Lefkada Trail day 2 Nikiana to Karya

This walk runs from the small harbour of Nikiana to the mountain village of Karya. It climbs up and over Skaros mountain, past Alexandros, and across the Livadi polje (see below) to the mountain village of Karya. The trail is along monopati and unsurfaced tracks for almost all the route. You also get some fantastic views and walk through hidden wildlife paradises. This is probably one of the most varied trails on this website; it takes you from sea to mountains.

This works well as a day walk, get a bus/taxi to Nikiana and then back same from Karya. Or walk just part of the trail; Alexandros to Karya being good as a short gentle route.

13km
870m ascent
Moderate.

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Accommodation and tavernas in both Nikiana and Karya.

Frequent bus runs between Nikiana (from Nidri) and Lefkada Town. Also an infrequent bus to Karya to Lefkada Town. You ideally need to use a taxi or have a friend/partner that drives.

Day 2 of the 80km Lefkada Trail.
Day [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

The trail is the second day of the Lefkada Trail. It is a steep climb up Skaros mountain – then easy tracks across to Karya via Kollyvata and Alexandros.

The trail starts in Nikiana. Follow the signs to the Crystal Waters hotel and go to the uphill side of the hotel. From there a surfaced but narrow and rough road climbs straight up the hill. Go round four hairpin bends climbing out the village and heading up the road through olive groves. In the middle of a straight section a track forks off slightly downhill on the left. The track is surfaced in concrete for the first 10m and marked by a painted orange arrow.

Trail goes left from road from Nikiana to Kollyvata

After a few hundred metres the track forks. Keep right climbing gradually up the hillside (ignoring two villa driveways).

Take the right track at the fork

After a few hundred metres more a monopati fork right off the track. Follow this path sloping up the hill.

Take the right monopati at the second fork

The monopati turn right and starts to climb up the right hand side of a stream-bed zig zagging up the hill. The trail is marked with orange and red painted markers from here to the top. The way is very clear but don’t mistake red lichen for paint.

Superb views from the monopati as it climbs up Skaros

After a climb up the right side of the stream-bed the monopati turns right to traverse up along stone ledges heading up to the steep crags above. The monopati zig zags up again before heading back left across the base of a tall crag with a small cave just above the path. The monopati zig zags up through a gully taking a clever and safe route up to the top.

The monopati cleverly twists and turns over rock ledges through the crags.

All the way up there are wonderful views across the Inland Sea. You can see north up to Lefkada town, Preveza and beyond. Directly east are the mountains of the mainland. South you can see down to Scorpios and Meganisi. Take time to savour these views. Also give a cheer for those that made this classic monopati in times gone by.

Amazing view south to mainland and Skorpios

As you come over the top you enter the oak forests of Skaros. Many of these trees are hundreds of years old – although many remain relatively small. These oaks are unique to Skaros.

The path heads up a small valley and over a pass to a short descent down to the sheep and goat huts of the Skaros high pastures. To the right is the track we will follow.

Goat huts in the meadows high up on Skaros. The trail follows the track going off right.

The track right starts from a boulder with an orange “23” and arrow pointing along the track. This refers to the route of the 23km mountain run held every autumn. Follow right along the track for about 200m. At a bend in the track a big red arrow points to a monopati heading up right through the trees. Take that monopati and follow the red marks up a small wooded valley to the top where there are several very large ancient oaks.

A big red arrow shows the monopati going left in a corner of the track

Keep following the red marks as you go over the hill joining other paths coming in from the left. Keep right and start to traverse and gradually descend on the other side of the hill. The red marks get less frequent as the path becomes clearer.

The western slopes of Skaros

The trail now follows a classic monopati that traverses across and down the Skaros peaks. The path is very clear and at times you walk over a gently descending stone ledge – a marble walkway. This is possibly one of the best examples of the monopati network that once covered all of the island.

The classic monopati traversing Skaros

After 3km you pass an old monastery to your left and reach a road. Go straight over the road and continue on a second monopati. This monopati runs a short distance down to a second road. Go right down to a car park behind a church and take the footpath running down the left of the church – following a dry stream bed (maybe wet if it has rained recently). At a path junction go left and down a short path beside Maria’s taverna to the road in the centre of Kollyvata.

