Lefkada is not just about the world famous beaches. It is much more. It is also about the beautiful and picturesque mountainous and semi-mountainous villages, the enchanting mountains, the fertile plateaus, the nature which is full of secrets and wonders.
Central Lefkada is a part of the island that deserves your special attention. Whichever time of the year you choose to visit it, this region offers magic experiences that are worth living!
Go Lefkas suggests a mountainous route that actually runs through Lefkada from the North to the South via its centre. Like in the case of all our featured routes, there are many alternative courses. It is worth repeating this journey many times in order to discover the beauty of our island.
You should be warned about the narrowness of the roads at many points because this is a route through the mountainous part of the island, with lots of altitude variations.
It is a course of about 30 to 35 kilometres from the town of Lefkada to the village of Syvros, through the central provincial road axis. The duration, on an average driving speed and without intermediate stops, is about an hour and fifteen minutes. However, you should not concern yourselves with distance and time. You should just relax and enjoy the change of the sceneries and the beautiful landscapes of immense beauty.
Our journey begins at the town of Lefkada and follows the road to Sfakiotes and Karya.
At the first major turn on the way out of the meadow of the town, right after the junction that leads to Apolpena, you will come across one of the oldest religious monuments of the island, namely the old monastery of Panagia Odigitria, the history of which goes back as early as the 11th century. The church of the monastery is not open to the public.
The road is full of turns and uphill. During the first part of the course, you will be tempted many times to make a brief stop and photograph the open view at many different locations.
The first stop that we recommend for the view and historical reasons is at the site of Mpoza and the monument for the revolt of the peasants against the English in 1819. From this spot you can clearly see the whole of the northern part of the island (the town of Lefkada with the island’s entrance, the lagoon, and the vast beach of Gyra), the coasts of Acarnania and the mainland, and the high mountains of Epirus.
Just before the monument, a road on your left leads to the canyon of Melissa, a fairylike location that you must surely visit.
Then you come across the first villages of the central part of the island, namely Sfakiotes. There are five villages that preserve their traditional characteristics, called Spanohori, Lazarata, Asprogerakata, Kavalos, and Pinakohori.
Right after the last right turn of the road, in Spanohori, we suggest a small detour following the sign on your left, towards the church of Profitis Ilias and the cavelike iconostasis of Agios Stefanos. The road is paved with asphalt but it is narrow one. From the site of Profitis Ilias (in Lefkada Elijah is often called a saint and not a prophet) you will admire the aforementioned amazing view.
If you carefully follow the small rocky path from there, you will reach the cavelike iconostasis of Agios Stefanos in just five minutes. From the eastern hillside you can admire the view of the villages of Karyotes, Katouna, Lygia, Nikiana and, across the sea, the Acarnanian coasts.
Right after the village of Lazarata, at the end of the long straight part of the road, the road turns right towards Kavalos. There you can visit the Kontomihio Folklore Museum that is housed in the village’s school, with rare exhibits of folkloric interest. If you happen to be at the village on Sunday noon, you can enjoy traditional delicacies and local wine at the local establishment of the central square of the village.
Continuing your route towards Karya you will come across the settlement of Fryas where you can drink a coffee at the small tables of the square next to the historical wells that are found there.
Leaving the villages of Sfakiotes behind and following the road to Karya, the next village is the one of Pigadisani that offers a wide open view of the meadow of Karya. In the middle of the village you can follow the downhill road on your left that will lead you to the bridge of Markous, a stone bridge that has been standing there since the times of the Venetian Rule.
The stone bridge of Markous at Pigadisani
If you return to the central road network, you will reach Karya within just three minutes, the grand village, built almost at the centre of the island. You can spend lots of time there, wandering around the old neighbourhoods, visiting the churches and the two museums, namely the “Maria Koutsohero” Folklore Museum of Lefkadian Needlework and the Phonograph, Gramophone and Radiophone Museum.
Of course, you will get to know the famous Needlework of Karya, you will admire the wonderful needlecrafts and you will definitely acquire a piece of them. Do not forget to get some lathyria, a special legume that grows on the meadow of Karya. Then you can take a rest at the village’s square that is covered with plane trees and enjoy your food or coffee.
You could also spend some time visiting the monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos at the meadow, a detour that will take about an additional hour for you to go there, wander around the building of the monastery and return to Karya
You could also visit the old settlement of Rekatsinata (about ten minutes’ drive) above Karya that was abandoned a few decades ago.
Then, after you go out the eastern side of the village, follow road to Egklouvi.
