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Lefkas island news and views

Lefkas is one of the Ionian chain of islands that lie just off the west coast of mainland Greece. The east coast Is the main holiday strip, especially around the holiday resort of Nidri. Large, sheltered bays make both Nidri and Sivota a favourite of yacht charters, as do offshore islets. On the Lefkas west coast are white cliffs, rocky shores and wild beaches. Vassiliki, in the south, is a world class windsurf centre.

Azimut ferry Joy
New ferry links for the Ionian

The Ionian islands look set to get a new ferry to link some of the biggest holiday hotspots in Greece. The Ionian chain includes the very popular holiday islands of Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante. Although they attract thousands of UK visitors each year, ferry links between the islands have always been notoriously poor. Now a ferry route to link all the Ionian islands for the first time looks ready to set sail on May 1 and run right through the summer season until the end of October. Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis announced the new ferry service at the Regional Development Conference of the Ionian islands. The new sea ferry services will be run by Azimut Joy Cruises with a 30-metre ship that will carry up to 260 passengers. The Minister said: "The linking of the Ionian islands will be a new reality that will put an end to the isolation between islands belonging to the same region". The new ferry will link Corfu with Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Kefalonia and Zakynthos with sailings every day except Sunday. Each week the ferry with travel from Corfu, in the north, to Zante (Zakynthos), in the south, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and back again (Zante to Corfu) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The full journey will take about eight hours, leaving Corfu at 8 am and arriving in Zakynthos about 4 pm. Details of sailing time can be found on the right. It's only in Greek at the moment but those with a basic knowledge of the Greek alphabet will be able to decipher the islands of ΚΕΡΚ"Ρ' ΚΕΡΚΥΡA (CORFU), ΠAΞΟΙ (PAXOS), ΛΕΥΚADA (LEFKADA), ΙΘAΚH (ITHAKA), ΚΕΦAΛΟΝΙA (KEFALONIA) and ZAΚΥΝΘΟS (ZAKYNTHOS) or something similar. Although plenty of ferries call at these islands they are usually heading east-west on routes between the mainlands of Italy and Greece. There are a few local inter-island ferries but these usually just day cruises, have poor connections and irregular sailing times. This is the first ferry to run the whole length of the Ionian islands.  With three passenger and car ferries plus two flying dolphins, Joy Lines, a subsidiary of Joy Cruises, has been operating since 2005 running day cruises and tours from Corfu to Albania. The launch of this new Ionian ferry service could trigger a wave of island hopping tourists who can now sail from island to island.  As the closest Greek islands to the UK, the Ionian islands can be reached in flight times of three hours or so. The Ionian group lies off the west coast of mainland Greece and the are notably greener than other islands thanks to heavy winter rains. Good sandy beaches and shallow seas help to make most islands in the Ionian chain very popular with families. Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante are the best known but the smaller islands of Paxos and Ithaka are also well worth a visit.

Egremni beach Lefkas
Lefkas beach lost in quake

The beautiful beach of Egremni on Lefkas appears to have been lost following an island earthquake. The beach on the south-west coast disappeared beneath the waves after a 6.1 quake was recorded on the Ionian island. The award-winning beach of Egremni, noted for its long sweep of sand and impressive rock formations, has been lost, according to reports. It is thought the tremor triggered landslides and rockfalls from the cliffs behind the sands and buried the beach in rubble. The beach is regularly listed in best beach awards and is a major tourist attraction on Lefkas. Backed by steep cliffs, beach visitors had to tackle 347 steep steps cut into the rock of the 150-metre cliff face to reach the sands and the clear turquoise waters. Two people are known to have died in the earthquake which shook the whole island, causing extensive damage. The tremor was felt throughout western Greece and caused extensive damage to roads and buildings on Lefkas. The Greek government has declared a state of emergency on Lefkas as aftershocks continued to shake the island all week. One of the victims of the earthquake was a 70-year-old woman who was crushed by a boulder that smashed through the wall of her home in the village of Ponti. Another elderly woman also died in the village of Athani when the walls of her home collapsed. Many houses were damaged in the quake, and several roads were closed owing to falling rocks and debris. Similar damage was reported in several other villages in the south of the island and engineers were drafted in from the mainland to help restore communications. Teams were also dispatched to neighbouring Kefalonia and Ithaca, following reports of damage there. The Ionian islands are notorious for earthquakes. Kefalonia suffered a series of major tremors last year that caused widespread damage all over the island. Some parts of Kefalonia were without electricity for several days and rescue efforts were hampered as several roads were blocked by landslides. Hundreds were evacuated from damaged or dangerous homed and housed in emergency shelters or on ferry boats docked in the harbour at the capital of Argostoli. The region is prone to tremors, and both Kefalonia and nearby Zante were devastated by a 7.2 quake in 1953 that razed many buildings across both islands. Earthquakes regularly shake the islands of Zante and Kefalonia, and there have been several, notably in 2003, 2005 and 2006.

