Not everybody has a favourite island, unless of course they are from Greece, or an island nation or just an island-lover I guess. Anyone who has a favourite island will be more than eager to promote it within their social circle as an absolutely essential holiday destination. They will be willing to show you pictures, name all the beaches, all the beach bars and tell a thousand stories in their effort to convince you that their island is worth visiting.
It works the same with things like tv shows. When a friend asks you if have seen their favourite tv show you are better off just lying to say you have or you might spend the rest of your day, week, month, year listening to all the reasons why you should absolutely watch that show. This is why social media is such a gift to advertisers, people are passionate about sharing anything they are passionate about.
Therefore, since I am also people I feel compelled to convince you, Fede, and the other two random people from Romania and the US who occasionally stumble upon my blog that the best island in the whole world is Lefkada.
Lefkada or Lefkas is situated is one of the ‘Seven Islands’ of the Ionian sea (the others being Zante, Corfu, Ithaca, Paxos, Kythira and Cephalonia). Lefkada is the only island of the seven that can be reached by car; it is connected to the mainland with a floating bridge. Ferry fees are quite expensive in Greece and avoiding them can offer some relief to travelers on a budget.
Upon crossing the bridge you will find yourself in the town of Lefkada, the island’s capital, surrounded by an area of still water called ‘Mouteli’- which apparently means ‘mud’ in the local dialect. The town of Lefkada is not the typical greek island town you will find in postcards. Don’t be expecting whitewashed houses with blue window frames. The architecture of the Ionian islands is colorful, with Italian and British elements. The houses are also built to withstand earthquakes- a lot of them are reinforced with metal sheets on the upper floors.
If it’s good food and a vibrant nightlife you are after, there are a lot of options in the town of Lefkada. The boost in tourism in the past decade was accompanied by an entrepreneurial frenzy with new bars, nightclubs and restaurants sprouting like mushrooms. Fortunately, the character of the town has remained mostly intact.
Nydri, half an hour away by car is by far the most touristically adapted place in the island. I am pretty sure I saw an actual pub over there- a-not-so-characteristic establishment on a Greek island. On the way to Nydri there are several seaside places with hotels and holiday houses and they are usually not as pricey as inside the city.
Nydri and the surrounding areas offer some lovely scenery to wake up to: There are five small islands opposite Nydri and Peryali- one of them is owned by Nanos Valaoritis, a famous poet and writer. There is a single mansion on the tiny island that looks somewhat abandoned these days. The massive island in the distance is called Meganisi, literally ‘big island’ and the long island in front of it is Scorpios, which I don’t think needs a translation. It used to be owned by the Onassi family and was sold to Rybolovlev who I believe is a very rich Russian man, capable of buying islands.
All the beaches of the island bar two were closed to the public when it was owned by the Onassis. Now none of the beaches are accessible. Technically, people can still approach the island by boat, drop an anchor and swim wherever they want but no one is allowed to swim out to the shore. Back in the day we tried stepping onto the beach a couple of times with my family and were scolded by the marine police. I am not sure how that works- if you buy the island do you get a few freebies as well in the form of sea cops? I am not sure if this is still the case but in retrospective it was odd, I don’t think they just happened to be patrolling the area every time we were there.
If you head a bit more inland while you are at Nydri you can reach the Nydri waterfalls, where you will have the opportunity to swim in refreshingly cold water-unless they are dried up during the time of your visit. Expect the waterfalls to be pretty dry throughout the summer months.
Lefkada has a mountainous terrain which comes with a few picturesque mountain villages. The most well-known ones are Karya and Eglouvi-where a famous variety of lentils is produced. If you have had enough of eating fresh fish you can head to the villages for locally produced meat.
Of course the main attractions are on sea level and they are -unsurprisingly- the beaches. The most well-known beaches are on the west side of the island and they are Porto Katsiki, Kathisma and Egremni (the road to the last one is apparently blocked following an earthquake that caused a landslide but it can be reached from the sea). Other nice beaches are Pefkoulia, Yalos, Megali Petra, Ammoglossa and Yira in the north. If you are into Windsurfing go for the west end of Yira. If you are into water sports Nydri is the place for you. As for the beaches on the west side, make sure the wind is not against you when you plan to travel there. Also watch out for the waves; even though the Ionian sea is generally pretty safe, the waves crush onto the shore with great force and might suck you into their loop. Another thing to watch out for is landslides and falling rocks in general; don’t be tempted by the shade near the cliffs, it’s safer to sit closer to the water.
We spent three days in Lefkada and then took the ferry to Meganisi, which I will be writing about next. I haven’t finished making my case yet, because to me, Meganisi and Lefkada should be visited together so bear with me ok?