1. YOU CAN GET THERE BY CAR
Lefkada is the only island destination you can reach without stepping foot on a boat. Just pack your luggage in the car and hit the road.
Passage from mainland Greece to Lefkada, via the island’s floating bridge, takes about one minute. So, forget the stress of catching a flight or reaching the port in time, forget crowded airplanes and ferries and waiting in long queues. You can wake up any time you like, take your car, play your music and arrive on the island easily and safely before you know it.
The recently completed Ionian Motorway has drastically reduced driving time, making the island a great destination even for a long weekend.
2. LEFKADA’S BEACHES ARE PHENOMENAL
Crystalline turquoise water and long, gorgeous beaches are to be found in abundance on “Lefkada”. The island’s Blue Flag Award-winning beaches consistently top international travel guides for the world’s best vacation destinations.
Porto Katsiki, Lefkada’s most famous beach, is undoubtedly the crown jewel of the island’s remarkable coast. Steep cliffs meet the pebbled shore and cyan waters of this aptly named beach (Porto Katsiki means “Goat’s Cove”). Your awe will remain undiminished, no matter how many times you return.
Egremni, another extraordinary sandy beach on the island’s western coast, boasts its own dedicated pilgrims. It’s pristine waters are currently accessible only by boat from the villages of Nydri and Vasiliki. (Those who don’t enjoy travel in small boats can instead take the picturesque winding road to Gialos, a beach very similar to Egremni).
The village and beach of Aghios Nikitas, with its calm waters and exquisite landscape, is a perfect choice for families. From here, you can take a short boat ride, or the scenic footpath, to Milos Beach.
At Pefkoulia the pine forest reaches down to the sand, and the sea is perfect for a cool dip in your bathing – or your birthday – suit. Kathisma appears to change color throughout the day, and it is well worth staying until sunset, when you’ll see the sky adorned in pink.
True Lefkada insiders often opt to the crystal waters of Kalamitsi Beach, the epitome of peace and quiet. The road leading there is winding and narrow but you’ll be amply rewarded by the scenery once you arrive.
In the south, you’ll find Vasiliki, a windsurfer’s paradise. From here you may continue to tiny Agiofilli, with its characteristic Ionion blue waters. Ammoudi, Afteli and Sivota are three more beaches worth visiting on the southern coast, that usually attract fewer visitors. As you head to the east, the coastline, dotted with small seaside taverns, slowly softens.
Sheltered from the wind, the calm beaches of Lefkada’s eastern shore (Lygia, Episkopi, Nikiana, Perigiali, Nidri, Desimi, Mikros Gialos) are a great choice for those traveling with children, or for days when the wind pummels the western coast with large waves. Finally, Kastro, Ammoglossa, Gyra and Agios Ioannis, the beaches closest to Lefkada’s Old Town, offer residents and visitors convenient, refreshing dips.
3. LEFKADA’S MOUNTAIN VILLAGES WILL ELEVATE YOUR TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
As the island bakes in the afternoon sun and before your swimsuit has even dried, take a break for a bit of tsipouro (pomace brandy) and delicious mezé where there’s always a cool breeze – under the shady plane trees in the village square of Karya. Its welcoming residents will make you feel like one of the family.
Once you’ve had a glass or two, enjoy a stroll among the beautiful stone houses, drowsy cats and well-groomed gardens where old women sit, often working on traditional embroideries. Then head west to Drimona, a traditional village with cobblestone streets, well-preserved stone houses and lush wisterias that adorn the idyllic scene with their lilac blossoms in the spring.
Next stop is Exanthia. According to local lore, its name refers to the six families (the names means literally “six flowers”) who founded the village centuries ago. Here, the air is redolent with the scent of wild oregano and lemon verbena, and grapevines cling to the freshly whitewashed houses like a lover’s embrace. The village, built amphitheatrically, feels like one dreamlike balcony with arguably the best view to be found in the Ionion Sea.
One of the island’s oldest villages, Eglouvi, is also the village with the highest elevation in Lefkada. Here lentils are still grown according to generations-old farming traditions. The well-deserved fame of these local legumes will almost certainly lead to love at first bite.
Hiking uphill along the footpath you’ll reach St Donato, a beautiful small church. Each year on August 6th, on the eve of St Donato’s feast day, women from the village gather to prepare their traditional lentil soup in earthenware pots. The age-old recipe is served to locals and visitors, accompanied by riganada (a simple, bruscetta-like snack), salt-cured sardines and garden tomatoes. St. Donato is also the site of the famed voltos, the vaulted stone huts believed to have been built during the period of Venetian rule and which are used by lentil farmers as temporary shelters during the summer months.
4. LEFKADA HAS A RICH CULTURAL HERITAGE
It’s doubtful whether one could find a home in Lefkada without, at the very least, a single musician, artist or philosopher. Whether on account of the climate, or its Venetian past, this patch of land is blessed with a cosmopolitan and musical vitality. Lefkada boasts the second oldest marching band in Greece, innumerable conservatories, cultural societies, dance troupes, and literary and theatrical clubs. And they don’t miss a chance to share their passions by hosting events and fiestas throughout the year.
