All you need to know about Lefkada island!
Joined to the mainland by a small bridge, the island of Lefkada has some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Mediterranean. Known as the ‘Caribbean of Greece’, this exotic island is wildly famous for its white sand beaches and mesmerizing waters. The whole island is blanketed in lush green vegetation and fringed with imposing white cliffs that together create a tropical paradise.
In addition to its picture-perfect beaches, Lefkada also possesses charming seaside villages, a delicious cuisine and a wealth of unique and exciting activities.
Welcome to Lefkada!
Azure waters, sugar fine sands, striking nature and a tranquil ambience; Lefkada has some of the best beaches in the whole of the Greece and the Mediterranean. They are all stunning, but here are our top five.
Porto Katsiki: This dreamy bay is found 44km southwest of the capital and is a perfect example of Lefkada’s striking landscapes. Engulfed by looming cliff tops, the deep blue waters and long bay of pure white sand make it one of the top beaches in the Mediterranean. This otherworldly beach is partly organized and boasts a seafront cafe that offers remarkable views of the Ionian sea.
Egremni: The scenic bay of Egremni is one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. With its blonde sands and turquoise waters all cupped within a rugged scenery of barren cliffs, it’s no wonder. The beach is partly organized and due to an earthquake recently destroying the 325 steps down to the bay, is now only accessible by boat. This vast beach becomes quite overcrowded in high season, although the surrounding cliff tops still manage to create a feeling of remoteness.
Mylos: Known for its vast soft sands and glassy waters, this secluded bay can be found southwest of Lefkada town. The dense vegetation that encircles the beach, combined with the lack of tourist facilities create a tranquil atmosphere perfect for relaxing.
Agiofili: Found 40km south of Lefkada town is the heavenly cove of Agiofili. Surrounded by white stone cliffs blanketed in lush green foliage, the unspoiled bay offers white sands and crystalline waters. Pretty beach flowers add pops of colour and its rocky terrain provides some great snorkeling spots. This beach is pure paradise.
Lagouna: The enchanting beach of Lagouna is found 24km west of Lefkada town. It’s long beach possesses soft white sands and glassy waters. This beach is considered to be one of the most natural, most beautiful on the island with its rugged terrain and rich green backdrop. The impressive cliff sides provide shade, privacy and an overal feeling of protection and calm. Although the beach is not organised, in the middle of the long bay there are a few tourist facilities including a charming cafeteria that serves cold drinks, delicious snacks and offers superb views of the ocean.
The island of Lefkada has had a turbulent history and therefore possesses many captivating sights; Medieval castles, lighthouses, monasteries, waterfalls, churches and museums to name a few. In addition, the island also boasts charming seaside villages filled with beautiful architectural design and colourful shrubs and flowers.
The Castle of Agia Mavra: Close to the main town of Chora lies the medieval castle of Agia Mavra. Constructed in 1300 by the Sicilian, Ioannis Orsini, the castle has since then been completely renovated and remains superbly preserved. Its main aim was to protect the island’s capital and defend from pirates and other enemies. The castle has endured a violet history and therefore is a truly interesting landmark to visit.
The Wetlands of Lefkada (sea lakes): The wetlands of Lefkada consist of two lagoons, Divari and Ivaria and a vast lush scenery home to an array of unique wildlife. Protected by the RAMSAR treaty, the lakes are famed for their natural beauty and large biological diversity. Birds of the wetlands include; ducks, pelicans, herons, swans, cormorants and many more migratory birds. Other Fauna include; hares, foxes, ferrets, weasels, crabs, jellyfish, eels, snakes aswell as many species of fish, molluscs and amphibians. This swampy area also boasts an abundance of rare flora and provides the perfect environment for tranquil walks and scenic photographs.
The Waterfalls of Nydri: Underneath Lefkada’s fertile land lies copious amounts of stored water; this is why the island is so rich in greenery. It is also the reason for the island’s many spectacular waterfalls. The Nydri falls are located just outside of the town of Nydri and are a popular tourist attraction due to their otherworldly features. Jade coloured waters, exotic vegetation and large white rocks that form natural swimming pools create a magical atmosphere. This is a breathtaking place to visit.
The Monastery of Faneromeni: The most important religious center and also the saint protector of the island is the Monastery of Faneromeni. The monastery was built in 1634 on a site originally dedicated to Artemis, Goddess of hunting. The construction has endured a rough history, however in the late 19th century it was fully renovated and now is an elegant establishment that houses the island’s Ecclesiastical museum. The monastery is located on a hill just above Lefkada town; providing spectacular views of the capital and the coasts of the mainland.