From many points on the road you can admire the wonderful view of the eastern part of the island, the mountain of Skari with its villages (Alexandros, Kolyvata)*, Platystoma, Nydri and the famous Prigkiponisia (the islands between Lefkada and the mainland), up to Meganisi, Kalamos and Kastos.
The village of Egklouvi, the most mountainous one of the island at an elevation of 730 metres, will welcome you in the friendliest way. At the central square, beneath the plane trees, small traditional cafés offer coffee and handmade spoon sweets. The village is famous for its lentils that are grown on the plateau that you will see right after the village. You can get your lentils directly from the producers.
Following very carefully the narrow and twisting road from the village’s centre you will reach the amazing plateau of Agios Donatos in about five minutes. It is a vast plateau with lentil fields, vineyards and cereals. At the fork in the road take the left path to the small church of Agios Donatos and stop in front of the chapel. Around it you will notice stone huts scattered on the hills that create a small and nowadays abandoned settlement.
These are the volti used by the farmers of Egklouvi during the summer months, when they were harvesting lentils and cereals. You can wander around them and see their structures. The local cultural clubs organises each year, on the 6th of August, the Feast of Lentils at the big threshing floor with the wells in front of the small church.
From there you have the option to follow the road to the north (the right path of the fork in the road a few metres away) and visit the beautiful white small church of Profitis Ilias on the top of the homonymous mountain. From this point the view of the east is absolutely breathtaking. On your way back to Agios Donatos you can see the old NATO bases and the radar posts on the east. For this detour you will have to spend half to one hour.
From the chapel of Agios Donatos you will follow the road to the south. At the junction that you will come across right after the small church choose the left route. You will go through the whole of the plateau and a few minutes later you will reach a pass having the mountain of Stavrota in front of you and to the right and the mountain of Elati on the left. You will follow the road to Agios Ilias/Municipality of Apolonii. In front of you there is the whole of the southern part of the island and the descent begins.
You need to be very careful on this part of the road because small gravel slides are frequently observed.
After about ten minutes you will come across the country chapel of Agia Paraskevi and its bell tower upon a rock just a few metres away. We recommend that you climb onto the top of the rock with great care through the carved pathway, where the view is amazing. In front of you there are the villages of Agios Ilias and Syvros, the meadow and the gulf of Vasiliki, whole of the south-eastern side of the island, while, further away, you can see the mountains of Cephalonia and Ithaca
During this route you will come across vineyards and on the course you will come across the torrent of “Karouhas”. You have to keep a low speed because on one of the road’s left turns, just a few metres outside the village of Agios Ilias, there is a brightly painted water-well right in the middle of the road. You will have to follow a sign directing to the right to enter the village through a cement-paved, narrow and steep road. When you come across the iconostasis of Agia Kyriaki, follow the small road left. The narrow streets within the village require your full attention. Basically, they are roads that are used everyday by local farmers and stockbreeders. You will pass by the village’s central church, namely Agios Athanasios and the square with the small café and you will follow the country road towards the south part of the island.
Note: The road in the village of Agios Ilias is inaccessible for low cars.
The road to the village of Syvros, which is the final destination, is very twisting but, nonetheless, paved with asphalt and passable.
On the road there is a sign which informs you that in 300 metres, on your left side, there is the water spring of “Arhontiko” that you can visit on foot, after leaving your can on the main road. A stone fountain and tall plane trees will refresh you in a delightful way. The torrent of “Karouhas” runs through the whole region from Agios Ilias to the meadow of Vasiliki and is full of water, especially during wintertime and early springtime. The place is full of water springs and there used to be many watermills in the old days.
The last village on this course is Syvros. It is a green-clad village with lots of water springs that you can visit (Kerasia, Daphne, Anteliko). Their main features are the very tall plane trees, the coolness and the wonderful gurgling of the streams, all year long, that will relax you.
You can refresh yourselves with a coffee or a drink at the unique renovated watermill of the village that works as a café. There is also the Fabbrica Olive Museum, at a beautiful restored historical location. The village also offers many food options.
Have a rest and relax before your return to the city, which we suggest to be done along the eastern side of the island through Nydri. Alternatively, you can prolong your tour to Vasiliki, a well known tourist resort of southern Lefkada, following the road south through the fertile meadow of the village.
*An alternative after you leave Karya would be to visit the beautiful traditional villages of Platystoma, Alexandros and Kolyvata. They are three picturesque villages on the western foothills of Skari, the mountain with the unique oak forest on the islands of the Ionian Sea and with many historical religious monuments, such as the monastery of “Kokkini Ekklisia” (Red Church), just east of Platystoma, the monastery of Agios Georgios, near Kolyvata, and the retreat of Agii Pateres, on the way to Nikiana.