Lefkada (Lefkas) caught me by surprise. My trip there was really an after-thought. Following my few weeks on Corfu, I had been invited to stay in Kefalonia. With a few days to spare between the Islands, I whipped out a map to figure out my itinerary. There, perfectly placed between the two Islands was an island I had never heard of before; Lefkada.
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Rambling Ruth’s Guide to Lefkada
Greek transport, being what it is, of course didn’t make it easy for me so after a bus, a ferry, walking a few extra miles because Google Maps got it so wrong and then catching another bus, I was quite excited when Lefkada Town came into view as we drove across the floating bridge that connects the Island to mainland Greece. If you haven’t already heard my gripes about Greek transport, you should read Rambing Ruth’s Basic Guide to Greece.
Lefkada was not at all what I’d imagined. I had pictured a sleepy, quiet little Island nestled away in relative obscurity. What I found, though, was the Ionian Sea’s best kept secret. Driving towards Lefkada Town, the first thing I saw were the masts. Hundreds and hundreds of sailing boats were moored in the town’s port. They gleamed in the sunshine, bobbing about, just waiting for summer.
And it got me in the holiday spirit.
Holidays in Lefkada
I stayed in Palmyra Hotel in the popular resort of Nydri on the East coast of Lefkada. It’s a great hotel, perfectly located right beside Nydri Beach, close to the main street, but just far enough away from night-time noise. I visited in May so the summer season hadn’t kicked off yet, but I could picture the summer crowds and the party atmosphere that summer would bring. After the best shower I’d had in a long time, I settled into the comfort of the hotel and planned my few days in Lefkada.
The Island is all about the water. Although it has plenty to offer in the way of history and culture, those are not the things that draw visitors to Lefkada. So much so that I didn’t even visit Agias Mavras, the fortress in Lefkada Town. Nydri and the resort of Vasilliki draw water sports enthusiasts and even in off-season, there were windsurfers, boating people and adrenaline junkies out on the water or hanging out at the waterfront cafés. So, with a ‘When in Lefkada’ attitude, I decided I was going to get it on the water sports action, even if that meant sacrificing a good fortress!
I should probably mention that the sea terrifies me. There have been very few moments of my adult life that have been spent in the sea. Despite a brilliant story about turning 30 on a desert island in the Caribbean and spending the day snorkelling with Barracudas and tropical fish (a story for another time), these moments are rare and usually involve a lot of building up courage before I (literally) take the plunge.
So, going Stand-Up paddle boarding was probably never going to be a breeze!
Here’s the other thing I should mention. There is a water sports company in my home town of Leitrim. They’re really good and have a great reputation. The owners are lovely. In the summer, groups paddle by my window many times a day. I love watching them and I always think ‘I’ll do that one day’. In all of the time that I’ve watched them, I have never gone paddle boarding. Not even once. I thought I couldn’t do it. I’m terrible at standing up. Seriously. I once fell over in my office while I was standing still. It terrified the girls I worked with, but I wasn’t fazed. That’s just me. I’m used to having terrible balance since I suffered a pretty significant back injury 10 years ago.
But I had to stop being a wuss. I signed up for some Stand Up Paddle Boarding and hauled my terrified ass down to Nydri Beach to conquer some irrational fears at Horizon Water Sports.
It was brilliant. I ended up having a one on one session with Remi, the centre’s Senior Instructor. Fortunately for me, Remi is possibly one of the most patient people I’ve ever met because I was nervous and a bit reluctant to get started. After he cajoled me onto the board and made me laugh plenty while I got used to the basics, I was feeling a lot more confident.
I never stood up. I tried three times and though I got closer to a standing position each time, I still managed to topple over into the water. What I learned after the first time that I fell in, though, was that there was nothing to be afraid of. I fell in, I got back up and I continued paddling along on my knees. It wasn’t very graceful, but I was kind of proud of myself for just trying. By the second time that I fell in the water, I wasn’t worried about it. I resurfaced to find Remi standing on his head on his board and making funny faces at me. I may not have been able to paddle board, but I was having lots of fun and was told later that my laughter could be heard all the way back on the beach.
