Lefkas or Lefkada The Greek Ionian Island of Lefkas
Map of the Island
Lefkas or Lefkada is a small Island off the west coast of Greece and is one of the Ionian Island group.
To the south there is Kefalonia and the smaller Island of Ithaca. Both of these are within easy reach and make for a great day out. We took a tourist ferry which made a stop at Ithaca and then at the resort of Fiskardo in the north of Kefalonia.
We landed at a pleasant small bay in Ithaca that had a small sandy beach. From here there was a steep road up to the village. Some passengers waited for a local lorry that transported them all up to the village. We decided to walk up and explore along the way. The flowers where really beautiful and the air was of the scent of thyme and more. Each garden was a mass of red and pink bougainvillea. The village had a couple of small tavernas so we choose one for our lunch. By the time we had mooched around the village for half an hour or so it was time to head back to the boat.
Fiskardo is regular stop off for yachts and boats and so is a little pricey. It is a very pretty coastal village though with a harbour but no beach. The shops offered lots of traditional gifts but everything was a little expensive. Overall though we loved this excursion.
To the North of Lefkas there is Corfu but it is a little far for a day visit. Some holidaymakers chose to take a two centre holiday and spent half of their holiday on Lefkas and the other on either Corfu or at nearby Parga.
Lefkas is an interesting Island and has lots to offer, if you look for it.
If you just want sea and sand there is that too. However in resorts such as Vassiliki the nightlife centres around tavernas, sitting along the harbour and relaxing. For a busier pace choose Nidri for your destination.
There are other resorts dotted around the Island so it is up to you. The west of the Island is more unspoiled. The beaches here are often hard to access and are surrounded by steep cliffs. However most visitors take a boat trip to reach them.
The Capital of the Island Lefkas Town is in the North of the Island and near to the link with the mainland. It has a real continental feel and a style all of its own. You can take a local bus to get to Lefkas Town but the service is irregular. When we used it the bus had to manoeuvre the mountain pass between Nidri and Vassiliki and was a little heart stopping. It was all good fun though.
Lefkas was the first Greek Island that we ever visited. As such we were unsure what to expect. A relative who was a frequent visitor to the Greek Islands told us not to worry about the language as all the locals always spoke English. We found that to be untrue for Lefkas when we asked a local policeman for directions. When we asked if he spoke English he said "a little" and that turned out to be the full extent of his English.
Having said that though all the locals who we met were lovely people. We did not think so when we first arrived and saw some of the glum faces of accommodation owners greeting their guests. What a difference though at the end of our holiday as these affectionate people hugged and said their goodbyes to their new found friends.
We landed on mainland Greece as there was, and still is, no airport on Lefkas and travelled the short journey to the Island. Although Lefkas is an Island it is joined to the mainland by a causeway. Each Greek Island is always a little different and this is just one of Lefkas's peculiarities.
Although the journey was not long it was a little precarious. We were staying in Vassiliki in the South of the Island. The journey as far as Nidri was fine, From here though it involved the coach travelling over a mountain path which was not much more than a dirt track. By now the daylight was vanishing also. Still that road should be complete now as all that time ago the Islanders were expecting money from the EEC to complete the road. Well let's hope it arrived.
Most of the holiday accommodation in Vassiliki was made up of studios and apartments. We stayed in one of the few hotels and loved our accommodation. The front balcony only gave us a partial view but it was still splendid and took in the bay and mountains at the other side. The price of the holiday was not bad at all and we were on a bed and breakfast basis. There are so many tavernas around it is quick, easy and cheap to eat out every night.
Favourite dishes for us were Souvlaki(kebabs)Greek Salads(which have feta cheese and black olives)Moussaka and Dolmades( stuffed vine leaves or stuffed peppers). Fresh fruit such as apples was expensive to buy on the Island. However local produce was cheap. Many of the local dishes included fish or lamb and lots of garlic.
Desserts are not really a Greek thing. They do a couple of very sticky desserts, such as baklava, but these can be sticky and sickly. Traditional Greek yogurt is served with nuts and local honey and is delicious.
We had flown from Manchester Airport in the UK and the flying time was around 3 hours. The journey to our resort, by coach was about 11/2 hours. This was quite long but that was mainly due to the terrain on the Island.
The airport at Preveza was so small that, as another flight was about to load its passengers, we all had to stand on the tarmac in the hot sun, until the other plane was full. Then we were hurried into the concourse before other passengers arrived. It was not a bad experience but sort of cute. We were advised however not to take photographs in around the airport. This was because it had previously been a military airport and photographers ran the risk of arrest.
