Meganissi – Overview

Meganissi lies in the Ionian Sea, just off the east coast of Lefkada. Its nearest neighbour is the private island of Skorpios – once owned by Aristotle Onassis - but the difference between glamorous Skorpios and unassuming Meganissi, its rural landscape peppered with abandoned windmills, tiny churches, and ancient ruins, couldn’t be more marked.

The first traces of life on the island date back to the Neolithic era, and like every island, it has its place in Greek mythology, too – though in Meganissi’s case, it’s a rather modest tale, culminating in Ulysses giving his fleet to the island when he left for Troy.

It’s a modest myth for a modest island. There are no towns on Meganisi, just three villages that are really nothing more than hamlets. Its beaches tend to be of the white pebble variety, with a few sandy beaches in the northeast, washed by clear, clean water. Few of the beaches have organised facilities, but the upside is that even though the island does have its fair share of summer visitors, you’re still likely to find a beach with no one else on it, particularly if you choose one of the little coves accessible only by boat. The island’s most famous attraction is the Pananikolis Sea Cave, said to be the second largest sea cave in all of Greece and where, locals claim, a Greek submarine was hidden during the Second World War.

With a network of paths that criss-cross the island, Meganissi is perfect for walking and cycling; the ideal place, in fact, for a complete getaway or a good, old-fashioned family beach holiday.

Learn more about Meganissi or find out why we think it might be the new Paxos.

Have you considered pairing up Meganissi with Corfu for a twin-centre holiday?

FLY TO

Preveza

FLIGHT TIME FROM THE UK

3 hours

TIME DIFFERENCE

+2 hours

CURRENCY

Euro

Meganissi – Location & Map

Meganissi

Meganissi – Villas

Our villas in Meganissi

Mimosa

  • Meganissi, 3 bedrooms/sleeps 6
  • Stylish contemporary villa
  • Beaches and attractions within easy reach
  • Wifi and air-conditioned throughout

Saffron

  • Meganissi, 3 bedrooms/sleeps 6
  • Stylish contemporary villa
  • Beaches and attractions within easy reach
  • Wifi and air-conditioned throughout
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Meganissi – Regions

Corfu

With a dramatically mountainous interior and a generous coastline dotted with picturesque coves, sandy beaches and rocky inlets, Corfu has much to offer the discerning holidaymaker. Choose from pretty cottages that sit close to the water’s edge, spacious character homes and exclusive hillside residences overlooking tranquil bays.

Crete

Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands is a romantic one, retaining much of its character with stunning archaeological sites and medieval harbour towns. The Island can offer quiet relaxed experiences or a busy lively break. Explore the rocky landscape, unwind on golden shores lapped by azure waters or linger over a bottle of fine wine in a number of chic cafés.

Paxos

An hour by boat from Corfu, Paxos lies reassuringly off the beaten tourist track. It's somewhere to totally relax and reconnect with family and loved ones, this charming holiday destination - where time has almost stood still - is just 10km long and has three main villages. Daily activity should consist of no more than snorkelling from a bobbing boat and strolling down to dine at a waterside tavern.

Sivota

Sivota sits prettily in its own natural harbour across the sea from Corfu and Paxos. There are two, pristine sand-and-pebble beaches within a short walk of the harbour, and many more to explore on the tiny uninhabited islands just off shore. You can happily potter from one small island to another in your own motor boat or take a leisurely drive down the glorious Epiros coastline, with its picturesque harbours, hidden coves and long sandy beaches. 

Meganissi – Our Guide

Meganissi is a 20km2 island that lies just over a kilometre off the coast of Lefkada with the Greek mainland 9km to the East. Its name means ‘Big Island’, for despite being one of the smallest Ionian Islands, it is the largest in its surrounding archipelago. Much less well known than its larger neighbours, Meganissi remains remarkably unspoilt, perfect for those in search of peace, natural beauty and a genuinely warm Greek welcome.

