The last stop on Our Big Fat Greek Roadtrip was the little island of Lefkada (also known as Lefkas), just off of the West coast of Greece but connected to the mainland by a long narrow causeway and guarded by a Medieval castle at the causeway’s entrance from the mainland. Similarly to the Peloponnese where we’d just come from, this little corner of the country was fairly quiet and definitely far less geared towards tourists than the islands further South, even though it’s commonly given the name ‘The Caribbean of Greece’ due to it’s stunning turquoise sea and bright white beaches. In fairness, by the time we were there in late September, the Summer season was coming to an end as evidenced by the ghostly towns we drove through en route, whose people were shutting up shop and were shocked to see a couple of young lasses driving through on the look out for a good place to stop for a moussaka.
Stay in a beachside village
Although we’d seen a fair bit of different scenery during our Greek travels, from the clamour and ruins of Athens, to the dry rock of Santorini and the mountains and olive groves of the Peloponnese, when we reached the little island of Lefkada I was fully taken aback by how lush and green everything was. The interior of the island is filled with mountains and valleys, and around the edges of these run winding coast roads with downright stunning views of the sea, generally with the vibe of a TV advert for really fast cars. (Luckily my iPhone was shuffling like a pro during these mountain drives and picked all the calming ballet music to play at the points in the road with the steepest drops. Good one iPhone, you’re alright)
The village we’d chosen to stay in was Agios Nikitas, which has a main road winding through it but the other (very minimal amount of) streets seeming to be for pedestrians only and almost hidden from view, bridging the gap between the main road and the sea. After a great deal of confusion which led to us driving almost the entire way up a dirt track on a mountainside, we decided there was no way our AirBnB could be perched at such a high altitude (it definitely didn’t look like that in the pictures, anyway) and reversed the whole way down.
Our AirBnB host was a lovely little apron-wearing lady who didn’t seem to speak a whole lot of English, but very nicely came to meet us on the main road next to a restaurant and shop called ‘Join In’ and proceeded to guide us through the pedestrians to the little holiday apartment we’d booked, part of a two-storey row of about six. We barely saw anyone else who was staying in the little block, although every now and again you could catch a snatch of Russian or Italian on the wind from a few of the rooms above us. It was an extremely pretty but kind of enclosed-feeling place; after days of open space and rolling landscapes stretching downwards as far as the eye could see, Agios Nikitas is tucked away in between a whole load of hills, so that this time all we could see was land rising around us. It was quite the contrast, that’s for sure.
The village itself is very much a cute one, with a paved lane leading down to the beach and lined with tavernas and gift shops selling the usual seaside debris of raffia beach mats (obv purchased one of those bad boys), large inflatable creatures and boxes stuck all over with seashells. Classiiiic!! I mean, who doesn’t love a seashell-encrusted box for goodness’ sake!? At the furthest end of the land, mere minutes away from our little apartment, was Agios Nikitas beach, nestled into a little bay and held there by the cliffs on either side of it. A classic sleepy seaside village if ever there was one.
Visit a secret beach
Part of the reason we’d chosen Agios Nikitas as our temporary place of residence for the Lefkada portion of our trip, was it’s close proximity to a top secret and highly incognito beach we’d heard about on the grapevine. When I say top secret, what I really mean is it’s highly isolated and therefore not so many people tend to visit.
Well oh my ears and whiskers let me tell you- Milos Beach is an utter stunner all round. Confusingly, in order to reach it from Agios Nikitas, you have to travel upwards for quite a long time, clambering over all manner of knotted roots and dodging branches for almost the entire journey. At one point we seemed to be so high up that I began to doubt we were heading in the right direction at all; surely a beach would be more of a sea level type situation?
Eventually the thick layers of trees began to peel back and we were met with one of the most glorious views of vivid azure sea that I’ve seen in a long old time. What an absolute beaut!! The pathway down the cliff is an incredibly steep one, with the odd crumbly walkway and a few planks of wood built in to aid your descent, but in my opinion this made the whole experience of Milos Beach all the more brilliant. Aside from via narrow and steep pathways, the only other way to access this hidden gem is by boat, normally from Agios Nikitas, so it really is a triumphant treat to reach the bottom and know you made it without plummeting to your doom.
A word of caution, dear pals! BEWARE of fully nude sunbathers. I went for a stroll over to one end of the beach and was met with a man casually hanging out behind a large boulder, completely starkers bar his sunglasses, and I’m not gonna lie I did gasp in horror at the whole scenario. So although it’s not officially a nudist location, there’s obv no real policing on the nudity so just one to bear in mind if you’re a massive prude like myself.
