[lefkada soundtrack. jubel]
Welcome to the precious natural beauty that is Lefkada (or Lefkas). One of the lesser known gems of the Ionian Sea. Connected to the mainland of Greece by a bridge, Lefkada is easy to get to. It is big. It is rugged. It is surrounded by insanely turqouise sea, and dramatic, jaw-dropping beaches. Charming little villages are scattered throughout, and olive trees dot the horizon. Locals sell honey from street stalls on the side of the road. Abandoned villages cling to the edge of mountains, narrow roads winding right through them. Fresh fish tavernas pop up everywhere. The Greek yoghurt tastes better; the tzatziki is life changing; and Greek salad is on tap. The locals are friendly and welcoming. Known for its watersports - Lefkada is one of Europe’s most popular windsurfing destinations. And as well as all of that, its conveniently positioned right near Kefalonia and Ithaca (two other islands we hear are equally as intoxicating).
Lefkada would have never been on our radar had it not been for our good friend (and local insider) Chrissie Argyros, a Melbourne girl whose father Stathi was born on the island. Chrissie – whose mother Jane is Australian - was born in Melbourne, but has spent pretty much every European summer of her life here on Lefkas. Known by her friends as the unofficial “mayor” of the island, Chrissie has spent countless holidays here playing tour guide to hoards of visiting Melburnians. This woman is certainly down with all the best, most hidden and local spots. I was lucky enough to join the roll call last summer.
Here we provide some of the (many) things we fell in love with about the island. Chrissie - and our other local insider, Cris Solvates - chime in as well with their favorite hidden hotspots. If you are still tossing up ideas for your next european summer vacation - add Lefkada to the list. Its one of those places we want the world to know about, but at the same time, kind of want to keep to ourselves. It's so beautiful here.
We recommend choosing one village as your base, then renting a scooter or jeep and doing a bunch of day trips from there. We chose Vassiliki (situated on a wide bay on the south coast of the island). Quieter and less touristy than the bigger towns of Lefkada and Nidri. And still close enough to all the good stuff.
Things we love:
More Faje yoghurt lining supermarket shelves than we have ever seen in our life.
The white paper tablecloths on top of restaurant tables that double as maps of the island.
Greek salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
4 euro bottles of locally produced Rose.
“Greek time” – if they say it will take 15mins, it will take 45. Don't believe anything to the contrary.
The gents club - the old local men who meet for hours on end at their local coffee shop each morning. We would love to know what they talk about.
The charming little villages that cling to the edge of the mountains, and the abandoned ones that are tucked away in the hills.
The Greek yoghurt at tavern oasis.
Restaurant “No menu” – for exactly that.
Rachi - in exanthia - for everything. This is our favorite place on the island. The view, the sunsets, the food, the beer, the wine, the good vibes. Oh and the best tzatziki we have ever experienced.
And finally - the beaches. Every single beach will completely blow your mind. Guaranteed.
Rachi: in Exanthia for absolutely everything. As previously mentioned, this is our favorite place on the island. So much so, we visited 3 times over 10 days. The location will take your breath away. The food is fresh, local and seasonal (we are obsessed with the vegetable salad with yoghurt, and the zucchini fritters - but everything is good). The Rose is their own brew. And the view - well - thats something to behold. Go before sunset, and stay right through. Grab a table on the edge of the terrace if you can. This place is special.
Oceans: for excellent seafood. Order the stuffed calamari, and the grilled fish of the day (oh and the rocket and parmesan salad).
Kima: for moussaka. Emelia, the owner, has been making the same moussaka recipe since she was a 17 year old girl (now in her 50s). This is a local favorite.
The bakery in Vasiliki (opp service station): for their spanakopita.
The bakery in Vasiliki (in town, next to grill house): for their sourdough bread, and their sesame/raisin gingerbread cookies.
Yianni’s Grill House: for the best gyros on the island.
Selitas: for Greek-style tapas.
