General Information on Lefkada
Lefkada is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, on the west part of Greece, connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. Sand, impressive turquoise waters and majestic rocky cliffs compose the amazing landscape of this mountainous and verdant island. In recent years, the island has become a major package tour destination and is featured in most brochures.
However, Lefkada is an astonishingly beautiful and interesting island with quiet country villages and wonderful wild, isolated beaches along the west coast. In the east, sheltered bays and outlying islets have resulted in an abundance of hotels and apartment buildings and the busy and noisy main tourist resort of Nidri has become the centre of tourism.
History of Lefkada
The island took its name after the characteristic white rocks of the southern part of Lefkada, the cape of Lefkata. According to mythology, the cave was made infamous by the ancient Greek poet, Sappho; the "tenth muse" according to Plato, and the first modern poet according to contemporary historians. Legend has it that she threw herself from the cliff at Cape Lefkatas when Phaeon rejected her love.
In its earliest history, Lefkada was not an island, but a peninsula of mainland Greece. Although flint tools have been found across the island dating back to 8000 BC, the earliest evidence of real settlements dates back to 4000 BC. Corinthians colonised the island during the 7th century BC, built the new town of Lefkas and started the construction of the canal that separates Lefkada from the mainland in 650BC, turning Lefkada into an island.
The island played an important role in the Persian Wars and participated in the battles on the side of other Greek cities. It also took part in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) helping its mother city, Corinth, on the Spartan side. In 343 BC, Philip of Macedon was elected Emperor and, under his leadership, the Macedonians conquered Lefkas when locals sided with Athens against Macedonia. The island became independent in 312 BC. By the third century BC, constant pressure from Acarnanians in the mainland resulted in Lefkas joining the Acarnanian Federation. In 230 BC, it allied with the Macedonians to repress the Roman attacks, but lost, after a long fight that caused many casualties and destruction of cities. In 198 BC, the island came under Roman domination.
Very little is known about the Byzantine period of the island. It became part of the province of Achaia and suffered from various pirate attacks due to its strategic position. During the 11th and 12th centuries AD, the Crusades brought a period of instability to the Ionian and the island came under the control of many foreign princes. Lefkas, during this period, was part of the Dominion of Epirus. Although the Crusades were supposedly an attempt to liberate the Holy Christian lands from Muslim leaders, the reality was that they often fought to "liberate" any country they could. When the Franks conquered Constantinople, in 1204, Lefkada came under their domination and then under Sicilian rule in 1294. Until 1331, Lefkada was ruled by the Sicilian family of Orsini, who built the castle of Agia Mavra. The 14th century found the government of the island in almost constant flux. Lefkada was passed, or taken, from leader to leader, leaving the islanders poor from high taxation by each leader, eager to make a quick fortune before losing the grasp.
In 1479, the island was conquered by the Ottomans who ruled Lefkada until 1684. Then, the island came under the rule of the Venetians who were under the command of Morozini. During this period, the capital of the island moved to its present location and the economy flourished, thanks to the development of trade and navigation. The Venetian domination ended in 1797 when Napoleon Bonaparte and his troops conquered Venice. With the treaty of Kamboformio, the island became part of the French State. In 1799, the allied fleet of the Turks, the Russian and the English won over the French and conquered Lefkada.
The “Ionian State” was established in Constantinople in March 1800, with the aim to create the Septinsular Republic. The attempt failed in 1807, as the island returned under French rule. Three years later, the English managed to occupy Lefkada while they had already taken the other Ionian Islands. New freedoms came with the British Protectorate, including the right to vote; new roads and bridges; new aqueducts and schools. The Greek War of Independence, however, had long since started on the mainland and many Lefkadians began to side with the freedom fighters. In 21 May 1864, a treaty was signed proclaiming the unification of the Ionian Islands with the independent and newly born Greek State.
Towns & Villages in Lefkada
Lefkada Town: This is the capital of the island, situated in the northeastern part. It is the administrative, economic and cultural centre of Lefkada built around a natural harbour. Unfortunately, the disastrous earthquakes of 1948 and 1953 brought great damages to the entire island, and today only few monuments and some churches still stand. After the earthquakes, the capital was rebuilt in a unique and original way. The inhabitants built new houses with wooden frames and metal sheets, in order to withstand future earthquakes. The houses were built close together and were surrounded by narrow pedestrian paths, creating an interesting and unique architecture and a charming unique image. The capital has all kinds of tourist facilities, as well as numerous restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars and nightclubs.
