Both mainland (connected via a bridge) and Ionian island, Lefkada has remarkable natural landscapes that include world-famous beaches, delightful local cuisine, a noteworthy winemaking tradition and an exciting variety of things to see and do. For this article, we spoke with local Maria Katopodi, an Athens-based radio producer, composer, and DJ who loves to spend as much time as possible on her native island. She offered us some top tips on the most unmissable aspects of the island for visitors of all ages and tastes.
Eat & Drink
Some islands have stunning beaches but average food - but Lefkada is known for its yummy local cuisine and good restaurants. Wine made from the rare Vertzami grape variety, olive oil, olives, sausages, lentils from Eglouvi, thyme honey from the Athani villages, bottarga from Ivari, bitter almond Soumada drink, and salami are some of its most acknowledged products, but the cooking style is also generally top rate. Ladopita, an olive oil-based dessert made with flour, almonds, sesame and semolina and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar after baking is also a characteristic recipe, while almond and honey mandolato and sesame and honey pasteli bars are also very good.
When it comes to eating out, there are plenty of good options, Katopodi says, however, she adds that “one of the most beautiful restaurants in Lefkada is Rachi in Exanthia. It’s an amazing place serving creative meze and main dishes with a breathtaking view and delicious food.” Also popular are Kato Rachoula Nouvell, Mavros Lagos and Nirikos. For after-dinner drinks looking out to the sea head to I Gonia, Tree Bar, NV Bar, Copla Beach Bar or Pavezzo Vintage Bar.
Swim & Sail
“Porto Katsiki, Eggremoi, Pefkoulia, Agiofylli and - especially for surfers - Ai Iannis are by far my favourite beaches,” Katopodi says of some of the world’s most photographed coastlines. With white sand and crystalline turquiose waters, it’s no surprise that the above-mentioned beaches, located on the west coast of Lefkada between the areas of Aghios Nikitas (with the lovely Mylos and Kalamitsi beaches nearby) and Vassiliki (with Nidri, Lygia and Vassiliki beaches nearby) all magnetise beach lovers.
Lefkada is also an ideal base for sailors who want to explore nearby islands. Kalamos island across the village of Mitikas is an environmentally monitored dolphin and seal pass and has a pretty, old fashioned charm. Other great islands to sail to are Ithaca, Meganisi and Fiskardo harbour in Kefalonia.
If you don’t sail but love boats, there are several local boat tours to book for a few hours or a day trip.
See & Do
Apart from buzzing around Lefkada Town’s pretty streets, sipping coffee with friends while watching the world go by and shopping, all of which are some of Katopodi’s favourite activities when she’s home, she recommends visitors explore the villages and natural landscapes. “The waterfalls of Nidri are one of my favourite places to visit,” she says, although she advises that you ideally visit in late spring / early summer or late summer/early autumn both because Nidri village gets pretty touristy in July and August and because the waterfalls will most likely be more on the dry side at the height of summer.
There are many other wonderful places to visit on the island, where you can get a feel for local culture, traditions, and cuisine while admiring its nature, such as the alpine villages of Eglouvi (famous for its lentils), Karya (with a lovely stone-paved square) and Exanthi.
For a deeper understanding of Lefkada’s culture and history visit the Archaeological Museum, which presents artifacts dating from the Paleolithic era to the late Roman period.
See rare Byzantine icons in the 16th Century Church of Aghios Ioannis Antzoussis, Lefkada’s oldest, also makes for an interesting excursion to the northern part of the island. It is said that in the 1st Century AD the Apostle Paul preached here. The Monastery of Faneromeni, perched on a hill near Lefkada Town is also a great stop to see the Ecclesiastical Museum, admire its architecture, serene interiors, and views.
On the southwestern part of the island, soak up the views (especially idyllic at sunset) at the lighthouse in Cape Lefkatas, perched atop the steep cliffs that the Lesbian poet Sappho is reputed to have leaped from when she was romantically rebuffed by Phaon. There you will also find the rubble that was once the Temple of Apollo.
Many thanks to Maria Katopodi for her wonderful insider tips for Lefkada.