The Church of Agios Ioannis Antzoussis: This small chapel literally built into a rock, is the oldest church on the island. It was constructed in the 16th century by the Franks and was built upon the original site of an ancient church. It is considered a very important and sacred church as it is believed that Aposte Paul preached in the church yard back in the 1st century AD. This little chapel is distinguished by its unique stone roof and beautiful old bell tower.
The island is known for its delicious local produce and its sublime seafood. The majority of the island’s restaurants are found in the three most popular villages of the island; Nydri, Vassiliki and Lefkada town. Traditional tavernas are found in every village on the island, however the seaside towns of Sivota, Agios Nikitas and Lygia offer both fantastic food and wonderful views. If you are looking for a laid back setting for a drink, head to Lefkada town where there are some very cool lounge bars. Whilst on the island make sure to try the local delicacies such as;
Bakaliaros Skordalia– Small pieces of cod spiced and fried in batter and served with a special garlic sauce.
Lefkadiki Ladopita– Translated to ‘oil pie’, this sweet delicacy is a cake of semolina and syrup pressed with sesame seeds and almonds. After it is baked, it is sliced into wedges and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
Lentils– Lentils are cultivated on the island and are therefore extremely tasteful. Try the local lentil salad made of lentils and sweet tomatoes, all drizzled with olive oil. It makes for a wonderful summer lunch!
Mandolato– This traditional Ionian sweet is a meringue based nougat enriched with honey, sugar and almonds. It can be found throughout Greece due to its popularity although the nougat found on Lefkada is especially good!
Melon jam– Due to the island’s rich fertile land, Lefkada produces exceptionally flavourful fruit. A delicacy of the island (which is extremely difficult to find) is the unique melon flavoured jam. It’s sweet refreshing taste is tantalizing! Other great flavours include; citrus, fig, apple and grape.
Local pies– Greece is famous for its golden crisp pastries. On the island of Lefkada be sure to try the rizopita (rice pita) and macaronpita (pasta pie).
Lefkadian salami– Exported since the ancient times, the local air dried salami and pork sausages are known for their mild garlic aroma and strong peppercorn taste.
Local wine– The traditional wines of the island are Vertzami (red) and Vardea (white). The grape is grown on the municipal units of Sfakiotes, Apollon, Ellomenos and Karia, at an altitude of 200 to 700 meters. The wine produced in these areas are considered to be among the country’s best varieties.
Events and Festivals
There are many religious, cultural and folklorist events that are celebrated throughout the island, however there is one that stands above the rest due to the pure vibrancy of its festivities and that is the ‘The Lefkadian Traditional Wedding Representation’.
The Lefkadian wedding representation is one of the most significant annual celebrations on the island and is celebrated over three days. It takes place in the popular hilltop village of Karya, usually in the first week of August. Over the three days, the customs of a traditional peasant wedding are re-enacted.
On the first day the matchmaking, engagement and signing of the dowry take place. The next stage is the washing of the wool where women carry large baskets filled with sheep’s wool upon their heads. Whilst singing to traditional music, the women walk down to the communal water source of the village to wash the wool. After it has been cleaned and dried, it is carried to the house of the bride where the wool is used to fill mattresses and pillows as part of the bride’s dowry. After the washing of the wool, the Koulouris (circular bagels with sesame seeds) are freshly baked and will later be handed out to guests after the wedding ceremony. After the wedding preparations are completed, a survey is completed by the groom where the bride’s trousseau is counted and recorded.
On the second day, after the holy ceremony is completed by the priest, the bride’s trousseau is taken by horse to the groom’s house and is then followed by a large wedding feast. A banquet of food and a nightlong of traditional music and dancing is enjoyed by everyone.
On the last day of the celebrations, the island’s traditional cake, Ladopita, is baked in front of the villagers in large quantities. As it bakes, the villagers share freshly made souvlaki and continue to dance and sing. The celebrations come to an end with the sharing and eating of the Ladopita and more music and dancing!
This festival is a great way to witness the island’s long standing traditions and experience the lively Greek spirit.
The emerald island of Lefkada is an attainable paradise for all. Tropical beaches, seaside towns, hilltop villages and a wealth of history and culture await to be experienced. The impressive scenes of this enchanting island will stay with you forever!