It’s little wonder that the prominent Literature and Arts Festival was first organized here in the 1950’s, followed soon after by Lefkada’s International Folklore Festival, an important cultural landmark that still takes place each August. This “island of poets”, as it’s commonly called, is surely favored by the Muses. One could even characterize the whimsical “Ionian temperament”, as an enticing cocktail of the Apollonian and Dionysian spirit, one that keeps visitors coming back for more.
If you’d like to get a taste of the island’s cultural riches, visit the Angelos Sikelianos Museum, opened in 2017 and housed in the poet’s renovated manor, explore the Archaeological Museum’s collection of notable artifacts, discover the remarkable work and life of Japan’s national poet at the Lafcadio Hearn History Center, peruse the city’s three libraries, the island’s folklore museums, the iconic Venetian Castle of Aghia Mavra which played a decisive role in the island’s history and Faneromeni Monastery, dedicated to Lefkada’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary.
5. IT IS A LAND OF ADVENTURE
If you’re in the mood for trekking, just put on your hiking boots and join the growing number of nature lovers who are already discovering Lefkada’s lesser-known secrets. The island’s diverse ecosystems, spectacular waterfalls, picturesque isolated chapels and lush vegetation offer great escapes from the summer heat.
One popular route begins from the village Kolivata and follows age-old footpaths through Skaros, the famed oak forest immortalized by the poet Sikelianos with its unforgettable view of nearby islets. If you’re keen for even more challenging experiences, Lefkada won’t disappoint you.
Devotees of kite and wind surfing will rejoice at the beaches of Aghios Ioannis and Mylos. Enthusiasts flock here each year to enjoy the area’s regular winds. From spring to mid-autumn, colorful sails dance among the waves in a delightful choreography under the sun. One of the top destinations for windsurfing worldwide is Vasiliki. The region’s unique morphology consistently delivers a thermal wind known to insiders as “Eric”, that builds throughout the day, providing surfers with the perfect conditions to hone their skills.
Diving and snorkeling are excellent choices for whoever wants to explore Lefkada’s underwater world, while those who prefer more playful alternatives can choose from an array of water sports including kayaking, wakeboarding, fly fishing and pedal boating.
6. It’s A FOODie’s PARADISE
Fresh fish straight from the local fishing boats, appetizing small shrimp, leafy greens sprinkled with zesty lemon juice and a cold glass of beer right at the water’s edge: This is the gastronomic epitome of summer. You’ll be licking your fingers every time you enjoy a meal at one of the island’s taverns and restaurants, whether it’s a traditional summer recipe, grilled fresh fish and seafood, refined dishes influenced by the island’s Venetian heritage, local stews and casseroles that capture the Ionian temperament, or expertly grilled meat. Lefkada’s food culture will surely seduce your senses and gain your utmost respect.
Be sure to try the local specialties: bakaliaro bianco (cod with white sauce, cooked with potatoes and onions), red mullet savoro, calamari in ink and, of course, Eglouvi lentils prepared in a variety of ways. Accompany your meal with a glass of white wine, of the indigenous Verzami or Vardea varieties, and savor a bouquet of aromas that travels straight from the local vineyards to your table.
Another local delicacy not to be missed is Lefkada’s salami, inspired by its Venetian past, with its light garlic aroma and whole peppers, which pairs perfectly with a glass of ouzo. Crispy olive oil biscuits, sweet ladopita pie made with flour and olive oil, delicious nougaty mantolato, pasteli (sesame snap), tasty liqueurs and naturally, the famed soumada almond beverage, are a few of the more exceptional local delicacies that are a must for every visitor.
7. It’s a Great Launching Point for Ionian Explorations
Boat travel in the Ionian Sea is without a doubt a one-of-a-kind experience. Whether by yacht, sailboat or ferry, you’ll discover a diverse natural mosaic of incomparable beauty. Set sail from Lefkada and enjoy an idyllic day cruise of the small islands of Meganisi, Kalamos and Kastos, as well as the neighboring Ionian islands.
See the private paradise built by Aristotle Onassis on the private island of Skorpios, the petite Madouri islet of Aristotle Valaoriti, the cosmopolitan air of Kefalonia, picture-perfect Ithaki, and the divine waters of Paxi and Antipaxi framed by age-old olive groves. If you love road-touring instead, Epirus will reward you with rich and authentic experiences on the mainland, with its mythical landscape and villages seemingly untouched by time.
8. You can Feel Safe and Secure
Lefkada’s well-equipped General Hospital serves visitors, as well as the local population, staffed by an expert team of doctors, nurses and administrators. The hospitals of Preveza, Arta and Ioannina are also nearby, meaning you can feel secure in the knowledge that, should you need it, top quality medical care is close to hand.
This article was produced by the Lefkada Slow Guide, and is republished here with permission.