Kefalonia island is an enchanting island. 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.
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- Things to Do and See
Kefalonia is not only the largest of the Ionian islands, it offers a variety of activities and features not found anywhere else in such frequency or quality.
The defining memory from your vacation in Kefalonia might not be an image, but the blend of aroma from the island’s thyme (Thymus vulgaris ) and “mountain tea” (genus sideritis) that swirls abundantly in the gentle sea breeze.
The island’s natural features and its unique cultural character make it an excellent destination, especially for families and people who enjoy the more refined side of life.
Besides a few areas in the southern coast of the island (around Makrys Gialso, Minies, Skala, and Poros), the rest of the land has developed with moderation. So, you can relax away from package tourism and overcrowding.
Kefalonia in the summer is by no means a deserted island, but it’s large enough that you will be able to find a cozy place that doesn’t feel crowded.
The beaches at Myrtos, Petani, and Antisamos are few of the best swim spots in Greece.
You will find Myrtos beach to be everything it is 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.
Driving around the coast, especially the east end, you can find a multitude of small beaches scattered around among rocks and trees, right under the main coastal road.
Overall, Kafalonia island is best for those who seek fine beaches and food, and those who enjoy quiet hikes in nature or in small towns.
Things to Do and See
Visit the Monastery of Agios Gerasimos
Kefalonia is sprinkled with countless churches and monasteries. Many of them feature unique frescoes and legends.
More notable among them are the Monastery of Ag. Gerasimos (about 15 km from Argostoli, near Valsamata) which is the destination of a pilgrimage that many Orthodox Greeks undertake on August 16 and October 20th.
Another special place of worship for Greek Orthodox Christians is the temple of Our Lady at Markopoulo where swarms of harmless little snakes appear from August 6 through the 15th.
The island is best known for its beautiful, and sometimes mysterious, natural features that have been the source of legends for centuries. Near Argostoli one can visit the Katavothres, a natural sinkhole where the sea water disappears before it re-appears on the other side of the island at Melissani cave and at Karavomilos some 17 Km away.
Kefalonia has numerous caves with the Melissani and Drongarati, and Agalaki caves being the most visited. Melissani cave ceased being a cave in ancient times when its roof collapsed leaving what looks like a lake at the bottom of a sink hole.
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.
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.
Go for a Hike or Horseback Riding on Mt. Enos
Kefalonia is host to the tallest island mountain in Greece, Mt. Enos. It rises to 1627 meters and is crowned by a forest of black Kefalonia fir trees (Abies cephallonica) that covers about 28500 acres of protected national park.
Mt. Enos is a popular hiking ground for visitors who are rewarded for the trip by unparallel views that stretch as far as the island of Zakynthos on a clear day.
Help Protect the Natural Turtle Nesting Habitat
To the south of Mt. Enos, the coast is speckled with fine sand beaches which provide a favorite nesting ground for the endangeredLoggerhead turtle (caretta caretta) and the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas).
The nesting season coincides with the human holiday cycle (May to August), and while the most important nesting grounds are in the nearby island of Zakynthos, the Loggerhead turtles do lay their eggs in the Kaminia and Skala beaches.
Go Swimming at Kefalonia’s Beaches
For the sun lovers, Kefalonia can boast that it offers some of the best beaches in Greece. Myrtos beach has been voted by visitors (at thalassa.gr )as the number one beach in Greece consistently for the past few years, and judging from my visit it is one of the best beaches I have visited. Other beaches that are worth a visit include Petani, Atheras, and Xi in the Lixouri peninsula west of Argostoli, as well as Kaminia, Lourda, and Makrys Gialos to the south of the capital. On the east coast Skala and Antisamos beaches are well worth a visit.
Rent a Boat and Explore the Coast
Renting a boat can offer a unique perspective of the landscape as one can approach the coast from a view not usually experienced from the road. One can find many rental places in almost every coastal Greek town that tourists frequent. We rented a boat in Agia Efimia and we had a great day visiting tiny isolated beaches and caves all along the coast. At € 70.00 per day we thought it was a good value. The boat we rented was well maintained and stocked, and we even got a half-hour long instruction before we ventured out of the port.
Go SCUBA Diving
Scuba diving is also offered in many coastal towns around Kefalonia. Aquatic World offers scuba diving tours and lessons off the coast between Agia Efimia and Fiskardo.
Archaeological Sites and Museums
Visit the Argostoli Archaeological Museum
The Argostoli Archaeological Museum in the center of town is also of interest. It exhibits a multitude of artifacts ranging in date from neolithic times until the Hellenistic era. Well written text accompanies the exhibited artifacts which are mostly small and displayed behind glass in well lit vitrines. The museum can be negotiated in about half an hour of leisurely walk. Other museums include the Korgialenio Historic and Folklore museum that exhibits costumes and utilitarian and military objects that illustrate the islands long cultural history, and the Natural History museum in Daugata that offers an exhibit illustrating the flora and fauna of the island alongside numerous fossils.
Getting to Kefalonia
Daily flights from Athens and charter flights from Europe arrive at the airport just t the south of Argostoli.
Ferry service from Patra, Kylini, and Ithaca offers daily connection to Argostoli, Sami, and Poros. Daily ferry service in the summer connects Fiskardo to Vasiliki in Lefkada.
If you want to go by bus, there is daily service by KTEL from Athens via Patra or Kyllini to Poros and Argostoli.
Where to Stay
Argostoli is a lively port and a good place to stay. It was rebuilt after the 1953 earthquake with modern two and three story homes on the west end of Argostoli gulf.
It offers a variety of services and hotels mostly around the central square (Plateia Vallianou).
Some hotels also line the picturesque waterfront, but the bulk of accommodations are built (or overbuilt) on the coast a little to the south of Argostoli.
This area around Lasi and Makris Gialos offers a variety of hotels and apartments that are usually booked solid with packaged deals.
A little to the east of Argostoli the area around Lourdata offers a more quiet surrounding.
Farther east on the coast the land is more sparsely populated until you reach the east coast. The resorts of Skala and Poros accommodate large groups of tourists as they struggle to retaining some of their original character.
For a relaxing holiday the small towns of Sami, Agia Efimia, and Fiskardo are ideal.
Sami is a typical small modern coastal town close to the nice beach of Antisamos and it provides ferry connections to Ithaki, Patra, and Kilini.
Agia Efimia in the center of Kefalonia is perfectly positioned to be a hub for driving excursions around the entire island.
A half-hour drive from Agia Efimia will bring you to either Assos, Antisamos and Myrtos beaches, or to the Drongarati and Melissani caves near Karavomilos.
A little longer drive (45 minutes to one hour) from Agia Efimia will bring you anywhere on the island including Argostoli, Poros, Skala, Fiskardo, and the Lixouri peninsula.
Fiskardo is a very charming, quiet port on the north end of the island, and a popular yachting stop that offers ferry connection to Vasiliki in Lefkada (about 45 minute boat ride).
Assos, a beautiful little town on a picturesque peninsula close to Myrtos beach and Fiskardo, is also a quiet place to stay, but its hotels fill early.
What to Eat
Kefalonia offers some unique dishes that you can enjoy at a sea-side taverna with the famous local wines.
Try the kreatopita, which is a pie made with lamb and rice, or the aliada, which is a paste made with garlic and potatoes.
If you have a sweet tooth, the mandoles, a desert made with almonds and caramel, will delight your palate.
Kefalonia island produces excellent quality cheeses like feta and kefalotiri.
If you are a wine lover, don’t neglect to taste the famous Robola wines made of grapes grown on the slopes of the island’s mountains.
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