lefkas porto karsiki beach
Lefkas beach danger

One of the most famous holiday beaches in the Greek Islands could be closed to the public because of the danger from falling rocks. The stunning white cliffs of Porto Katsiki beach, on the Ionian island of Lefkas, have been voted among the most attractive in Greece and attracts thousands of visitors each year. But geologists are concerned at keeping the beach open to the public this year because of the danger posed by rocks falling onto the beach from the high cliffs above. Now a team of specialists from the geology department at Athens University has carried out an analysis of the cliffs at Porto Katsiki to assess the degree of risk to visitors and investigated what steps can be taken to ensure the beach is safe to use. Geology professor Efthymios Lekkas, who led the team, said: "We agreed to do a thorough risk analysis of the area to see if the beach will be open to the public this summer season or what additional steps can be taken to significantly reduce the risk." The dramatic setting of Porto Katsiki, the name means Goat Port, at the bottom of steep limestone cliffs, has made it one of the most photographed scenes in Greece. But the safety of the beach has been a concern since 2003 when an earthquake caused part of the cliff to collapse. Since then fears have grown at the potential danger to holidaymakers from falling rocks. Recent damaging earthquakes on the neighbouring island of Kefalonia have heightened concern that Lefkas could be in line for similar quakes. A series of earthquakes measuring around 6 on the Richter scale shook the island of Kefalonia in January last year causing widespread damage, bringing down houses, triggering landslides and blocking roads. Scientists recorded more than 250 tremors in the following months. Another severe earthquake measuring 5.1 occurred off the coast of Kefalonia only last November. Although large magnitude quakes on Lefkas usually happen only every 60 to 70 years, experts cannot rule out the possibility of tremors strong enough to affect the steep cliff face at Porto Katsiki. Lefkas island officials are reluctant to close the beach completely as it is such a major tourist attraction for the island. Other options to closure may be to fence off parts of the beach and to erect warning signs for visitors. Officials say there is no immediate danger to holiday visitors but that precautions are necessary given the recent seismic activity in the region. Few visitors to this spectacular beach will easily forget the beautiful sight of the beach and cliffs. Porto Katsiki is considered one of the most attractive spots in the Ionian, if not all the Greek islands. Named 'Port of Goats' in Greek it was once so remote that only goats every visited, but improved road links have made it one of the most popular day trip destinations for holidaymakers on Lefkas with a large car park and tavernas now perched high on the clifftops above. A narrow staircase of around 100 wooden steps leads down the face of the near vertical white limestone cliff to the narrow strip of white pebbles and sand and the brilliant turquoise sea shore. Landslides in 1999 and 2003 caused sections of the soft limestone cliff to collapse onto the beach, but until the recent seismic shocks it has been considered quite safe for visitors. Clifftop paths above the beach offer great views over the sands and Porto Katsiki is now one of the most photographed beaches in the Greek Islands. Although officials say total beach closure this year is 'unlikely' they cannot rule out the possibility of barring public access until safety measures have been implemented. When quizzed on the likelihood of Porto Katsiki beach being open to the public over the summer, Professor Lekkas replied that it is possible 'to a large extent' but could not guarantee access. He added: "I don't know whether we can afford to open up the whole beach. Our efforts will focus on the safe areas, so tourists can visit the beach." After meeting island officials he said agreement had been reached on long-term plans to improve safety on the beach. "However this will be a significant project that will take years to complete," he added.