Poros: This small village is situated 25km south of Lefkada Town, on the verdant slopes of a hill disappearing into the sea. The settlement is built amphitheatrically around the hill and it is composed of two-storey houses with tile roofs and narrow alleys. Close to the settlement, visitors may find the small fishing harbour of Micros Gialos and its beautiful beaches.
Nidri: Nidri and the surrounding area of the Municipality of Ellomenos are located on the southeastern side of the island. The area has many outstanding natural beauties and, thus, it attracts thousands of visitors every summer. The small town of Nidri is considered to be the most popular tourist resort of the island. The town is situated 17km southeast of the capital and has an amazing sandy beach with crystal-clear waters. Nidri boasts a lovely little port full of small fishing boats and cafes. Various events are organised during summer here, from religious celebrations to interesting cultural performances or exhibitions. Hotels, taverns, restaurant, cafes, bars and nightclubs can be found anywhere in the town.
Tsoulakades: This small pleasant village is situated at the north side of the island, very close to the capital. The settlement has some pretty houses with curved tiled roofs, a few hotels and a nearby quiet beach.
Nikiana: This coastal settlement is situated 9km from the capital between Lygia and Perigiali. The town is built at the foot of Mount Skaros, and it is an interesting combination of verdant green and magical azure. The settlement has a wonderful long sandy beach and all kinds of tourist facilities.
Agios Nikitas: This traditional and picturesque fishing village is situated 12km west of the capital of Lefkada. In recent years, this settlement has become one of the most popular summer resorts of the island. It is built amphitheatrically in an area full of olive groves and has a small family beach with golden sand and amazing waters. The village has a large variety of accommodations, taverns, bars and shops.
Sivota: This small fishing harbour is located 33km south of Lefkada Town, on a lovely bay of the same name. The harbour gets very crowded during summer, as many yachts dock here.
Vassiliki: This is one of the most popular tourist resorts of the island. The settlement is situated about 40km south of the capital. This coastal village has many popular beaches among windsurfers, since the area is famous for its ideal conditions. From here, you may visit the villages of Agios Petros and Sivros and you may also take the small boat for the beaches of Porto-Katsiki, Alektori and Agiofili.
Beaches in Lefkada
Porto Katsiki: This spectacular beach is situated 40km southwest of the capital of Lefkada. Porto Katsiki is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island. It is long and has white sand, shaded by overhanging rocks in the morning. The sea is so clean that the shadows of anchored boats darken the sea bed. The beach is accessible via a tight staircase of steps –around 80– from the car park above the beach. After road improvements, the beach has become famous, very popular and thus very crowded in summer.
Kathisma: This is one of the most popular beaches of Lefkada, situated 14km east of the capital, near the village of Agios Nikitas. The beach is wide and deep for over a kilometre with pebbles and sand on the shore and sand on the seabed. It also has many rocky promontories and caves to explore and a couple of large rocks in the sea at the southern end, which is mainly for nudists. The beach is organised with sunbeds, umbrellas and water sport facilities available.
Mikros Gialos: This beautiful beach is situated 25km south of the capital, near the village of Poros. The beach is long, sandy and organised. A huge restaurant and beach bar complex is situated in the middle of the beach with loud music and attracts lots of people. If you like crowds, you will love this beach.
Milos: This beach is situated over the hill south of Agios Nikitas. Access is via a dirt track from Agios Nikitas, sometimes slippery and steep with rocks. However, the 20-minute walk is worth it. The beach is sandy and large, with the southern end, favoured by nudists. There are no facilities here.
Egremni: This beach is situated 30km south of Lekfada Town. The beach appears to stretch for many kilometres, is sandy and has some tourist facilities in its centre. It is accessible via 300 steps down the cliff and has deep waters and very strong undercurrents.
Pefkoulia: This is a very long sandy beach, situated north of the fishing village Agios Nikitas, 10km from the capital. Easily accessible and very popular, this beach can get overcrowded during summer. However, it is a good choice, probably the best beach in the northern coasts of the island.
