Lefkada is an island of the Ionian Sea and belongs to the island complex of Eptanisa. It lies between the islands of Corfu and Kefalonia. It is very close to the shores of the western mainland of Greece. Only a small strip of sea separates the island from Akarnania and a fifty meter floating bridge connects them.
Lefkada covers an area of 302.5 square kilometers and is the fourth in size Island in the Eptanese complex, with a population of 23.000 people. Lefkada along with the islands of Meganissi, Kalamos, Kastos, Scorpios, Skorpidi, Mathouri, Sparti, Thilia, Kythros and other smaller ones around them, constitutes the province of Lefkada with the city of Leukada as capital and is divided into 6 municipalities (Lefkada, Ellomenos, Apollonion, Karyas, Sfakioton and Meganissi) and two counties (Kalamos and Kastos).
The islands climate is Mediterranean, with long spells of sunshine all through the year, the temperate but rainy winter and the warm but pleasant summer due to the cooling breeze.
The 70% of Lefkada is covered by mountains. The tallest top of all is Stavrota (1.182m) with Elati (1.126 μ.) following second and St Lias (1.014 m) and Mega Oros (1.012 m) come third and fourth.
On the west side of the island which is quite steep, there are many long sandy beaches. Lefkada possesses narrow plateaus, fertile valleys and canyons with rich plantation, while it also has a notable flora which includes olive trees, cypresses, a variety of pine trees, a special variety of oak, aromatic herbs and rare flowers.
The island has many springs, like the known Kerasia springs in Sivros, torrents that become rather violent at times and form small cataracts like the one in Nydri, the Dimosaris and impressive canyons like the ones in Mellisa of Sfakiotes and in Haradiatikos. The two salt lakes in the northern part of the island are a very important reserve for many bird species.
Lefkada’s coastline is also very rich. It is comprised of impressive beaches, peninsulas, capes – the Lefkata Cape in particular – coves that make magnificent natural ports, distinguishing the ones of Vlihos, Syvota and Routha in the east and Vassiliki in the south side of the island.
Many consecutive coves exist in Meganissi creating small but impressive fiords.
The name of the island “Lefkada” routed from the name “Lefkas Petra” or “Lefkas Akra”, an ancient name of today’s Leukata, the southern cape of the island. The wild white rocks of the cape where, according to, the poet Sapfo ended her life in the name of love, gave the name to the city, the Corinthians founded in Lefkada, and then to the entire island. According to geographer Stravonas they renamed the ancient city of Nirikos to Lefkada, capital of the island.
Humanity in Lefkada can be traced back to the Paleolithic era. The distinguished German archaeologist Wilhelm Dairepfeld, associate of Henry Schliemann in the Troy excavations, conducted extensive archaeological research in Nydri, and brought important findings from the copper age (2,000 B.C.) to light and hence started the theory that Lefkada can be identified with Homers Ithaca.
The ancient city of Nirikos, 7th century b.c., which was discovered in Kalligoni at Koulmos, was the island’s first capital. It was surrounded by a great wall, of which only a small part is left.
The history of Lefkada, from the 7th century b.c. after becoming a Corinthian colony up until the Roman conquer, is politically connected to the city of Corinthos, which Lefkada followed in all important events of the time: the Salamina naval battle, the battle of Platees, the Peloponnesian war as an ally to the Spartans and the expedition of Alexander the Great.
Strongly resisting to the Romans during the 3rd century B.C., Lefkada finally submits to the conqueror in the 2nd century. During the Roman occupation considerable projects were constructed, the stone bridge, to name one, which connected the island of Lefkada with Akarnania, and had a length of 700 meters. They also reconstructed the ancient wall.
In 1204 the island was incorporated to the dominion of Hepiros, but from the year 1294 Lefakada came into the hands of the French, since it was given as an offering to John, Count of Orsini, who later built the nucleus of the Aghia Mavra Castle, still erect today at the island’s entrance.
The history of the island, since the 14th century and until it’s incorporation with the Greek state, is full of events – milestones of long historical adventure.
In 1331 Lefkada was conquered by the Andigavians, while in 1334 it becomes the feud of the Georgie.
