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Location

Driving past the coast of Akarnania through a narrow stripe of land you will reach a floating bridge no more than 50m long.


The bridge swings open allowing small vessels to sail through the channel of Lefkada (opened in 1885).

View of the town of Lefkada, the channel and the lagoon.
An alley (sokaki) in Lefkada town .
 
Sightseeing

One of Lefkada/s major beauty landmarks is Gyra. This narrow 7km long stripe of land with the white beach embracing the lagoon on the north part of the island is what makes it unique. It starts at the beach of Ammoglossa, and extends beyond the town. Within the lagoon lies Ivari, fish farms with traditional constructions called Kalamotes, where fish live and grow under natural conditions. The lagoon is one special habitat where one can see various rare species of birds such as swans, pelicans, herons, wild ducks and geese etc.


At the entrance to the island lies the fort of Santa Maura, a silent guard, a witness of past times. It used to be the capital town of Lefkada and was built for protection purposes against enemies and pirates. The fort was built by the ruler Giovanni Orsini about 1300 after he got the island as dowry of his bride, the daughter of the Despot of Epirus Nikiforos I. Santa Maura is one of the two most imposing forts of that era and is an example of fortress art and architecture of the Middle ages. In 1479 the fort was conquered by the Turks. They built a bridge with 360 arches crossing the lagoon from the beach to the Kalkanis residence. The bridge supported also the Turkish aqueduct that provided the fort with water. It was destroyed by the earthquakes, yet some traces can still be seen in the lagoon.

The fort managed to withstand strong earthquakes. Various conquerors did leave their mark though. Inside the fort stands the fully preserved church of Santa Maura.Today the fort is being carefully restored to regain its initial beauty. In the park of the poets, the visitor is being welcomed by the busts of the great poets of the island: Aristotelis Valaoritis, Angelos Sikelianos, Lafcadio Hearn and Kleareti Dipla-Malamou.


The present location of the town dates back to 1684, when the Venetian Morosini ordered the transfer of the town outside of the fort. The strong seismic activity and the limited financial means of the Lefkadians played a defining part in the architecture of the town. Small, two-floor buildings with wooden construction and balconies defined the image of the new capital town. The upper floor was usually made of wood and mortar, while the ground floor was stone built, creating this way an earthquake resistent structure. Time and earthquakes made Lefkadians rebuild their houses with the same materials, making each time sure that the upper floor would be lighter, by covering it with iron sheet which they then painted in various colours.

This technique is still preserved. Many of the houses in the historic town centre are still covered by iron sheet. There are no clear influences of the Venetian architecture in the town- unlike Zante or Corfu. Here, the Venetians did not contribute to the development of this town. The old aristocratic houses had a fireplace, a yard, impressive front doors and were built on large plots. Such a house is the Zoulinos Residence which now houses the Public Library and the Collection of Ionian Byzantine Icons.


Walking down the Dorpfeld Street, one can still see plenty of traditional houses such as the Skiadaresi residence with its beautiful balconies. The central square of Lefkada is always crowded, especially during evening hours. There stands the church of Aghios Spyridon, which –like all Lefkadian churches- this one is also a singlenaved basilica, with side entrances influenced by the Venetian style. The church was built at the end of the 17th century and is private. Its templon was built by the woodcarver I. Groppa from Zante, whereas the iconostasis was painted by Tommaso Zen.

Near the town centre lies also the Church of Aghios Nikolas, built in 1687, -with the permission of the Venetian authorities.

The church was renovated in 1830, after it had suffered severe damages during the earthquakes that occurred in the 18th and early 19th century. It used to be one of the richest churches of the town. It has impressive entrances and windows in baroque style. The templon is very impressive. The icons are the work of Ioannis Rousos. Here you will also see some works of Spyridonas Ventouras. The church has also got country chapels: the church of Ai-Giannis Antzousis and the church of Panaghia sti Gyra. Going past the square, on the left, stands the church of Pantokrator. It is of great value. It belongs to the descendants of Aristotelis Valaoritis. The icons are the works of well known Ionian painters. Behind the sanctuary lies the grave of our national poet Aristotelis Valaoritis. Other distinguished Lefkadians are also buried in this church.


