Loving Life in Lefkada!

Travelling to Lefkada in a 'post Covid' world

Getting on a plane for the first time in a year, having thought I might never travel again was an exciting experience!  Read my blog post about the airport and flying experience here. 

Having previously visited other islands in the Ionian Sea (including Corfu, Zakynthos & Kefalonia) I wanted to visit Lefkada as the lack of commercial tourism holds great appeal to us (and many of our clients!).  It was important that we take a trip at the moment, to experience first hand what life is like in this 'post Covid' world we now live in. 

Where is Lefkada?

Lefkada is located in the top part of the western coastline of mainland Greece. It sits in the Ionian Sea, south of Corfu and north of Kefalonia and is the fourth biggest of the Ionian Islands. Lefkada ‘region’ is made up of 24 islands, some tiny and others larger (such as Meganisi) which are scattered in the sea.

Lefkada is the only Greek island which can be reached by car without having to take a ferry crossing. There is a floating bridge which joins it to Akarnania and there is a causeway linking Lefkada Town to this bridge.

The 'floating bridge' over the canal between Lefkada & the mainland

The island is surprisingly green and lush and as we discovered from the tropical gardens surrounding our villa, the sheltered eastern side of the island seems to live in it’s own micro climate!

Why a villa holiday is perfect right now

We always prefer private villas to hotels anyway, as do many of our clients, but this year there has been renewed interest in villas and private houses with the benefits of having your own space.

The Greek islands offer a huge range of private villas and self catering apartments. Many are close to tavernas and mini markets and have beautiful private pools. We work with a range of villa companies to find the perfect option for our clients, whether it’s a cosy cottage for two or a luxury large house for a multi generation family holiday

Kingfisher House

Our ‘villa’ was the beautiful home from home, Kingfisher House. We were met on arrival by Barry, who with his wife Sue have created a gorgeous private property which is hidden in the trees on the waters edge near Geni in Vlicho Bay.

The owners planted most of the huge number of exotic trees and shrubs which surround the house and it was a real pleasure to sit under the shade of the pre-historic ‘pine’ trees surrounded by the scent of jasmine & herbs. There are orange, banana and avocado trees and our favourite was the amazing lemon tree, which produced the largest and most fragrant fruits we’ve ever seen – perfect in a G&T or even in our beer!

Lemon Tree in the garden

I can honestly say Kingfisher House is the nicest villa I’ve ever stayed in. This is because it is actually a home! Barry and Sue live here when it’s not rented out and this is evident throughout with walls full of books, comfy sofas, a huge well equipped kitchen & balconies / terraces from every room (so you can follow the sun around or escape from the rain!).

There is a BBQ in the garden and a table on the sunny patio outside the kitchen. Beside the terrace here is a lovely sunken pond, we were fascinated by the ‘cannon ball’ rocks around the pool … Barry told us they are from the cliffs behind the villa where the rocks have fallen or been excavated and in some cases the almost perfectly round balls have been found embedded in rock. At night frogs can be heard in the pond, accompanied by enchiladas … sorry Cicadas! (Johns pet name from years back for the Cicadas ...!)

Kitchen terrace & pond

Other things we enjoyed about staying in Kingfisher House (not experienced in previous Greek villas), were the delights of spacious bathrooms (and a bath tub!), comfortable bed, very efficient air con unit in bedroom and the house throughout had excellent fly/mossie screens on all windows and doors which were solid and worked well.

This villa is perfect for couples, groups of friends or a family with older teens. There are three bedrooms (all en-suite). It is not really suitable for young children. It’s also of course perfect if you love the water as you have your own jetty!

Our rental boat parked on private jetty

Kingfisher House from the water

Steps to Kingfisher House from the private jetty

Villa options

As always, when travelling the Greek islands, I seek out the various villas and apartments which we sell to our clients (with various different villa companies) to experience the locations and distances between main points of interest. This is important when helping our clients chose the right villa option. It’s no good booking a villa for a family with young children or elderly parents for them to arrive and discover that there are 200 steps to access the property and it’s not walking distance to the beach after all! So it was nice to experience all of Lefkada (and Meganisi) to be able to better advise our clients in future.

Villa provisions & local shopping

All villas are thoroughly cleaned between guests and at the moment once during the stay (usually mid week). The main difference this year has been in the quality / variety of ‘basics’ provided by the various villa companies. Whereas in previous years welcome hampers included fresh bread & things like fresh local yoghurt and plenty of bottled water and beer on arrival, this year these have been long life, all sealed in plastic and the coffee a small jar of instant. There were also no cleaning cloths or tea towels in our villa, so we had to get our own the next day. 

Some villa companies have removed welcome packs all together (A sad side effect of Covid regulations is the increased use of plastic worldwide).  As we arrived just on nightfall we were relying on the arrival kit for the first night but in hindsight (always a wonderful thing!), we should have stopped on the way.  When Maria (our rep) came to see us the following morning she gave us a lovely bottle of Rose which was delicious, thank you!

