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KEFALONIA - exploring the island

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Agia Efimia

A lovely little fishing village north of Sami, part of its charm is that it isn’t as obviously as attractive, or as affluent, as Fiskardo. Although it livens up in high season, tourism tends to be very low-key with few main-stream package tour operators and hence it retains its authentic village atmosphere, aided by an attractive harbour area that's
very popular with visiting yachts. Despite the lack of a ‘good’ beach it’s ideal for anyone wanting a relaxing holiday in a genuine Greek coastal village.
agia efimia

agios kyriakis
Agios Kyriakis

Beneath the isolated village of Zola lays the long Agios Kyriakis beach. Not one of the island’s greatest but, at the western end, is a tiny fishing harbour and an old, very traditional, psarotaverna (fish taverna), fish served is caught by the owner's boat. The tracks down to Agia Kyriaki have only recently been surfaced and I suspect that, in times not too far past, it was very much a case of subsistence fishing for the few locals of the area.



Left, the old psarotaverna; centre, the tiny fishing harbour

Argostoli

Argostoli, the administrative centre and capital of Kefalonia, is a vibrant, modern town. Rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1953 it continues to expand as Kefalonia rides the tourist boom. Visit Argostoli on a weekday morning and you’ll find it bustling with life as everyone goes about their normal daily business. This is a good time to stroll along the quayside to see the day's catch and the turtles, visit the Folklore & Archaeological museums and to experience a bit of real Greek life out of the tourist resorts. By two o’clock it’s a different story as the shop-keepers and clerks go off to take siesta and the last buses trundle out of the bus station.
argostoli

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings Argostoli re-opens and this is a great time to hit the shops. All the serious business has been conducted – or left for another day – and Argostoli is more relaxed as, later in the evening, people meet up in the tavernas around the square or in the street cafes along Lithostroto to enjoy a meal or chat over coffee.

assos
Ássos

A small hamlet situated on a narrow isthmus that links Kefalonia to a castle-crowned ‘island’. The fortress is a long walk up the hill but worth a visit – the sheer scale and tranquillity are impressive. Far less famous than Fiskardo, and all the better for it, several old buildings still stand and Ássos retains a tranquil charm of its own. Little happens in Ássos, it’s a great place to sit and watch the world not go by.



Ássos, photo by 'DreamOfGreece'

Atheras

Tucked away in a bay at the north of the Palliki peninsular, Atheras is miles away, in every respect, from the mainstream south coast resorts.


Batsa

Tucked away on the south-west of Palliki, on the small, sandy cove of Batsa beach, is a wooden shack with an earth floor – the taverna. Next to it is a small inlet with fishing boats.
batsa

drogarati
Drogaráti

A huge natural cavern, complete with stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is so large and the acoustics so good that it is used for concert performances, most notably by Maria Callas.  


Unlike some caves, the steps are pretty solid and decently wide, but there are quite a few of them - especially coming back up.

Well worth a visit but if you don't fancy a bit of mountain climbing on the way out, sit and relax with a coffee and croissant in the shade until the athletic type return.

Fiskárdo

Named after Robert Guiscard, the French robber-baron who prised Kefalonia from the Byzantine empire, this delightful little fishing village escaped the devastating earthquake of ’53 and the eighteenth century Venetian architecture shows how much of Kefaloniá once looked. Around the bay, away from the harbour, is a maritime conservation museum housed in one of the old mansions. Opposite is a Roman era cemetery and a large, very well preserved, Roman necropolis has recently been discovered near Fiskardo. By day, Fiskardo is very popular with visitors, by evening time it’s a lot more relaxed.
fiskardo

karavomilos Karavados

A small village with a lovely sandy beach and a small amount of holiday accommodation, tourism is very low key in Karavados, making for a very relaxing holiday away from the crowds. Car pretty much essential.

Karavómilos

A natural pond formed where the seawater finally re-emerges, much less saline, after travelling under the island from Argostoli, having passed through Melissani on the way. A lovely, tranquil spot on the coast close to Melissani, complete with ducks – but not on the menu at the taverna where once was the mill.       

Kastro / Ágios Yiórgios

Kastro / Agios Yiórgios (The Castle of St George) provided a safe haven against pirate attacks and was the Venetian capital of Kefalonia until 1757. Re-opened in 2002 after several years of substantial renovation, it’s well worth a visit. Although the remains are largely Venetian it almost certainly dates back to the Byzantine era, and possibly before that.

Beware the entrance to the secret passage – it looks a long, slippery slope down!

