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Island idyll of Meganissi

meganissi boat

Photo: Dinos F

Savour the delights of this sleepy Greek island.

Many holiday visitors to the island of Lefkas, in the Greek Ionian Sea, will not be able to resist a day trip to the offshore islet of Meganissi.

Meganissi lies about six kilometres south of the major Lefkas holiday resort of Nidri and excursion boats attract plenty of day trippers to savour the delights of this sleepy Greek offshore idyll.

The islet of Meganissi is one of a cluster that lie between the holiday island of Lefkas and the west coast of mainland Greece.

Others in the necklace of islands that stretch down the west coast include Skorpios, once the private island of the Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis whose wedding to the Jackie Kennedy, the widow of the former US president John Kennedy, took place in the island's private chapel.

Paradoxically, Meganissi in Greek means large island and, although it is the largest among its neighbours, it still measures only 20 square kilometres and has a permanent population that numbers little more than 1,200.

Visitors arrive at the port of Vathi, one of thee hamlets where most inhabitants live; the others being the port of Spartohori and the inland village of Katomeri.

Vathi is nestled in a long, narrow and sheltered inlet, one of many coves and bays to be found in its heavily indented coastline.

Houses painted in pastel shades cluster around the picturesque port against a backdrop of heavily wooded hills of pine and olive.

A few tavernas and a couple of tiny chapels line the harbour, which is often jammed with visiting yachts and motorboats.

The day trippers from Lefkas can add a bit of excitement to the soporific atmosphere but it's not long before the noise subsides and a serene calm returns.

Only those tourists looking to avoid the crowds spend their whole holiday in Vathi but these, along with day trippers and visiting yachts, are enough to keep a trio tavernas open all summer long.

The village of Spartohori perches precariously on the clifftop overlooking Spilia Bay, another deep inlet located to the west of Vathi.

Spartochori not only overlooks the pretty port of Spilia below but also one of the best beaches on Meganissi. Spartohori itself is extraordinarily pretty village with picturesque houses cascading with bougainvillea in the whitewashed alleyways.

As with Vathi, the charming port is usually packed with yachts while the ferry usually arrives in the morning with visitors and chugs off back to Vathi for the return journey to Lefkas.

Spilia beach is a long deep, stretch of white pebble and shingle with a waterfront taverna at the far end and crystal sparkling water and a line of tamarisks for natural shade.

Katomeri is an attractive hill village found about a kilometre inland from Vathi and a traditional hill village with a taverna, a bakery, a small shop and a population of around 500.

The stone-built Katomeri houses with their red-tiled roofs are particularly attractive and the olive and citrus grove setting delightful.

Tracks snake down from Katomeri to beach coves at Limonari and Elia, only a few minutes walk from the village.

The are several old windmills on Meganissi, unfortunately no longer in use, and also on the neighbouring islets of Kalamos and Kastos. They must have been a glorious site when they were working mills.

Most visitors to Meganissi will also want to take in a boat tour of the impressive sea caves along the west coast with the most noted being the Papanikolis Cave, said to be the second largest sea cave in Greece.

Papanikolis Cave has a huge chamber about 120 metres long and 60 wide so boats can easily sail inside the cave which was used as a hiding place for German submarines in World War II.

Although one of the smallest islands in the Ionian Sea, Meganissi is also one of the most attractive and is it now often featured in the brochures of UK tour firms. For those that prefer to travel independently, the nearest airport is Preveza, on the Greek mainland, nut many visitors usually make their way to Lefkas and catch a ferry.

Greek Island Holidays

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