The trail arrives in Kollyvata at the side of Maria’s taverna

Stop for refreshment if the taverna is open. Maria prefers for you to phone ahead if you want food, but she can usually give you a drink unless closed. Opening hours are irregular unless you have booked.

Turn right along the road out of Kollyvata. At the first junction keep left and go 500m across to Alexandros village. As you enter the village there is a junction with an old school on the left and a concrete watertank on the right. Take the turn right, passing between two old windmill towers and descending into a small valley. Just before you get to the bridge over the stream (likely dry) a track goes sharp left down a concrete ramp into the thick forest. Take that track.

Track turn off the road sharp left down towards the Livada polje

The track descends down a valley to the Livadi plain (or polje). A polje is an area that has no visible outlets for streams, except through the limestone surface. Indeed Livadi is usually flooded in winter. Most paths are on causeway and passable but be prepared for short detours if rains have been very heavy recently. It is a magical place when flooded with lots of wildlife so possibly the best time for this walk. Karya village, your destination, is on the hill on the other side of Livadi.

Livada polje looking back from Karya with Skaros mountain on far right

Keep right on the track as it descends to the bottom of the polje. The track turns to the right and passes some tall trees. Here is divides. If you go left the path runs straight across the polje, crossing one road before reaching a second. If it isn’t flooded go that way. If that way is flooded, instead go straight on along the base of an earth dam (to your right) directly to the road. Take the road left crossing directly towards Karya.

Tracks on causeways over the flooded Livada polje towards Karya (photo taken in December)

As you reach the far side of the polje keep going straight on on the road past some farm sheds and climb the steep wooded slopes up to Karya. The road zigzags up joining another road coming up from the left. A little way after a hairpin left a road turns off right going up. Take that road and keep straight on, through Karya village, past a school, until you get to the village square.

Karya town square

Karya square is a delightful place to rest. There are several tavernas, cafes and shops around the square shaded by large plane trees. Accommodation is available in the village and a bus connects back to Lefkada town.

If you are on the Lefkada Trail day 3 starts tomorrow from Karya square.

Katouna Valley and Forest Loop

Beautiful walk from Katouna village climbing up along a stream, climbing over a hill for wonderful views, and back down to Katouna. Best in spring when there is water in the streams and all the flowers are out – but great all year round. There is a fair bit of shade and so works on a hot summer day if you start early. There are several alternative loops around Katouna but this one minimises time spent on surfaced roads.

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7.2km
335m ascent
Moderate

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Tavernas and holiday lets in Katouna.

One of several possible circular paths from and around Katouna. Use a good map and follow almost any of the tracks and quiet roads on the hills around Katouna. This route avoids most of the surfaced roads whilst visiting many of the pretty parts.

Infrequent bus to Katouna from Lefkada town.

Starts from the the village of Katouna up on the hill above the Lefkada town to Nidri road. Park in or near the small town square. There are good tavernas in and around the square for provisions for your walk or refreshment afterwards. There is a spring part way round the route but best to carry water in case it is dry.

Taverna in Katouna village square – start (and end) of the trail

Walk up the road on the right hand side of the taverna and turn almost immediately first right on a track between the houses. Go about 100m along this track until a monopati forks off right dropping down the hill. Follow the monopati down.

The monopati forks off right

Descend the monopati until it reaches a narrow road. Turn right and go down the road for about 200m until a grass track turns off sharp left between the trees. Be careful as there is another very short track heading off left into an olive grove just before the track you want.

Grassy track turns sharp left off the road.

The track meanders down to the bottom of the valley through trees, across grass meadows and olive groves. The track is slightly indistinct in parts but easy to follow if you watch out or follow a GPS map. You reach a well-laid gravel track running along the bottom of a valley. From this point you go through three path junctions as you go up the valley. If you turn away from going up the valley before passing those three junctions you should check the map.

Start by turning left up the valley. Almost immediately the track hairpins to the right and another track goes leftwards (up the valley). Follow that left-hand track continuing up the valley. After a short distance the track fords over the stream and gradually turns to the left. At that point a grassy track forks off right continuing to follow the stream on its left-hand bank.

A grassy track forks off right just after fording the stream.

Follow the grassy track up the left bank of the stream. It becomes more distinct as it goes. As it hairpins right across the stream another track turns off left. Take the track, keeping on up the stream. You have now now successfully navigated the three junctions.

