Our journey to Lefkada from mainland Parga took around five hours. Lefkada is quite literally the gateway to the southern Ionian islands. There is a long canal that runs through the salt marsh between the mainland and the island of Lefkada and provides a passage for boats heading south. Access to the canal from the north is via a floating bridge. Each hour the bridge swivels to lie parallel with the canal bank, allowing boats to pass through. We’d timed our journey to arrive just before the hour so we didn’t have to wait long.
We’d intended to berth at Levkas, the main town on the island but on entering the port noticed radical changes since our last visit. The busy quay that had given boats easy and cheap entry to the town had been replaced by a massive marina. A check online told us that it was expensive and not easy to access, so we decided to sail on to Nydri, a largish town a bit further south. We were all familiar with Nydri having stayed there previously and knew that it had a good shopping centre and a few boat supply shops.
As the town quay was full, we anchored nearby. Readers of this blog will know that we are always on the hunt for a laundry service and were excited to discover not one, but three in town as well as a hairdresser and nail bar. We were in desperate need of some self-maintenance. We stripped every bed and gathered up our towels and sheets, clothes and anything else we could find that needed laundering and set off in the dinghy to town. The laundry was run by older woman who took our three huge bags of laundry and promised to have everything washed, dried, and folded for 30 euro. This left us time to visit the nearby hairdresser who delighted in telling us that she was born in Melbourne and grew up in Clayton. Her family moved back to Athens when she was a teenager. She later moved to Nydri, her husband’s hometown, after she married.
We spent two nights in Nydri stocking and maintaining the boat and making good use of the town’s facilities. The ‘strip’ as the locals call it runs along the town quay and is lined with tavernas and bars and is mostly frequented by tourists. Many have their tables set up on the pebbly beach. Nydri is also a busy ferry and cruise boat port. One street behind the strip is the town’s main road that runs for the length of the town and is lined with shops and tavernas mostly for the locals.
After two nights in Nydri we lifted anchor and sailed across to nearby Meganisi, a small tadpole shaped island to the east. We’d been given a recommendation to check out Porto Spilia and found a great spot on the town quay. We were met by a surprisingly strong old man who helped us tie up to the quay and provided a bridge so that could get off the boat. All we had to do was eat at his taverna which was a short walk from the boat. Normally we berth with the stern (back of boat) to the quay but because the water was not very deep boats were mostly berthed bow (front) to the quay. While this made it a little more difficult to get on and off the boat it meant that we had easy access to the beautiful bay from the back of the boat to swim, kayak and paddleboard. There were many charter boats on the town quay, some clearly British as they were decorated with Union Jack flags to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee. I even overheard a woman two boats down singing God Save the Queen as she hung out her washing. You don’t get much more patriotic than that!
We spied a church and a few houses high on the hill overlooking the port and took a walk to check it out the small traditional village with amazing views across the bay. As we’d walked up the hill early to avoid the heat we were rewarded with a glimpse of normal village life as the shop owners prepared for their day, old people tended their vegetable gardens and residents drove off to work down the very steep hill. We stayed two nights in Porto Spilia enjoying an amazing view across the water as we ate dinner at the taverna. The food was good, as was the local wine that we drank each night. After dinner on the second night, the waiter gave us a bottle of wine to take back to the boat and asked if we’d like fresh bread in the morning. When we picked it up the next day it was still warm.
A sailing friend from back home was soon to join us and as we needed to pick him up from Nydri we decided to move on to nearby Athenis Bay. It was a great location but the water was a bit rough so we spent most of our time on board reading and watching local fishing boats and other yachts coming and going.
We returned to Nydri the next day and got a berth on the town quay to wait for our friend to arrive. After dinner we took a late-night stroll along the street behind the strip among the many local families out enjoying the warm evening.
We decided to spend one more night on mainland Lefkada before heading further south. Sovita was less than an hour south of Nydri and a place we’d enjoyed on our last visit. On entering the bay we noted that the surrounding area had undergone significant development over the past few years. We could see many new houses built on the hills, some of them huge and much more interesting than others we’d seen so far.
The town itself had also undergone some development with a new taverna not far from where we anchored. We took the dinghy – now carrying five of us – across for dinner. As we motored over, we noticed that it was sitting very low in the water. Maybe we should have taken two trips, someone suggested. When we arrived at the front of the taverna, several tables of people stood up and clapped – they couldn’t believe we’d made it with so many people on board. Needless to say, we took two trips home after dinner.
The taverna was housed in a former olive press and the décor was stunning. The food was the best we’d eaten on the trip so far and very different to the usual Greek fare. The guys had burgers and raved about how nice the bread was – it was made on site we were later told.
The next morning, we walked around the town quay checking out the shops and eating breakfast on the waterfront. Sivota was so much more up-market than we’d remembered. We considered staying one more night as we’d enjoyed it so much but as we only have a few weeks left decided to move on. Next stop … Ithaca.