The landscape comprises gentle rolling countryside, with dense pine forests criss-crossed by mule tracks, and the ubiquitous cypress trees forming a backdrop to many of the beaches. A halo of gleaming white pebble beaches encircles the entire island, with many intimate little coves that are accessible only by boat. There are a handful of tavernas, and a low-key yachty vibe in the tiny harbours at Spilia and Vathy, but a holiday here is all about enjoying a real break from the bustle of 21st century life.

Meganissi – History & Culture

Bays were a good base for smugglers
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Meganissi has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. It was referred to in Homers Greek Epics as ‘Taphos’, named after the son of Poseidon who was also king of the region. The Taphians were accomplished sea men and traders, though during the copper age the coves and bays became a good base for pirates and smugglers.

The island did not appear on the radar of major powers the same way that larger islands like Corfu and Crete did, but the same pattern of invasion occurred as in the rest of Greece, with a list of conquerors including the Roman Empire, Napoleon Bonaparte’s French colonisers, Venetian crusaders and the Turkish Ottoman invaders.

 

However, unlike other areas of Greece, Meganissi avoided heavy fortification and urbanisation from foreign influences. The island played a significant part in the Greek War of Independence. It developed a reputation for its rebellious inhabitants, and under British commanders the 1st Greek Light Infantry was formed. The island forces fought spiritedly, and general Demos Tselios was honoured for his fierce leadership in the folk song ‘Ghero Demo’.

Today, there are just over 1,000 permanent residents in the island’s three villages, where tradition and charm have been preserved in a way that has almost disappeared in the rest of Greece.

The island has avoided urbanisation
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Meganissi – Climate

The sea can reach 27°c by August
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For the best weather, June to August are ideal months to visit, though May sees the hillsides in full bloom, and October is wonderful for walking. With a typical Greek climate, the summer months are hot, sunny and dry. June begins with temperatures in the mid 20°c range and quickly climb to over 30°c by the end of the month. By August, the sea temperature can reach 27°c.     

 

In September, the high heat of summer begins to recede slightly, but averages at around 26°c and rarely dips below 20°c. October is the last month to enjoy the weather with temperatures continuing to cool by a couple more degrees, though the sea can remain pleasant at 22°c, and the beaches are almost deserted.

Meganissi has a typically Greek climate
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Meganissi – Activities

Explore islets with a motor boat
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Meganissi is a small, sleepy island that is gentle, relaxed and picturesque. Beaches are pebbly and almost entirely undeveloped, with crystal clear waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling. There are many pretty walking paths through the shady, fragrant pine forests, or you can hire a scooter or motor boat to cruise along the coastline in style.

There are just three villages in Meganissi – Spartochori, Vathi and Katomeri. Katomeri is the capital of the island, a jumble of stone cottages and flower bedecked streets. Spartochori and Vathi are both harbour villages, and daily ferry trips depart from Spilia Bay to the neighbouring island of Lefkada.      

 

Here, anchoring at the harbour of Nidri, you will find a lively resort and beach with plenty of shops and tavernas, and the town of Levkas a half hour drive to the north. The landscape is vividly green, and from the hillside you can spot the islets of Skorpios, Sparti and Madouri in the distance.

Lots of sailors and kayakers are attracted to coast of Meganissi, but the hilly interiors are also great for hikers and cyclists. The 11-mile-long narrow peninsula of the southern coast tapers to Cape Kefali, where you can swing a fishing hook off the rocky bank and break out your picnic, or head inland to follow the countryside route between the old windmills and monasteries dotted over the hillsides.

Stroll along the hilly pine forests
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Meganissi – Feasts & Festivals

Chapels dedicate celebrations to particular saints
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There are few large scale festivities in Meganissi, but there is a strong commitment to traditions and customs, and during the summer months parties are not an uncommon sight in the tavernas as night falls.

Greek celebrations are usually dedicated to a particular saint, and the biggest commemoration of the year for Meganissi is to Saint John the Baptist, with a festival taking place on the beach at Agios Ioannis and pilgrimages to his chapel. Historians say the church was once destroyed by pirates who threw the holy icon into the sea, later to be rebuilt by a nun whose tomb lies in the church walls.

