Why it's time to fall in love with Lefkada

Heidi Fuller-love

Heidi Fuller-love

Famed as the site where poetess Sappho leapt from rugged cliffs to escape the torment of love, lush light-filled Lefkada* (also known as Lefkas) is one of those Greek islands that's, somehow, remained under the radar despite boasting some of the country's finest beaches.

It's time to fall in love with Lefkada
It's time to fall in love with Lefkada © Netfalls - Adobe Stock Image

Thought to have been named for its chalk-coloured landscapes ('lefka' means 'white'), Lefkada is not just a fly-to-fry destination, however. With countless fascinating museums, archaeological sites and a dozen lost-in-the-past villages to explore, there's plenty to see here.

Adrenalin activity fans will find plenty to do as well on an island that's been dubbed Europe's windsurfing capital. When the sun sets over those glorious seascapes, head for buzzing resorts like Nydri or Vassiliki where there's plenty to keep the night owls occupied.

Getting to Lefkada: check out the latest offers on holidays with TUI* plus affordable breaks to other destinations across the Ionian Islands*.

It's incredibly easy to get to

Once a pine-studded peninsula, Lefkada only became an island in the 8th century BCE when the Corinthians carved out a narrow canal separating it from the central Greek mainland in order to make it easier for ships to pass.

Settle by the beach in the resort of Nydri
Settle by the beach in the resort of Nydri © Joshua Windsor - Alamy Stock Photo

Nowadays days this storied island, which is a strong contender for the title of Homer's Ithaca, is linked to mainland central Greece by a 50-metre-long swing bridge and is one of only a handful of Greek islands that can be reached without planes or ferries.

You can bliss out on beautiful beaches

From pristine pebble-strewn water-lapped coves perfect for snorkelling to endless stretches of talc-fine sand that are ideal for lounging, this heavenly island haven surrounded by some 24 sister islets is a paradise for beach lovers.

Framed by towering cliffs, fronted by sugar-white sands and fringed by mirror-clear waters, the horseshoe-shaped cove of Porto Katsiki has little to envy its Caribbean counterparts, but this is, understandably, one of Lefkada's most popular beaches, so it tends to get busy in summer.

Taking a dip on Porto Katsiki Beach
Taking a dip on Porto Katsiki Beach © Cristian Balate - Adobe Stock Image

If you're seeking something (far) more remote, pack plenty of suncream and a bottle of water, and climb the 400 steps down to Egremni's silky sand beach on the island's southwest coast.

Alternatively, hike the rocky trail lined with pungent spikes of wild thyme to Milos Beach, a vast expanse of sand backed by steep forested hills where you'll barely see another soul.

There's oodles to do in the island's capital

With its narrow cobbled alleys opening onto small plateias (squares) lined with traditional kafenions (Greek cafés) and coffee houses, and its seafront esplanades offering views over the white-sailed windmills and bird-dotted waters of the Gyra Lagoon, Lefkada, the island's eponymous capital, buzzes with things to do and see.

Culture vultures will want to mosey around the town's archaeological museum packed with fascinating artefacts dating back to Palaeolithic times.

Spend an hour in the Phonograph-Memorabilia Museum where quirky exhibits include old phonographs, vinyl records and other antique bits and bobs.

Shopaholics will have a ball hunting for Greek designer wear, colourful ceramics and other locally crafted souvenirs along pedestrianized shopping drag, Melas Street.

Curiosities of the Phonograph-Memorabilia Museum, Lefkada
Curiosities of the Phonograph-Memorabilia Museum, Lefkada © Germaine Alexakis - Alamy Stock Photo

Work up an appetite on a hike out along winding paths to see the striking ruins of 14th-century Venetian fort Agia Mavra before heading back along the coast to Lefkada's tiny fishing harbour.

Here you'll find some of the island's best fish restaurants, where must-samples include savoro, brine-fish cooked in a melting onion and garlic marinade spiked with fragrant sprigs of rosemary.

End your day on a high note in the Kouzounteli area above the town, home to several of Lefkada's oldest tavernas. Sitting at one of the wobbly tables surrounded by centuries-old olive groves sipping an ice-cold beaker of soumada (an almond syrup drink), you're guaranteed to get a real taste of local life.

It's fun to explore from the water

Sadly, you can't visit Skorpios, the legendary island just opposite Lefkada that once belonged to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, but there are plenty of other surrounding isles within easy reach.

Remote Ammoglossa Beach on the isle of Meganisi
Remote Ammoglossa Beach on the isle of Meganisi © Chester Tugwell - Alamy Stock Photo

Take tiny Meganisi, where you can travel back in time as you hike along secluded tracks to remote beaches and traditional villages.

Alternatively, take a small kaiki boat to discover the sea caves where Greek submarines hid out during World War II, just half an hour by ferry from Nydris' low key fishing port.

From Vassiliki's larger, busier harbour you can also make the one-and-a-half-hour ferry trip to Ithaca with its mysterious monasteries, marvellous museums and magical beaches.

There's always the option to take a two-hour boat trip to Captain Corelli's Kefalonia where a string of secret caves, ancient castles, high-flung monasteries and wildlife-thronged lakes are sure to keep you enthralled.

Explore traditional villages

Rarely on tourist radars, Lefkada's mountain hamlets are well worth an explore. Highlights include Karya, with its stone manorhouses, Byzantine churches and old-fashioned shops selling the traditional Karyan embroidery, once popular with foreign royals and aristocrats at the turn of the last century.

You could head for Egklouvi, Lefkada's highest village famed for its fat lentils; try some in a salad or a stew at Lythanofli, Ta Lytrata or other tavernas on the village's main square. The village was known as 'Little Moscow' during the 1930s because of the rebellious character of its inhabitants.

For the best sunset-sipping views, however, it has to be Exanthia. This tiny village, built in an amphitheatre-like curve of cobbled alleys and old stone houses clinging to the steep slopes of Mount Elati, is also where you'll find Rachi, a gourmet taverna with bird's-eye views over the Ionian Sea glittering far below.

Enjoying the view from the hilltop taverna Rachi
Enjoying the view from the hilltop taverna Rachi - photo courtesy of rachi.gr

Order some of the succulent Greek fusion food along with a thimble of Lefkada's traditional cinnamon and clove-scented fruit liqueur rozoli and watch the sun set in a pool of scarlet over that sumptuous scenery that once held Homer spellbound.

Weather in Lefkada

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Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

The above guide shows the weather in Nydri. Find out more about conditions across the country in our complete guide to the weather in Greece.

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Heidi Fuller-love

Heidi Fuller-love

Based across France, Greece and Spain (and fluent in all three languages), travel writer and podcast producer Heidi Fuller-love is the Greece destination expert for The Telegraph. She also writes for the likes of The Guardian, CN Traveller, The I and The Times and is a regular contributor to BBC radio's 'From Our Own Correspondent'. Heidi also produces British Airways' 'Meet The Locals' podcast and is a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers.

Posted on Wednesday 7th June 2023 in: Europe Excursions Summer TUI

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