Lefkas (Lefkada) is one of the Eptanisa (Seven Islands) of the Ionian; it's the fourth largest island in the chain and makes a good twin centre option with Parga or Sivota as the island is linked to the mainland by a swing bridge. We would definitely recommend car hire to get the most from your visit and to explore all of those out of the way villages, fragrant pine forests, and fantastic beaches on the west coast.
The name Lefkas comes from ‘Leucos’ meaning white, referring to the imposing white cliffs at the southern tip of the island, reputed by sailors to be one of the entrances to the Underworld.
From the start Lefkas will impress you. It's a fairly mountainous island with steep cliffs, forests and long sandy beaches. Those interested in history will notice influences from Venice, France, Russia and England. To the east of Lefkas is a cluster of small islands, including Scorpios, formerly owned by the Onassis family.
Lefkas Town is the gateway to the island. Drive over the floating bridge linking Lefkas to the Greek mainland and you are welcomed to the capital. To the right of the bridge lies the lagoon with sandy beaches at Gyra and Agios Ioannis. The salt lake in Lefkas Town is the largest body of water on the island and plays host to large flocks of birds, including rare species. Here you can see herons, swans, wild ducks and geese and sometimes flamingos.
The town's historic centre with its traditional houses, narrow alleyways and museums contrast with the modern marina and is a most interesting place to explore.
The majority of visitors will head for one of two places: Nidri, with its plethora of restaurants, clubs and shops, or the resort of Vassiliki.
Lively Nidri is a cosmopolitan resort with a spectacular view of the tiny islands just off its shoreline. Its harbour is always busy and sitting at one of the harbourside tavernas is a pleasant way to pass an evening. Beaches in this area are mostly pebbly and there is a good choice of watersports in the area. From Nidri you can take to the seas to sail around the little islands off the east coast, Madouri, Meganisi, and Scorpios. From Nidri you can hike to the Dimossari waterfall (how lively it is depends on the amount of recent rainfall!)
Vassiliki, in the south, developed around its harbour and is famous for being one of the top ten places in the world for windsurfing. The south of the island also has many sheltered bays so is popular with sailing. In Vassiliki you'll find tavernas, cafes, bars and gift shops; you also have access to other Ionian islands (Corfu, Paxos, Ithaca, Zakynthos and Cephalonia).
Heading west from the town you'll discover outstanding sandy beaches, nestling under rugged cliffs. Agios Nikitas lies a mere 12km from Lefkas Town and has a strong Lefkadian flavour with hotels and self catering studios. The village boasts a golden beach backed by verdant olive groves. This is a good base from which to access more stunning beaches on the west coast.
On the east side of the island is Lygia, a picturesque village with a little harbour and a good selection of bars. Nikiana is a larger fishing village on the east side of the island.
We highly recommend a rental car to explore the island's interior. Many of the villages were built in ravines or in forests to protect their inhabitants from pirates. Here the way of life has not altered much in many a year. One of our favourite mountain villages is Karya, a pretty village which still maintains much of its traditional way of life. Karya is renowned for its intricate hand-made lacework and embroidery. Its peaceful square shaded by trees is a cool place in which to relax after browsing the shops for that special gift.
Lefkas has some of the best beaches in Greece, 9 of which have a Blue Flag rating. Here are just a few worth visiting:
Milos Beach can be reached in 20 minutes by following a scenic footpath from Agios Nikitas or by boarding a water taxi. Its pure white sand and deep turquoise waters are backed by high cliffs.
Kathisma - Kavalikefta - Megali Petra - Avali - all these beaches are easily accessible and close to Agios Nikitas. Their beauty lies in the turquoise waters with pebbly-sandy beaches. Kathisma is Lefkada’s most cosmopolitan beach and is organised with umbrellas, loungers, beach bars and restaurants.
Egremni beach stretches for 2 kms and is backed by impressive cliffs. It's the longest beach on the island and is accessible by boat from Nidri or Vassiliki.
The island's most famous beach has to be Porto Katsiki in the south-west of the island. Boats run from Nidri and Vassiliki or drive to the nearest point and walk down a hundred steps. This beach gets extremely busy in high season.
We cannot recommend this island highly enough.