Lefkada, or Leucas or Leucadia or Lefkas or Leukas (Greek: Λευκάδα [lefˈkaða]; Ancient Greek and Katharevousa: Λευκάς), is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece, connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Lefkada. It is situated on the northern part of the island, approximately 1 hour by automobile away from Aktion National Airport. The island is part of the regional unit of Lefkada.
Lefkada measures 35 kilometres (22 miles) from north to south, and 15 kilometres (9 miles) from east to west. The area of the island is about 302 square kilometres (117 sq mi), the area of the municipality (including the islands Kalamos, Kastos and several smaller islets) is 333.58 km2 (128.80 sq mi). Its highest point is the mountain Stavrota, 1,158 metres (3,799 feet) above sea level, situated in the middle of the island. The east coast section of the island has small resorts of Lygia, Nikiana and Perigiali, all north of Nidri, the largest resort on the island. It is set in a sheltered location with views across to Skorpios (formerly owned by Aristotle Onassis), Meganisi and other small islands, as well as the Greek mainland. The main coastal road from Lefkada to Vasiliki runs through the village, although a bypass has now been completed which skirts the village to the west. There are regular car ferries to Kefalonia, Ithaca and Meganissi.
20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Nidri is the resort of Vasiliki, a windsurfing center. There are ferries to Kefalonia and Ithaca from Vasiliki. South of Vasiliki is Cape Lefkada, where the Greek female poet Sappho allegedly leapt to her death from the 30 m high cliffs.
The famous beach of Porto Katsiki is located on Lefkada's west coast. Lefkada was attached to mainland Greece (see above about Homer's Ithaca being Lefkada). The Corinthians dug a trench in the 7th century BC on its isthmus.
The island has a typical Mediterranean climate: hot summers and cool winters, especially in the mountains.
Transportation - Get In
Although Lefkas is an island, it's connected to the mainland by a causeway and floating bridge. The bridge moves aside every hour on the hour to allow yachts to cross. Usually it is a short procedure with delay similar to that of a major traffic intersection. In high season (August) during peak weekend times, this could lead to significant delays at the bridge if you arrive when the bridge is closed or has just opened.
The airport, near Preveza, is 20 minutes drive from Lefkas town, at the north tip of the island.
Charter flights from many European countries operate to Preveza from April through October. Many European airlines also provide scheduled services during this period. At the time of writing the only domestic flights are from Sitia (Crete), Corfu and Kefalonia approximately 3x a week.
Athens is about 5 hours by bus, while Thessaloniki is about 4,5 hours distance, each with several journeys per day.
There are daily ferries to Fiskardo on Kefalonia, and Ithaka, from the Southern coast town of Vassiliki. From Southeastern coastal Nidri, ferries run to Meganissi frequently. Ferries to Italy (Bari, Brindisi, Ancona, Venice, Trieste) run from Igoumenitsa, about a 90 minute drive onto the mainland from Lefkas Town.
Transportation - Get Around
Rental car, quad, or scooter is the most efficient mode of transportation.
The islands public coach transportation company (KTEL Leykadas) run frequent routes to all resorts and villages on the island. If travelling on weekends and public holidays it is suggested to check the timetables before attempting your journey.
Lefkada is full of incredible hidden wonders and caves that are only accessible by boat. You can rent a private sailboat or motor yacht with a skipper on Antlos for an affordable price.
Cities / Villages
- Lefkada The capital of the island
- Lazarata, Spanochori, Pinakochori, Asprogerakata, Kavallos
- Athani, Dragano
- Syrvos, Vournikas, Agios Ilias
Accommodation & Hotels
You can find every range of accommodation, from small and cheap apartments to luxury hotels and villas.
The myth about Sappho's suicide at Cape Lefkada is related to other myths linking the island to the ancient Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and to Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey. The German archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld, having performed excavations at various locations of Lefkada, was able to obtain funding to do work on the island by suggesting that Lefkada was Homer's Ithaca, and the palace of Odysseus was located west of Nydri on the south coast of Lefkada. There have been suggestions by local tourism officials that several passages in the Odyssey point to Lefkada as a possible model for Homeric Ithaca. The most notable of these passages pushed by the local tourism board describes Ithaca as an island reachable on foot, which was the case for Lefkada since it is not really an island, that it was connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. According to Strabo, the coast of Acarnania was called Leucas in earlier times. The ancient sources call Leucas a Corinthian colony, perhaps with a Corcyraen participation. During the Peloponnesian War Leucas had joined the Spartan Confederation.