Around Lefkas Island
The beaches of Lefkas
The town beach at Vassiliki is made of white pebbles. This is true of many beaches on Lefkas. There was a small beach just outside of our hotel in Vassiliki which was perfect but was still made of large white pebbles. Vassiliki beach does get windy after lunch and this means that it is a haven for wind surfers. There are special wind surfing facilities here. Also it means that swimming in the sea is better before lunch. Our hotel did not have a swimming pool and many others were the same.
Nidri beach is a very long strip of sandy beach which does get crowded in high season.Tavernas line this beach. In Nidri bay there are a couple of small islands which makes for pretty scenery and can be visited by boat These are Skorpios, which was owned by the Onassis family and only has limited access, Megannissi and a few other small Islands.
Just outside of Vassiliki is Sivota Bay which has a reputation of being an old smuggling haunt. We hired a moped and visited here. The roads are precarious and very winding and steep so take care. There was not much that was commercial at Sivota but it was still lovely. The scenery everywhere you look is beautiful.
Near to Vassiliki there are two good beaches also. Porto Katsiki is accessed by boat and has a long sandy beach. Aghios Filiis a short trip on boat from Vassiliki in the other direction. This beach is large white stones but it is a little piece of heaven. We choose to walk there on a couple of occasions. The path along the cliffs was undeveloped but felt safe. There was no facilities at either beach and so taking supplies and some shade with you is vital. These boats make regular trips out of Vassiliki harbour and are good value.
There are some good beaches around Lefkas but timing is important. If you travel in high season some will be overrun with holidaymakers. The lack of swimming pools at hotels mean that visitors tend to head for the beaches more.
In the West we visited Agios Nikitas which was fairly unspoiled. It did have commercial aspects but cars are not allowed to drive too near. This means that you walk down to the beach so be warned if you have mobility issues. The local tavernas served lovely traditional Greek food.
If you want to fully explore the Island and see unspoiled secluded beaches hire a car. Be careful though if you are accessing beaches below steep cliffs.
Getting around the Island.
Lefkas is an Island that has a very mountainous interior. This makes for beautiful scenery but can make it hard to get around. There are:-
- Organized coach trips. You will probably have to book these through your travel rep. You can book direct in resorts such as Nidri though.
- Hire cars
- Hire bicycles
- Hire motorcycles and mopeds. Although we choose this option once, the vendor did not supply crash helmets. As we were dressed in our summer shorts and T shirts we would have had no protection in the event of an accident. This means of transport is not really advisable, as usually your insurance will not cover you if you have an accident. It is up to you but take care.
- Good areas to walk. Although the terrain can be hilly it is flat in parts around the villages. We did walk 6 kilometers to a nearby village and had a wonderful day if not a tiring time. Take plenty of bottled water with you on any walks as there may be few facilities. Take something to cove
- Local buses available but the timetable is erratic.
- r and protect you from the midday sun and plenty of sunscreen also. The village which we visited was small and I suppose our walk was more about the journey. Hubby and I chatted, giggled at a few strange road signs and were in awe of the flora and fauna. There were butterflies as big as a hand and flowers everywhere. We also had a village dog for company. As dog lovers local dogs tend to adopt us and follow us around. Sometimes it is because we feed them scraps which we save from our breakfast and lunch. This dog however just seemed to take a shine to us.
When to visit Lefkas
We spent two weeks in Lefkas. We arrived in early September, possibly the sixth. The weather was generally very hot. Certainly hot enough for us. We only experienced the one wet day, but boy was it wet.
The best time to visit will depend what you want from your holiday. June July and August will be the driest and hottest months but the Island will be swamped with visitors. Slightly out of this season the weather will be more unpredictable and the Island less busy. Travel in very low season and the weather could be bad and some of the facilities will not be open.
The price of your holiday will be reflected by the resort and time to visit that you choose.
Lefkada myth and legend
Local Islanders will readily tell you about Sappho's suicide at Cape Lefkada in the South of the Island. If you take a boat trip to Porto Katsiki, from Vassiliki, you will round this rugged and breathtaking headland.
This myth is related to other myths which link the island to the ancient Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and to Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey. How much truth there is any of these legends seems immaterial. They all add to the character and special nature of Lefkas.
Hints and tips for Visiting Lefkas
- Drink bottled water rather than the local water.
- Lefkas is a good Island for travellers who like to Island hop. For those that like a mountain of activities Lefkas may be too quiet. The regular ferries though mean that you have easy access to the mainland and other Islands.
- Invest in a small travel guide for Lefkas. Try to buy one that incorporates a few Greek words and phrases, and maps of the island.
- The currency is now the Euro. The exchange rate against the English Pound is poor at time of writing in 2009.
- Do not put toilet paper down the toilet but place in the appropriate, provided bin.
- Pack a torch in case you are off the beaten track or there is a power cut.
- Vassiliki had many German visitors as well as English.
