Destinations - Ionian Islands
Lefkas (ancient Leukas; Italian Santa Maura) is a hilly island, lying off the Playia Peninsula in Acarnania, from which it is separated by a shallow lagoon varying in width between 600 m and 5 km. It is now linked with the mainland by a causeway and a ferry.
Most of the island is occupied by a range of hills rising to a height of 1158 m in Mount Stavrotas and running south-west to end at Cape Dhoukatou. It was from this Leucadian Rock of gleaming white limestone that Sappho was supposed to have thrown herself for love of the handsome Phaon.
Lefkas never had any permanent natural connection with the mainland. The shingle spit at the northern tip was pierced in ancient times by the Corinthians to provide a channel for shipping, much like the spit to the south of Lefkas town, which came into being in the Middle Ages as a result of the establishment of salt-pans.
Off the south-east coast of Lefkas is the beautiful unspoilt island of Meganisi, with sandy beaches and famous sea-caves and therefore a exquisite sailing and yacht charter area.
The earliest evidence of human settlement on the island dates from the Neolithic period. In the 7th century BC the town of Leukas was founded by settlers from Corinth, who closed off the south end of the lagoon, opposite the St George Fort, by a 600 m long mole, remains of which are still visible under water (the sunken breakwater). They also cut a channel through the spit of shingle at the north end of the lagoon, opposite the Santa Maura Fort.
In the Middle Ages the island belonged to the barons of Kefallinia and Zakynthos. In 1479 it was taken by the Turks - the only Ionian Island to fall into their hands - but was recovered for Venice in 1684.
As a result of its history and of a series of earthquakes (the most recent in 1953) Lefkas has preserved very few old buildings.
In Lefkas Town the houses have an unusual structure. The supporting timber posts and beams and lightly build upper storeys are designed to withstand earthquakes. The high town of Spartakhori on the island of Meganisi can easily be seen from the north and west. Enjoy the beautiful winding road to reach it – it is enchanting and definitely worth the climb.
The port of Vassiliki is located in the south-east of Lefkas deep in the large bay of Vassiliki. A natural spring favours this part of the island and runs through a washing house at the south of Vassiliki.
The villa on Modra Island belongs to the family of Arist. Valaoritis (1824-79), Greece's national poet. The Skorpios Island is also private (owned by the Onassis family.