Lefkada walking vacations

Even in a country that is world famous for the beauty of its beaches, Lefkada is a stand-out among the other Greek Islands. But while it’s hard for anyone to resist the siren call of its golden sands, walkers here will also relish the chance of exploring the Ionian island’s spectacular mountainous interior, where an extensive network of trails takes you through forests of ancient oak, elm and cypress, fertile plains strewn with wildflowers, and deep valleys peppered with waterfalls.
Some theories say this was the homeland of the Trojan War hero, Odysseus, whose travails were the focus of Homer’s Oydssey – and when you walk on Lefkada, you’ll know why he was so desperate to get home. Lefkada’s stirring landscape of mountain peaks and plunging valleys teems with natural features from springs to olive groves, old cobbled paths taking you along dramatic clifftop paths above secluded bays and beaches, and to traditional villages such as Kalamitsi, where elderly women dressed in black lead their donkeys.
Walking highlights of Lefkada include the Gira Lagoon, close to the main town, a bird-filled wetland that welcomes migratory species including wild ducks, moorhens, flamingoes, pelicans and even the occasional swan; Mount Skaros, surrounded by an ancient oak forest that is among Lefkada’s most biodiverse habitats, and the 60m white cliffs where criminals were once forced to take the ‘Lefkadian Leap’. Hike up from the picturesque village of Exanthia, one of the more dramatically situated villages of Lefkada, overlooking the Ionian Sea, to the chapel of Panagia. Or explore the beautiful plateau high above the highest village of Lefkada, Egluvi, discovering the ruined windmills and abandoned terraces of this one thriving wheat growing region.

Walking in Zagoraphoria

Not well-known yet, and all the better for that in our opinion, Zagoraphoria is a beautiful, tranquil region of northwestern Greece, where a cluster of 46 stone-and-slate villages is tucked into the Pindos mountains. With their arched stone bridges and churches, these communities represent superb examples of traditional architecture. They are also culturally unique, some of the last remaining vestiges of Greece’s mountainous tribes.

Walking here is a natural complement to walking in Lefkada and so frequently shares itineraries. It’s best to hike with a guide for a more rounded introduction to the region’s myths and customs. Its most impressive natural feature is the incredible Vikos Gorge, utterly pristine and a true hiker’s delight with deep ravines, stone paths and bridges across flowing rivers and streams.

Annie Antonatou from our Greece walking specialist Mystic Blue:
“The Zagori area is known to hikers because of the famous Vikos Gorge, but few visitors realise that there are also many other superb hiking trails here, deep gorges, ravines, streams and flowing rivers, stone paved paths, staircases and bridges, lush forests, breath-taking alpine lakes. All of this terrain connects some of the most beautiful and well-preserved villages in Greece. What makes the “ agorohoria", the 46 stone villages so special is that they are not only exquisite examples of traditional stone architecture, but of a still living tradition, full of myths, customs and social expressions of a culture nearing extinction; of the mountainous tribes of Greece.”
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Greece walking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Practicalities of walking in Lefkada

Lefkada is connected to the mainland by a road bridge, making it a breeze to combine walking here either with the idyllic Zagoraphoria region (a four-hour drive up the coast and highly recommended) or nearby islands such as Kefalonia and Ithaki by ferry. Walking vacations that take in Lefkada are guided small group tours that follow set itineraries, but routes can be adapted depending on whether the group prefers to take things nice and easy, or push things a bit. Expect plenty of ascents and descents, walking between five and six hours a day. As with most Greek walking vacations, it’s better to give August a miss as the temperatures are just too hot.

As well as benefiting the communities themselves, using local guides greatly enhances your walking experience. They know hidden viewpoints and swimming spots, how to find the scenic route known only to those that have lived in these areas all their lives, and you also might spend a day accompanying a herbalist able to talk you through endemic medicinal plants and their uses over the centuries.
“Each of the walks was special. The vacation was a lovely mix of beautiful walks, experiencing nature, local culture and relaxing on the beach. The food was wonderful. Good walking shoes and if you have bring walking sticks. It was possible to swim at beautiful beaches at the end of most walks so bring swim gear and sun cream. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet local people, human contact is always priceless on a trip. I will be back next year! I would not hesitate to recommend to a friend” – Violet Holley on a Kefalonia, Lefkada & Ithaki walking vacation
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Valdemaras D.] [Top box: Mark Harpur] [Practicalities: Antonios Chamaletsos] [violet Holley quote: Nemanja .O.]