The Archaeological Museum of Lefkada is housed in the municipal cultural centre of the town. The finds displayed there cover an extensive period of time, from the middle bronze age (2000-3500 BC) until the late roman times. In a special chamber you can see the finds that came to light during the excavations the German archaeologist Wilhelm Dorpfeld carried out. He developed and supported the theory that Lefkada was Homer/s Ithaca. You will also see tools, pottery, bronze artefacts, jewelry and burial items mainly from ancient Nirikos, from 13Nydri, Hirospilia, Evgiros and Frini cave.



The Folklore Museum of the Orpheas music association, founded in 1937, has got a lot remarkable and rare exhibits, a rich collection of daily life items that describe the daily activities of the Lefkadians in the past. The Public Library, founded in 1953 as well as the Ionian Post Byzantine Icons Collection are housed in the Zoulinos Residence, a traditional house on the west side of the old town. Nearby is also 14 the Haramoglios Library that has got thousands of books, printing, newspaper and magazine articles as well as post cards with Lefkada being the main subject. The founder of the library, Aristotelis Haramoglis, started collecting every publication regarding Lefkada in 1974. Today the library possesses rare editions that date back to 1420.

In the north, a narrow stripe of land surrounds 15the lagoon. In the northwest lies the church Panaghia sti Gyra. It is a singlenaved church with a semicircular arche. The initial church existed already before 1684. It is concidered to be one of the oldest churches of Lefkada. It was built around 1460-1503 by the brothers and priests Stamatios and Athanasios Soundias. The church withstood various earthquakes. 16 The wooden templon is simple. The icon of Panaghia resembles the icon of Panaghia Odigitria and has byzantine elements. It is the work of Tommaso Zen.


On the northwest side of Lefkada, in Gyra, four windmills in a row bear testimony to the rural past of the island. There used to be twelve windmills in that region, most of them had Russian names such as Orlov, Metzikov, Moskovas. Their construction started about 1760. It was here, where, on March 1810, the battle of the British and Kolokotronis againt the French took place 17 in order to take over the island. A little further on, along the coastline stands the small church of Ai-Giannis Antzousis, one of the oldest churches on the island. It is said that it used to be a place of prayer, where even Paul himself pilgrimed on his way to Rome. The church was renovated and expanded by the Franks, the Angevin knights after discovering it, in 1331.

A little further outside the town, on the road to the west starts Elaionas, the Olive Grove. A region named after its numerous big olive trees. When the Turks first arrived, there were almost 8500 olive tress in the plain of Lefkada and in the villages Apolpena, Frini and Aghios Nikitas. In 1684, when the Venetians returned they imposed on the people to grow olive trees. This way the Venetians tried to make up for the damage they inflicted on the Lefkadians after having ruined the marine infrastructure and trade, when transferring the town outside of the fort and by imposing austere taxation. What is more, by replacing wheat cultivation- which grew, up to that time, in the plain - with olive trees, inhabitants soon became dependent on the Venetians to cover their need in wheat. In Elaionas lies the historical church Panaghia ton Vlahernon, founded in 1740.

On the south wall of the church an inscription says that in 1821, during the Greek War of Independence, twelve revolutionary leaders from Lefkada and the mainland (Roumeli) gathered here to take the oath to fight for freedom. In the region, also known as Kouzoundeli or Kouzoumbei, stands a huge century-old plane tree. Under its cool shade the traditional cafeneion there will serve you fresh coffee or Soumada (a local refreshment made of almond syrup). Many of the plane trees in the region are said to have been planted by the Turks. From 1478 until 1684 the Turks used to open water wells which they embellished in a unique style. Such a well lies in Frini, a village on the north of the Aghioi Apostoloi church. .



The road to the west through the beautiful hamlet of Frini offers a unique view over the region of Ai-Giannis, Gyra and the fort of Santa Maura. On this beautiful green hill, full of pine trees, stands the Monastery of Panaghia Faneromeni, one of the greatest monuments of our island, with a long history that dates back to the early apostle years. According to tradition, this place was the Kallimarmaron Temple 22 of goddess Artemis. The disciples of Paul reached the island and gathered the inhabitants and preached the Gospel, creating this way the first place of prayer to honor Panaghia (Virgin Mary). It is also said that one of them, Sosion, was the first to be ordained bishop of Lefkada from Paul himself and that at that time the monastery was first inhabited.

