Old settlements. The remains of time that keep on existing and struggling against the nature’s effort to completely devour them. Half-ruined walls that you can still hear breathing. Wide open doors and windows that invite you to go inside and lead you through the paths of memory to travel back to the past, to know what was happening then, in the beginning.
The island is full with remnants of old settlements. Many of its villages include abandoned and ruined neighbourhoods. Small settlements nowadays. Some others are hard to locate because they have been forgotten by everybody and now consist only of scattered rocks among the weeds. But some are still there and invite call for you to visit them and revive them in your imagination.
Mountainous village that is located southwest of Haradiatika at an elevation of 500 metres.
About the way it took its name, we refer to the book “Pilgrimage of Lefkada” by Giannis Athiniotis: “Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, was once asked to go to war along with the other warlords. However, he did not want to go. To avoid it, he hid here. He started to like the land at this concealed place. But some messengers found him. Odysseus started acting as if he was crazy. He recognised nobody; he did not speak at all. To check whether he was mad or not, the others decided to put the servant of Odysseus in front of his plough and see if the king would go over him. Odysseus kept swerving to avoid hitting his servant. The messengers started doubting his madness. But the king was cunning and he remained famous for it, so he started sowing salt instead of seeds. That is, allegedly, how the village was named”.
The word “alatro” comes from the ancient verb “aletrevo”, another form of the verb “aleo” which means “to grind”. In any case, the main occupation of the people was the cultivation of cereals on the plateau above the village.
You can access Alatro from Haradiatika via a narrow uphill road but also from the village of Agios Ilias at the south side of the island.
The village is mention in an Ottoman census in 1563. It was one of the main villages of the island, which, according to tradition, had as many families as the days of the year. It had a magistrate, tens of churches and a school.
Alatro was also famous for its high quality water. Nowadays, at the centre of the village, there is still the village’s spring running, while already since 1680 watermills had started to be built, 18 in total, along the torrent of Haradiatika. Three of them were still functioning up until 1965. The remains of 14 watermills can still be seen. At the village’s central square, next to the school and the church of Ipapanti, still stands the trunk of the famous plane tree, which has been the landmark of the village.
The villagers started abandoning Alatro during the 50s, mostly to move to Haradiatika. Only three families still live there.
Do not forget to visit the small church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos (Riganas), at the entrance of the village, with well preserved wall paintings and an amazing view of the Prigkiponisia and a large part of the island’s eastern coast.
Alexandros – Kolyvata
Mountainous settlements at the western foothills of Mount Skari.
The name Alexandros, which is also the name of the broader region, probably came from one of the three Holy Fathers that dwelled at the homonymous monastery in 325 AD, near these two settlements. Another report states that the name was given by the first inhabitants of the area that came from Serbia and thus honoured the then successor of the Serbian throne, Prince Alexander. In the older days the village of Alexandros was called “Mavrogiannata”. Kolyvata was named after the family of Kolyvas who were the first settlers of the village. There is also the settlement “Kiafa” with renovated stone houses.
The settlements can be accessed from Nikiana by going up the mount of Skari, from Platystoma going up from Perigiali (or coming from Karya) and from the villages of Sfakiotes while coming from the town of Lefkada.
They are two very old settlements that are mentioned in sources since 1562. However, there are ruins and reports of much older settlements with the name Paleokatouna or Palaiokatouni that was said to be a Christian commune of the early years of the new religion on the island and also the region of Katouni.
Alexandros has been characterised as a traditional preserved settlement.
The main occupations of the villagers were farming and stock breading. The watermills are evidences of that era.
In the area you can visit the monastery of Agii Pateres (Holy Fathers) and the monastery of Agios Georgios. In the summertime, many interesting cultural events are organised by the local cultural club.
The settlements were gradually abandoned during the 70s when their inhabitants preferred the coastal village of Nikiana and their involvement with tourism.
Nowadays, there is a tendency to come back to the old settlement and there are quite a few foreigners who have bought and renovated old houses and have given a fresh breath of life to the region.
The once full of life village of Roupakias is located at the western part of the island, within the canyon that is formed by the mountain of Stavrota in the east and the mountain of Skoula-Megaoros in the west. The homonymous torrent of Roupakias runs through the canyon. The name comes from “roupakia”, a kind of oak tree that is abundant in the region.
You can access the village from the village of Agios Petros but also from the road that connects the village of Syvros with Vasiliki.
It is a very old village that is mentioned in sources of 1642, as an independent village, which means that it must have been much older. In the following years it was sometimes mentioned as an independent settlement or as a settlement of Damiliani. The name of Damiliani refers to the whole of the small settlements of Nikolis, Manasi, Agios Vasilios, Agii Theodori and, in some sources, Hortata and Roupakias, too.
In more recent years, it was part of the village of Agios Petros and was abandoned in the 70s, when the state offered free building lots at the location of Xamili of Agios Petros to twenty small and old aged families that had remained in the settlement.
During the village’s prime time the inhabitants were farmers and had an abundance of agricultural products. There were two hand driven oil mills in the village that were replaced by a hydraulic one. There were also four watermills that were powered by the streaming waters of the homonymous torrent and served the needs of nearby villages as well.
