection of shops, bars and tavernas, many of which are to be found just inches from the water. There is a very long beach in Vassiliki Bay, which is recognised as one of the best windsurfing locations in the world, and boats run regularly to several of the beaches on the west coast.
Along the east coast there are numerous pebble and coarse sand beaches, most of which can be reached easily from the road or on foot but some of which can only be reached by boat. Some are organised with sun beds and umbrellas but most are not. The sea on this side of the island is usually calm and most of the beaches shelve relatively gradually, so are fairly safe for children.
Dessimi Bay and Rouda Bay are probably the best beaches and both are relatively large. Dessimi Bay has a couple of tavernas and Rouda Bay has a much wider selection.
Pasa Beach just to the north of Perigiali is a lovely little pebble beach.
Agios Ioannis is one of the nearest beaches to Lefkada town.
Kathisma Beach is a very long and wide beach just to the south of Agios Nikitas and is reached via a very good road. The beach is beautiful white sand and the sea an unbelievable shade of aquamarine. There are umbrellas and sun beds for hire, and there are several tavernas offering a wide range of food.
Other West Coast Beaches (Milos, Kalamitsi, Athani, Egremni and Porto Katsiki) all have fine white sand and wonderful turquoise water, and are breathtakingly beautiful.
The Island of Meganisi also has some lovely beaches that can easily be reached using the car ferry from Nidri and then walking for a couple of kilometres or by hiring a small motor boat.
Things to do
Motor Boat Hire - Small motor boats can be hired from most of the resorts on the east coast and provide a good way to visit the many beaches and offshore islands along this stretch of coast. Depending on where you hire your boat, it is often also possible to visit some of the beaches on neighbouring Meganisi.
Sailing – There are several yachts available for skippered charter by the day and from Nidri it is also possible to charter a day yacht, either bareboat or with an instructional skipper, which is a very reasonably priced way of learning to sail.
Other watersports – Scuba diving, sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, water skiing and parascending are available in several east coast resorts and there are extensive facilities for windsurfing in Vassiliki, which is considered by many to be one of the best windsurfing resorts in the world.
Organised trips – There is a very good selection of trips operating out of Nidri, many on smart new boats and at very reasonable prices. These include full-day trips to Kefalonia and Ithaka that also call at Skorpios island and Porto Katsiki or Egremni beach for swimming, and trips to the beautiful islands of Kastos and Kalamos that would otherwise be way off the beaten track for most tourists. There is a smaller selection of trips from Vassiliki, mainly to the west coast beaches. Trips also operate from Agios Nikitas on the west coast, but these usually involve a transfer to Nidri.
Walking – There is an extensive network of footpaths on Lefkada, although some are rather overgrown. Even so, there are some lovely relatively easy walks around Nidri, including the walk up to the waterfalls at Rachi, and the walk along the Geni peninsular to the little church at the end of the peninsular just across from Nidri. It is a spectacular walk up to Poros from Dessimi Bay and there are also some lovely walks on the adjacent island of Meganisi, which can easily be reached using the car ferry from Nidri.