Offering unspoilt beaches and traditional villages, holidays to Meganissi take you back to a pre-tourism time in Greece.
The unknown island
Meganissi has taken a back seat as far as Greek tourism is concerned. In fact, it’s one of 3 islands that are often only referred to as Lefkas’ satellite islands. Fortunately, this lack of lip service has protected it from development, and it remains blissfully ignorant of high rise hotels, gaudy souvenir shops, and neon bars.
There are only 3 villages on the island. Vathi, on the northeast coast, is the capital. There are no signs of the rat race in this harbour-side settlement. Sail boats bob at their moorings, while locals tend their olive groves and small-holdings on the hills behind the town. In the tavernas, chefs take their time preparing Greek food to time-honoured recipes.
Beach safaris are the main activity on Meganissi. Most of the coves and bays are untamed out here, and tracking down your own plot of sand is all part of the adventure. The most remote ones can only be reached if you hire a boat and stake them out along the coast. That said, not all of Meganissi’s beaches are so hard to reach. Pasoumaki Beach is just a couple of kilometres outside of Vathi, and is easily accessible by car.
Things to See and Do in Meganissi
Beach by boat
Tracks, beaten or otherwise, don’t always lead to the beaches on Meganissi. Some of the bays and coves on this island can only be accessed by boat. Other beaches are connected to the main villages by dirt tracks, so people prefer to sail over to them anyway. You can book boat trips around the coast in Vathi harbour.
The big beach
Most of Meganissi’s beaches are pint-sized. The busiest strips of coast bookend Vathi. Pasoumaki Beach is pretty popular, but by the island’s standards, this means you’re likely to share the sand with only a dozen people. There aren’t any facilities here, so people tend to bring their own snacks and beach towels.
The secret beach
Five kilometres north-east of Katomeri, Cape Akoni is one of Meganissi’s most silent beaches. Most people arrive here by boat, expecting a bit of privacy. The beach itself is pebbly and backed by a brace of green trees.
There are a couple of jewellery shops in the centre of Spartochori, where you can pick up blue opal pieces. If you need a bigger shopping fix, though, you’ll have to catch the ferry over to Lefkas. There are a few jewellery and clothing shops on and around Ioannou Mela and Goulielmou Dorpfel near the harbour in Lefkas Town.
For booze, head to Cava Katopodis in Katomeri. This lantern-lit shop sells everything from ouzo to wine made on neighbouring Lefkas. This village is also the place to source hand-made lace. You can buy it direct from weavers, who work their looms in and around the village square.
Most of things available to buy in Meganissi have a calorie content. You don’t need to go further than the village supermarket to find plump olives, honey, and cheeses made from goats’ and sheep’s milk. Some of the supermarkets, like Palmos in Vathi, have barrels of local wine, where you can refill your empty bottles.
Dinner tends to top the nightlife bill in Meganissi. Most of the island’s tavernas are true to their roots and serve Greek cuisine or seafood, but there’s a strong Italian influence on the restaurant menus, too. Vathi square doesn’t disappoint on the food front. And, after dinner, there are places that serve gelato in the garden. In Spartochori, there’s a taverna that runs regular Greek nights, as diners tuck into spit-roasted chicken.
Nightlife doesn’t really get lively on Meganissi. But there are a few places to go when the restaurants have called time. There’s a music bar in Vathi harbour and, in the main square, there’s an Italian restaurant with a cocktail lounge, where you can sit on plump floor cushions and drink bellinis until 3am. The island’s only club, Precious, is in Katomeri, and it doesn’t close until the early hours.
This is Meganissi’s answer to bruschetta. Two key ingredients set it apart from its Italian counterpart. Once the toasted bread is spread with garlic and topped with tomatoes, it’s crowned with oregano and olives. Some chefs also add crumbly cubes of feta to the top.
Batons of salami are made on Meganissi’s neighbouring island, Lefkas. The biggest producer, Charcuterie D. Polychronopoulos, have been making their cured meat for more than half a century. Meganissi’s Italian trattorias serve this savoury snack as part of an antipasti board.
Moussaka is the little black dress of Greek cooking – it’s a classic. As a result, you’ll find it on most of the menus in Meganissi’s restaurants. This timeless Greek dish is made with slow-cooked minced lamb and aubergines, and topped with a pillow of soft cheese and baked egg.
Apricots with honey
Two of Meganissi’s local products are happily married in this dish. It’s as simple as it sounds. Fresh apricots are baked in the oven and drizzled with the island’s locally-made honey. Some chefs add almonds to the recipe.
This red-eye is the alternative to ouzo. It’s made from the residue left on the wine press, once the grapes have been crushed. In summer it’s served on the rocks and in winter it’s heated up into a toddy. Whichever form you drink it in, it’s pretty potent – its APV is slightly higher than vodka.