Is Lefkada worth visiting? That’s what we’re here to answer. This guide will delve down into the isle at the heart of the Ionian Sea to reveal nine reasons why we think it could just be a fantastic addition to the travel list this year.
There’s certainly no shortage of things to pick up on. Lefkada (which is sometimes called just Lefkas) has a fine position amid some of Greece’s most famous islands, an east coast of postcard-worthy bays, and a whole string of world-class sailing towns. It’s also not too built up and pretty chilled, which offers a nice break from the heady party hubs of Kavos and Zante!
So, is Lefkada worth visiting? Let’s check it out, with a little bit of info on this isle’s sands, seas, soaring mountains, and silent hill villages…
One thing that should hit you about Lefkada the moment you arrive is just how chilled the place is compared to other members of the Ionian chain. Yep, despite its direct causeway link to the Greek mainland, this spot is noticeably relaxed and less developed than many of its compadres. It’s not a place that pumps with 18-30s bars, not somewhere inundated with massive hotel resorts on the shore.
Instead, the eastern shoreline, which is the most developed of the whole lot, is more about finding quaint harbor towns where salty wood boats bob on the quays. It’s about discovering family tavernas that sizzle fish on open BBQ coals.
The pull of the mountains is always there, too. We’ll talk more about those later but suffice to say they have helped Lefkas retain its old-time charm. Up high, where very few travelers even venture, pint-sized villages are huddled in the midst of chestnut forests, filled with workshops that weave traditional lace, and topped by churches that ring out bells in the crisp highland air.
Lefkas has established itself as one of the sailing hubs of the Ionian region. In fact, countless people have their boats moored up here in the east-coast marina towns and thousands come each year to organize a charter to take them further afield, on sail-powered odysseys to Ithaka, Kefalonia, Corfu, Paxi, and beyond.
If you’re the sort who prefers to explore the Greek islands on a 40-footer, then you should know about the towns of Nikiana and – especially – Nydri. The first is a small port that’s good for more modest sized moorings. The latter is arguably ground zero for sailing in western Greece. It’s home to loads of yachts, charter outfitters, and ferry providers that offer day trips out to nearby isles and beaches.
The good news is that you don’t actually have to be a qualified skipper to make the most of the world-class sailing around Lefkada. You could opt to rent a small motorboat for the day to get your taste. They cost no more than $70 a pop and have enough moxie to take you around the next-door island of Skorpios (an interesting place that was once the home of the uber-rich Onassis clan) and to secret coves along the south coast alike.
The whole of the built-up east coast of Lefkas is pretty standard Greek stuff. By that, we mean it’s a long string of downright lovely Ionian coves fringed by pebbles and hemmed in by scented pines. Now and again, the shoreline is punctuated by a pretty sailing town or a fishing village. Past the deep inlet of Vlicho, it gets wilder and wilder, as you enter territory that’s only really accessible by boat – beaches like Alonaki and Kamari that are little more than empty coves.
That’s pretty nice and all, but it’s not the star of the show on Lefkada. That honor goes to the south and west coasts. They are the places that showcase the serious grandeur of Ionia – think sheer-cut cliffs of blazing white stone that drop to equally white beaches before a ridiculously turquoise sea. The beaches you simply HAVE to see there include:
- Egremni Beach – The cliffs rise at a steep angle from a sliver of glinting white sand at Egremni.
- Porto Katsiki – A large cave gapes open above the shimmering sand here, with clear blue waters sloshing just below.
- Paralia Gialos – A rare developed option with sunbeds that still has some of the drama of the west coast.
The hotels (but especially the villas)
There are some fantastic places to stay in Lefkada. This isle doesn’t have the same uber-overload of development as some other spots in the Greek seas (Santorini – we’re looking at you!). That means you can still escape away from the buzz of it all to somewhere relaxed and rustic. Divert from the string of harbor towns on the southwest shore up into the mountains and you can find old farmhouses come agri stays and little cottages in the mountains.
There’s also your usual run of three- and four-star family hotels on the beaches, but don’t expect to find them on the cliff-backed beaches of the south and east coasts (which are the best on the island). Those are protected areas and come virtually without any stays. Where we’d say Lefkas can beat the rest of the Ionian region on accommodation is when it comes to villas. There are oodles of pads with pools catering to five people or more here. That’s perfect if you’re planning a family holiday.
Here are some of our favorite places to bed down on the island of Lefkas:
- Ionian Villas ($$) – There are two family-sized villas in this complex, each with access to a pool set between slender cypress trees.
- Artblue Villas ($$$) – A selection of villas, some with stunning private infinity pools, located high up in the hills of northern Lefkas, away from the buzz of the resorts.
- Red Villa ($$) – Named for its bright scarlet exterior, this villa is secluded and charming, with a private pool close to the lovely marina of Nydri.
