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The beautiful sights of the Ionian islands of Lefkada and Paxos

Written on : 15 February 2019

Lefkada and Paxos are two of the seven stunning Ionian islands, located on the West of mainland Greece. They are known for their lush green vegetation and bold white cliffs, contrasting with the deep marine blues of the deepest sea in the Mediterranean. With so many different options of stunning natural swimming locations, breathtaking hikes and viewpoints over the ocean, these islands are the breath of fresh salty air your holidays are craving.

Lefkada: towering white cliffs over turquoise waters, trails through endless olive groves and refreshing waterfalls

Lefkada: towering white cliffs over turquoise waters, trails through endless olive groves and refreshing waterfalls

The island of Lefkada is a contrast of its wilder West and more tranquil East, however the entire island exudes an atmosphere of relaxation. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway and 50 metre swing bridge, which makes it very convenient to reach for those wanting to discover the paradise. Lefkada is known worldwide for its spectacular beaches, of which Porto Katsiki is undoubtedly the most famous. This beach is consistently listed as one of the best beaches in Europe, and is accessed by steep steps descending down the dramatic cliffs. The sea is of sapphire blue, the cliffs a glaring white with bands of green grass on the top, and the sand a stretch of soft gold. It’s difficult to find greater bliss in a beach! This is a place for laying out in the sun and just enjoying the sounds of the incoming waves, or floating in the impossibly blue water.

Other spectacular beaches include Kathisma, which is a preferred spot for younger crowds and has a party vibe in July and August. There are several options of bars, restaurants and cafés here, as well as the opportunity (for the more daring!) to try out different watersports such as parasailing. It is one of the longest beaches on Lefkada, with white pebbly shingle fringing the stunning turquoise water. If you venture further down the beach to the South end you will find not only the most beautiful, but also the quietest spots! Another option for adventure sports enthusiasts is Vassiliki beach, which is considered as one of the best windsurfing spots in Europe! Mikros Gialos beach is an option for a lovely day out for families or a group of friends, as you can while away the day exploring the cove, which is almost 2 km long, by pedal boat or canoe. The water is, of course, invitingly crystal clear and very calm. For those who put in a little effort, Milos beach is a spectacular reward, as the fact that is is slightly difficult to reach means that this northwestern coastal delight will be free of crowds even in peak season. It is a huge sweep of white-gold sand, backed by immense limestone cliffs, a great expanse of turquoise water awaiting you.

From the salty ocean to invorating freshwater, the Dimosari Waterfalls close to the village of Nydri offer a wonderful alternative to a beach day. The 15 metre high falls are found at the end of a scenic walk through a gorge, where the trail also winds through olive groves and pine forests before delving into a narrow ravine. The water is cold, but on hot summer days taking the plunge is a delicious refreshment! On the outskirts of Lefkada Town you can find the Venetian Olive Grove, where in the 17th century there were once an incredible 80,000 olive trees, which was the result of the Venetians declaring there would be penalties for any locals who did not plant one! Today there are only around 5000 on Lefkada, however wandering or cycling along the rows of the beautiful different varieties is truly lovely. Back to the coast, Cape Lefkatas is an an extremely dramatic sight of towering cliffs, ending in a lighthouse perched at the very end. The site is surrounded by myths and legends, such as the one that tells of the poet Sappho throwing herself from the cliff when Faonas did not return her love, and it was also a place of sacrifices to the gods in around 1,200 BC. Today, the clifftop walk simply provides wild spectacular views over the Mediterranean.

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Paxos: walking over the dramatic Tripitos Arch, swimming under the Blue Caves and a boat trip to the seemingly-Caribbean Antipaxos

Paxos: walking over the dramatic Tripitos Arch, swimming under the Blue Caves and a boat trip to the seemingly-Caribbean Antipaxos

Much smaller in both size and population than Lefkada, Paxos is only accessible by boat, where a flight to Corfu is normally caught first. The small island hosts an array of breathtaking sights however, including many dazzling beaches. Kipiadi is the longest beach on the island, at around 300 m long, that has sensational bands of deepening blue as the depth of the water increases, with a beach of smooth pebbles. There are no bars or facilities here, so bring a picnic and enjoy a day of basking in natural beauty. Recommended more for adults due to the cliff path (which is striking) and the water that quickly becomes deep, Erimitis Bay Beach is another extraordinary option.

However, the crown for the most breathtaking beaches must be given to the neighbouring island of Antipaxos, uninhabited apart from the occasional farmer to maintain vineyards, which is just 10 minutes by water taxi from Gaios harbour. Here Vrika and Voutoumi beaches steal the show, and luckily they are only 20 minutes walk from each other. The combination of white sand and the colour of the water at both of these beaches has been likened to that of the Caribbean, and the shallow depth around the shore is perfect for children to enjoy as well. Both have a couple of tavernas that provide sunbeds and umbrellas, as well as serving delicious local food, with either a waterside location or higher up with a wonderful view of the ocean.

Back on Paxos, one of its most powerful views is that of the Tripitos Arch, which is found 3 km south of the main port of Gaios. The dramatic natural arch, 20 metres above the water at its tallest point, was formed by the collapse of a sea cave. It can be viewed from the sea by boat or by walking to it, where thrill-seekers can actually walk over the top of the narrow arch! The sea beneath it is as clear as glass, providing stunningly clear altering shades of turquoise. You can also enjoy the beautiful marriage of limestone cliff and azure waters on a boat tour around the Blue Caves on the west of the island. These have been hollowed and sculpted by the powerful ocean waves and currents, and make a fascinating sight. In particular, the monolith of Ortholithos near the entrance to Papanikoli Cave is very impressive in its height, a vertical rock that juts out from the middle of the blue. Swimming and snorkelling through the transparent water here is a dreamlike and otherworldly experience. There are several options of boat tour sizes, though if you would rather more freedom there is the option of renting out a small motorboat for you and your party. These caves also transform into underwater playgrounds for diving enthusiasts, with sites such as Angelos Cave, Sunshine Cave and Anemones Caves each with distinguishing ecosystems, geological features and light spectacles.

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