Be selective about your coffee
More cautionary tales for the beach: if someone approaches you selling drinks and beach mats, for the love of God, don’t buy a coffee!!! It’s just not worth the pain, pals. Especially not if it’s of the iced variety. My pal Rachel and I tend to drink a substantial amount of coffee, and when a charming Greek lady offered us one as we were chillaxing at Milos Beach, Rachel couldn’t help but decide it was absolutely Coffee Time. Well. The lady produced a disposable cup from up her sleeve, a jar of instant coffee from her bag, and a bottle of cold water from her icebox. She spooned several teaspoons of the granulated coffee into the flimsy cup, poured in the water, and proceeded to blend the two together using a very well thought-out milk frother she happened to be carrying. There’s something quite surreal about watching someone electronically whisk instant coffee on a secluded beach, and all I’m saying is, Rachel’s face throughout the whole process was a picture, but even more so when she took the first sip of this magical but utterly foul-tasting beverage.
A far more reliable location for a coffee was the good old Join In cafe back in the village; coffees were consistently good and they also had a bakery on site which made some bloody marvellous cookies on a daily basis.
Moral of the story: beach coffee is not real coffee.
Eat Ionian delicacies
Now don’t get me wrong here, we’d been pretty much gorging on Greek food for approximately two weeks up until we arrived on Lefkada, however finding ourselves in a different kind of area- that of the Ionian Islands- we realised there must be some kind of local speciality that was slightly different than what we’d discovered further South. After getting on Google to look more into the whole food sitch, it turned out that we were right- of course Lefkada would have slightly different cuisine to what we’d discovered in the Peloponnese.
We found a little restaurant on the beach in Agios Nikitas to test the said Ionian delicacies, choosing to do the classic sharing of several dishes in order to try everything on the menu. Seafood plays a massive part in general cuisine around here, and although we sampled a few delights the dish that stands out the most in my mind is Savoro.
Honestly I’m still not sure whether I loved it or hated it. Savoro is fish that has been marinated for some time in a mixture of vinegar, oil, rosemary, garlic and raisins. As you can imagine that is one pungent collection of ingredients but it’ll stick in my mind forever I’m sure, and it almost managed to stay in my nose for just as long.
There are a whole abundance of cats in the area who enjoy patrolling the restaurants for literally anything they can get their paws on, and being the type of person who worries about offending the chef if I leave any dinner on my plate, I decided the only thing for it when the vinegaryness of the Savoro got too overwhelming, was to offer morsels of it to my new cat-pal who had dropped in to join us for dinner that evening. I was very glad she was there.
We also happened to witness a real life Big Fat Greek Wedding whilst enjoying our sour fish, which was an absolute JOY. There was rice all over the place, church bells ringing, and after that a full waterside photo shoot right in front of our restaurant. Things got slightly awkward when a slightly drunken and homeless-appearing man got so close to the bride and groom that it seemed as if he was going to photobomb the whole setup, but all’s well that ends well and nothing could bring the happy couple down.
Go for a classic old stroll
On our second full day on Lefkada, we decided it was time we branched outwards from our little tucked-away village, and headed South to another beachside town, Nydri. The car journey to the seaside resort took around 40 minutes, passing back through the main town on the island (also named Lefkada) and then running parallel with the sea, passing a whole load of windsurfers en route, as well as the view of the mainland, eventually coming to a stop just outside of Nydri itself.
But, pals, we weren’t here to walk explore the village; in fact I think if that had been our goal we would have been rather disappointed, as aside from the hotels and gift shops selling seashell-encrusted boxes, there didn’t appear to be a whole lot there. Oh no way Jose. We were heading up some little country lanes to find a mystical waterfall which we’d previously seen somewhere on Facebook.
So, off we set, not knowing for sure whether we were going in the right direction and relying very heavily on road signs for help in this matter, as our usual trusty blue iPhone dot didn’t seem to be able to locate the mysterious waterfall at all. Although it was still warm, the air was decidedly cooler than the sweatbox we’d been used to further South, and I’m pretty sure this was down to the fact that finally in late September, Autumn was starting to show its face. Blackberries lined the lanes, and overhead the leaves were starting to show tinges of yellow as the sun shone through them. We saw barely anyone on our wanderings, and it was a strange sight to see just as many empty houses as lived-in ones…I’m quite the fan of an abandoned building, mainly because I find it so bloomin’ intriguing to think of who lived there before and why on Earth it’s falling to pieces now.
