From Televoes to Echinades Islands
Even if you have never travelled to Lefkada, you are certain to have heard of Aristotle Onassis’s islet Skorpios, where he had hosted numerous celebrities, including royalty, politicians, artists, and businessmen. If you actually did visit Skorpios before the islet was sold to Russian entrepreneur Dimitri Rybolovlev, you must have taken a dip in its beautiful waters and maybe even have had the chance to visit the other small and “expensive” islands in the vicinity. If not, you shouldn’t be disappointed as other small islets in the Ionian Sea are waiting for you to discover them and maybe even…buy one.
Yes, you read right. Most privately owned islands for sale in Greece are here in the Ionian Sea. Their private property status seems to have been bequeathed to modern times from the times the area was ruled by the Venetians. Most of these islets belong to the islet clusters of Televoes and Echinades, and are located in an area that spreads from the island of Lefkada (or Leukas or Leucas) all the way across to the Acheloos River estuary on the mainland.
The best and fastest way to learn everything you need to know about these islets is to embark from the Lefkada town of Nydri (or Nidri) on an excursion boat. Skorpios is beautiful but so are Meganisi, Kalamos or Kastos!
Televoes Islands: The Ionian Pringiponisia, Meganisi, Kalamos, Kastos
Prince’s Islands: The “expensive”
On our right-hand side as we exit the gulf of the Lefkada town of Nydri, we see the Gheni Peninsula with the beautiful little church of Aghia Kyriaki where locals love to get married or baptized during the summer. On the other side of this peninsula you will see numerous mansions.
The first large islet that you will come across is famous Skorpios. Back in the days when Onassis bought the islet, it was dry and barren. He turned it into a Garden of Eden with beautiful sandy beaches and rare greenery. Access to the public is forbidden today, but the neighboring Skorpidi, Sparti and Madouri, are accessible by boat from Nydri.
Meganisi: the Ionian “Hydra”
Unlike in Hydra, the green in Meganisi is lush. But like Hydra, Meganisi hosts the celebrities of the world in their yachts. If you don’t belong to this category though, not to worry, Meganisi is still a hospitable place. There is a ferry that will take you to the islet’s two ports (Spilia and Vathy) from Nydri two or three times a day depending on the season. If you take a car, you can visit more beaches. If you don’t take a car choose to get off at Spilia. Right next to the little port of Spilia there is a tavern “Porto Spilia” and a little further down is a beach bar named “Agrios” (meaning “Wild”) and another tavern named “Spilia” (“Cave”). All three are literally on the water’s edge. This beach is ideal for kids as its pebbles are small and it eases smoothly into the water.
Depending on how old your kids are, an exciting activity to embark on might be a “family Odyssey” on sea kayak led by an experienced guide.
Kalamos and Kastos: The Forgotten Islands
The two islands had a very different historical path from the neighboring Meganisi. Most of the Kalamos and Kastos inhabitants left in the 1970’s to find a better future in nearby Ithaki or faraway Australia. In the latest census, Kalamos numbered 100 inhabitants and Kastos 12. Here there are no regular ferry itineraries, paved roads or cars except for a few four-wheel drives. Accommodations are available, however, as well as taverns and coffee shops. The beaches are accessible by boat or four-wheel drives if you are lucky enough to know some local person on the island who owns one.
Three are the summer excursion boats from Nydri to Kalamos and Kastos: “Nikolaos,” “Christina,” and “Nidri Star,” but they do not sail every day. Another way to visit these two islets is to take the local liner from Mytikas on the mainland. This liner is not a proper ferryboat (it does not transfer vehicles), but it serves the locals daily. You will need to inquire about its itinerary (Kalamos: boat “IOANNA” tel. +30 6942 558462, Kastos: boat “KASTOS II” tel. +306977 078057). You may not be able to return to Mytikas on the same day and may have to secure overnight accommodations on one of the islets ahead of time.
From Myrikas to Astakos and the Echinades Islands
If you decide to spend the night on the mainland, the beaches north of Mytikas are clean and white-pebbled just like the ones on the islands across. They deepen suddenly after the first 2-3 steps in the water similar to the Atherinos beach on Meganisi, which, by the way, lies exactly across. At the Paliovarka beach, as well as between Mytikas and Astakos, you will find family friendly accommodations, and at Yulia beach, about a kilometer’s distance from Astakos to Mytikas, you will find a small and nice tavern.
Across from you, as you drive south from Astakos all the way to Messolongi you will see spreading out a group of small islands called Echinades. Oxia is the largest one and it belongs to the Emir of Qatar. It is a mountainous volume standing alone in the otherwise flat scenery of the Acheloos estuary. Most of the Echinades Islands are for sale. With no regular liners, they are accessible by private means only.
Echinades are of historic importance because that is where the so-called “Naval battle of Nafpaktos” took place in 1571. In this battle, a coalition fleet from Catholic European states arranged by Pope Pius V (the Holy League) inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. It is said that the morphology of these islands was very different at the time as the flow of waters from River Acheloos change it continuously. At the river’s estuary you will find the hospitable Louros beach with beach bars and chaises, while the town of Aitoliko would be a nice place to stop for a cup of coffee before you reach Messolongi.
Willing to travel to the Ionian Greek Islands with kids? Then follow the “Journey of Ulysses”, a 7-day family friendly itinerary, which is ideal for summer vacation with teenagers that includes water sports, sea kayaking and adventures in the less touristy Greek islands of the Ionian Sea around Lefkada, Paxi, Kefallonia and Ithaca. Download the itinerary here and let the best family travel advisors in Greece create your family’s “Grecious” story!