Lefkada - Sightseeing in Sfakiotes - Melissa Ravine - Kavalos - Langada - Pefkoulia - Lefkada
The routes proposed around the municipality of Sfakiotes endeavour to show the remoter parts of the interior . To get to know a place well, there has to be the time and the inclination to stop and listen, talk to the locals, sit with them in the café and hear their stories so as to learn about areas as yet untouched by mass tourism.
These villages lie in a truly striking landscape and the soil is exceptionally fertile. For those who enjoy a hike, there is a plethora of footpaths to be discovered, leading to places with terrific vistas amid scenery of wild beauty. Some of them will be described here.
Shortly before reaching Lazarata village, there is a sign on the left indicating the church of Prophitis Elias, on a hill. There is an unobstructed view of the villages of Sfakiotes from this spot, all the way to Lefkada.
There is a footpath below the belfry, leading to Spanochori and Lazarata for those who would like to take it. Or, from the part of the hill behind the church, a few metres on there is a path to the left. It may be something of a challenge for the unfit or smokers, but it is well worth it (the distance can be covered in 10-15 minutes) as it reveals the view of another side of the island with a jewel of a shrine, Aghios Stephanos, built into a niche of the rock. Very few Lefkadians know this shrine except perhaps for some of the older generation.
Returning to the main road continuing straight ahead towards Kavalos, there is a sign pointing to the right and a short distance further on, the road to the left goes to the centre of the village, but we continue straight on to the outskirts. Shortly after the village the way goes uphill for a bit and soon levels out to a plateau upon which the church of Pantokrator stands. It is a privately owned church, with door lintels from an ancient Greek temple and an oak tree serving as the belfry. The church celebrates on 6 August, on the feast tou Sotiros (our Saviour). A little further on is the abandoned, eye-catching windmill of Kospetos.
Returning to the road, a short distance on it is worth a stop to have a look at the Stenofrya wells which once supplied the hamlet with water. The grooves rubbed into the stonework by the rope at the mouth of the wells make an intriguing sculpture. Back on track, we head for the ravine of Melissa - the most impressive feature of the area. If you are driving, check the mileage counter and when you have covered approximately 1300 meters look out for a stone wall to your right. A few metres further down to the left a dirt road leads off to the ravine.
The dirt road leading to the ravine is passable but some care is needed. This route breathes an air of isolation and virgin countryside and the existence of wildlife all around is evident from the bird-song and croaking of frogs. An information leaflet from the municipality says: “The steep sides of the ravine are home to birds of prey such as hawks, merlins, stockdoves, sparrow hawks, cuckoos, owls, hoopoes, and there are many ferrets, foxes, badgers, weasels, porcupines, vipers, adders and game birds such as woodcock, turtledoves, blackbirds and partridges. The magnificent plant life consists of plane trees, birches, willows, bay trees, the small-flower tamarisk, matchwoods, pine trees, cypresses, oaks, holly, brambles, wild roses, wild pear-trees, wild redbuds, myrtles, smoke trees, mastic trees, terebinths, arbutus berries, wild olive tree, osiers, mock privets, Jerusalem thorn, Spanish broom, prickly broom and sage. There are fruit-bearing trees, fig and pear.
The spring in the cave is the first stop. Below there are bridges, arched or level, old mills and other constructions once in operation, showing that in the past this place buzzed with life, a centre of activity for its denizens. References to these buildings exist in the decree of Volteros Vryenios, issued in 1355. Continuing on, we soon come to a clearing, the confluence of three torrents (now almost dry) whence the ravine’s paths set out. The Municipality has done excellent work in rediscovering and restoring the ancient footpaths used by the locals. They have been paved and bordered with very nice protective wooden railings all along.There are signs for two directions: to Apetasti and to Kako Langadi.
They are two km long and take about half an hour to walk, to the accompaniment of bird song (mainly nightingales) and the croaking of frogs.
Returning to the asphalt road, make a right towards Kavalos, the suggested stopping place for a rest in the small village square with its two traditional-style cafés. In one of these, there is a barber’s chair, not purely decorative, but in use if you want a haircut. Here it seems that time stopped in another and better era. If you appreciate it, the impression will be a pleasant experience. The locals are always interested in genuine communication. If you happen to be in this village on a Sunday, not later than noon, then you will be able to taste the delicious hors d’oeuvre (mezedes) Mr. Vangelis makes, to gladden the heart.
Kavalos is situated in the most advantageous position compared to the other villages in the municipality of Sfakiotes, because it lies on top of a hill and looks out far and wide. A walk around the lanes of this village keeping its traditions is interesting. It is also worth visiting the village’s windmill, recently restored, the churches of Aghia Ekaterni and Aghios Nikolaos with excellent frescoes by Spyros Gazis and an iconostasis by Prosalentis. Also do not miss the very well laid out folkloric museum, housed in a fine building in an idyllic environment.
Continuing on through the valley takes us to the beaches of western Lefkada. Down the hill from Kavalos, we come to the main road to Lefkada town. A little further down, in Frya, there is a sign for Aghios Nikitas, an enchanting route amongst abundant green. The road ends at one of the beaches that are the pride of Lefkada: Pefkoulia, and a little further on are Aghios Nikitas and Kathisma beaches. Depending on your mood, choose either of these beaches, or head back to Lefkada.