- The hotels and apartments that are a little away from the centre of Vassiliki may be hard to access, for those who are disabled or have mobility issues.
- Pack an umbrella
- Pick your season well. Late May and early September are good. The weather will be warm but the Island will be less busy. However Lefkas can see torrential rain, hopefully only for a day, and this is why the Island is so green in parts.
- Pack plenty of sunscreen.
- Pack thin cardigans and jackets for an evening cover up. It can be cool along the harbour at times, unless you visit in high season.
- Be honest and trustworthy like the locals.
- Try to speak an odd word of Greek as the locals will appreciate this.
- Be respectful. If you visit a monastery or church, for example, cover your shoulders and your knees as requested.
- Ask the locals for advice about good places to visit.
If you have visited Lefkas, did you like what you saw?.
Having visited Lefkas would you return to the Island?
Everyone always looks back at holidays through rose tinted glasses. Of course our holiday was not perfect. Perhaps we were also enamoured with Lefkas as it was our first visit to the Greek Islands. Either way all these years later some special memories come to mind when anyone mentions Lefkas. Hubby and I will smile at each other and think about:-
- The Policeman who could hardly speak English.
- Our attempts at a smattering of Greek from a phrase book.
- Hubby's shyness about trying any Greek words or phrases out on the locals. When he finally attempted a cheery Calimera, good morning, his target the old lady, on the mountain road, who was carrying a mountain of sticks, thought he was in trouble. Her long response in Greek terrified him so much he never uttered a Greek word again.
- The friendly lady who served us, now and then, her lovely food in the evening. We would sit at the harbour, outside of her taverna, and finish the meal with Tia Maria over ice. Then one night we were a little late as we had been out for the day. As we tried to get hold of her to pay for the meal she was having none of it. She had mopped the floor in her taverna and was behind the counter. "Tomorrow" was all she would shout and she trusted us to return. Of course we did but how lovely.
- Me, snorkeling at Aghios Fili beach. I am not a strong swimmer so I stayed in the shallow water near to the beach. I was so fascinated by the myriad of fishes to see that I kept drifting away and feeling the tug of my toe as my hubby pulled me back.
- Both of us being so embarrassed when we did not understand the currency. Back then it was the Drachma and we soon became familiar with it. However our first night we paid at a local taverna. The member of staff laughed and shouted to his colleagues in Greek. We thought we had not paid enough and so gave him more. More hilarity and by then a crowd of locals. It turned out we were offering to pay him too much. He thrust most of the money back at us with a smirk, and took the small amount that he needed for the bill. Wasn't he honest though?
- The plague of wasps and bees that were such a pain. Our hotel had a breakfast balcony and the views around the bay were amazing. However each morning there were masses of bees and wasps. The staff had left opened small pots of honey and jam to catch the little beggars but I think that this just attracted them all the more. Hubby thought his best purchase this holiday was the cheap fly swatter he saw in a local shop and which at least helped ease the problem.
- The journey from the airport on the coach with husband cranky, moaning and complaining about the dreadful bouzouki music being played by the driver. By the time we returned home, two weeks later, chilled and content, he was singing to the music on the coach and purchased a copy. Men.
- The cats in Vassiliki which were too many and too thin. Many Greek Islands leave a lot to be desire re pet animal welfare. Lefkas was not the worst I have seen and most of the cats got plenty of scraps. There were few dogs. I know that the cats kept down the bugs but it can be sad to see. On the whole they did look well though.
- Seeing a hand appear through the vine that climbed over a pergola outside our window. It was the hotel owner taking a few vine leaves to make his fresh Dolmades, stuffed vine leaves, for the restaurant's evening meals.
- The only organised coach trip that we did was the Island tour. Holiday friends had told us it was lovely and took in the Monastery at Lefkas Town and many off the beaten track attractions. We were to be picked up very early and we arose to torrential rain, and I mean torrential. Rain was flowing down the paths from the mountains and the sky was inky black. Hubby had a thin jacket and I had a cardigan. By the time we hot footed it the short journey to the coach we were sodden and so was everyone else. The journey was uncomfortable and the coach was full of steam. The rain eased slightly at one point but on the whole it was terrible. There was run on the Brolly shop in Lefkas Town and they must have made a killing. Our hotel owner said that this weather was set for the next three days but thankfully he was wrong. We awoke next day to beautiful blue skies. Walking past the harbour though we could see that it was full of Yachts which had needed to seek shelter during the night and there was a Portuguese man of war jellyfish floating nearby. We kept out of the water that day. Although the weather took the edge of our excursion our friends said that they had endured a dismal day as there was little anyone could do in Vassiliki with such weather.
Well I could go on forever but you get the picture.
Two favourite images
Lefkas at Amazon
© 2009 Ethel Smith