Agios Ioannis: This is the closest beach to the capital, just a couple of kilometres away. It is a golden sandy beach, with turquoise waters and reminds of a Caribbean landscape. It is a very popular beach due to its proximity to the capital and the winds which attract windsurfers. The area around the beach offers a wide range of accommodations, cafes and windsurfing clubs.
Nikiana: This beach is situated 9km north of Lefkada Town and it has become very popular in recent years despite its size. The beach has soft white sand and cypress trees. It is organised and many hotels are situated close by.
Agios Nikitas: This is one of the most attractive resorts on the west coast, located 12km west of the capital. The main road through the village runs down to the beach and is flanked by taverns and shops. Surrounding hills are covered in pine and olive trees, and small apartment blocks dot the landscape. The main beach is quite small and gets really busy in the summer.
Vassiliki: This popular tourist resort which is situated 38km south of the capital city of Lefkada has a long pebble beach, famous for its perfect windsurfing and sailing conditions. In the surrounding area, one may find a wide range of accommodations, camping sites, taverns, shops, cafes and bars. A short walk south along the coastal path will bring you to a small beach at Agiofili which has no facilities and it is quieter than Vassiliki.
Top Things to Do in Lefkada
1. Lefkada’s Museums: The most interesting museum of Lefkada is the Archaeological Museum which is situated on Faneromeni Street in Lefkada Town. The museum houses various archaeological finds dating to the Early Bronze Age and are found in the sites of Nidri, Kariotes, Evgiros and others. Another interesting museum is the Folklore Museum of Lefkada. It is situated near the church of Agios Spyridon in the capital of Lefkada. It exhibits a rich collection of old photographs, maps, dolls, traditional costumes, hand-woven items, models of a windmill and a traditional olive press.
2. The islets of Lefkada: There are several islets around Lefkada, visible from Nidri. Among the islets, Madouri was the home of Greek poet Aristotle Valaoritis whose family still owns the island. Visitors are not welcome here, just like Skorpios which was owned by the Onassis family up to very recently, and is heavily fortified. The largest of the islets is Meganisi which attracts large numbers of day visitors because of its impressive and huge sea caves.
3. The Monastery of Panagia Faneromeni: This monastery is one of the most significant and important religious monuments of the island. It is situated 2km east of the capital near the village of Frynio. It was built on a site of high altitude, full of pine trees, where an ancient sanctuary once stood. It is believed that Apostle Paul came to this monastery to teach Christianity. The monastery was first built in 1634, but it was burned and rebuilt many times since. The relics of St. Arsenios Kappadokis are housed here.
4. The village of Karia: This mountainous village is situated 14km southwest of the capital, in the middle of trees and water sources. It is one of the most picturesque and traditional villages of Lekfada and worth a visit.
5. The beaches of Porto Katsiki, Kathisma and Agios Ioannis: These three beaches are the best of the island not only for their soft sand and turquoise water but also for the amazing landscape that surrounds them.
How to Reach Lefkada
Air: The island of Lefkada has no airport, but Aktion airport near Preveza on the mainland is only a 30 minute bus journey away. There are several flights in summer connecting Preveza to Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Corfu and European cities.
Bus: From Lefkada Town’s KTEL bus station there are buses to Athens (5 ½ hours), Patras (3 hours), Thessaloniki (8 hours) and Aktion airport.
Ferry: There is a ferry service between Vassiliki and Fiskardo (1 hour) in Kefallonia, Piso Aetos (2 hours) in Ithaca and then Sami back in Kefallonia (2 ½ hours). Also, during high season, a ferry leaves daily from Nydri to Frikes in Ithaca and Fiskardo.
Getting Around in Lefkada
From Lefkada Town, frequent buses go to Nydri and Vlyho, Poros and Vassiliki. There are regular buses to Karya, Agios Nikitas, Kalamitsi and Athani. Other villages are served by one or two buses daily.
Weather in Lefkada
Lefkada weather consists of a mild Mediterranean climate with rainy winters and dry, hot summers. Rain is characteristic of the Ionian climate and the average annual precipitation here is three times higher than in the Aegean. The climate of Lefkada differs from the climate of other Ionian Islands because of its hot winds that get really strong in some parts of the island.
Top 10 Destinations in Lefkada
All Destinations in Lefkada
Map of Lefkada