To visit the Lefkada picture gallery - click HERE
We visited in September 2005.
Lefkada (also known as Lefkas) is in the Ionian group of islands and lies just north of Kefalonia. It is not really an island as it is connected to the mainland by a long causeway and a boat bridge.
The main airport for the region is at Preveza (also known as Aktion). Journey time to Lefkada is less than 30 minutes. From here it was another 20 minutes down the east coast to the resort of Nidri.
We stayed at the Oscar hotel, south of the harbour area in a quiet location with a very pleasant outlook towards the Geni Peninsular.
First impressions can be misleading. Certainly as the coach drove down the busy high street it all looked a bit tacky. It seemed to be very much geared for the British visitors, of which there were significant numbers. However, it is a place that we warmed to as it was clear that it was just as popular with Greeks themselves. Its saving grace is the area along by the harbour. If you don’t wish to share your meal with a car just a metre from your table then head down one of the side streets off the high street to Akti Aristoteli Onasi. The road is closed to traffic in the evening and is a great place to stroll whilst deciding which taverna to try.
Running along the back of the village is the infamous and unfinished Nidri bypass. It would appear that a dispute over land at the northern end of the road has prevented completion of the project. It is a wide, flat, well surfaced …. and hardly ever used !! Obviously some traffic would still need to enter the village for deliveries etc but if all the through traffic could be diverted away from the high street then I am sure Nidri would be a much more pleasant place to stay. It would certainly make it safer.
UPDATE: Breaking news - as of 2011, the bypass is open ! The main strret In Nidri is now pedestrianised from 6pm to 6am - not sure if that applies to scooters though !!
The beaches of Nidri are north of the harbour. Although stony and narrow, the beaches are backed by trees and are pleasant enough. The water is crystal clear and there are good views out to the various islands. Further north, beyond Perigialli there are several more stretches of beach, the best of these is at Passa. This is probably a bit too far to walk from Nidri but just about right for a very gentle cycle ride.
Heading south from the harbour, a path runs by the sea towards a boatyard. To continue around the bay it is necessary to head inland and join the main road. When you reach the village of Vlicho you can continue around the bay onto the Geni peninsular to the small chapel of Agia Kiriaki, directly opposite Nidri harbour.
Numerous boat trips leave from the harbour at about 10am each day. Some just visit the satellite islands, including Meganisi whilst others offer a full day trip down to Ithaca and Kefalonia. The best value boat trip is the ferry to Meganisi – just 2€ each way (bicycles travel free). The ferry takes about 25 minutes to reach the first stop at Porto Spillia. It then goes onto Vathy before returning to Nidri. For more on Meganisi visit HERE
If the sight of all the boats in the harbour gives you a yearning to put to sea then there are plenty of smaller boats for hire. Prices seemed quite reasonable and started at about 40€ for the day plus fuel.
Early morning calls are provided free of charge by the men that empty the bins. The refuge collection around our hotel took place at around 5am each day.
There is a huge choice of places to eat in Nidri. The competition for customers has resulted in some tavernas employing touts to tempt you in. Some may find this tiresome but a little humour goes a long way.
We found a few places that we returned to, as much for the hospitality than the actual food. However, wherever we ate we found the food to be good and reasonably priced. The local wine was also very good and cost about 3€ for half a litre.
Petrinos (in the high street !!) was excellent value – a huge mixed plate for 2 was 18€. The wine was even better value – buy one carafe and the owner Yiannis would keep on topping it up on the house.
Amstel Cost of Living Index
Oscar Hotel 2€ (large bottle)
Taverna 2 –2.50€
Cafe bar in Nidri 2€ (large bottle). This was a pleasant surprise – usually sitting down in a comfy chair works out more expensive even after taking into account the complimentary bowl of peanuts.
Supermarket – large bottle 0.70€ – 1.0€
Meal for 2 about 35€
From Nidri it is a gentle 45 minute walk through the olive groves although just past the car park the road does rise quite steeply. A footpath then follows the river bed onto the waterfalls. Note – ignore the first waterfall and continue for another 5 minutes or so until you reach the second waterfall. The pool is just big enough for a few people to share a cooling dip.
Around the Island
The island has an extensive road network and is well worth exploring in a hire a car. We paid 245€ for 1 week (A/C Citroen). The quality of the road surfaces varied enormously. Generally the main road down the eastern coast is OK but over on the west of the island the surfaces could deteriorate quite suddenly. Some roads are definitely not for the faint hearted with hairpin bends and sheer drops to concentrate the mind.
Roads that our map (ROAD Editions 303 – Lefkada) suggested were dirt tracks were actually quite good tarmac roads which occasionally narrowed into single track.
Unusually for Greece we found that bicycle hire was very popular, particularly in Nidri and Vasiliki. The going rate was 3€ per day.
Around Mt Elati there are a number of communications installations including a Greek Air Force base.
We discovered a further road, which led us to a small chapel and from here there were spectacular views down to Nidri and across the sea to the mountains of the mainland.