 

Walking the alleys of Meganissi, you may spot a few local residents lounging in the sun with their chessboards. In fact, the game is so well loved on the island that a Chess Night is organised annually in Katomeri at the beginning of August. A professional mastermind is invited to the village square as local people line up to test their skills.

If chess fails to excite you, there is plenty going on over on the neighbouring island of Lefkada a short ferry ride away. The International Folklore Festival is known throughout Greece and takes place in the town of Lefkas during the last week of August. The streets come alive with parades as performers from all over Europe put on shows of traditional dancing and music to celebrate their cultural heritage.

Church entrance at Katomeri
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Meganissi – Food & Drink

Fishing boats bring fresh fish every morning
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Meganissi’s traditional and rural way of life is reflected in its food. With such little pressure from the tourism industry, meals are all the more authentically Greek. Fishing and farming are the livelihood of many residents on the island, and you can watch as boats pull up to the harbour each morning with crates of freshly caught crustaceans, octopi and calamari.

Like the rest of Greece, dining takes place in small, family run tavernas. The main villages of Katomeri, Vathy and Spartochori and the coves and bays along the coastline have plenty of traditional restaurants and cafes with charcoal grills serving wholesome Greek classics.      

 

Tavernas in Meganissi have a truly enviable location. Dine at the water’s edge on skewered meat and vegetables known as Souvlaki under candle light, or sip a Mythos beer on a sun soaked garden terrace with views over the bay below and a tray of mezes.

Quiet and atmospheric at times, the tavernas on the island also have lively evening entertainment with dancing and music in the summer months, and there are a handful of trendier cocktail bars and Italian pizzerias to be found too. In Greece, nightlife starts late, so you’ll have to wait until at least midnight if you want to see parties get started.

Authentic Greek classics are served
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Meganissi – For Families

Explore the coast by boat
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Meganissi’s charming unspoilt coastline offers many beaches for families to enjoy. Agios Ioannis is a regular favourite of visitors, and takes its name from the small chapel in the nearby hamlet. The beach is a long stretch of white pebbles, and a few facilities are provided in summer months, including sun loungers and a waterfront taverna. The hilltop village of Spartochori sits above, where there a few shops, small markets and beautiful views of the bay and harbour.

The picturesque beaches of Vathi are ideal for taking a picnic down to the shore and watching sailing boats and yachts glide out from the jetty.      

 

The water is pristine and perfectly clear, making ideal conditions for paddling and spotting starfish on the pebbly sea bed while the loudest sound will be sheep bells gently clattering away in the distance.

Meganissi is also perfect for sea explorers. Hire a motorboat and circle the numerous surrounding islets along the coast, go beach hopping, or discover the second largest cave in Greece, Papanikolis. Fighters of the Greek Revolution hid here to attack the opposite coast of the mainland, but it has also been claimed that this is where the Cyclops was blinded by Ulysses and that a clandestine submarine was concealed here in WWII.

Beaches are pebbled and unspoiled
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Meganissi – For Couples

Enjoy seclusion at Meganissi
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The tranquillity of Meganissi is perfect for couples looking for a peaceful hideaway. Even the most developed beaches only have a handful of tavernas and a few rough-and-ready bars. The most secluded beaches can only be reached by boat, such as Herniades, where there are no facilities but the views are beautiful and there is plenty of space and privacy.

The harbours of Vathi and Spilia are excellent spots for a lazy lunch or an intimate dinner, or simply to sit and people watch as the boats arrive from nearby Lefkada.     

 

The surrounding villas are fantastically photogenic, with the intense colours of the painted houses and trailing bougainvillea made even more vibrant by the bright southern Mediterranean light. Take a moment to wander the back streets and you might see black-clad women crafting on looms and men playing backgammon on their porches while thick loaves of psomi bread bake in the oven.

As dusk falls find a beach bar to enjoy some drinks and mezes with traditional bouzouki music, or head to a peaceful cove like Pasoumaki to watch the sun set over the sea.

Take a lazy lunch at the harbour side
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