A Different Version of Greece on Lefkada Island
It’s the absence of blue and whiteness that throws me off.
It makes me feel like I’m not in Greece. Despite the mesmerizing water that surrounds the island. Despite the souvlaki stands that dot the streets. Despite the thick yogurt and local honey I have for breakfast every morning. I cannot shake the feeling.
There’s no blue and white.
Lefkada is brown and green and mountainous, and ringed by waters ranging from electric blue to turquoise. The houses run every shade of colour under the sun – pink, white, yellow, orange – but there’s not a whitewashed street or Orthdox church topped with round blue roof in sight.
It doesn’t help when we get lost and end up driving all over the island unexpectedly. Because the terrain reminds me of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, or the mountains of Albania, more than it does a Greek island.
The gorgeous little local beach we stumble upon by accident reminds me completely of a gorgeous little beach we spent a blissful afternoon on – in Croatia. The colour of the water, the colour of the stones, the landscape…all of it, reminds me of Croatia.
“Greece is mostly not all blue and white,” Agri chides me, when I voice my concerns.
And I know it’s true. I know it objectively. It’s just that most of my travels through Greece have been on Cycladic islands. Santorini, Ios, Naxos. Wanderings through narrow whitewashed pathways accented only by brights spots of blue that mirror the divine water surrounding all that whiteness. It’s what’s defined my Greek experience thus far.
Over the course of our week on Lefkada, a different version of Greekness than the one I’m used to starts to take the tiniest hold of me. And strangely, it’s far, far above the sea – the thing I most associate with Greece.
But I never do manage to shake the feeling.
There’s no blue and white.
Driving to Lefkada from Albania
Despite the fact that Lefkada is one of the Ionion Greek islands, it is possible to drive there. It’s connected to the mainland via a short underwater tunnel. And a small ferry that seems permanenty moored in place for cars to drive through. Hilariously practical or practically hilarious? You decide.
The fastest route from Tirana to Lefkada takes you through the Kakavia border crossing, on mostly smooth and flat highways (not a given in Albania). The total journey takes 5-7 hours, depending on traffic, how fast you drive, and how busy the border is. It’s totally possible to make the trip in one day, but if you want to break up the trip, Gjirokaster would be a good place to stay overnight.
We took a slightly longer route to Lefkada, making our way from Tirana down to Vlore and then high up into the Albanian mountains, before pausing in Llogara for the night. Stopping there was akin to a refreshing vacation in the tea stations of India, with air so fresh, crisp and cool, the sticky humidity of the Mediterranean summer was soon a welcome memory.
If you plan to take this route, ensure that you have a powerful enough car with strong a/c. We didn’t, and I kid you not when I say that we almost didn’t make it up some of those forbidding Albanian mountains. They’re steep, windy and not for the fainthearted.
Have you been to Greece? What defines your experience of the country? Share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.