Large sheltered terrace at Kingfisher House overlooking gardens and the bay

One thing to note is that all the supermarkets and local mini markets we visited (Lefkada and Meganisi) were very poorly stocked with fresh goods. We didn’t find any good meats or cheeses in the mini marts and struggled even to find decent fresh bread and fruits in the small shops. There is a very large Lidl supermarket just outside Lefkada Town and my advice would be to stock up there, including things like fresh coffee (our villa, as most others, had a filter coffee machine and a cafeteire) and deli items. However, just across Vlicho Bay from us was a really nice Bakery & cafe which was very welcome and open into the evening.

Life on the water

One of the main reasons people travel to Lefkada is to enjoy the stunning blue waters, hidden coves & beautiful beaches.

Superb water sports and excellent weather conditions for wind and kite surfing draw people to Vassiliki in the south and Ai Giannis to the north. The Kite Surfing championships usually take place in Mili Bay in July.

Kite and wind surfing in Lefkada

Around Nidri on the east coast, there are plenty of boat harbours & water sports centres. There are also opportunities for paragliding, water skiing, stand up paddle boarding, wake boarding, kayaking and diving.

Nidri waterfront and harbour

If you love swimming you can swim your way around Lefkada’s beautiful shores, turquoise waters and secret caves. For the ultimate adventure there is a 7 day open sea swimming trip around Lefkada and neighbouring islands (accompanied by trained escorts).

The internal archipelago of Lefkada is considered by many as one of the best seas for sailing in the world. Navigating boats here is very safe as extreme weather is rare and there are plenty of protected places to set anchor.

Chapel on the tip of Geni Peninsula

Our home for the week, Kingfisher House, has it’s own boat jetty in a hidden corner of Vlicho Bay. We hired a boat for 3 days and visited the other side of the Geni Peninsula, which is full of sheltered bays, small caves and shallow clear waters, which are towered over by ancient rock formations.

View of Vlichio Bay with Geni to the right and Nidri to left

Amazing rock formations in hidden bays visited by boat

Only 20 minutes by motor boat from Nidri is the beautiful, unspoiled island of Meganisi. If you don’t want to take your own boat there is a regular ferry service from Nidri. If you have a boat licence, larger boats and yachts can be hired, which you can of course venture further afield than we did in our little boat!

Looking across from Nidri on the boat to the mainland

Islands around Nidri Bay

From the harbour front tavernas of Nidri you can see the tiny islet of Madouri, which belongs to the family of Aristotelis Valaoritis. Behind Madouri are the larger islands of Sparti and Skorpios, (both were owned by Onassis). As such, we were forbidden to take the boat close to shore around these islands or to moor up in the bays there …. As we got closer we could see ‘do not enter’ signs along the immaculate gardens by a private jetty on Skorpios … I almost expected a megaphone to boom out “we have been expecting you Mr Bond” and a giant cave to open up and swallow the boat!

Skorpios island

South of the Meganisi Strait to the far south east of Lefkada are the islands of Kalamos and Kastos which can be reached by larger boat and have some pretty beaches and tiny villages.

Meganisi is perfect for those seeking complete isolation. There are very few hotels or apartments on the island and although you can hire a car, there are not many roads so the best way to get around is either on foot (exploring the many walking trails) or by boat.

Meganisi with Lefkada in the background

Turquoise seas & Tavernas

Food of course plays a very big part in any Greek villa holiday! From our villa there were 3 tavernas still open on the waterside just down the road and we tried them all during the week. As always we were accompanied by many cats, most of which were young kittens – always eager to help clear up the seafood left overs!

Elena-taverna (distanced tables everywhere!)

As Lefkada had been closed most of the year and we were coming to the end of summer season, many tavernas remained shut which was a shame. First night we had requested a table at Elena Taverna where we enjoyed our first Greek salad and seafood platter, catching our breath from a long day of travel.

The easiest way to get between Nidri & Geni is straight across Vlicho Bay by boat and at night it was slightly concerning to note that the smaller boats (below) seemed to be very low in the water as they departed tavernas into the inky black night of the bay and no lights!

The one night we took the boat to a taverna it was VERY choppy & we struggled to find the villa jetty as my head torch (which I had remembered to pack but not it seems remembered to charge ..) failed and we tried to moor up by phone torch light!

During the day, it was heaven to experience the bright, clear turquoise waters surrounding Lefkada and Meganisi. We visited Stavros Taverna in Vathi harbour (Meganisi) a couple of times, the food was lovely and service very friendly.

After lunch one day we took a short walk around the side streets surrounding the harbour. Beautiful old houses surrounded by olive groves & traditional gardens look over the small bay. We did take the boat around to the eastern bays of Meganisi, but there were no tavernas there, just one water sports hut.