deep blue yacht
Sailing the Greek Islands

There are many ways of seeing the illustrious Greek islands, but no way is better that touring the rich waters of the Mediterranean by boat and pulling into the port of any island that takes your fancy. While there are other methods of travel, by ferry, plane or car, that all have their own merits, nothing comes close to the advantages of your very own sailing boat. Freedom: Every other form of transport is limited when it comes to the Greek islands. A car, for example, might be able to get you around the quickest, but it can only travel around islands that have a car ferry system. However, aboard your own personal seafaring vessel, with the warm Med breeze in your hair, you decide where to go. This is the main benefit of charting your own boat, it creates an absolute and rare sense of freedom. Why limit yourself to just a few of these beautiful islands, when there are thousands to explore? Activities: With the freedom comes a greater range of activities available to you. One of the best activities you can get the most out of when sailing is snorkeling. Able to go anywhere in the deep blue Med you want, you can travel to all the best reef and wildlife spots, the Cyclades islands for example, to explore the underwater realm like few others can. Another firm favourite aspect of travelling in Greece is visiting beaches. Out on the boat you are able to find some of the most beautiful, secluded, beaches in the entire world. Away from the public, it feels like it's your own private paradise. One of the biggest reasons people visit the beautiful islands of Greece is its cultural and architectural history. Sailing about these islands allows you to visit any and all places of significance to you. Meaning you won't miss out on any of the wondrous ancient Greek ruins they have to offer. Finally, one of the most exciting activities you can take part in while commanding your own vessel, is simply exploring. There are many mysterious and uninhabited islands in the waters surrounding Greece, filled with breathtaking scenery and awe inspiring views. Walking through island wilderness, untouched by any man, is an experience you have to try. In a world where people hide in every nook and cranny, a quiet and natural paradise out of mans reach is simply magnificent. A word of caution though, some islands are protected because of their significant biodiversity or ecological importance. Before you moor up and go exploring, make sure you are permitted to access the island. Best Of Both Worlds: Being immersed in a private world is an experience like no other, getting away from the world and simply enjoying the wonders it has to offer. But, sometimes you want to go into the hustle and bustle of the main island towns. Maybe to do a bit of shopping, enjoy the local nightlife or find a nice restaurant to eat at. With so many bays and ports you can throw anchor in, you can not only enjoy all the bliss and rarities from your boat, but also the lively, tourist, hotspots. Author Cliff Blaylock, a resident of the Greek Islands, is an expert in travelling the Mediterranean by boat. Having left the UK to start his private charter business, Bill and his team have over 20 years experience treating customers to all the wonders the islands have to offer. If you like the sound of a privately chartered trip, but don't know how to sail, then check out Cliff's privately run and professionally crewed, yacht chartering service www.deepblueyachting.co.uk

Skorpios island in the Ionian Sea
Skorpios sealed off

Skorpios sealed off from tourists. Holiday visitors to Lefkas hoping to visit the nearby islet of Skorpios shouldn't hold their breath. The private Greek Islands, formerly owned by Greek shipping billionaire Aristotle Onassis, has been sealed off from tourists since it was sold to the daughter of Russian oligarch Dmitri Rybolovlev, earlier this year. Tourist trips to the island were common last year before the island was sold although access was restricted to swimming in a couple of small coves. Since Skorpios was sold to Rybolovlev, the whole island has become a forbidden area for tourists. Specially trained French and American bodyguards, guard the island 24 hours a day using high-tech surveillance equipment,. Despite the strict security measures, the Russian wants even more protection. Security analysts for Russian billionaire want security patrols by frogmen to prevent underwater access over the summer. The Greek police have yet to give their approval for such a heavy private security measure. If Rybolovlev is refused he could take his case to the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection and hire Greek police to carry out security patrols. Police on neighbouring Lefkas have already refused as they don't have the manpower to provide security on Skorpios. Skorpios, which changed hands for a reported €100 million, is one of 10 small islets off the Lefkas coastline. The others are Meganissi, Kalamos, Kastos, Madouri, Skorpidi, Thilia, Petalou and Kythros. The island is just 4km from the popular Lefkas resort of Nidri and clearly visible from there. Skorpios was once the private island of Aristotle Onassis who lived there with Jacqueline Kennedy, the former wife of the assassinated US president John Kennedy. The island hosted many famous celebrities including the opera star Maria Callas and movie star Greta Garbo. It was also the venue for Onassis's 1968 wedding to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Skorpios Island Lefkas
Skorpios island sold

Skorpios island sold to billionaire. The private Greek Island of Skorpios has been sold to to the daughter of Russian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev , current owner of Monaco Football Club. The small, private island off the coast of the popular holiday island of Lefkas in the Ionian Sea was formerly owned by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. It has changed hands for a reported $100 million and Ekaterina Rybolovleva, 24, wants it not only for leisure but also business purposes with plans to turn the island into a hideaway attraction for the mega-rich. He father Rybolovlev is certainly a big spender with money to burn. Ekaterina recently bought a US Manhattan apartment for $88 million and a divorce settlement with his former wife, Elena, cost him $5 billion. He has a chequered past that includes 11 months in prison before being cleared of being implicated in the murder of another Russian businessman. Dmitry Rybolovlev, 47, owns 10% of the Bank of Cyprus but faces considerable losses as the Cypriot government is seizing up to 80% of bank accounts worth over €100,000. Holiday visitors to Lefkas can take boat trips around the island of Skorpios and are even allowed to swim in some of the island's designated small bays. It is not known if public visits will continue following the sale to the Russian. Skorpios was once the private island of Aristotle Onassis who once lived there with Jacqueline Kennedy, the former wife of the assassinated US president John Kennedy. When Onassis lived there the island hosted many famous celebrities including the opera star Maria Callas and movie star Greta Garbo. Skorpios island was also the site of Onassis's wedding to Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968. Skorpios is just one of 10 small islets off the Lefkas coastline. The others are Meganisi, Kalamos, Kastos, Madouri, Skorpidi, Thilia, Petalou and Kythros. Skorpios island is just 4km from the popular Lefkas resort of Nidri and easily visible from there but the mansion houses in the interior are well hidden in thick woods.

