It’s exactly two o’clock, when the floating bridge opens and lets the yachts pass from mainland Greece into the Ionian Sea. Every hour on the dot, a floating procession sails into the canal, on its way to Lefkas, the first island on the west coast of Greece. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway, so you can get there by bus or car as well.
But I am on a sailing trip around the Ionian Sea and for the next few weeks these waters will be my home. But first I’m ready to explore some of the best things to do in Lefkas.
At the entrance of the canal, next to the floating bridge stands the Venetian fortress of Agia Mavra. First established by the crusaders, its remains mainly date back to the Venetian and Turkish occupations. Its main purpose was to protect the capital of Lefkas, called Lefkada, and to defend the island against pirates and other enemies. The castle has undergone serious renovation and remains pretty well reserved. Rambling through the grass and around the walls or having a peek in the little Agia Mavra church is definitely worth the stop. The church was built in the 15th century in honor of Agia Mavra. After the Turks occupied the island, it was turned into a mosque.
In 1500 the Venetians took over and restored the castle. During its heydays, the fortress contained schools, hospitals, … It was destroyed by fire in 1888, but renovated once again. During WWII it was destroyed by bombs from Italian attacks.
Just across the causeway is the capital of the island, Lefkada. It’s a friendly, commercial town with a huge marina. It’s a real yachting hub and in summer the marina is heaving with sailors from all across the world. Most of them seem to use the marina as a stopover towards the islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca, but it’s definitely worth exploring the centre of Lefkada too.
I encountered more orthodox priests than tourists on my walk through the city centre, which is always a good sign!
There aren’t a lot of must sees in Lefkada, but walking the quiet backstreets or along the commercial avenue Ioannou Mela makes for a great pastime. Don’t forget to pause at one of the tavernas or cafés near the salt lagoon. They offer great views!
From Lefkada it’s an easy bus trip to Agios Nikitas. This place on the northwest coast of Lefkas island used to be a fishing village and it’s still pretty picturesque nowadays. But as so often happens, the main street has already been lined up with tavernas and cafés to attract more and more tourists. The little side streets and the tiny church square have kept their charm and if the small beach at the bottom of the village gets too crowded, take the 15 minute walk over the hill toward Mylos Beach. Mylos is a beautiful wide stretch of sand backed by white cliffs where there’s plenty of space to spread your towel!
Where Agios Nikitas has managed to keep some authenticity, then the opposite goes for Nidri! Nidri was once a little fishing and agricultural village on the east coast of Lefkas, but is nowadays the busiest tourist destination on the island. The waterfront and the main streets are lined with souvenir shops, fast food counters and ice-cream parlours. Not really my cup of tea.
There is one thing that is worth going to Nidri for though: the waterfalls, a 3 km, well sign-posted, walk from the village. The last part of the walk can be a bit slippery over uneven stones, so wear proper footwear. Upon arrival you are greeted by clear blue waters in a lovely shady environment, which makes you forget the hustle and bustle of touristy Nidri straight away!
A lot of yachties use Nydri as a base to explore the nearby, but much quieter island of Meganisi.
My last stop on Lefkada is the tiny harbour of Sivota. Sivota consists of a little bay surrounded by green slopes and a few small rocky beaches. A few tavernas and restaurants have been thrown in, but it remains all very peaceful. An ideal place to end my journey on this gorgeous island! Next, I’m off to the island of Ithaca, in search of Odysseus’ home!
Have you been to Lefkas? Or any other Greek island? Which one is your favourite?