The village’s bridge was of great importance, made of stone and with a single arc, because, together with the bridge of Vasiliki, they were the only crossing of the river of Roupakias. The bridge still stands despite the passing of time.
Nowadays, the vegetation has covered a large part of the settlement. Nevertheless, its houses still remain there and the village’s paths call for you to discover them, especially during autumn and spring when the colours and the aromas are really enchanting. Special sites of your tour will be the stone bridge of the torrent of Roupakias, the church of Agios Georgios and the village’s spring.
The old village of Karyotes is located on the hill southeast of the modern settlement with the same name and is accessible through a paved road that leads to the old church of Taxiarches and the old spring of the village. From this point there are paths that lead to the old, now ruined neighbourhoods.
The village is mentioned in a source from 1630 in which the priest Nikolaos Zampelios reports that Karyotes suffered many damages during the earthquake of the 22nd of June, which means that the village must have been much older.
There were five churches at the village, namely Taxiarches (of the Skiadas family) within the settlement, Agios Georgios (of the Therianos family) at the village’s cemetery, Agios Nikolaos, Panagia Vlahernon and Agii Apostoli, the oldest one.
It was abandoned by its inhabitants in 1954 after the landslides that were caused by the earthquakes of 1948 and 1953.
Nowadays the villagers visit it during the celebration days of its churches (Taxiarches and Agios Nikolaos). Furthermore, the ruined cemetery temple of Agios Georgios is really impressive.
The settlement of Rekatsinata is located to the south, high above the village of Karya, the main village of central Lefkada. It took its name from the Rekatsinas family who were the first inhabitants.
You can access it from Karya via a paved road.
It is mentioned in sources that date back to 1866, after the union of the Ionian Island with Greece, as a settlement that belonged to the then municipality of Karya. The village was abandoned in the 60s because it was considered dangerous due to landslides. The village was renamed “Agios Andreas” for a short period of time in the middle of the 50s, because of the homonymous church that is situated to the east.
Nowadays, you can walk on the old paths and admire the amazing view of the Prairie of Karya and the surrounding villages, down to the town of Lefkada and the coasts of Epirus.
The settlements of Damiliani
Damiliani is the name with which we refer to the small settlements of Agios Vasilios, Agii Theodori, Manasi and Nikoli that are located high upon the western sides of the imposing mountain Stavrota, at the south-western part of the island. The Lefkadians sometimes mockingly call them the “United States of Lefkada”
You can access these settlements through the villages of Agios Petros and Hortata.
According to some sources, these villages were in their acme during the years of the Ottoman Rule on the island (1479 – 1684) although it is possible that due to geographical conditions (lots of waters and an ideal distance from the sea to avoid the attacks of pirates) the settlement must have been much older.
Today only two of the settlements (Manasi and Nikoli) have just a few residents, while the two smaller ones (Agii Theodori and Agios Vasilios) are completely abandoned. Except their homonymous churches that are still preserved there are only ruined houses and paths.
Panohori of Dragano
Panohori is a small settlement west of the village of Dragano. Its name means “the village above” and came from its position.
You can easily access it through the road that leads to the church of Ipapanti, one of the two churches of the settlement. The other one is Agios Anatolios and they are both worth visiting.
Dragano, in general, has been inhabited since the 13th century by settlers from the village Dragani or Draga at north-eastern Italy (near the city of Pescara). Panohori is mentioned for the first time in sources of the 18th century, when settlers from the mainland of Greece, called Melei or Melades, were moved there.
Today it is populated by just a few families.
It is a rare complex of stone arched constructions, located to the east of the central plateau of the island, the one of Agios Donatos, mainly in the broader region around the small chapel with the same name. There are more than 150 “volti” on the plateau. Their name came from the way of their construction, because “volta” means arch.
Their walls are 60 centimetres to 1 metre thick and their height between 2 and 2.5 metres. Smaller stones, dirt and also tiles bigger than normal were placed over the arch and they were firmed with a mixture of sand and quicklime called “lantza” so that the wind could not move them. Nowadays there are no tiles at all. They were constructed with a double stone wall, the outer wall being fixed with “lantza” and the inner one without “lantza”.
There were three types of “volti”:
The simple ones (with a single chamber) had a rectangular door and the height of an average person, with stone door pillars and a single stone lintel. The entrance had a wood door with a lock, a bolt and a bar. In the interior there were small niches in the walls that served as storing paces. The simple “volti” belonged to the poorer families and were the fewest. Generally they hosted whatever was necessary for a family because people used them as lodgings for the summer, although most of them slept outside in weed huts covered all around with feathers.
The double ones or twins had two consecutive chambers that did not connect with each other. Each chamber had its own entrance and function. One was for the cattle (up to five oxen) with troughs and the other for the food. On both entrances there were small lobbies with separates entrances that were always open and where the farmers could protect themselves from the weather.
The triple ones or triplets had three chambers. Two of the chambers were used in the way we described above. The third one served the needs of the farmers, while there were also lobbies in all three entrances. These “volti” belonged to the richer families.
These structures were very robust and the ones you can see today are over 150 years old and still stand firm, some of them in very good condition. The “volti” were mostly located near the threshing floors. We do not know how long ago people started building them, but we are certain that these structures already existed during the first years of the Venetian Rule.