According to church sources, during the era of Konstantin the Great, after the 1st ecumenical Synod, the first five bishops together with the bishop of Lefkada, Agatharhos, visited the monastery of Faneromeni. Two of them, lived as monks 23 in the monastery while the other three founded the Monastery of Aghioi Pateres (Holy Fathers) in the village Alexandros. It was those priests that organised the monastic life in Lefkada, built the first cells and expanded the building. According to tradition, the first icon of Panaghia (Virgin Mary), ordered in Constantinople, appeared before the monk and hagiographer Kallistos after he had finished his prayer (Faneromeni).



The monastery took its present form during the Venetian times, in 1734. The templon was rebuilt in the 19th century after it had been destroyed by two fires. The influence of the architectural style of Zante is evident. The Holy Icon of Panaghia (1887) is a copy of the older miraculous icon of Faneromeni and was painted in Aghio Oros. The templon was built after 1886 and its iconostasis is painted by the brothers Christodoulos and Thomas Zografou, from Hionades, Epirus. The monastery has been renovated. Here is housed the Ecclesiastical Museum. The various exhibits of ecclesiastical and traditional art displayed on the three floors of the building will give the visitor a detailed picture of the cultural progress of Lefkada. In the premises of the monastery you will also be able to visit the exhibition of ecclesiastical books. There is also a small guest house. A lot of pilgrims come to Faneromeni. She is the patron saint of all Lefkadians and she is celebrated on the Day of the Holy Ghost. An old path leading to Faneromeni is been refered to as the Sacred Road (Iera Odos) and is considered to have lead to the temple of Artemis.

The path leads to the Venetian olive grove The disciples of Paul are said to have followed this path, when they founded the first church in about 63AD. There are also testimonies that the path used to be a public road for some hundred years. To this day, thanks to an environmental group of students in Lefkada, the path still remains open to all those who love nature. Near Apolpena lies the monastery Panaghia Odigitria which is considered to be the oldest Christian monument still preserved on the island. The foundation of this church is dated back to 1450, while according to other researchers, it is dated from about 1100. The church managed to withstand time, earthquakes and conquerors and preserve itself in a relatively good state. The church is a basilica. Parts of its unique frescoes are still preserved and show the effort of the painter to combine byzantine with european style. One can see that while observing the shapes and colours. Here lived Eleni Palaiologina, daughter of the Despot of Mistras, Thomas Palaiologos after the death of her daughter.



On the same road to Aghios Nikitas, you will reach Tsoukalades. A village that has managed to combine modern times with tradition. There lies also the unexplored cave of Aghios Giannis which poses a challenge to all those who love exploring new worlds. A little further on, on the outskirts, lies an old olive oil press. Going past Tsoukalades before you reach Aghios Nikitas, you will soon see the scenery changing: olive tress give their place to pine trees. The region the pine tree forest covers, as well as the wide and golden sandy beach are called Pefkoulia.

Aghios Nikitas is a traditional coastal village about 12km from Lefkada town. It has grown into a modern tourist resort and continues to develop. The region is full of olive trees and there, you will find beautiful beaches. One of them is Kathisma, a long beach with crystal clear blue water and one of the most beautiful of the Ionian Sea. Further on, the visitor reaches Kalamitsi. The village is built high above, on the mountain slope of Rahi. This way it managed to protect itself from pirate raids. It is one of the first and largest villages on the island. The environs were fertile, so people used to grow wheat which was grinded in local mills. There used to be 13 mills in the village. The houses here are simple stone built houses bearing no particular decoration. Kalamitsi is known for its woven fabrics and its agricultural products.



On the other side of the island, towards the east, on the outskirts of the town of Lefkada are situated the saltpans of the town. Their production stopped in 1947. However along with the saltpans of Alexandros, which lie near the Drepano bay, are a significant part of the history of the island that needs to be preserved. The first salt works were made during the rule of the the Tocco, at the beginning of the 15th century and included a land of almost 125 acres. The salt works consisted of 26 saltpans. During the Venetian rule the saltpans provided the Piazza di Venezia as well as all the markets of North Italy and Central Europe with salt. The Alexandros saltpans were made by the Venetians, during the rule of Morosini in 1684 and covered an almost 12,5 acres surface and consisted of 34 pans.

The saltpans of Lefkada produced large amounts of good quality salt. The women working there had to work long hours. It was also hard work, since they carried barefoot 25 to 30 kilo of salt on their shoulder or head. However the need to work gave them strength and courage to carry on.