Beautiful Lefkas beaches
Lefkas holiday award

The Greek holiday island of Lefkas has picked up a top tourist award in an online poll of top holiday destinations. Lefkas, also known as Lefkada, is one of the Ionian group of islands that lie off the west coast of Greece and is connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. Lefkas was voted 'Favourite Coastal Destination' in a poll in the Philoxenia Tourism Awards. The announcement was made at the opening ceremony of an International Tourism Fair in Thessaloniki. Lefkas is an island that has grown in popularity in recent years. The low-lying east coast of Lefkas is the main tourist strip with many hotels backing a string of good beaches. Lefkas has several islets offshore that are popular for boat excursions while the west coast has rugged cliffs, rocky shores and some very dramatic coastal caves. Lefkas is not very large, just 30km by 12km and has a population of about 20,500. Although it has no airport, Lefkas is served by international and domestic flights to the airport at Preveza on the mainland nearby. There are also daily buses to Preveza from Athens and ferries from Italy to the mainland port of Igoumenitsa which is a two hour drive from Lefkas. As well as being popular for beach holidays, Lefkas is also known for yachting holidays thanks to a large number of sheltered inlets and several offshore islets, including the holiday island of Meganissi. Lefkas also has a world famous windsurfing beach at Vassiliki beach in the south. Two major tourist boosting projects have been given the go-ahead on Lefkas recently. One is a €22 million project to widen and dredge a 6km channel near Lefkas Town and the other is a €17.6 million project to build a marina at Vassiliki.

Windsurfer in Lefkas
Windsurfing on Lefkas

Windsurfing holidays in Lefkas. Anyone looking for a summer windsurfing break will be hard put to find anywhere better than a holiday in Lefkas. Set in a deep, sheltered bay on the south coast of Lefkas, the Greek island holiday resort of Vassiliki bursts into life from May to August when the surf sailors come out in force. On any summer afternoon, scores of windsurfers can be seen speeding across the bay in a spectacular blur of holiday colour. Vassiliki is a growing beach holiday center in its own right and, after the resort of Nidri in the east, it is the second largest beach resort to be found on Lefkas. The village of Vassiliki is located on the eastern side of Vassiliki Bay, while the western side of the bay is called Ponti. A coastal road runs between Vassiliki and Ponti, and it is an easy and pleasant walk from one end of the holiday beach to the other, The road leads to yet another stretch of beach at Agiofili Vassiliki beach is mainly pebble with some banks of shingle but it is gently shelving and so Vassiliki is a very popular holiday spot for families with young children. The shallow water is also a big hit with windsurfers as it shallow for a good way out into the bay. But the biggest windsurfer plus for Vassiliki is the the afternoon breeze that is affectionately known as 'Eric'. Mornings on Vassiliki beach are pretty much like any other Greek island holiday beach. But local thermal conditions are responsible for a brisk afternoon breeze that has surfers skipping across the waves in droves. This is the main reason that Vassiliki is considered one of the windsurfing capitals of Europe. Windsurfing lessons are offered all along the beach for those that want to start up in the sport and the light morning winds create great conditions to learn surfing skills. Then, once you have mastered the basics you can try your hand with the experts in the brisk afternoon winds. For those not interested in surfing Vassiliki is still a popular holiday spot. The village is quite small and it still retains much of the traditional Greek character along with its many older buildings. There is a very attractive harbour front area with seafront cafes, fish restaurants and ice cream shops. The harbour is also a popular stopping off point for visiting yacht flotillas as well as the place to catch a ferry to Kefalonia in the summer season. There is no bank in Vassiliki but there are cash machines and money can easily be exchanged at local travel shops. Other village facilities include a post office, medical centre, bakery and petrol station. There is a bus service to Lefkada Town, about 40km, although this varies in frequency throughout the year. There are few buses on a Sunday. Vassiliki beach is also served by taxi boats in the summer season.