So who cares that I wasn’t perfect. One thing’s for sure, I’ll definitely go paddle boarding again.
Where to go in Lefkada
Lefkada has a very different vibe from the other Ionian Islands. There’s a touch of class to it. Rather than package holidaymakers, Lefkada is bustling with boaters and island hoppers. There’s a much more international feel and while many of the other Ionian Islands draw a predominantly British crowd, there are far more European languages heard here. The seafront in Nydri is called after Aristotle Onassis and the Island of Scorpios, which once belonged to him, is just a stone’s throw away. Scorpios now belongs to a Russian Oligarch so there’s still plenty of wealth around. One look at the boats anchored off the Island’s coastline will show you that.
Beaches of Lefkada
Lefkada has incredible beaches. Public Transport on the Island is pretty awful, so getting to them is tricky without a car. I’d recommend hiring a car for a day or two to see the beaches on the West Coast, particularly Egremni and Porto Katsiki. Accessing the beaches is a bit if a struggle. Porto Katsiki has about 100 steps to the beach but Egremni is even more tricky with over 350 steps to navigate. It’s worth it though to see the stunning beach and the white cliffs. Just don’t drink too much water after you’ve overcome your battle with the steps. There is no bathroom at the beach!
Boat Trips around Lefkada
If climbing ridiculous amounts of steps doesn’t float your boat (bad pun intended), you can take in the beaches from the deck of one of the many boats that offer tours around the Island and to neighbouring Islands of Meganisi, Kefalonia, Ithaca and many of the smaller islands, including Scorpios. The port at Nydri is heaving with tour boat touts flogging their trips, so you won’t run out of options. Many of them visit Egremni and Porto Katsiki and allow you to go onto the island to sunbathe or swim in the beautiful blue waters.
Villages of Lefkada
Lefkada’s villages range from tourist resort to quaint and unspoilt traditional villages. They’re worth discovering. If you get tourist fatigue from the bustling resorts like Nydri and Vassiliki, jump in your rental car and go on an adventure. Agios Nikitas is incredibly beautiful. Although it has been touched by tourism, it still maintains its traditional fishing village charm and is well worth a visit.
Nature on Lefkada
Nature lovers will love Lefkada. The landscape is beautiful with lush, green vegetation everywhere. The lagoon between the island and mainland Greece is home to rare species of birds. The island is rich with waterfalls, interesting flora and fauna, a buzzing insect life (which unfortunately includes mosquitos) and beautiful scenery. Just be sure to have your bug spray or bracelets or herbal mixtures to hand. They bite pretty hard.My ‘can’t live without’ items are:
Rambling Ruth’s ‘Likely To’ Guide to Lefkada
Likely to see in Lefkada: Boats. Lots and Lots of Boats. From little ones to big ones, there’s a strong boating culture on the island.
Likely to do in Lefkada: Get out on the water. Whether that’s on a yacht or on a paddle board. Lefkada is an island for water lovers.
Likely to hear in Lefkada: International languages and accents. Although it’s a Greek Island and English is commonly used to communicate, Lefkada seems to draw visitors from all around the world.
Likey to taste in Lefkada: Greek Ice-cream or frozen yoghurt. There are cafés and restaurants everywhere on the island and some are dedicated specifically to desserts. And you’re on holidays, so treat yourself!
Likely to discover in Lefkada: Rich flora and fauna wherever you go.
Mosquitos and other Creepy/Crawly Info
Mosquito Bite Count: Minimum 20. Grr. My tolerance of insect life was rapidly diminished and the chemicals were unleashed.
Lefkada may have been an accidental trip, but it turned out to be a very happy accident. It’s a beautiful island and it’s suitable for just about any kind of traveller. It’s easy to access because it’s connected to the mainland by bridge, but the transport (as with most places in Greece) could be improved on. It’s a good option for independent travellers, families or for groups of friends. It’s a great island for socialising without the crazy atmosphere of some of Greece’s more notorious party islands.
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