Greece // The Ionian Islands //


LEFKÁDHA (Lefkás) is an oddity, which is exactly why it is some people’s favourite Ionian island. Connected to the mainland by a long causeway through lagoons and a 30m pontoon swivel bridge, it barely feels like an island, at least on the busier eastern side. Lefkádha was long an important strategic base and approaching the causeway you pass a series of fortresses, climaxing in the fourteenth-century castle of Santa Maura – the Venetian name for the island. These defences were too close to the mainland to avoid an Ottoman tenure, which began in 1479, but the Venetians wrested back control a couple of centuries later. They were in turn overthrown by Napoleon in 1797 and then the British took over as Ionian protectors in 1810 until reunification with Greece in 1864.

The whiteness of its rock strata – lefkás has the same root as lefkós, “white” – is apparent on its partly bare ridges. While the marshes and boggy inlets on the east coast can lead to a mosquito problem, the island is a fertile place, supporting cypresses, olive groves and vineyards, particularly on the western slopes. The rugged west coast, however, is the star attraction, boasting some of the finest beaches in the archipelago.

Lefkádha remains relatively undeveloped, with just two major resorts: Vassilikí, in its vast bay in the south, claims to be Europe’s biggest windsurfing centre; Nydhrí, on the east coast, overlooks the island’s picturesque set of satellite islets, including laidback Meganíssi. The capital’s superb marina also appeals to yachties in large numbers.

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