The track soon turns into a grassy path and then turns left to start climbing up out of the valley. The path climbs up and to the left up a steep slope – which in winter and spring can be a little muddy underfoot as a side-stream flows along it for part of the way. Eventually you reach a track. Turn right and follow up the track.

The track is rather wonderful as it runs through mature forest climbing up the hill. You start to get views back to Katouna and the east coast of Lefkada. After about 1.5km you join a bigger track as it hairpins. Keep on left up the hill. After another 0.5km you join a quiet surface road. Go left up the hill.

Follow the road now for about 1.5km as it climbs up to a higher valley and then up that valley to a pass. About half way there is a welcome spring on the right side of the road. The spring has a tap with drinking water – but best not to drink direct from the stream. There is also a lovely old bridge from before the monopati was turned into a road. After resting here continue up the road to the pass.

Roadside spring with the old monopati stone bridge

At the top of the pass four surfaced roads and two unsurfaced tracks meet. You want the unsurfaced track going slightly down almost directly straight-on from the surfaced road you just came up. It is the right-most of the two unsurfaced tracks and runs immediately to the left of the small farm and goat huts. Consult the map if unsure. You are at the highest point of the trail. You could get driven here by taxi and just walk down to Katouna – making this an easy walk for a hot day.

The unsurfaced track on the left side of the small farm.

After a short distance down the track keep left at the fork. Follow the track as it traverses around the steep hillside. Enjoy wonderful views across to Skaros mountain with its pine and oak forests. Also down to the Inland Sea on the east coast of Lefkada. This part of the track makes all that climb up worthwhile. It ends at a quiet surface road. Turn right down the road.

Views of Skaros and the Inland Sea

The road is almost as good as the track as it winds 2km down along the ridge and hills back down to Katouna. Turn right at the fork, then keep straight on at the next junction – then turn left at the last T junction heading into Katouna village. When you get into the houses of the village bear right between the houses to reach the square where you started. Enjoy one of the two or three tavernas in and around the square.

Skaros mountain from Nikiana loop

This trial climbs up Skaros through the crags above Nikiana looping around the back to descend by track and road returning to Nikiana. The climb is a full 600m up through the oak forest and crags of the eastern flank of Skaros. When you look up Skaros from the Nikiana-Nidri road you see the towering crags. This trail takes a classic monopati to thread through those crags in perfect safety.

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9.1km
540m ascent
Difficult

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Numerous hotels, tavernas and shops in Nikiana.

This path links with others on Skaros. Follow the track over Skaros mountain and down to the Red Church for superb views over Nidri. Alternatively trek along the amazing monopati to Kollyvata and eat at Maria’s taverna – from there you can call a taxi to get back to Nikiana.

Regular bus to Nikiana from Lefkada town and Nidri. Take the Nidri bus from Lefkada town and get off at Nikiana.

The trail starts from a road above Nikiana. If driving from Nikiana follow the signs to the Crystal Waters hotel and go to the uphill side of the hotel. From there, a surfaced but narrow and rough road climbs straight up the hill. Go round four hairpin bends climbing out the village and heading up the road through olive groves. In the middle of a straight section a track forks off slightly downhill on the left. The track is surfaced in concrete for the first 10m and marked by a painted orange arrow. Park here taking care not to block the road or access tracks. The trail starts along the track. If walking from Nikiana either follow the same road or take one of the numerous tracks.

Start of trail off left from road from Nikiana to Kollyvata

After a few hundred metres the track forks. Keep right climbing gradually up the hillside (ignoring two villa driveways).

Take the right track at the fork

After a few hundred metres more a monopati fork right off the track. Follow this path sloping up the hill.

Take the right monopati at the second fork

The monopati turns right and starts to climb up the right hand side of a stream-bed zig zagging up the hill. The trail is marked with orange and red painted markers from here to the top. The way is very clear but don’t mistake red lichen for paint.

Superb views from the monopati as it climbs up Skaros

After a climb up the right side of the stream-bed the monopati turns right to traverse up along stone ledges heading up to the steep crags above. The monopati zig zags up again before heading back left across the base of a tall crag with a small cave just above the path. The monopati zig zags up through a gully taking a clever and safe route up to the top.

The monopati cleverly twists and turns over rock ledges through the crags.