In 1357 the “Voukentra revolution”, the revolt of the islands farmers against the Gratian Georgie, arose, a fact that centuries later inspired the Lefkadite poet, Aristotelis Valaoritis, to write the famous work “Fotinos”.
In 1362 the island was passed on to the hands of the Tokki and in 1479 was conquered by the Ottomans, only to fall temporarily, for two years (1502-3) in the hands of the Venetians and then again back to the Turks, for a prolonged period of time that ended in 1684.
The same year the Venetians return. Lefkada was occupied by Fransisco Morozini, the capital was transferred outside the castle, at the position it remains up untill now, called Amaxiki and the Lefkadites loose control of the port and commerce falls in the hands of the Venetians.
The Venetian occupation is an especially difficult time for the Lefkadites, who were cut off from the rest of Greece and with the Venetians being indifferent in developing a cultural and social foundation, as they did in Zakynthos and Corfu, found it difficult to organize their social life and create their own cultural movement. However, during these years, the Venetians modernized public life by founding courts and setting the basis for organizing administrative services.
A period of continuous historic changes follows. The democratic French replace the Venetians in 1797 and immediately after that Lefkada as the rest of the Eptanisa falls under Russian – Turkish rule. From 1802 the island becomes a part of the Eptanesian State, the first semi independent Greek state, under Russian – Turkish protection.
Despite the bits of democratic freedoms provided, the English rule was on of cruelty and heavy taxing to the poor Lefkadites, a measure resulting in the revolt of the peasants. During that time, however, many public projects were constructed, such as roads, bridges and aqueducts.
The union of Lefkada as well as the rest of the Eptanisa to Greece happened in 1864 when, after Otto’s removal, came George the 1st to the throne.
For a few years the civil class prospered and commerce especially developed. However in the beginning of the 20th century, the year 1900, peronospora a plants disease, destroyed all the islands vineyards, sending into poverty and despair the inhabitants. Then begun the great emigration to America and Canada, which lessened only after the end of the great wars of the century, where life in Lefkada improved significantly in the beginning of the sixties.
The castle of Agia Mavra, which dominates at the entrance of the island, is one of the most imposing medieval buildings in Greece and is a model of fortification art of that time. It was built around 1300 by the Frank ruler John Orsini when he took Lefkada as a dowry for his marriage to his daughter Despot of Epirus Nikephoros I.
The castle protected the capital of the island and was its most important defensive armor against the pirates and other enemies from the first decade of the 14th century to 1684. In 1479 it was captured by the Turks who built a large arched bridge with 360 arches, Crossing the lagoon from the beach to Kalkani, supporting the pipes of an aqueduct that brought water to the castle. This work, which featured the entire area, was destroyed by earthquakes. Some traces of it are preserved today in the lagoon.
Nikikos: Two kilometers outside and east of the city, passing through the olive grove, the visitor reaches Kallikoni. The area has been declared an archaeological site since here was the ancient city of Lefkada, called Neritos, and it extends to the areas of Chechilbus, Kalligion, Karyotes, Lygia and Lefkada.
The archaeological site contains the remains of the walled settlement of Ancient Lefkada, dating from the Archaic to the Roman period, the two cemeteries of the ancient city discovered in the same area, individual monuments and scattered building remains such as graves, farmhouses and port facilities They are – in accordance with the relevant decisions – an integral part of the protected monumental ensemble of ancient city was abandoned around 1300, and then the constant shedding earthquakes v traces of.
In the plain of Nydri, the area that extends from the foothills of Mount Skaros to the place of Magymenos of Nikiana has been declared an archaeological site. It includes the tombs of the Early Helladic period at the Steno site, graveships and tile roofs, as well as the remains of buildings across the plain of Nidri at the foot of Skaros and Mount Amali, as well as in the areas of Paliokatounas, Koloni and Perigiali. Also above the village of Poros, the ruins of a tower, presumably a farmhouse, and the remains of an ancient olive mill situated there, belong to the 4th century BC. About a century ago, according to archaeologists.
The above remains were discovered during the excavations made here by the prominent German archaeologist William Dappfeld, dating back to prehistoric to Roman times. Darffeld, an inspirer of the theory that Lefkada is Homeric Ithaca and that Odysseus’ palace was in Nydri, loved the island so much that it wanted to be buried here. His tomb is located on the top of the hill on the edge of the Vlychos peninsula, above the picturesque chapel of Agia Kyriaki.
