Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lefkada, Greece

 Lefkada is one of the very few Greek islands to be visited by ... car...

This is because it is only a 50 meters away from the coast of Etoloakarnania. Before becoming an island, Lefkada formed part of the coasts of Akarnania until the 6thcentury B.C. Nowadays it is shaped as an island, being separated from mainland Greece by this narrow canal. A floating bridge provides access to both sides. This along with the fact that it can be frequently reached by ferry boats departing from other Ionian Islands as Zante, Ithaca and Kefalonia make Lefkada a very good base for trips and excursions to the Ionian Islands and western Greece.

Capital and port at the same time, the city of Lefkada welcomes visitors with its beautiful narrow streets, small squares, traditional houses, fine belfries and paved pedestrian streets. The medieval castle of Agia Mavra is the first thing that catches the eye when passing the bridge. Was built on the 13th century by the Sicilian Ioanni Orsini, to protect civilians from the pirates’ attacks and Turks later on. The fortress initially was built next to an artificial canal on an islet of the lagoon; later, both Venetians and Turks have added some pieces.

The Archaeological, Folklore Museums and the Charamogleios Special Library of Lefkada (unique in the world) compose the image of an atmosphere, spread on every small paved alley (locally called ‘kantouni’) leading you into old neighbourhoods of which, in every corner, reveals the hidden aspects of the islands’ history and culture.

The island is surrounded by a total of 24 islets, including the renowned island of Scorpios, property of Aristotelis Onassis. You will find remarkable sights, churches and monasteries, picturesque settlements, green surroundings and wonderful beaches. Smaller or bigger caves, waterfalls water springs and pine forests are some of the mainland’s beauties.

Scorpios is with no doubt the most famous private island of Greece. Was bought back in 1963, and Onassis turned it to a tropical paradise. It is covered with trees from one side to the other, with a beautiful villa in the middle, where most of the global celebrities of his time spent their summer time as guests. It was used among others: by the Kennedy’s family, Maria Callas, Greta Garbo, and Winston Churchill. In the small church next to the house Aristotelis Onassis got married with Jacky Kennedy. His natural love for the island of Lefkada helped it become a world known leisure destination with thousands of tourists visiting it every year.

The biggest among these islets is Meganisi (only 4 miles away from Nydri) with small villages, bays and picturesque beaches. You should visit the water cave of Papanikolis, the place where boats and sailing boats found shelter when they were threatened by storms. It took its name after "Papanikolis" submarine as the cave was its base during the World War II. Its chamber is very large covering 3.800 sq. m, 30 metres deep, and is the second biggest cave in Greece.

The wonderful beaches start just from the front-step of the capital. Gyra apart from the windmills has a magnificent sandy beach that joins the lagoon with the Ionian Sea. Heading south with direction to Kalamitsi, you will pass by Drakano (with a nice steak tavern of Sesoula) and turn right at Athani, on the way to Gialos, Egremni and Porto Katsiki beaches. You can choose among numerous hotels, studios, restaurants and traditional taverns. When reaching the beach of Porto Katsiki, make sure that you have parked at a spot that doesn’t block traffic, the road is very narrow.

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