It’s pretty easy to get to
The great thing about a vacation in Lefkas is that you don’t have to deal with the fuss of hopping ferry after ferry or flight after flight. This isle makes it simple for would-be visitors because it comes with its very own road link to the mainland. That runs out from Lefkas Town on the northern coast and goes over to link up with the 42 highways and the E55, which, in turn, go all the way to the port of Igoumenitsa in the north.
What’s more, Lefkas basically has its own airport because the mainland road connection makes it a cinch to get back and forth to the terminals at Preveza. Known as the Aktion International Airport, the hub there hosts links on charter, flag carrying, and low-cost airlines to a diverse array of European hubs – London, Bristol, Prague, Rome. Just remember that most of those run seasonally, so departures might only be on the table between May and September.
The mountains (and the mountain villages)
Forget the beaches and the white-sand bays for a moment. There’s a whole other side to Lefkada that many a visitor won’t even get to see: The mountains. The island is actually scored from north to south by one long, high ridge. It hits a peak at the summit of Mount Elati, some 1,158 meters aloft from the sparkling Ionian Sea below.
Going in this direction will almost certainly require a rental car. The roads in from the coast are often narrow and winding, but they reveal a land of hidden valleys, sylvan mountain slopes, and deep groves cut through by babbling rivers.
The highlight has to be the cluster of time-stood-still villages. One, Syvros, is home to a centuries-old olive oil press. Another, Karya, is considered the cultural heart of the island, and has lace-weaving workshops next to haunting Orthodox churches. You can also drive right over the top of the main ridge in Lefkas to reveal the western shoreline, where sweeping views of the Ionian Sea spread out and the beaches are often 100% empty.
The culture and the history
Is Lefkada worth visiting for the history alone? Probably not. Look, this island isn’t steeped in ancient ruins like, say, Santorini or Crete. It wasn’t home to a big city state in ancient times like Athens or Sparta. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to unravel here…
Start at the Archaeological Museum of Lefkada. Situated on the edge of buzzy Lefkada Town, it’s a collection of two-thousand-year-old burial trinkets, musical instruments, and even weapons. Next up comes the Faneromeni Monastery. Perched above the island capital, the complex was rebuilt by the Venetians in the 1700s and hosts an interesting religious art collection.
Heritage buffs might also want to pencil in a day in Lefkada Town. The tight-knit web of roads there connects up traditional Greek cafes and literary museums, along with a lovely harborside where you can look at the causeway originally laid down in ancient times.
For access to other islands
Lefkada is fantastically placed for anyone looking to string together an island-hopping trip through western Greece. We’ve already seen how it’s a hub for sailing. One reason for that is just how close and well-connected it is with other, much-more-famous, destinations in the region.
Kefalonia is the obvious one. That big cut-out of mountains and beaches lies immediately to the south of Lefkas in the Ionian Sea. Ferries go there direct in the summer months and loads of boat trips also include a stopover, usually at the uber-enchanting village of Fiskardo on the north shore, which is famous for its seafood tavernas, and beaches haloed in pine woods.
There are also pretty good links or proximity to a number of other islands. You could consider traveling onwards to:
- Ithaka – Getting here often means needing your own boat or a stopover in Kefalonia first. The reward is a truly gorgeous isle with bijou coves that have super-clear water.
- Zante – One island south of Kefalonia and you get Zakynthos (also called Zante), the home of Shipwreck Beach and the turtle-hatching areas of its own marine park.
- Paxi – You’ll need your own boat to get to Paxi as the only commercial connections go from Corfu and the mainland. Still, it might be worth the effort because the beaches are positively Caribbean in these parts!
Okay, so Lefkada might not get the same uber-long season that’s enjoyed in the more southerly of the Greek islands – Crete, Rhodes. However, it’s still pretty darn long here. Visitors on the hunt for sun and beach days tend to start arriving in earnest in May. They won’t go leaving again until the beginning of October. That’s almost a full six months of prime weather…
Talking of the weather, we mean consistent days without a single speck of rainfall on the lower ground (most of the 10-30mm that drops in the warmer months here is limited to the lusher highland areas). We’re also talking temperatures that stick around the very-pleasant levels of 60-90 F even at their peak.
Lefkada can suffer from strong storms known as medicanes come the late fall and early winter, so it’s often a good idea to skip those times. That said, traveling earlier on in spring is a good choice if you want to hit the hiking paths – it’s cooler and generally great for trekkers in April.
Is Lefkada worth visiting? Our conclusion
So, is Lefkada worth visiting? That all really depends on what you’re after from your Greek holiday. This isle is famous for a few things, including its sailing scene, its uber-clear blue water (on the west coast), and its mountainous interior. It’s a great choice if you’re after those things, not to mention somewhere a little more chilled and relaxed than other options in the region. Overall, we think it’s a top option for family visitors on account of its array of secluded villa stays, and a fine addition to any cross-Ionia sailing trip you’re planning.