Unlike most parts of the island, the lowland area of Lefkimmi is quite flat. Lefkimmi has a very unique identity with century-old olive trees, fertile vineyards that offer their own famous cultivar of wine and its river that flows into Bouka beach.
With approximately 5000 inhabitants, it is the second largest village and the centre of the southern part of the island. Lefkimmi, as we know it today, is the result of the unification of the villages of Rigglades, Anaplades, Agioi Theodoroi, Melikia and Potami.
Although it is situated only 40 kilometers from Corfu Town it somehow feels more remote. It is as though it belongs to a different era as it has remained, unlike its neighbouring town of Kavos, untouched by tourism.
It has retained its traditional elements and the old merchants’ mansions and tall Venetian style houses still stand, generally unrenovated and some dilapidated. This somehow adds to its charm. Its narrow streets are fringed with cafes, bakeries, bars and tavernas. It is one of the few places where you will come across old Corfiots with their donkeys, women balancing pots on their heads to carry them and people sitting on the sidewalk outside their cottages drinking ouzo with friends.
Locals also have a special dialect and their own local style of clothing.
Lefkimmi is also known as Potami, the Greek word for river, as a small river runs through the town, its banks lined with antiquated buildings and traditional tavernas. Fresh fish and home-cooked meals are in abundance but do not be surprised if you are invited into the kitchen of the family taverna to see what is on offer! Wooden fishing boats, used by local fishermen, are moored on the river giving it postcard appeal.
Many associate the eponym “Lefk” as a union of Sicily with the West. Reference is also made to the name “Alechimmo” by which the area was known in the Middle Ages.
History of Lefkimmi
The villages of Lefkimmi are built quite far from the sea. Fear of pirate raids and the movement of residents during periods when the plague decimated even entire villages, such as that of Marathias, shaped the areas as one now sees them.
A particularly important event in Lefkimmi’s history is the famous naval battle fought between the Corinthians and the Athenians in the Strait of Lefkimmi, which took place during the Peloponnesian War.
Almost all the villages in the area have a history. Most of them are named after wealthy families who lived there The village of Rigglades took its name in the Middle Ages from the Riggli family, while later, the village of Melikia, in turn, took its name from the Meliki family who resided there in the 15th century. Some of them were named after Cretan villages, as the Cretans inhabited the villages in the 18th century and influenced the naming of them.
Music and Education:
Lefkimmi maintains an age old music tradition. The Lefkimmi Philharmonic Society, originally called the “Apollo” Music Association, was founded in 1911 and today has more than 100 members. It also has a choir and the Municipal Conservatory to promote musical education.
Lefkimmi is also an attraction for thousands of pilgrims as it has many Byzantine churches and monasteries of great historical interest.
The monastery of “Kyra ton Aggelon”, ‘The Lady of the Angels’ was built in 1696, by the sons of Kapodistrias, in accordance with the vow they made to the Virgin Mary. The monastery also functioned as a hospital during the plague.
On the hill of Arkoudila there is the monastery of Panagia tis Eleousa, built by the Venetians in which the Greek artillery was located during the Second World War.
In the village of Melikia, in Agios Isavros, one will find rare frescoes and icons dating back to the 16th century, while in the church of Agios Arsenios, ‘Saint Arsenios’ the remains of the Saint are kept in a silver shrine.
Attractions and Activities
For those interested in photography a visit to Lefkimmi’s villages of Anaplades, Potamos, Melikia, Riglades and Agioi Theodoroi, with their picturesque neighbourhoods and old Venetian mansions, is recommended.
For nature lovers, Lefkimmi has many scattered areas of interest but the amazing Lefkimmi Saltworks have, by far, the most outstanding environmental value. A magical wetland, also known as the Alykes Saltmarshes of Lefkimmi, from where, they for centuries extracted salt, are located there. The renovated, Venetian buildings were used as salt warehouses until 1988.
Covering an area of about 2000 acres, the Saltmarshes are part the conservation network, Natura 2000, mainly due to their avifauna. There are in excess of 180 bird species in the region, making it an ornithologists’ dream. The major attraction is the flock of flamingos that have refused to migrate, so can be seen all year round, the largest number recorded was in 2011 with in excess of 3,000 birds. This is due to the water being shallow and warm so it is a natural incubator for their eggs.
Like, the flamingoes, a lot of locals and tourists also flock to the beaches in this area for the warmer water. The shallow water makes the beaches safe for small children. There are a number of lovely beaches to choose from: Bouka Beach, Molos Beach and Alykes Beach. If you wander further south you will find the area of Kavos, that like Lefkimmi also has shallow water, but unlike the laid-back, traditional village has and intense nightlife.