Things took a turn for the worse not far into the walk when Rachel realised she was desperately in need of a bathroom; this is not the kind of place to have a public loo located on every corner, and before long it became evident that the only thing for it would be to go for a classic au natural wee in the roadside styling; she leapt into the bushes at the side of the road whilst I stood pondering whereabouts we actually were and hoping that she wasn’t getting mauled by the dog who’d started up barking as soon as she disappeared into the foliage. Luckily Rachel reappeared in one piece and the barking dog calmed down once we’d moved away from it’s patch, turning off into a quiet lane filled with more blackberries and the odd square of garden dominated by chickens, dogs, or even better than that…tiny baby kittens!!!
Thankfully after half an hour or so of walking, we realised we truly were for sure heading in the right direction, passing a few more completely derelict houses but also some very trustworthy-looking signposts directing us to the mysterious waterfall, and the lane began to narrow and head uphill. Praise the lord.
Visit the Dimossari Waterfall
Turns out the name of the waterfall we’d been hunting for all that time is officially called the Dimossari Waterfall, not the Mysterious Mystery Waterfalls like I’ve previously stated. As the interior of the island is a full on mountainous affair, there are apparently a whole load of waterfalls dotted around; however this one near Nydri is perhaps the most well-known, and attracts a fair amount of visitors especially during the summer season when it becomes the perfect point to cool off after a sweltering day in the sun. Surrounded by pine trees, the water pours down from the edge of a high-up cliff, into a beautiful blue pool, continuing onwards in a stream over rocks and pebbles downhill.
However. In September when we arrived, disaster had struck. The summer had been a particularly dry one, the water had all but dried up, and the majestic waterfall was more of a waterdribble. And you had to squint to even make the dribble out as it crept over the green mossy walls. Alas! Actually it was rather a hilarious situation, to tell the truth, as it had been quite a walk to reach it and we were still somewhat proud of ourselves despite the lack of fall in the water. A couple of extremely brave people had taken the plunge and tested the temperature out (it was apparently freezing) but I’m glad they were there to confirm this before we did anything stupid. What a laugh!
Once we were satisfied that we’d spent a decent enough amount of time appreciating the ghost of the waterfall, we headed back towards a little cafe we’d noticed at the entrance. It was rather an overpriced kind of a place as it was right next to quite the tourist attraction, but we were on the brink of death by starvation so decided to go for it anyway, settling at a shady table beneath some trees. Unfortunately for us, this spot was also the chosen location for approximately five hundred wasps. Classic.
Luckily for me I noticed a praying mantis having a dance on a chair opposite us, which helped to distract me from the thought of being stung by a swarm of wasps- I mean seriously that praying mantis was having a right old boogy back and forth, and I was completely mesmerised. Rachel on the other hand (the poor soul) was clearly unsure about whether to stay frozen to the spot or just keep on the move should a wasp approach her. In hindsight I feel a little bad that I was focusing so much on a wandering insect that I forgot all about the danger of wasps and left my pal to get on with it, and I can imagine the sight of two lasses having very differing reactions to these creepy crawlies was probs quite the comical one. Me kneeling in the dust singing to a rather large praying mantis and Rachel jumping sky high every time a wasp entered her line of vision.
Obviously the large family at the next table (who accent-wise sounded to me to be from the West Country), also found the whole thing hilarious. The grandad of the family picked up a small twig, crept up behind her and brushed it against Rachel’s shoulder with a ‘muahaha!!!’ to go with it, to which she screamed at the top of her voice and leapt a full six feet in the air. (At least that’s the way I remember it!) Well what a trick for a stranger to play, but in fairness we were all just about collapsing with laughter (Rachel included), with the grandad cackling in his thick West Country accent ‘Your face!!! Your face were a right picture!!!’ I could barely breathe I tell ya.
Ten minutes into our walk back through the country lanes, a car came careering along behind us tooting it’s horn as it rattled closer, the faces of the West Country family visible through the windows yelling out their goodbyes. What a brilliant sight to behold!
The next morning we left Lefkada early, stopping for a quick coffee and an entire bag of biscuits for me at the Join In; fuel for our return to Athens. I’m glad we got to see this quiet corner of Greece before we headed back, although I’ll tell you this for free, Lefkada is absolutely beautiful but with sour fish, deserted lanes and passer-by prankster, it was also without a doubt the most surreal portion of our Big Fat Greek Roadtrip. What a bloody laugh.
- The closest airport to Lefkada is Aktion/Preveza, which is about half an hour away by car but is also very much on the small side so only accepts a limited number of flights.
- Lefkada is part of the Ionian Islands, seven islands off of the West coast of Greece including Crete and Zante.
- The East side of the island, facing the mainland, is known for it’s family beaches; the West side is the place to go for a walk on the wild side and a bit of untamed beauty.
- As the island is connected to the mainland by road, there are no ferries to or from Lefkada.
- You don’t have to pay a single penny to visit the Dimossari Waterfall, or Milos Beach. What a delightfully non-touristy location this is.