Few Greek islands have been named as inaccurately as Meganissi. Despite the name translating as ‘Big Island’ Meganissi is quite the opposite, with a handful of settlements and a gentle, easy-paced approach to life which has for many years attracted holidaymakers in search of a relaxing Greek island escape. So what should you know about Meganissi if you’re thinking of a villa holiday on the island?
Meganissi is on the west of the Greek mainland in the Ionian Sea, around 4 miles (or a 20-minute ferry hop) from the popular island of Lefkas which in turn is connected to the mainland by a causeway and bridge. Its near-neighbour is Kefalonia and it is around 100 miles south of Corfu.
Meganissi has a population of around 2,000, most of which lives in its three main settlements: Katomeri, Vathy and Spartohori. The road linking all three villages is less than 3 miles long. Beyond these mini-hubs is a landscape of olive and pine trees reaching down to the coast, along with sheltered bays and alluring sea caves.
The three villages
The informal capital of the island is Katomeri, a modest village of barely 500 inhabitants with a few shops and tavernas and a petrol station. It’s about as far inland as you can get on Meganissi, and even from here it’s a gentle 10-minute walk down to the sand and pebble beaches in Limonari Cove.
Barely a kilometre to the north is the port at Vathy, from where the ferries to Lefkas depart. The waterfront is neatly dotted with colourful houses, tavernas and shops, and it’s a popular place to pull up a chair and watch the action in the harbour; there are plenty of fishing boats and private yachts coming and going in the summer months. The village itself is quite compact, and from here the surrounding countryside is good for walking and cycling. Just along from Vathy is Abelaki Bay, a tranquil cove with inviting turquoise water and two good tavernas.
To the west of the island is Spartohori, perched above the little port of Spilia with impressive views across to the mountains on the mainland. It’s a quiet place with narrow cobblestone lanes and whitewashed houses bordered by flowers, and a set of steps links the village to the port, the beach and the waterfront tavernas below.
What to see
Meganissi is known for its sea caves, the most famous of which is Cave Papanikoli on the island’s southern peninsula. It is a limestone cave around 30m deep and was apparently a hiding place of the highly effective Papanikolis submarine during World War 2. It is impressive for its sheer size.
On a quiet beach on the island’s west coast is the monastery of Agios Ioannis (John the Baptist). Local legend says that it dates back to the 15th century and has been ransacked by pirates and invaders, but the current building was built after 1800 thanks to a monk Ioannis Patrikis and a nun who helped him raise the money. She even secured funding from the Tsar of Russia, and after the building was finished she stayed in the monastery until her death.
There is no shortage of small, informal beaches around Meganissi. Most have few or no facilities, but this is rarely an issue as you’re never likely to be far from your accommodation. Popular beaches include Agios Ioannis (beside the church), Spilia (beside Spartohori), and Fanari Beach, a short boat ride from Vathy or a half-hour walk from Katomeri.
See the GIC Villas in Meganissi for suggestion on where to stay on this laid-back island.