Ta Katamia (meaning “no menu): for literally that. They will ask if you want vegetarian or meat. Thats it. There’s no menu (as the name of the restaurant would suggest!). A great, colorful, friendly, open-air dining space in a busy (not so pretty) part of town (Nidri).
Tavern Oasis: a little family-run tavern on the road to Porto Katsiki. We stopped here for breakfast - amazing greek yoghurt with fruit, honey and nuts.
Stavros tavern: in Sivota for dinner.
Agios Nikitas: for all its cute bars and restaurants. We liked ‘Nikitas’ Fresh Fish Taverna.
155: this is the best (and only) craft cocktail bar on the island. The two (brother) owners are ex-Athens, where they run a hugely successful cocktail bar there as well. Ask for the special marmalade cocktail (not on the menu, a trip from our Athens insider).
Tunnel bar: grab a drink and sit on the street.
rachi: for potentially the best sunset drink you will have in your life.
Any of the bars in Sivota: a pretty harbor town.
Copla Beach Bar: on Kathisma Beach if you are in the mood for some party beats, and pretty amazing people watching!
Beach-hop. Obviously. Jump on a scooter and spend days bouncing between: Agios Nikitas, Milos, Pefkoulia, Kathisma, Kavalikefta and Megali Petra (Kalamitsi), Gialos, Egremni and the Island’s most famous beach ‘Porto Katsiki’.
Its hard to pick a favorite, but we will go as far as to say our favorite is Milos. Only accessible by boat (or a short, but steep, 15min hike from the village), Milos is long, wide and incredibly white (sand) and aqua blue (sea). It would be awesome for beach camping. There are no ameninites though, so be prepared. Pack a cooler. You might find the odd donut seller, but thats about it.
Egremni on the other hand, is probably a favorite among the masses, and rightly so. Its requires a bit of effort to get to (we counted 350 stairs). Theres a fun beach bar, playing perfectly chilled summer beats, and cold drinks (no decent food though - pack your own).
Porto katsiki - another crowd-pleaser - is out of this world. Only a small stretch of sand, every inch will no doubt be occupied by beach bums, umbrellas, and families. Its busy, but its beautiful.
Lastly, we really, really love all the little secluded coves that surround Vasiliki town (literally named first beach, second beach, third beach and so on). To get to fourth beach (our favorite), look out for the electricity shed at the top of the hill (about 5mins walk from town), and then find the tiny walking path that has been carved out of the forrest. The quietest, and most hidden, and our top pick.
Jump on board the waterspouts bandwagon - windsurfing, sailing, paddle boarding and more.
Yoga (check if Melina from Melina’s little shop is hosting any classes - she is amazing).
Take out a boat.
Visit the nearby islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca.
Explore the island (there is a small church - where 3 nuns still live - hidden away in the hills. If you find it, they will open it up for you and show you through. You can buy their honey. This is a special experience).
Fabric: a well-curated selection of apparel and accessory brands, and very friendly vibes. The brainchild of our Lefkada insider, Cris Soldatos, be sure to pop in and say hi while in Vassiliki. If you pop a thong (or flip flop), you will find plenty of new ones here.
Melina’s little shop: opening in the summer of 2007, Melina’s little shop in Vassiliki is a cute and cosy corner boutique, full of bright and colorful jewelry, beach dresses, greek sandals, handwoven turkish towels, and other artisan products. Melina, who not only owns this cute spot, is a yoga instructor as well, and also the host of our favorite sleeping option (see below). She is a true darling.
Local goods (from the side of the road): honey, olive oil, beeswax cream, mountain tea, yoghurt, oregano etc.
Melinas rooms – this is our favorite sleeping option in Vassiliki. Right in the center of town, these clean, simple and bright rooms are totally gorgeous and very affordable (expect to pay between 50-60 euro in high season). Run by Melina and her husband (who owns cocktail bar, 155), this is a super friendly, family-run option.