Meganisi is one of the smallest of the Ionian islands and is situated between the east coast of Lefkada and the Greek mainland. Although not one of the better-known Greek island holiday destinations, it is nevertheless relatively easy to reach using flights to Preveza or Corfu and the ferry from Lefkada, and it can easily be combined with Lefkada, Paxos, Kefalonia or Epirus for a two- or even three-centre holiday.
Meganisi has a long association with smugglers and is said to have been a favourite haunt of pirates. It is also thought to be the island of Taphos that was colonised by Taphius, son of the god Poseidon, and described by Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Since then it has been ruled by the Corinthians, Romans, Venetians, Turks, French and British, before finally becoming part of Greece in May 1864.
Meganisi is a beautiful little island and, although a very popular sailing destination, it has still managed to retain much of its authentic Greek charm. It is a relatively hilly island, much of which is covered in olive groves and pine woods. Along the northern coast there are many beautiful little bays, coves and inlets providing safe anchorage for yachts and wonderful white pebble beaches from which to swim in crystal clear waters. The southern part of the island is relatively rocky and barren, and forms a long tail, on the west coast of which are several large sea caves, including the Papanikoli cave that is said to have sheltered the Papanikolis, one of the most successful Greek submarines during the Second World War.
Meganisi has a permanent population of less than 2,000 and there are just three villages, all in the north of the island and all very different in character: Vathy, the island’s main port; the hilltop village of Katomeri, the island’s administrative centre; and the whitewashed village of Spartochori with its maze of narrow streets and amazing far-reaching views over Spilia Bay, Skorpios, Lefkada and the Greek mainland. All are wonderfully relaxing places in which to spend time and all offer a good selection of shops, tavernas, cafés and bars.
The island is quite small and it is therefore relatively easy to get around. However, as there is only a limited bus service and one taxi, a hire car can be very useful. (The roads have been much improved in recent years and are now unexpectedly good with very little traffic.) Hiring a small motor boat makes it possible to visit most of the beaches on the island and numerous offshore islands, and even to go over to the east coast of Lefkada.
Vathy (often referred to as Little Vathy to avoid confusion with Vathy on Ithaca) is a very pretty little port and a lovely place to have a meal, a drink or even just watch the constant sailing activity. It is a very smart little place and now has a small marina; but it is still a working fishing port and the fishermen can still regularly be seen unloading their catch and mending their nets on the quayside. It has a good selection of reasonably priced fish tavernas, cafés and bars, and also a number of well-stocked little supermarkets, bakeries and butcher’s shops, as well as some smart boutiques. There is no beach actually in Vathy, but it is an easy walk to some of the little beaches around Ambelaki Bay, and Fanari Beach, considered by many to be the best on the island, is a 40-minute walk. Motor boats are available for hire.
Spartochori is a very pretty hilltop village with traditional whitewashed houses and narrow cobbled streets and alleyways. There is therefore very little motorised traffic in the village. It has a few little supermarkets, a bakery and a butcher’s shop, and some very traditional tavernas and bars where there is often Greek music and dancing. It is a steep walk down from Spartochori to Spilia Bay but on the way down there is a wonderful viewpoint with breathtaking panoramic views across to Skorpios, Lefkada and the Greek mainland. The nearest beach to Spartochori is in Spilia Bay and is about a 15-minute walk. There are also several other little beaches just to the west of Spilia Bay.
Katomeri is the administrative centre of the island and is about a 15-minute walk uphill from Vathy. It is a very traditional village with just a few little shops and kafenions, and a wonderful wine shop! The cobbled streets are very narrow and, while it is not really possible to get lost there, you may not always go the way you intended the first time around. There are a limited number of places to eat in the village but it is a very easy to walk to/from Vathy, as there is a well-lit footway all the way. From Katomeri it is just a 20-minute walk down to a couple of really nice beaches.
There are several lovely pebble beaches on Meganisi, especially in the pretty bays on the north-east of the island. They can all be reached easily from the road or on foot, but many people prefer instead to hire a small motor boat. Only a couple of them have sun beds and umbrellas. It is also very easy to visit some of the beaches on the east coast of Lefkada, either by taking your hire car across on the ferry to Nidri or by hiring a motor boat.
Fanari Beach in the very beautiful Atherinos Bay is an absolutely lovely pebble and coarse sand beach that can be reached on foot in 35–40 minutes from Vathy, either via the coast road or via Katomeri. The beach shelves very gently and so is safe for children; and the water is a lovely pale aqua colour. There is a taverna with sun beds and umbrellas at one end of the beach but plenty of space at the other for anyone who prefers a more secluded spot.
Agios Ioannis is a lovely long pebble beach on the west coast of Meganisi, about a 45-minute walk along the pretty little coast road from Spilia Bay or along the top road and down through the pine trees from Spartochori. The beach shelves relatively gently and there is a taverna which only opens in high season. There are wonderful views across to Lefkada if coming along the top road from Spartochori and several other pretty little pebble beaches before reaching Agios Ioannis if coming round the coast road from Spilia.
Spilia Bay has coarse sand and is the nearest beach to Spartochori. There is a very popular taverna here and sun beds and umbrellas for hire.
Elia and Limonari Beaches are quite nice pebble beaches on the east coast of the island and can be reached on foot in about 15 minutes from Katomeri.
Ambelaki Bay has several very pretty little pebble beaches that can be reached on foot in just a few minutes from Vathy. Apart from a taverna, there are no facilities on any of the beaches.
Things to do
Walking – Other than the very long path that goes down the tail of the island to Cape Kefali and the unmade tracks in the Katomeri/Ambelaki/Atherinos/Limonari area, there are very few dedicated footpaths on Meganisi. However, the roads are so quiet that it is lovely just to amble along the little rural lanes. It is a particular pretty walk round the coast road from Spilia Bay to Agios Ioannis Beach and then up the hill to join the top road back to Spartochori; the views back through the pine trees and across to Lefkada are breathtakingly beautiful. It is equally lovely to follow the coast road all the way round from Vathy to Atherinos and Fanari Beach before continuing round Cape Elia to Elia Bay. Walking from Katomeri to Spartochori along the top of the island offers wonderful views across to Lefkada, Kalamos and the Greek mainland.
Motor Boat Hire - Small motor boats can be hired from Vathy and are probably a better way to visit the island’s beaches than hiring a car, as the area in which boats are allowed to operate extends to the easternmost point of the island (Atherinos Bay), half-way down the west coast and across to Lefkada and the off-shore islands.
Sailing – There are several yachts available on Meganisi for skippered charter by the day and day yachts, with or without a skipper, can be chartered from Nidri.
Other watersports – Scuba Diving, Sea Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding courses are available.
Trips to Lefkada - The car ferry to Nidri on Lefkada operates several times a day even in low season, with the first ferry leaving Vathy/Spilia at 07.30/07.45 and the last one returning from Nidri at about 17.00. Independent day trips to Lefkada are therefore very easy to arrange.