All the way up there are wonderful views across the Inland Sea. You can see north up to Lefkada town, Preveza and beyond. Directly east are the mountains of the mainland. South you can see down to Scorpios and Meganisi. Take time to savour these views. Also give a cheer for those that made this classic monopati in times gone by.

Amazing view south to mainland and Skorpios

As you come over the top you enter the oak forests of Skaros. Many of these trees are hundreds of years old – although many remain relatively small. These oaks are unique to Skaros.

The path heads up a small valley and over a pass to a short descent down to the sheep and goat huts of the Skaros high pastures. Take a well earned break and consider your choices. To your left is a track climbing to the top of Skaros mountain with great views south over Nidri. Straight ahead past the huts is a track climbing to another pass and then down to the Red Church. To the right is the track we will follow back to Nikiana.

Goat huts in the meadows high up on Skaros

The track right starts from a boulder with an orange “23” and arrow pointing along the track. This refers to the route of the 23km mountain run held every autumn. Follow right along the track (running if you feel up to it).

The track climbs a little and then starts to descend. You get good views to your right over Lefkada town and Preveza. After about 2.5km the track becomes surfaced just before joining the Nikiana-Kollyvata road.

Looking back as the trail rejoins the Nikiana-Kollyvata road.

Turn right down the road to Nikiana. After about 1.5km turn right (both roads go down to Nikiana but only the right one passes the starting point of this trail). Descend down the road through the pine forests to your starting point just before entering Nikiana. The road is very quiet and pleasant however if you have a second car or are using a taxi you can save this walk back down the road. Maria’s taverna in Kollyvata is a good place to wait for your taxi.

Kollyvata to Skaros forest loop

Classic route around the Skaros peaks wandering through ancient oak forests along marble terraced monopati. This trail has a number of elements that make it one of the best on the island. The oak trees many of which are hundreds of years old. The ancient monopati following natural rock ledges across the hills. The vibrant colours of flowers and trees that change with each season. And the views across the island and out over the Inland Sea. If you do one walk on Lefkada do this one.

5.3km
230m ascent
Moderate

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Some accomodation in Alexandros and Kollyvata. Taverna in Kollyvata.

If you are fit divert off this path half way along to the Skaros main peak and hence down to the Red Church. From there you can get back along Red Church to Kollyvata. A long trail but well rewarded.

Kollyvata also connects to Karya for long distance hikes.

No public transport unless you take a bus to Lazarata and walk 3km to Kollyvata from there.

Starts from Maria’s taverna in Kollyvata. Follow the path up the right side of the taverna.

The trail starts up the right side of Maria’s taverna

Turn immediately right at the back of the taverna and follow the path/dry stream bed up through the little village. Soon you come to a wider path running up the right side of the churchyard. That turns into a road continuing to climb the hill. Shortly a path goes off left up and over steep rocks. Follow that path until it crosses straight over a second road and goes down the left side of a small monastery.

The trail now follows a classic monopati that traverses across and up the Skaros peaks. The path is very clear and at times you walk over a gently climbing stone ledge – a marble walkway. This is possibly one of the best examples of the monopati network that once covered all of the island. You follow the footsteps of ancient Greeks.

The classic monopati traversing Skaros

As you climb you start to get views over the oak forests that make up much of the flanks of Skaros.

The slopes of Skaros

Eventually the path reaches a plateau where the path divides. Keep left following the big bright red paint marks. Pass under a group of giant ancient oak trees. Soon after the path with the red blobs starts to descend to the left and another track starts continuing to ascend up to the right. Go a short way up this track to reach the ruin of the Church of the Virgin with fine views out over the east coast.

The ruined church with fine views

After enjoying this ancient sacred spot retrace your steps back to the path with the red blobs and go right down the slope. Keep going down through the trees until you get to an unsurfaced road. Follow the road to your left. (Alternatively turn right and via Skaros peak down to the Red Church and hence back up on Red Church to Kollyvata).

The leftward road gradually descends back along the other side of the peak you have just come over. You now have several wonderful views of the east coast and over to the mainland.

View from Skaros down to the Lefkada east coast and the mainland

The road eventually meets a paved road. Turn left and follow the road around a short distance back to Kollyvata. Use the signs to Maria’s taverna as your guide.

Well worth stopping at Maria’s tiny taverna for a post-walk drink and maybe a meal. Best to ring first and let her know you are coming. Like visiting your favourite aunt who cooks good food.