2km outside of Lefkada town surrounded by olive groves lies Kalligoni. On the hill lie the ruins of the ancient capital town. On Koulmos you can still see some ruins of the huge walls. Nirikos enjoyed great prosperity from the 2nd century until the Byzantine era. Wilhelm Dorpfeld discovered vaults, an aqueduct, a pre-roman theatre as well as ruins of byzantine walls and fortresses. The town was abandonned at about 1300. Earthquakes scattered the traces of the town. Further on, at a 5km distance the road leads to Ligia, a picturesque small yet significant fishing village. It has got a big number of fishing boats (the so-called gri-gri) that sail into the open sea to catch the best fish on the island. The picturesque harbour with the fishing boats and the beautiful clean beaches as well as the deep blue sea attract and fascinate the visitor.

About 3km from Ligia lies Katouna, a traditional village with old houses and a beautiful small central square with plenty of small tavernas, where you will get the chance to have a delicious meal. The churches of Panaghia, with the beautiful bell tower, and Saint Varvaros with its wonderful templon and its great iconostasis are awaiting your visit. Between Ligia and Perigiali, about 9 km from Lefkada town, lies the picturesque village of Nikiana, bulit at the foot of the mountain Skaroi combining the deep green colour of the mountain with the deep blue colour of the sea. It is an ideal place for surfing, water skiing, fishing as well as climbing. A significant monument of nature is the forest of Skaroi.



This forest has rare flora, especially a rare oak species. There is some evidence indicating that the forest was once-during the Turkish rule -property of Ahmet Aga, who sold it to the priests of the monastery of Aghios Georgios, in Skaroi, for an inconsiderable sum of money. The monastery of Aghios Georgios is situated in the village Alexandros, on a plateau, offering a great view onto the north and west side of the island. According to testimonies and documents, it was founded before 1500 and is one of the most significant historical monuments on the island. During the Turkish rule the monastery became very prosperous, possessing land and animals. .

The church has got remarkable frescoes especially on the east wall which is fully preserved. The templon dates back to 1724 and is a copy of the templon of the church of Aghios Minas, in Lefkada town. The hermitage (askitirio) of Aghioi Pateres is situated near the region of Skaroi, 5km from Nikiana. It is built inside a cave and is one of the oldest Christian monuments on the island. According to church sources, here lived three bishops who got to the island after the 1st ecumenical synod of Nicaea, Bithynia, in 325AD. They found shelter here and preached the Gospel until their death. Their three graves lie inside another cave, a little further above the one they lived in. A simple small chapel was built there to honor them. Next to the church stands a small ground-floor house for the pilgrims. A thressing floor is situated further down nearby the clearing.



These are only some of the sights worth visiting on the island. You will need a lot of time to get to know the region which concetrates both trade and social life.

Entertainment

There are various traditional tavernas, restaurants, cafes and bars where you can eat or have a drink. If you find yourselves visiting the mountain villages, don/t forget to try the tradiotional mezedes (such as kokoretsi, splenadero) or grilled meat, whereas on the coastal side you can have the chance to try fresh fish and seafood.

The best however is the moment the sun starts to set The beauty of the golden red colours of the sun being reflected in the sea and in the sky is breathtaking. You will find yourselves feeling calmer than ever before while recollecting all the beautiful moments.


Afterwards, you will have the chance to enjoy the night choosing among modern clubs, pubs and discos. Feel free to have fun and enjoy yourselves with local wine (Vartzami, Kefaliako, Keropati, Langero) syrtaki and traditional music.

While exploring the various beaches on the island, you /ll have the chance to choose out of a variety of leisure activities: sailing, wind surfing, jet skiing, beach volley, beach tennis, fishing are only some of the activities that can make you forget all your worries and offer you unforgettable moments.

Beaches

Aghios Giannis, Gyra, Miloi in Lefkada, Kaminia, Skala Gialou Potision, Miloi in Aghios Nikitas, Pefkoulia, Kathisma are beaches of unique beauty. Beautiful, endless beaches of golden sand, deep blue water surrounded by impressive green landscapes, the magnificent sunset compose an idyllic scenery which one can admire while enjoying a cup of coffeee or a drink.

Beautiful easily accessible beaches are also on the east side and south side of the municipality of Lefkada (Kariotes, Lygia, Nikiana) where you can have a swim or simply enjoy your coffee. The south side is known for its warm and calm sea. The coasts are smooth and the water is shallow. On all beaches you will get the chance to do watersports.

Transportation

Busses run regularly on a daily basis (KTEL). Regular ferry connection offer the visitor the chance to visit the islands of Ithaki and Kefallonia.

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