Located south of the holiday island of Lefkas, Meganissi is considered by many to be the best, as well as the biggest and most interesting of the offshore islets in this area of the Ionian Sea.
Meganissi lies about six kilometres south-east of the Lefkas port of Nidri and so attracts plenty of day trippers from it's much larger neighbour.
It is not only visitors on the daily ferries that enjoy the island, it is also popular with long-stay visitors looking for a sleepy Greek island holiday.
Meganissi is one of a cluster of islets that sit between Lefkas and the Greece west coast that includes Skorpios, once the private island of the Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis.
Paradoxically, Meganissi means 'large island' in Greek, but it measures only 20 sq km while the island's population of around 1,200 is mostly living in the three island hamlets of Katomeri, Vathi and Spartohori.
The island has an enticing lacework-like coastline, with many deep and long, fjord-like inlets especially its northern shores and on its rocky and rugged west coast.
A network of dirt tracks and walking paths make most of the beaches walkable from the main ports although many of them are small, isolated and without any tourist facilities.
Meganissi is a balmy Greek island with plenty of character and charm. Carpeted in pines and dotted with olive groves, what Meganissi lacks in sandy beaches is more than compensated for by the relaxed atmoshere and the serene and tranquil landscape. The resort trio of Vathi, Spartohori and Katomeri make up most of island life which is soporific and secluded. Beaches are mostly pebble and few of them have facilities such as cantinas and sunbeds.
Vathi may the largest settlement on the island but it is still very small. Vathi, or Vathy, lies on the north-east coast at the head of a long, narrow and sheltered inlet, with views to the islet of Skorpios, formerly owned by the Onassis family.
Pastel-painted houses cluster around a picturesque bay with a green curtain of heavily wooded hills behind the resort and pines cascading to the shore.
A few tavernas and a couple of chapels line the harbour, often full of summer yachts from the neighbouring island of Lefkas or laying up for a few hours on the flotilla route.
The busy looking bay, often crammed with every sort of boat, belies the resort itself which seems very much immune to any sort of activity. Peaceful contemplation or simply snoozing over a cold beer seem to be the principal pursuits.
Day trippers from Lefkas can give Vathi a bit of a buzz, but when the visitors leave in the late afternoon the atmosphere turns even more soporific until the evening tavernas start to fill. Relatively few tourists holiday in Vathi but there are enough to keep a trio tavernas – Vathi, Stavros and the Rose Garden – in business.
In and around the harbour, a few small shops interleave the tavernas, providing basic provisions. Several small pebble strands are within walking distance of Vathi, the most notable being the beaches of Pasoumaki and Abelaki.
Pasoumaki is a small pebble cove within easy walking distance of Vathi. The cove contains a short strip of pebbles backed by plenty of greenery so, although there are no sunbeds, plenty of natural shade is available right down to the shore.
As Pasoumaki is only a short distance from Vathi it can get busier than most but there are rarely more than a dozen or so people here, even on the busiest summer days. The pebbles drop steeply into the sea, and it's stony underfoot for some way out so bathers should don some protective footwear.
The water is very clear and the nearby rocks appear free of sea urchins making Pasoumaki a good place to swim and snorkel. There are no tourist facilities on the beach, not even a summer cantina, but it's only a short walk to the tavernas and cafes of Vathi.
Ampelaki, or Abelaki, is found to the north-east of Vathi in a neighbouring inlet. Small strands of pebble edge the bay but none of them add up to much despite what the brochures say.
There is no denying the beauty of Ampelaki Bay, however, which is usually dotted with yachts at anchor offshore and it's easily walkable from Vathi along narrow paths.
The sheltered horseshoe bay is couched in low pine-covered hills and trees tumble right down to the shoreline. Olive groves, hemmed in by low stone walls, have been carved out of some of the less steeply inclined hillside slopes.
There is no single beach as such, just a succession of pebble and rock strands, but the attractions are the proximity of Vathi, the peaceful isolation, the crystal waters and the splendid views across the bay to the mountains of mainland Greece. A couple of cantinas may open here in the summer.
Fanari beach is one of the most popular on Meganissi and noted for the picturesque setting. It's located north-east of Vathi on the east side of the neighbouring inlet to Ampelaki.
Where it was once accessible only by boat, Fanari can now be reached along a narrow dirt track. Fanari is set in a small sheltered, north-east facing bay and backed by pine-clad hills.
The beach is mainly pebble and some fine grit, you might almost call it sandy, in places. It is rather scruffy with a line of scrub between the beach and the dirt road that runs behind.
There are enough visitors here in the high summer to warrant a beach cantina – a rare sight on Meganissi beaches.
Although reachable on foot, many visitors arrive by boat and, although there is no jetty to tie to, the waters are very shallow.
The village of Spartohori or Spartochora, perches high on the hills overlooking Spilia Bay – a long and deep inlet located to the west of the main port of Vathi.
The hilltop village has impressive views over the bay and also overlooks one of the best beaches on Meganissi, as well as the small ferry port of Spilia.
Attractive houses are scattered all over the hillside interwoven with whitewashed alleyways and splattered, almost permanently it seems, with bright bougainvillaea. There are a couple of mini-markets, a few small shops and a peppering of tiny pavement tavernas.
