Greece has always been close to my heart. As a teenager, I drove the length and breadth of its continental part with my parents and then I’ve visited Crete and Santorini on my own. I like Greeks because of their smile, openness and everyday cheerfulness. Their country is fascinating in historical and cultural sense and when it comes to Greek cuisine – it’s finger-licking good.
Despite the variety of places I’ve visited, I still stand by the opinion that summer in Europe is the most beautiful and I always plan summer trips to the Old World with dreaminess.
This year destination was Lefkada and it wasn’t accidental. I was looking for a solitary place, without the tourist crowds, huge hotels around the corner and loud music played at the beach clubs. I longed for silence, peace and possibility to feast my eyes with stunning colors of the sea and the enjoy the warmth of the sun. You could say I’m getting older J There’s the germ of truth in it, for the last few years I’ve been giving a wide berth to crowded places from the tourist magazine covers. I’ve learnt that not everything popular is truly worth the time and money.
Lefkada is still a completely different story. It’s far from being a typical European vacation destination. Judging by your reactions on Instagram and in private messages asking me “what, where and how much?” I can say this place has sparked your curiosity so much that you’d love to know it better.
Therefore, I created Lefkada’s essential guide for you. It’s divided into a few parts since I’ve gathered much information on it. Let’s start from the generals.
There’s still much time before the vacation ends, so you better think intensively whether you’d like to devote your time to this Greek island. I recommend it to you in good conscience and I’m more than sure that you will love it the way I did :)
Lefkada is a part of Ionian Islands archipelago and its territory is only 360 sq. km. It means that if you really want to, you can drive it within one day (but why would you do that?) or in two days at a slower pace. It is inhibited by as many as 20 000 residents and you can actually feel it in a positive sense. Small towns have the family vibe, no one is in the rush, people are eager to talk and glad to smile warmly.
Lefkada attracted my attention because it has beautiful cliff coasts, bays hidden behind the rocks and beaches lost in an abundant green flora.
Some views make you think of Zakynthos but here, you can admire them without crowds of tourists. In a nutshell – it’s beautiful, virgin and as good as well-advertised islands.
I visited Lefkada at the end of June, before the white heat wave in Greece (it was “only” 28 degrees) and before the season has started (however, not the Santorini-like season). The island was literally blossoming in front of my eyes. Wherever I went, I was passing lush wine grapes, little olive trees and citrus trees. Colorful flowers blooming each step of the way. The air smelled wonderfully and it was like a fairy tale.
In ancient times the island was famous for the Apollo temple and the rock where criminals were pushed into the sea (I wouldn’t call it a fortunate match). The legend has it, that a Greek poet Sappho threw herself off the so-called White Rock.
HOW TO GET THERE?
The easiest way to get there is a combination of plane and car. I flew from Warsaw Modlin Airport to Athens by cheap Ryanair airlines for €145 (round-trip ticket). In Europe, connections to Athens are frequent and popular so whenever you’re flying, there shouldn’t be a problem with finding the right flight.
I rented a car from Europe Car rent at the airport. It was a small but perfect for two Toyota Auris. The rent cost for 10 days was €323, the gas was €60 and it was enough for the whole stay.
It was a red-eye flight, that’s why I arranged my overnight stay to be close to the airport. I found a great and atmospheric flat on Airbnb, close to the sea (click HERE to see it). So my first morning was already with the view :) In the early morning I took off to Lefkada.
It’s the only Greek island connected to the land with a bridge following a 3-km underwater tunnel. Driving there is easy and roads (mostly highways) are well-marked. Additional drive costs included the fare for highway and bridge. It was €30 one way.
However in terms of roads on the island itself – they demand some advanced driving skills. They are narrow, spiral, on the edge of precipices and you really need to pass other drivers neatly and carefully. Almost every time I had an impression I won’t make it, but somehow I did :) In other words – good driving skills come in handy, patience most importantly since it’s rather low speed in a place like this. I mean, the tourists drive slowly but locals overtake you on turns with 100 km on their speedometers. No time to be bored but remember to buy a car insurance!
WHERE TO STAY?
