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Lefkas (Lefkada) Island, Greece

Colonists who founded the city of Lefkas in the sixth century BC cut through the isthmus that linked the peninsula with the mainland. During the Peloponnesian War Leukas supported the Corinthians, later it was subjugated by the kingdom of Macedon and subsequently became a Roman province (197 BC). In Byzantine times it fell into decline and after the Sack of Constantinople by the Franks (1204) it became part of the Despotate of Epirus. It subsequently came under the yoke of the Ottoman Turks until 1684. It was united with Greece again in 1864.

THE TOWN

Capital and main harbour of the island is the serene Heptanesian town of Lefkada that spreads along the seaboard, facing the coast of Akarnania. It is very picturesque with colourful, tiled-roofed houses, lovely squares, narrow streets and the waterfront promenade which is always busy. It is worth visiting Bosketo Park, adorned with busts of distinguished sons of the island, and the house where the national poet of Japan, Y. Koizumi (Lefkadios Herne) was born. Particularly impressive is the castle of Santa Maura, built in 1300 by the Sicilian Giovanni Orsini, next to the man-made canal on an islet in the lagoon, and subsequently added to by the Venetians and the Turks. At the centre of the town is the church of St Spyridon (late 17th c.), while other churches of considerable interest are St Nicholas (1687), Christ Panto-crator (1684), St Menas (1707), the ‘Penniless Saints’ (Hagioi Anargyroi), the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (Eisodia tis Theotokou). Noteworthy are the Archaeological Museum (with finds from excavations on the island, spanning the Palaeolithic Age into Roman times, tel. 26450 21.635), the Folklore Museum (with reproduction of a traditional Lefkadian house), the Public Library (tel. 26450 22.502), the Collection of Postbyzantine Icons housed in an impressive mansion) and the private Museum of Phonographs-Old Mementoes (it includes old gramophones, gramophone records, objets d’art, old banknotes etc.). Outside the town are the monastery of the Virgin Phaneromene (near the village of Fryni) the most important place of pilgrimage on Lefkada, with notable icons and a katholikon built in 1634; the monastery of the Virgin Hodegetria, the oldest monastic foundation on the island, built around 1450 with a single-aisle timber-roofed church; the church of St John of Antzousis in which, tradition has it, Paul the Apostle preached Christianity. Six kilometres southeast of the town are the ruins of ancient Leukas, one of the largest cities in area in Greece, with remains of a theatre and fortification wall. Eleven kilometres further south (in the area of
Kavalo) is the Melissa Gorge, where there are ten old watermills in and amongst the plane trees. The beach at Gyra and Ai Yannis bay are good places to swim close to the town.

VILLAGES – BEACHES

The road leading south from the town runs along the east shore of the island, passing successively through Lygia, and important fishing centre, Nikiana an ideal vacation spot, the lovely seaside village of Peryali and terminates at the renowned Nydri, which is one of the most popular and developed tourist villages on Lefkada, with wonderful sea and view of the Prinkiponisia (Skorpios, Skorpidi, Madouri, Sparta etc.). On the verdant islet of Madouri is the Neoclassical mansion of the poet A. Valaoritis, while Skorpios is the private isle of shipping magnate A. Onassis. The German archaeologist W. Drpfeld located the Homeric Ithaca in this area. Ruins of a prehistoric city are preserved, with an aqueduct and Early Helladic circular graves. Of particular beauty also is the nearby Dimosari Gorge, with flowing river, pools and waterfalls. Further south are Vlycho in a sheltered bay, opposite picturesque Geni, Poros where there are remains of a Medieval tower, the beach of Mikros Yalos with the glistening pebbles, and Syvota at the far end of a stunningly beautiful fjord. Even further south is Vasiliki, a large village in the midst of greenery on the south coast of the island, with fine sand in a closed bay, a paradise for windsurfers. From here one can take a caique to Cape Lefkata or Cavo Nira, with awesome sheer, white cliffs. During Antiquity Apollo Leukatas was worshipped here, as attested by the surving remains of an important sanctuary. On the site of the ancient temple stands the church of St. Nicholas (17th c.). The ancient poetess Sappho is said to have leapt to her death from the savage rocks, broken-hearted by her unrequited love for Phaon. Not far away is stunning Porto Katsiki one of the loveliest beaches on the island, with crystal clear water in sapphirine hues, and a little further north is the beach of Egremnoi. On the west coast too is Aghios Nikitas, a quaint fishing village that has grown into a cosmopolitan holiday resort with numerous hotels and fish tavernas, between the very lovely and very popular beaches of Pefkoulia and Kathisma. A tour of the island’s interior is most rewarding. Here the visitor encounters lovely mountain villages of striking authenticity, since they preserve their architectural aspect intact, within a deep green landscape. Athani, 40 km. southwest of the town, is a mountain village with several examples of local traditional architecture and excellent aromatic honey. Aghios Petros is a typical Lefkadian village near Vasiliki. Karya, at the heart of the island, is a highland main village with copious vegetation and abundant water, particularly interesting local customs and an admirable tradition in needlework ‘karsanian’ embroideries). The Folklore Museum, with its rich exhibits from local life in days gone by, is well worth seeing. Also of interest are Vafkeri, Englouvi, the highest village on the island, renowned for its tasty brown lentils, Drymonas-Exanthia, Syvros with the attractive laurel wood, Marantochori with the nearby beaches of Afteli and Ammousa, and so on.

EVENTS – OTHER INFORMATION

Annual cultural events known as ‘Festivals of Word and Art’ are organized in the town of Lefkada from June to August. Every June world formula-jetski championships are held at Nydri.

NEARBY ISLANDS

There are several pretty islands between Lefkada and the coast of Central Greece. In addition to the Prinkiponisia there are Kalamos, Kastos, Skorpidi and Arkoudi. The largest islet isMeganisi, which is 4 n. m. east of Nydri and has three villages (Katomeri, Spartochhori and Vathy). Connected by ferryboat to Nydri, Cephalonia and Ithaca, it is a good place for quiet holidays close to nature, with lovely beaches, interesting hikes-rambles and archaeological sites.

USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS


Municipality of Lefkada: 26450 23.000

Police Station: 26450 29.379

Lefkada Harbour Authority: 26450 22.322

Nydri Harbour Authority: 26450 92.509

General Hospital: 26450 25.371

 

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