Olympic Holidays

Offshore islets of Lefkas

There are several large offshore islets on Lefkas, many visible from Nydri and most of them the target destination for dozens of boat trips. Among the islets, Madouri was the home of Greek poet Aristotle Valaoritis whose family still owns the island. Visitors are not welcome.

Sparti is just a large gull infested rock while Skorpios, recently sold to a Russian oligarch,, is heavily fortified and guarded to deter visitors, although excursion boats can been allowed to call.

Skorpios is a private islet that was much 'improved' in the 1960's when about 500 people worked for there for five years when building the Onassis estate for the former Greek shipping tycoon. It has its own electricity and water supplies.

There is a lavish villa on Skorpios, known as the Pink House, with tennis courts and extensive gardens, although most of the island remains undeveloped. There are two beaches where tourists who once stopped there told of the sands swarming with large ants.

Above one of the beaches is the chapel where Aristotle Onassis married Jacky Kennedy and where former Onassis family members are buried.

By far the best, biggest and most interesting among the islets off Lefkas is Meganissi, about six kilometres from Nidri, which attracts a large number of day visitors and those tourists looking for a sleepy island holiday. Fewer than 2,000 live on Meganissi island which has three villages at Katomeri, Vathi and Spartahori.

Many go to see the huge and impressive sea caves and particularly Papanikolas Cave, famous for once housing a submarine in World War Two. Tour boats will cruise inside if there is any room.

Meganissi's main port of Vathi is in the north-east and has some good waterfront tavernas, music bars and a few shops. The village of Katomeri is a kilometre inland and has a few tavernas and a bakery.

The alternative port is below the white, clifftop village of Spartahori, in Spilia Bay, with an attractive harbour and a pebble beach. There are a few tavernas, a couple of mini-markets, some shops and spectacular views over the rest of Meganissi and beyond.

Castle of Santa Maura

The Castle of Santa Maura, or Agia Mavra, sits at the entrance of Lefkada Town on the edge of the canal bridge that connects the island of Lefkas to the mainland.

The medieval fortress was built around 1300 by the Frankish Prince Ioannis Orsini to protect local from passing pirates. The Turks had a go a improving it and later the Venetians. Inside the castle is a canon made by Carlo Carmozzi for Bergamo.

Many holiday visitors like to tour the castle bastions, usually around sunset, to enjoy the views over the town on one side and the lagoon on the other.

On the east side is the tiny 15th century chapel of Agia Mavra, regarded as the protector of the town and old maps refer to Lefkas Town as Santa Maura. Some of the older locals still call it that.

The castle was wrecked by fire in 1888 and, following its renovation, became a refugee camp. During the World War II, the castle was heavily bombed by the Italians.

Sappho's Leap at Cape Lefkas

Sappho's Leap, or Lefkatas, is on the southerly cape on the island where there once stood a shrine to Apollo. Cape Lefkatas is one of the sightseeing highlights and a place to appreciate the wild beauty of the island of Lefkas.

The spot, located near to the beach of Porto Katsiki is said to be where the poet Sappho threw herself off the cliff, a victim of unrequited love. Nowadays it's place to take pictures of the dramatic white cliffs and the spectacular views across the Ionian Sea.

The name is taken from the near vertical white cliffs that plunge into the sea and the temple was well known throughout the ancient Mediterranean world with a large annual festival in honour of Apollo.

In what some would say was typical Greek style the lighthouse you see today was built on the cemented-over ruins of this ancient temple in 1890.

Vassiliki Bay

Set in an impressive bay to the south of Lefkas, Vassiliki is considered to be one of Europe's best windsurfing destinations. Although it can get crowded the resort is still worth a visit even if you are no surfer. The nearby hills and mountain trails activities are not confined to the beach. It is great terrain for walkers and for mountain bikers.

Vassiliki, one of the three main tourist resorts outside Lefkas Town (the others are Nydri and Agios Nikitas) ,is the biggest village in south Lefkas. It also has a decent harbour with ferries to Kefalonia and Ithaka and caiques that offer tours along the west coast cliffs.

A combination of shallow, sheltered water and afternoon breezes have created an ideal climate for windsurfers who flock here in their hundreds. Hotels, tavernas and bars have sprung up to cater for the younger visitors.

Although surfing is the main preoccupation in Vassiliki there are other attractions here. There is a large plain behind the resort which offers pleasant walks or bicycle tours. An old abandoned village called Roupakias has a certain rustic charm while, top the east is the picturesque village of Marantohori set in flat wetland marshes.

Karya village

Karya is the biggest village and one of the best places to escape the heat and crowds of the coast. Set high in the mountains, the village is known for its cool breezes, mountain springs and beautiful rural setting. Taverna tables are set out beneath huge, shady plane trees in the wide square.

Karya is also noted for its embroidery, a tradition based on Maria Koutsohero (Single-handed Maria) who lived in the village until 1948. Despite her handicap she became adept at embroidery and even started a school to teach the technique of single-handed stitching that continues to this day.

All this is detailed in the Karya Folklore Museum which is housed in the former embroidery school building. You can even take your place on one of the stone benches and try it yourself.

Faneromeni Monastery

This pleasant monastery stands on an elevated wooded plateau to the west of Lefkada Town, with great views of the resort and the lagoon beyond at Gira. A visit to the monastery makes a very peaceful change from the busy island beaches.

Panagia Kyra Faneromeni was thought the protector of the whole island and celebrations are held 40 days after the Orthodox Easter. According to tradition, St. Paul the Apostle preached here, and there is a church inside dedicated to St. Paul and. St. Peter.

The Venetians carried out renovation works and there was further rebuilding in the 18th century but fire damage undid most of the work. It was rebuilt a third time in the late 19th century and it now hosts an interesting Ecclesiastical Museum with some rare Byzantine icons and other ecclesiastical relics.

For visitors with children there are not only the religious buildings to enjoy but it also has a tropical garden and even a small zoo, with several deer and many type of birds.