It depends on you preferences and budget. The easiest way to find an accommodation is to check Airbnb or Booking.com. You can also look for a place to stay when you’re in Lefkada already but then, why would you waste your time there on things you could have done beforehand? Also, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not a tourist island so it doesn’t have much infrastructure. It’s often visited by Greeks so during the high season it can get very difficult to find a decent room. You should bear in mind that most hotels or suites in Lefkada have a basic standard, good for those not demanding luxury. There are a few hotels with higher standard (such as Porto Galini hotel or Ionian Blue hotel in Nikiana) but the rest are just simple accommodations. You can look for a house just for yourself as well. I found mine on Airbnb and it was my dream birthday villa.
Read about it in this post —-> Dreamy Greek villa for 29th birthday
WHAT TO EAT?
Obviously you need to sleep somewhere but let’s be honest – the food is what’s of the real importance during vacation! And Greeks know it perfectly, satisfying any cuisine wish of the visitors. Above all, they serve seafood, seafood and more seafood.
There’s a rule saying that if you’re close to the sea, eat what it offers you (alright, no such rule but you won’t get anything more fresh in Lefkada than food directly from the sea). Fish (sardines), calamari, mussels and prawns – they’re delicious! But before you order, always ask what’s been caught that day and what’s frozen (they don’t always mention that in the menu).
If you don’t like seafood, no worries – Greeks know how to make tasty grilled meat or moussaka – ground meat and eggplant bake. Add it to a Greek salad (I swear, feta cheese tastes like this only in Greece!) and tzatziki – Greek yogurt with a cucumber.
Lefkada has delicious local wines for peanuts (virtually every place has its local wine produced there, ask for it). As a dessert, order baklava – nutty pie with rich Greek honey topping. It’s a gut bomb but it’s the only place you can eat it :)
Speaking of honey – Lefkada is known for honey production and while driving around the island you can encounter little stands of locals selling their honey. The best one is with thyme and orange blossom. The aroma is unique and it’s a good idea to buy some and bring them home :)
Lefkada has mainly small family restaurants and it’s to island’s advantage. The food is home-cooked and fresh and portions are huge, just like home :)
I lived in the southwestern part of the island and I’ve visited all the restaurants in my area. I can recommend you: Taverna Bilivi for delicious calamari (right next to Porto Katsiki Beach), John’s Eatery Taverna for platter of grilled meats, Taverna Oasis for chocolate cake, Lefkatas Taverna for best frappe and local rose wine. In the most towns, the choice of restaurants will be wider – if you go to Nidri, you have step by Symposium Taverna – their seafood have beaten all records of deliciousness :)
Examples of prices in restaurants and cafes:
Greek salad 5-6 EUR
Tzatziki 2-3 EUR
Mix of grilled meats for 2 people 15-18 EUR
Moussaka 7-8 EUR
Grilled calamari 6 EUR
Mix fresh seafood for 2 people – 20 euros
Carafe of wine (1 / 2l) 4-6 EUR,
Coffee frappe 3-4 EUR
WHAT TO DO?
Lefkada offers beautiful and varied beaches. It’s a perfect place to swim in fantastic crystal clear water and sunbath on the white sand. If you like to spend your time active, then you can take a long walk by the water or do some jogging on the beach.
Read about the best beaches in this post —> The most beautiful beaches of Lefkada
Lefkada has not only beaches, but also beautiful, typical Greek towns. Some of them are the small harbors and you can walk along swaying boats, small pubs and shops. You can also find small villages, surrounded by olive trees and cypresses. Locals are never in a hurry, drink coffee and play chess. It is nice to get lost in the small streets and feel the Greek vibes. It is worthy to explore the island even without a specific plan, just to see how the local people live everyday.
There are several trekking and climbing clubs on the island which organize tours to the unusual trails, hidden mountain streams and abandoned monasteries. Mainly in the mountains of Elati and Stavrotas located on the plateau of Eglouvi, and also up Vouni in Kalamos. Horse Riding. It’s becoming more and more popular. In Vassiliki Valley there are riding schools where you can organize your trip. Water Sports. Due to its excellent weather conditions and strong winds, Lefkada is considered as one of the best places for kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Lefkada is one of the best and most rewarding diving area in Greece. Lefkada is a protected area and its typical Mediterranean reefs are full of life and rich in biodiversity. Especially the south and east of the island attract divers from all over the world.
In the next posts I will show you the most beautiful beaches of Lefkada and the charming towns that are worth a visit. Stay tunned! ;)