There are many villages offering the opportunity to witness a more traditional way of life. We particularly liked Vafkeri, Englouvi, Karia and Premendinos.
However, one cloudy morning we decided to give it another chance. Near a wooden bridge crossing the canal is the top of the main thoroughfare through the town, known as Dorpfeld. This runs through the heart of the town and is free from traffic. It is lined with shops, bars, and tavernas. There are many little side streets and alleyways to explore. We found this to be a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
Ligia and Nikiana
Both low key resorts on the east coast. Nikiana seems to be the more appealing of the two by virtue of the better facilities. Both have the normal east coast type of beach – narrow and pebbly.
This is a short drive from Nidri on the southern side of the Geni peninsular. We cycled there and all was fine until the final rise and descent to the beach – both very steep. The beach is pebbly and backed by 2 large gated campsites. When we visited we were welcomed by the proprietor, who told us where to park our bikes and showed us the way through the campsite to the beach.
This is a very sheltered inlet and is a popular mooring point for visiting yachts. Whilst it does have a very small pebbly beach, the main attraction here is the lively harbour area.
This is one of Europe’s premier windsurfing locations. However it should be noted that the main windsurfing area is on the opposite side of the bay at Ponti. The two villages have effectively merged as the road linking the two is lined with accommodation etc. We found Vasiliki a very pleasant spot to have a frappe while watching the boats in the harbour. The area around the harbour and the lanes that lead off it are full of tavernas and smart looking bars.
The beach stretches all along the bay across to Ponti. Here the breeze is gentle in the morning, but by mid-afternoon has increased sufficiently to bring out literally hundreds of windsurfers onto the water.
West coast beaches
Nudism is quite popular on these beaches, so for anyone wishing to bare all then head west. In fact I would say that nudism is more prevalent on Lefkada than on any other island we have visited.
This is a very long beach on the seaward side of the lagoon just a few kilometres from Lefkada town. A road runs along the entire length of the beach. Between the road and the beach are sand dunes with numerous tracks. Despite its proximity to Lefkada Town it was not crowded. There are tavernas at each end of the beach.
Some facilities but fundamentally a huge expanse of fantastic beach. Easily reached from the main road. With the exception of a few rocky sections, the beach stretches all the way south to Agh. Nikitas.
This is a small village and about the only real resort of any size on the west coast. The village has a small beach with a much larger one known as Milos just around the headland.
This is probably the most popular of the west coast beaches. There is a good road all the way down to the beach – even the buses can get down there. From pictures that I have seen of this beach there does appear to have been significant development in this area in recent years. There are plenty of tavernas and bars and even rooms to rent.
There are several beaches that are signposted from the village of Kalamitsi. Just 4kms did not seem too far but the road twists its way down the side of a mountain to make it feel more like 10kms. Much of the road is poorly surfaced and then out of the blue, about half way down, there is a section of newly surfaced road. Stop here and take in the views – the colour of the sea is just amazing.
On the descent, there were a couple of roads leading off both to the left and the right but we took what seemed to be the most direct route down and ended up at a most spectacular beach. It may well have another name but our map indicated that we were at Avali Bay. The road comes to an abrupt stop in front of a drinks cantina. At this particular spot there were a number of (unused) sunbeds, presumably owned by the Cantina man. We backtracked a short way and managed to park the car in the road. A track heading south through some bamboo and abandoned olive terraces comes out onto a beautiful stretch of beach. The beach was occupied by around 20 or so people (majority nudist).
Just before reaching the village of Athani there are signs to Gialou. The road goes all the way down to the beach where there are plenty of places to park and a couple of cantinas serving drinks and snacks. The beach stretches for a long way in both directions. As with most beaches along this coast it is steeply shelving and the waves can be quite strong.
This is one of the more difficult to reach of the west coast beaches. From the main road a stone track winds its way precariously down the mountainside but doesn’t quite reach the bottom. Follow the signs for car parking, this will save you another 150 metres of walking down (and more importantly on the way back up) a very steep slope. Signs display a charge of 3€ for parking but when we were there it was free.
Nearly 400 steps lead down to the beach. There is a drinks cantina at the bottom for emergency refreshment – for the journey back up the steps !!. The beach and the setting are stunning. Unfortunately on the day we chose to visit the sky was overcast as a storm passed by out to sea. The wind suddenly changed direction and within minutes it was raining on the beach. At least the rain helped to keep us cool as we clambered back up the steps.
This is reputedly one of the finest beaches in all Greece and despite the tortuous drive to get there is very popular. It would be difficult to argue with that claim as the sheer white cliffs that tower above the beach compliment the turquoise colour of the sea perfectly to provide a stunning setting.
The hillside has been extensively terraced in an effort to provide adequate parking. A number of tavernas are perched on the cliff above from which steps lead down to the beach.
A path leads out onto the headland from where there are excellent coastal views.
Lefkada turned out to be a much more rewarding island that we had expected. From the spectacular beaches of the west coast to the many interesting inland villages we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
To visit the Lefkada picture gallery - click HERE
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