An introduction to Lefkas Island
Lefkas Island, or Lefkada as it is known in Greece, is an island of the Ionian, which is actually connected to mainland Epiros via a long bridge. In fact, Lefkas was always connected to mainland Greece via a causeway and this is what makes archaeologists believe it is actually Homeric Ithaca, because the ancient story refers to an island that was accessible via foot. Lefkas or Lefkada has its own airport and is easily accessible by land or sea or air, making it a popular holiday destination for Greeks, especially Greeks from the western mainland, and foreigners alike.
There is a great mythological tale about Lefkas Island and it has to do with Sappho. Legend has it that Sappho’s suicide occurred at Cape Lefkada. Lefkada is also linked to numerous other myths and historical facts, such as that Odyssey’s palace was located at Nidri, which is a popular modern day resort on the south coast of the island.
Lefkas island or Lefkada actually takes it name from the word for “white,” because of the white rocks of its southern coastline. The name was given to the ancient city of Lefkada. Lefkas has been an important city in ancient times, fighting important battles throughout history, such as the Persian war, the Battle of Salamina and the Peloponnesian War. The island has been under Frankish, Sicilian, Ottoman and Venetian rule and in 1864, together with the other Ionian islands, became a part of Greece.
Today, Lefkas is a busy island, a well-organised tourist resort and Lefkada town is a cosmopolitan capital built around a natural harbour with excellent tourism facilities, hotels, cafés, tavernas, sights to see and museums to visit. The main industry that locals are involved in is tourism, but agriculture is also a source of income for local Lefkadites.
Lefkas Island actually suffered from two major earthquakes in 1948 and 1953, which destroyed much of the island’s modern and ancient structures, though some survived albeit in ruins. These include the fortress of Agia Maura, dating back to the Frankish invasion of around 1300. Much of the island today has been rebuilt in accordance with the unique and charming architecture that is characteristic of modern Lefkas.
As with most areas of Greece, some of the most imposing and impressive landmarks are those that bare witness to the Greek Orthodox church. Lefkas is no exception to this rule and Lefkas town and the central square called Agios Spyridon hosts a stunning 17th century church built for this saint. There are numerous churches scattered about the island, such as the churches of Agios Nikolaos, Agios Dimitrios, the church of Pantokrator, the church of the Presentation of the Virgin and the monastery of Panagia Faneromeni. These buildings are important additions to any itinerary, because many of them house significant works of art and religious iconography from an important period in Greek history, the Byzantine period.
The archaeological museum houses exhibits that bear testament to the ancient history of the island and the folkloric museum brings Lefkas history up to date with exhibits that show how people lived and worked on this island of the Ionian. For the most modern history of the island, one must literally take to the streets, to see how today’s island locals live, work and play.
On the island of there are numerous summer resorts, such as Nidri, which is the largest of the lot, and others such as Nikiana and Perigiali, and as such the main activity on the island is just to experience life here on the resorts, to laze on the beaches, eat in the tavernas and drink in the ouzeries, and then go clubbing at night. Other activities are those of the sea, sailing and cruising, especially around the famous little private island of Skorpios, which is owned by the Aristotle Onassis family, or around Meganissi and the numerous other islands.
The beaches on Lefkas Island are famed around Greece and many local and international visitors flock to the Lefkas coastline for their summer intake of sun, sea and sand. Some of the best beaches on the island include, Porto Katsiki, Kathisma (literally, “seat”), Egremmi, and situated less than 10 kilometres from Lefkada town are Agios Nikitas, Pefkoulia and Nikiana.
Of course, the mainland is just a twenty minute journey from the island and there Preveza awaits with its ancient site of Nikopolis and cosmopolitan port-side activity.
Before you leave the island of Lefkas be sure to visit the Dimossari waterfalls and to participate in the most famous activities of the island and they are kite-surfing, boating and sailing, and for the best windsurfing in all of Greece head to the resort of Vasiliki.