Lefkas, or Lefkada as it can be called, is one of the Ionian chain of islands that lie just off the west coast of mainland Greece.
Corinthians cut a canal through sandbanks connecting it to the mainland in 600 BC and Lefkas still only just qualifies as an island.
Holiday interest grew with the opening of Preveza airport on the Greek coast and a good road connection that paved the way for tourism.
It’s not all been plain sailing. The east coast of Lefkas has suffered a rash of hotel building, especially around the holiday resort of Nidri.
The large, sheltered bays on the east and south coast of Lefkas make both Nidri and Sivota a favourite of yacht charter firms as do the heavily indented bays of offshore islets such as Meganissi.
On the much less populated west coast, rugged cliffs, rocky shores and exposed beaches are a magnet for the more adventurous while Vassiliki, in the south, is a world class windsurfing centre.
Tourism has brought some unsettling changes to Lefkas but none are too profound. Those seeking modern facilities in a traditional Greek setting should find Lefkas an attractive beach holiday destination.
Parts of Lefkas are quite astonishingly beautiful, notably inland where flower strewn hill villages nestle in lush, green pine forests.
Beaches of Lefkas
Like most of the Ionian chain of islands the best Lefkas beaches are found on the gently sloping east side. The west coast of Lefkas is mostly sheer cliff although there are notable beaches on the south-west at Porto Katsiki and a clutch to the north-west around Agios Nikolaos The main Lefkas beach resorts are at Nidri on the east coast and the noted windsurfing beach at Vassiliki to the south. The waters on the eastern shoreline are very sheltered and the deep bays are a popular stop for yacht flotillas. Increasingly popular are the islets that lie of the southern coast of Lefkas such as Meganissi.
The capital Lefkas Town, at the north-east tip of Lefkas, has suffered three major earthquakes since 1948 and today’s town is an odd, architectural mix of brightly painted houses, many of them topped with wood and corrugated iron to mitigate any future damage from seismic shocks.
Narrow streets help give Lefkas Town a village atmosphere, although the richly decorated Venetian churches, packed with works of art, add a cosmopolitan touch.
The main square is an attractive spot that splits the traffic-free shopping street in two. Cafes and tavernas surround the square which can become lively at night as the street sellers set up their stalls. More bars and tavernas are found at the harbour with views across to mainland Greece.
Ostensibly a port, there is little to be seen of the sea. Lefkas Town lies alongside a huge and sombre lagoon where a newly-built 650-berth marina is worth a stroll around. A series of fortresses along the causeway approach testify to the island’s strategic importance in the past. The 13th century fortress at Santa Mavra was worked on by Venetians, Turks and, most of all, earthquakes. An explosion in 1888 reduced many of its buildings to rubble.
Lefkas Town has four museums, the oddest being the Lefkas Phonograph Museum’s collection of old gramophones. Other sights include the 17th century Faneromeni Monastery set in pine woods on the hills above. It also boasts a wide variety of cultural events and festivals; it even has its own philharmonic orchestra.
The town has no beach, but a four kilometre stretch of sand and pebble lies across the lagoon at Yra, also spelt Gyra; very popular with windsurfers. Daily buses leave for all the main island resorts.