Kefalonia

Our family visited Kefalonia in the Summer of 2004 and for one week we enjoyed the warm hospitality of its people, the lush textures of the island's interior, and the cool touch of its coastal waters. For every place I have visited usually a single image epitomizes the entire uniqueness of a visit. Except, in the case of Kefalonia the single defining moment happens to be not a visual image, but a blend of smells from the island's thyme (Thymus vulgaris ) and "mountain tea" (genus sideritis) that swirled abundantly in the gentle sea breeze touching the senses with an almost physical presence.

Kefalonia is an island not easily forgotten. It is blessed with a unique history, lush tall mountains, a spectacular coastline, and a refined style that permeates everything from the architectural forms to the way of living. Besides a few areas in the southern coast of the island, the rest of the land has remained moderately developed, and a pleasure for the visitor who wishes to relax away from the annoyances of package tourism and overcrowding. Kefalonia in the summer is by no means a deserted island, but during our visit we never felt "crowded". It did not hurt that we chose to stay at the small town of Agia Efimia, somewhere on the east coast of the island. We chose Agia Efimia mainly because of its central location that allowed us to drive just about anywhere in the island and to be of equal distance from some of the best beaches available: Myrtos and Antisamos. This was the plan that emerged from our research before our visit, and it worked to perfection.

During our holiday in Kefalonia we visited some of the best beaches of the island, and experienced both the mainland and its coast through a variety of activities. The beaches at Myrtos, Petani, and Antisamos were few of the swim spots we visited, and as it has become our habit, we did not let a day go by without dipping into the crisp Ionian waters off the island. Myrtos beach was everything it was advertised to be: one of the best beaches of Greece. Nestled among dramatic cliffs and lined with small white pebbles, Myrtos offers some of the best dark-blue waters available anywhere. It was by far the best beach we visited on the island.

Other highlights from our trip included horseback riding through a rocky path on the slopes of Mt. Roudi, a visit to Melissani cave/lake, and a small cruise around the east coast of the island with a rental boat from Agia Efimia. In contrast to our experience with horseback riding, our visit to the Melissani lake did not reach our expectations. While Melissani cave is a very interesting geological feature, we felt that the price tag of 4.00 euro per person for a ten minute boat ride around the lake was a bit much. The boat operators are extremely nice. The tour is conducted in Greek, so if you don't speak the language you will not understand much. On our next visit we will try the nearby Drongarati cave which sounds more promising.

During our last day in Agia Efimia, we rented a small motor boat, and we were able to sail up the east coast of the island and to swim at some completely isolated small beaches and caves. As a family trip this was also a great experience and at our children's demand we did more sailing around the coast than swimming. The choppy seas forced us to return to port early, but at € 75 for the day it is definitely an experience we will undergo again on a future trip. One regret from our trip is that we ran out of time and I was not able to participate on a scuba diving expedition.

As a conclusion, we found the island of Kefalonia to be one of the best destinations of Greece. Even on a short visit we were able to acquire experiences that will live with us forever. Besides some small areas south of Argostoli, around Makrys Gialos, Minies, Skala, and Poros, that seem a bit overdeveloped, the island offers a genuine atmosphere where the visitor never feels like a stranger, and the slow pace of living becomes infectious.

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