Red Church to Kollyvata

A wonderful ascent from the Red Church up to Kollyvata following a superb tree lined monopati and through the forests and ravines of Skaros. This route combines with the trail Alexandros to the Red Church to make an easy but interesting circular route. For a longer trail it combines with Red Church to Skaros and Kollyvata to Skaros to make a large circular loop for fitter hikers. All paths explore the woods, streams, ravines (and shade) of the Skaros Forest.

2.8km
140m ascent
Easy

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Accommodation in Alexandros. Taverna in Kollyvata.

Links to trails to Karya, Skaros and Kollyvata

The trail is marked with red-orange markers along the whole route. At times you have to watch for them carefully. Don’t confuse with red lichen rings that can be similar.

Start with your back to the entrance to the Red Church. Go 50m across the open area directly out from the entrance and then turn right to follow the path. This path soon crosses an unsurfaced track to enter a thick forest.

The forested section is a wonderful monopati that weaves between and under the thick woods. There is a fork where you turn right to ascend the hill. Follow the twist and turns of the path as it climbs up.

When you emerge from the thick forest section you come to a “T” junction with a track. Follow the track right as it ascends up the left side of a gorge. The gorge gradually shallows and, just after the path turns left to cross the steam at the bottom of the gorge, take the turn off right. Pass a brick block building on you left and continue up the track keeping right at the fork.

The track fords a stream (dry in summer) and turns into a monopati. Cross a clearing ignoring paths to left and right and head up over the steep rocks. The monopati climbs up and over the rocks. After a short but easy scramble enter a flatter tree lined section. Keep going straight on ignoring several paths diverging left and right.

Kollyvata town square with Maria’s Taverna

As you pass the first houses of Kollyvata climb the concrete and stone ramp up into the tiny Kollyvata main square. On the right you will find Maria’s taverna. If you are lucky she will be open serving drinks and food. Eating at Maria’s is like visiting an aunt that can cook very well – and loves to do so. If you phone and give her warning you are coming you will get more choice. This is a special place to sit and watch the sun set over Profitis Ilias across the Alexandros plain.

When you have finished at Maria’s you can retrace your steps back to the Red Church. Alternatively take the short walk along the quiet road to Alexandros and then follow down that variation of the trail to the Red Church. If you are feeling fit you can take the montpati up to Skaros and then down to the Red Church. This is quite a hike but does get the fantastic views from Skaros of the eastern side of the island.

Alexandros to the Red Church

A wonderful descent from Alexandros down to the Red Church following a gorge through the Skaros Forest and a superb tree lined monopati. This route combines with the trail Red Church to Kollyvata to make an easy but interesting circular route. Further afield it combines with Red Church to Skaros and Kollyvata to Skaros to make a large circular loop for fitter hikers. All paths explore the woods, streams, ravines (and shade) of the Skaros Forest.

2.9km
60m ascent
Easy

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Accommodation in Alexandros. Taverna in Kollyvata.

Links to trails to Karya, Skaros and Kollyvata

Walk from the town square of Alexandros along the road towards Platystoma. As you go past the Alexandros town sign turn left onto the clear trackway.

The track goes right – looking back toward Alexandros

At a triple fork keep right. Descend through woods past a cave on the right. Follow the hairpins left then right, ignoring tracks going off at the corners until you reach a small bridge over a stream.

Cave just below Alexandros

Go left and start to climb again, following the hairpin right. At this point you pass where the trail Red Church to Kollyvata ascends. So you could join that path to go up to Kollyvata (and beyond to Skaros). But today we will continue to the Red Church.

Follow the track along the left side of a deepening gorge. Red markers now mark the trail as far as the Red Church. At the fork turn right and start to descend again. After a while the path narrows. After 200m turn off left into the trees. Watch the red markers.

The turn right to enter the tree lined path

The trail enters a delightful wooded section with the path threading around and under the thickening trees. After a descent a similar path joins from the right. Go left and exit the forest. Cross an unsurfaced road and follow the track through to an open area where the Red Church is on your left.

The historic Red Church

Take a while to explore the historic church and monastery grounds. The church dates back at least 550 years and has recently been restored. In summers concerts are held in the grounds.

Retrace your steps to go back to Alexandros. Alternatively follow Red Church to Kollyvata for a variation in the last half of the trail and an easy loop. Alternatively start the climb to the wonderful views up Skaros.