Lefkada was part of the Despotate of Epirus until 1295 when it passed from Despot Nikephoros I to his son-in-law John Orsini. The Castle of Santa Maura, as the island became known as, was first built in the beginning of the 14th century; the possession of the castle was key to holding the island. The Orsini family lost Lefkada in 1331, to the Angevins. In 1343, Walter of Brienne granted Lefkada and the Santa Maura castle to Venetian Graziano Giorgio. Between 1343 and 1348, Serbian ruler Stefan Dušan invaded Albania, Epirus and Thessaly, conquering all except for Vonitsa and Santa Maura. In 1362, Leonardo I Tocco seized Lefkada and Vonitsa. In 1479, the Ottomans conquered Lefkada, and rebuilt the castle on a large scale (the core of the castle being Ottoman).
Early modern period
The Venetians briefly held Lefkada between 1500 and 1503, during the Ottoman-Venetian War, after which it was returned to Ottoman rule by peace treaty. Ottoman rule was interrupted by Venice in 1684, with the Ottomans surrendering it after a 16-day siege, and was thus again part of the Ionian Islands under Venetian rule.
The Ottomans called it Ayamavra, from Greek Agia Maura (Αγία Μαύρα, itself derived from "Santa Maura"), and ruled it between 1479–1502, 1504–1684 and 1715-1716. The Venetians extensively modified the castle in the early 18th century, and the British also made some modification in the 19th century.
In 1800, the Septinsular Republic was established, a Russian protectorate under de jure Ottoman suzerainty. The Russian Empire employed troops recruited from fugitive klephts and armatoloi in the Ioanian Islands, particularly of Lefkada. Among these were captains Anastasios Tselios and Apostolos Levendakis, the latter who already in 1802 offered to raise a company of 60 fighters on Lefkada to support the Russians.
Things to do
Porto Katsiki beach is worldwide known, chosen and voted more than once in top 10 of beaches in Mediterranean and in Europe. A relatively large and sandy beach surrounded by white cliffs. Whilst it is possible to drive to the beach and take the steps down the cliff, there are also daily boat trips that leave from Nidri and Vasiliki harbour. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours and can be fairly choppy sometimes. Don't forget the sea legs! Egkremni is one of the longest beaches of the island and has the privilege to be the less "cosmopolitan". While you will faint on the idea to walk up and down 1000 or even more stairs to get there, you will definitely be awarded by a unique colour of the crystal blue "caribbean" waters.
- Kite flying
- Wind Surfing - some of the best in Europe on the South of the island in Vasiliki
The wide and sheltered bay of Vasiliki in the South of the island is famous for its Wind Surfing due to the strong and consistent wind (known as "Eric" by enthusiasts) that blows down over the mountains in the afternoons. Cross winds of Beaufort force 9 has been recorded at the beach, but more typical is force 5 - 7 in the late afternoon. The section of beach named "Ponti" is usually packed with Wind Surfers and can be quite a spectacle to watch. It is possible to hire Canoes and Catamarans as well as Wind Surfing equipment on this main stretch of beach.
Lefkas is over 70% mountainous and said to be one of the best mountain biking spots in Europe. There are many places to hire push bikes along the high street in Nidri, however these bikes are not very well suited for the terrain and are more suitable for just getting about the town.
Fish recommended at Syvota bay or at fishport of Lygia while you can enjoy delicious meat meals at Karya village.
The harbour at Vasiliki bay houses around 15 restaurants and fast food outlets, all of which have covered seating outside next to the water. Be aware that on particularly warm evenings the water in some parts of the harbour smells and can be distracting when trying to relax and eat!
Food available at the harbour varies from traditional Greek cuisine, to simple meals such as beef burgers and chips and is relatively cheap. It is possible for 2 people to eat a large meal and drink wine for less than €25.
The most popular beers at the bars in Nidri and Vasiliki are Mythos and Amstel. There is a winery on the island (approx 8 km from Vasiliki town) which produces "Lefkadian Land White", a white wine which can be bought cheaply in the supermarkets and restaurants.