Never heard of Meganisi? Don’t worry; before I set off on a sailing trip around the Ionian islands, neither had I! Its name means “big island”, although it only has 3 villages, is about 20km² and has no more than 1000 inhabitants!
Up to the 20th century the island was a pirate hunt and until recently it was known for cigarette smuggling to Italy! Pretty adventurous for such a small place, hey?
Meganisi has limited tourist facilities and there aren’t any must see’s on the island. It’s a place to surrender to total relaxation, the perfect island for swimming off pristine beaches and whiling the afternoon away in a seaside tavern.
My first port of call was the small harbour of Vathy, an enchanting little village where children play on the village square, yachties fill the harbour tavernas and locals tend to their nearby olive groves. It’s the kind of place where you while away the afternoon, reading a book, a café frappé in hand.
From Vathy, it is only a short walk uphill (2km) towards the inland village of Katomeri. It looks even smaller than Vathy, but has somehow managed to be crowned as the “capital of Meganisi”. Old ladies, dressed in black, tend to their houses covered in bougainvillea, and in one of the side-streets two elderly men sort out the world in a little café with a vine-covered canopy. Watching local life unfold is one of the best things to do on Meganisi, as it turns out.
Meganisi is an island, so it would be a shame not to enjoy some of the beaches it has to offer. On Meganisi you won’t find mile-long sandy beaches teeming with hordes of holidaymakers. Like the rest of the island, the beaches are small-scale and most of the time they are pretty deserted. I set up camp on pebbled Elia Beach, the closest beach to Katomeri, taking in the last rays of sun. There are no facilities whatsoever, so bring your own food and drink!
There are plenty of things to do in Meganisi for slow travellers like me, so the next day I walk up to Spartochori. It’s a short climb that leads to a great viewing platform over the islands of Skorpios and Lefkada, the gateway to the Ionian Sea. Spartochori itself is no more than a few narrow, winding little streets, more designed for donkeys and carts than for cars! Down below goats or sheep are being herded and mass is celebrated in the village church.
Meganisi seems to have been largely forgotten by tourism. One can only hope it’ll stay that way…
Have you been to Meganisi? Or any other Greek island? What’s your favourite one?