Meganisi is perfect for those seeking complete isolation. There are very few hotels or apartments on the island and although you can hire a car, there are not many roads so the best way to get around is either on foot (exploring the many walking trails) or by boat.

Vathi harbour, Meganisi

Some of the best food we enjoyed was in the harbour side tavernas of Sivota (about 20 mins drive from our villa). This is a favourite marina for yachts & there are a few sailing companies based here.

Lefkada does harvest its own olives and has very nice local wine. Other local produce includes honey (many varieties), Englouvi lentils, Mandolato and pasteli (sweets), salami and of course seafood!

Mountains & Monasteries

Heading inland you will find a maze of beautiful old villages and monasteries hidden in the mountains, untouched by tourism. If you are a keen walker visit in Spring when the hills are full of flowers and butterflies and take in the breathtaking views and many miles of hiking trails. As well as hiking, bike hire and horse riding are other ways to explore the interior of Lefkada & Meganisi.

We took a short drive inland from Nidri to visit the waterfalls at Dimossari, which – surprisingly given how much rain there has been recently! – were quite dry. There is a climb of around 20 minutes from the further point you can access by car and this path is well maintained alongside a clear river with huge boulders & amazing landscape. Crossing the water at the base of a small gorge, the final steps take you into a cave and through the towering cliffs to the point where a sheet of water falls from above into a turquoise pool below.

Back to the car we stopped for a beer at the little café by the bottom of the steps – strangely she said she was about to close (it was late morning on a Saturday and the trail was busy – and this was quiet season!), so having been fleeced at about £5 for one bottle of beer we headed onwards!

Winding our way across the mountain tops we came to Karia where we had intended to have lunch. However, due to Covid, most of the tavernas were closed and the central plaza, whilst busy with locals, only had a small kiosk serving drinks and snacks, so we moved on.

Mountain village of Karia

Further into the mountains, we must have taken a wrong turn as we eventually came out of the trees and boulders into a desert like landscape and deserted military compounds! We discovered later there used to be an American military base there and the Greek army still have a hidden presence … from time to time! All very ‘James Bond’ as was Skorpios Island (see above!).

Winding mountain roads

Beaches of the west coast

Having travelled over the ‘top’ of Lefkada and getting spectacularly lost in the maze of tiny winding mountain roads, we descended through forests and olive groves surrounded by thousands of bee hives (below) and honey and olive oil for sale on the roadside.

The western side of the main island of Lefkada is home to some of the most stunning and unspoilt beaches in the whole of the Mediterranean. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no commercial buildings or large settlements on the west coast. It is also very exposed, so popular for wind surfers!

Coastal road to the west of Lefkada

Eventually we came to the ‘end of the road’ at Porto Katsiki – one of the most photographed and beautiful beaches in Greece. This was the only place where we saw lots of other people, however it was Saturday afternoon, the sun was out and the locals were having fun - I think we were the only foreign visitors on the whole beach!

However, the wind was blowing a hooley so despite the strong sun and cloudless sky, it was impossible to even walk in a straight line and my aborted attempt at a swim saw me picked up by the waves and thrown very unceremoniously like a discarded piece of driftwood onto the beach! I retired to the sand covered blanket and watched as John took his turn in the waves!

Porto Kaksiki beach (on a calm day!)

Lefkada Town

On our departure from Kingfisher House, having said our goodbyes to Barry & Sue and Maria, our rep, we headed back north towards the airport. As our flight wasn’t until late afternoon, we parked up in the harbour of Lefkada Town. You would struggle to even notice any sign of a pandemic here! We wandered along the water front which was lined with busy cafes and tables full of families and friends enjoying Sunday morning coffees and milkshakes … the only sign of anything different was some of the waiters wore masks.

After a quick wander round the souvenir shops (well, I did, while I parked John with a beer!), we found a lovely traditional taverna down a side street who had amazing fresh tuna. My favourite fish, we had been disappointed all week to find it not available in other tavernas to the south.

So we enjoyed one last Greek lunch before heading back over the causeway (which was now open) to Preveza. Again the flamingos put in an appearance, but sadly there was nowhere to stop and get closer to photograph them.

Lefkada town waterfront at dusk

Dropping the car back off (all very relaxed – just park up and leave key in letterbox!) we entered the airport building and started our journey home …. (See travel blog).

Thank you Lefkada (and Barry & Sue and Maria) for the most amazing chilled out week, much needed after the year Travel With Jules has experienced … let’s hope we can send you lots of clients in 2021 and support Greek tourism as well as get the UK travelling again … everyone needs a holiday, and more than ever now!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO STAY AT KINGFISHER HOUSE, PLEASE CONTACT US IN PLENTY OF TIME AS THIS IS (RIGHTLY!) ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR VILLAS ON LEFKADA BEING CLOSE TO TAVERNAS AND HAVING IT'S OWN JETTY.

Rouda Bay

Cape-Lefkatas-lighthouse

Empty beach from Pinewood Taverna near Nidri