A precipitous, winding road leads down the hillside to the seashore. Visitors branch left for the pretty Spilia port and right for the beach, variously called Spilia beach or Agios Ioannis.
The walk down to the beach takes about 10 minutes; the walk up takes rather longer. The port is a little nearer than the beach but the route is much more steep with some concrete steps along the way.
The small harbour is usually packed with yachts and boats. The ferry from Nidri, on Lefkas, usually arrives in the morning, drops a few day visitors then chugs on to Vathi returning in the evening for the journey back to Lefkas.
Spilia beach, also known as Agios Ioannis, is located at the far end of Spilia Bay about one kilometre from the harbour and directly below the hilltop village of Spartochori.
One of the best, and one of the prettiest beaches on Meganissi, Spilia has is a long deep, stretch of white pebble and shingle with a waterfront taverna at the far end.
The water is as crystal clear but the stones are steeply banked and it's a very sharp drop into the sea, so this is not a beach for unsupervised children.
Sunbeds are set out in the summer season and a line of tamarisks along the middle of the beach provide a little natural shade.
It is a steep walk up the hill so it's not for those with walking difficulties and it rarely gets crowded.
Beyond the port at Spilia, a track follows the coast to a small north-facing beach on the headland of the inlet at Herniades. A straight, narrow stretch of shingle lines the shore for about 50 metres.
Narrow goat tracks drop down to the beach from the dirt track behind and pine trees come right down to the sea here, so there is plenty of natural shade if little else.
It is a very picturesque spot, even by Meganissi standards, but there are no facilities here and it is rather isolated so most visitors to Herniades arrive by boat. and bring plenty of provisions
The only other beach in this part of Meganissi is Agios Ioannis, a long pebble beach on the western coast and some distance from the resort village of Spartochori. It takes its name from the tiny chapel located near the beach.
Agios Ioannis can be reached along a dirt track from Spartochori or by boat. There is a small jetty to tie the boat up but little else, with no cantina or sunbeds so visitors take their own supplies.
Views across to Lefkas help make this a very attractive spot and there is plenty of greenery around to provide natural shade,. Trees sweep right down to the waters in places.
The pebble beach is narrow but long, so there is little chance of feeling crowded. Around the headland is a small, shallow lagoon.
Katomeri is an attractive hill village about one kilometre south of the main Meganissi port at Vathi. Inland doesn't really describe Katomeri as it's almost no distance to several east coast beaches.
This traditional, flower-decked, Greek island village has a popular taverna (George's), a bakery, a shop (Cava Katopodis – also known as the bottle shop') and even a tiny petrol station.
The village is the island's nominal capital but its permanent residents barely number 500. Visitors swell the population in the summer, but not by much as Katomeri, away from the coast, is not as popular than the port resorts.
Nevertheless, the stone-built houses of Katomeri, with their red-tiled roofs, are particularly attractive and the setting, in small fields and olive groves, is delightful.
Being a little more isolated, Katomeri has escapes the tourist trappings of the other resorts (not that they amount to much) and the place has a relaxing, other-world air.
The locals are famously friendly and treat each visitor like long-lost family. Tracks snake down from Katomeri to beaches at Limonari and Elia, only a few minutes walk from the village.
The nearest decent beaches to Katomeri are the twin beaches of Megalo Limonari and Mikro Limonari. The names mean 'large' and 'small' although size is only relative here. Mikro Limonari is about half the length of Megalo and separated from it by a small rock outcrop.
Both beaches can be reached by dirt track heading south from Katomeri. South-east facing, the narrow strips get plenty of sunshine and the sea here is a notable blue/green thanks to the reflective white stones along the shore.
Pines drop right down to the shore here so there is good shade but there are no facilities such as a cantina or sunbeds. Limonari is notable for the patches of sand among the pebbles.
Down a very steep road from Katomeri is the beach at Elia, no more than a narrow strip of stone and shingle at the edge of a deep inlet on the island's east coast.
Apartments have sprung up here and the small bay swarms with visiting yachts in the summer, so it is not as secluded as it may look on the map.
A low stone wall runs along the back of the beach, marking the garden of an apartment block. and there is no natural shade here. The nearest facilities are at Katomeri, only a short distance, but up a very steep hill.
Atherinos is the port for Katomeri and lies to the north-east of the village at the end of a long sheltered inlet. It is nothing like the ports at Vathi and Spartochori as there are no tavernas or other tourist facilities here.
But it is a pleasant enough place to visit with colourful fishing boats tied up to the long concrete promenade and fishing nets spread out to dry along the quayside.
A small road snakes right around the bay so there are plenty of picturesque views to be had. The nearest beach is up the west side of the bay to Fanari.
Barbarezou is a long cove on the eastern coast of Meganisi, about five kilometres north-east of Katomeri. It is also known as Cape Akoni and it is one of the least frequented beaches in Meganisi, perfect therefore to enjoy privacy. Although there is a track leading to it, most visitors go by boat, looking for private coves to anchor in.
Barbarezou beach is edged with pine trees and has crystal water. The shoreline has steeply banked stone and pebble with some small cliffs at one end.