In the cape of Doukato or Lefkata there are building relics and architectural members of Apollo Lefkata. This sanctuary was well-known throughout the ancient world. Every year there were Pan-Hellenic celebrations in honor of the god, who was the patron saint of the sailors and the physician of the body and soul. That’s why the ancients believed that by jumping from these rocks, the soul was freed from the burden of passions and was atonement from sins. In this space, the myth wants the poet Sappho to end her life desperate for the passion of love.
Archaeological Museum of Lefkada: it is housed in the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Lefkada. The findings presented cover a long period of time, starting from the Middle Palaeolithic Age (200,000 – 35,000 BC) and reaching to late Roman times. In the museum, the findings of the excavations of the German archaeologist Wilhelm Dainpfelt, which developed the theory that Lefkada is Homer’s Ithaca, are displayed in a separate room. The museum hosts tools, ceramics, bronze, jewelery and grave gifts, mainly from ancient Neriko, Nydri, Choirospilia in Eughera and from the cave in Frini. Tel. 26450.21635
Folklore Museum of Orpheus Musical-Philological Group “Pantazis Kondymihis”: Founded in 1937, it contains many remarkable and rare exhibits, as well as a rich collection of everyday life and occupations of the Lefkadians. For information 2645022778
Phonograph Museum: Near the central pedestrian street of the old town, the small private museum is housed with phonographs, discs, rare items, decorative items, tools, cans, seals, banknotes and postcards. Tel. 26450.21088
Ecclesiastical Museum of Faneromeni: The monastery of “Faneromeni”, the patron saint of the island, is 4 km southwest of the town of Lefkada just outside the village of Frini. In a special building of the Monastery is housed the Ecclesiastical Museum that was created in 2006.
In its premises, the relics of the monastery are exhibited and exhibits of local ecclesiastical art and tradition, coming from the older monasteries of the island, which are no longer functioning from various temples. The exhibits cover a long period, from the Ottoman domination (1479-1684) to the incorporation of the island into the free Greek state in 1864.
The most of the exhibits consists of works by the Eptanian and Lefkadian painters, and are mainly post-Byzantine portable icons and sections of the iconostasis (despotic icons, architravetes, gates). Of particular interest are many ecclesiastical manuscripts and antiquities from the monastery’s library, with rare and old versions of Greek and foreign typists of pre-revolutionary and revolutionary times.
Nautical Museum of Nikos Thanos “Morinas”: In 2011, the Maritime Museum of the Archimandrite Nikos Thanos “Morina”, which donated 60 handmade wooden ship and naval gear models, operates in the basement of the Ecclesiastical Museum of the Monastery of Faneromeni.
These are wood-carved imitation of various sizes of Chinese and Egyptian boats, trierers, galleys, flags, and others. Among the exhibits there are emblems of the Noah’s Ark, Cleopatra’s flagship in Aktio, the Titanic, Averoff, etc. All are donor’s creations.
Nikos Thanos “Morina” was born in Lefkada in 1930. He acted as Archimusicus at the “Orpheus” Lefkada Music and Film Club, the Lefkada Philharmonic Society, the Amfilochia Philharmonic and the Mandolina of “APOLLONA” Karyas.
Folklore Museum of Lefkaditissa Embroidery “Maria Koutsohero”: In this small private museum and through the traditional exhibits, the visitor discovers the life and the character, the insistence, the patience and the genius of the mountainous Lefkadians who lived under harsh conditions and Have created an integrated popular culture.
Folklore Museum of the Municipality of Sfakioti in Kavalos. It was created by the competent Legal Entity of the Municipality and has been open to the public since the summer of 2004. It is housed in the old building of the Primary School of Kavala, in a wonderful pine-covered area. The museum refers to the tools, their importance for social development, the era of their creation, and the social and economic context of Lefkaditi’s work in the pre-industrial era.
In the Museum’s premises are exhibited: Collection of tools from various professions, such as shoemaker, farmer, carpenter, barber, builder, wheat, callazi, woodcutter etc.
See more details about the museums and fairgrounds of Lefkada at www.golefkas.gr, the island’s most comprehensive online tourist and business guide.