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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.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have never been to Greece but it is a place I would love to visit some day. Very nice to hear the diversity in the country, that it is not just all blue and white. Those mountain views look amazing, just as amazing as the blue beach you stumbled across.

    Haha, Naia already a better driver than Agri. I can so see that happening 😀 The car is her toy, lol. Good to hear that your car was powerful enough to go up the mountains. I’m guessing you didn’t almost make it because the car was almost not strong enough, or you/Agri needed a lot of strength to keep the accelerator going. Or the air-con was not cool enough to cool all of you down as you drove on up and up 😀

    September 17, 2016
    • Yes! I thick everyone should visit Greece at least one in their life, and lol…once you go, all you’ll think about it going there again. Haha. I don’t think there’s anywhere I’d rather be in summertime, than on a Greek island somewhere, 😀

      That car was so old and weak, with a 2nd gear that only worked half the time. And whenever the air-con was on, it would suck all the power out of the car. That ride was a lot of fun, let me tell you. Naia handled it all like a champ though…

      September 18, 2016
      • Oh haha, 2nd gear. It sounded like you were driving a manual? Auto would be so much easier in this situation 😀 This kind of drive might be suited for a 4-wheeler, hmmm.

        September 18, 2016
  2. I love the Ionian islands. I used to go to a Greek Orthodox camp on the west coast of the Peloponnese (close to Zakinthos), so I got to know these islands before the more typical Cycladic ones. I have to agree with you, though, that they don’t quite feel all-Greek. I need the whitewash and all the blue accents to summon up that wonderful, summertime, stereotypical Greek feeling!

    September 18, 2016
    • Actually the first Greek island I ever visited was also Zakynthos, but somehow my idea of Greece still involves whitewashed streets and blue accents. And while the colour of the water in Lefkada was actually a lot more beautiful than Naxos, I didn’t feel satisfied with my Greek vacation until I’d visited one of the Cycladic islands. Sad, but true. Lol. 😀

      September 21, 2016
  3. Hi Shelley. I have been just in Athens(this past January) and Crete recently this October. Although the postcards at the souvenir shops had a lot of blue and white, I saw quite little of it in Crete 🙂 I very much liked seeing little white churches against clear blue skies with pink bougainvillea near the walls adding vibrancy to the picture.
    You’re right – some pictures do look like they might be from Croatia! It’s a nice thing though that Greece has such variety of islands. I am thinking of visiting Corfu next year and I guess it will be very similar to your pictures here, green and blue and all kinds of colorful houses. Maybe one day I will visit Santorini and experience the classic blue and white for myself 🙂 The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Greece is indeed blue and white too, just like their flag.

    November 14, 2016
    • Hi Pooja, I’ve never visited Crete or Corfu myself, so I have no idea what they look like at all! Will definitely have to get there one day. 🙂 There’s something about that white and blue that’s just so alluring, and the Greek government sure does a great job of marketing it that way. 😉

      November 15, 2016

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