Outside the castle are two tavernas offering great views across the south coast of Kefalonia to Zakynthos.
kastro

katelios Katelios

Katelios retains the essence of a small, traditional Greek fishing village despite its quietly growing popularity.

Huddled along the waterfront beside the harbour there’s a good selection of tavernas serving some of the best tasting fish dishes you’ll come across.

The small main beach is mostly sand, very nearby the Agia Barbara beach is a mix of sand and pebbles while, across a rocky outcrop, the soft sands of nearby Mounda Bay stretch all the way round to Skala beach.

Katelios beach, photo by Tony & Kath

Katovóthres and Fanari

Just outside Argostoli is one of Kefalonia's natural phenomena, the swallow holes at Katovothres, where seawater disappears unendingly into the island, only to reappear, much less saline, some two weeks later the other of the island at Karavómilos, near Sami.

Prior to the 1953 earthquake the seawater powered two mills here but the quake raised the southern end of the island and the flow after the quake was insufficient to power the mills. One, Thalassomilo, is now a taverna / bar, the other has been rebuilt as a modern bar  / nightspot.
katovothres

koroni
Koroni beach, photo by Janey
Koroni

A beautiful beach with fine golden sands backed by sand dunes, Koroni is another of Kefalonia’s hidden delights... finding the track to it isn’t over easy.


Kounopetra

Prior to the earthquake of 1953 this huge slab of rock, on the south coast of the Palliki peninsular, regularly moved, as if washed by the tide. A British warship once tried to pull it out like a tooth, but failed. The big earthquake seems to have trapped the rock firmly in the seabed and it no longer moves.


Kourkoumelata

Curious Kourkoumelata hardly fits the bill as a typical Greek village with its amazing ‘iced cake’ buildings and their beautiful gardens, irrigated by the free-flowing waters which keep Kourkoumelata green and fragrant almost all year. Rumour has it that, after being destroyed in the ’53 earthquake, the re-built village was designed to resemble a typical Swiss village.

Whether that is true or not… what is true is that the rebuilding costs were met by the wealthy Vergotis family, who had made their fortune in the shipping industry after moving to America.
kourkoumelata

The only stipulation was that the village must be kept neat and clean, and it certainly is, earning it a reputation as the best-kept village on the island. On the edge of the village is the village hall, the style resembling a classical temple, while the cemetery has pleasant gardens and cool marble mausoleums, making it a very pleasant place to visit in the summer heat.

Krani

The remains of the Cyclopean walls of ancient Krani, dating to the 7th century BC, are sure to bemuse: if the Cyclops, those one-
eyed giants, didn’t exist who in the heck moved those giant stone slabs into place and how did they do it???

lassi
Lassi

Lassi was Argostoli’s beach long before it became a popular, purpose-built resort in its own right. The Piccolo Yiro, the circular route around the headland and back over the hill, was a regular Sunday trip out for Argostoli's citizens during the Venetian period, when Lassi was little more than beautiful beaches backed by olive groves
.

After the airport opened, just ten minutes away by coach or car, Lassi became the island’s busiest resort. The main strip, lined by tavernas, bars and tourist shops, stretches for over a mile, just a little behind the sun-kissed golden beaches that shelve gently into the crystal-clear waters.


These beaches, particularly Platýs Yialós (Wide Beach) and Makrýs Yialós (Long Beach) are very popular and you’ll find beach umbrellas for shade and sun beds for working on that tan. When you’re ready for a bit of exercise you’ll find a variety of water sports available. Alternatively, a long stroll around the headland will take you past the Fanari lighthouse and Katovothres in to Argostoli. Or you can just hop on the regular bus.

Such is the popularity of Lassi that some of the accommodation is up the steep hill behind Lassi beach – a great way to walk off an evening meal and the views are superb! Taxis are easily available for the less energetic.

Lepeda

A fine red/golden sand beach with rock pools just south of Lixouri - easily walkable - with views across to the Argostoli peninsular and Lassi. Tiny but interesting old 'monastery' tucked away right at the end of the beach.


View from the Lepeda monastery garden
lepeda

lixouri
Lixoúri

Thirty minutes by ferry across the bay from Argostóli is Lixoúri, the only settlement of any size on the remote western peninsular of Palliki, which could almost be a separate island as it is somewhat different to ‘mainland’ Kefalonia. One theory suggests that Palliki was indeed once an island, separated by a short, narrow channel since filled by earthquake debris over thousands of years. Based on Homer’s writings and subsequent research, Livadas and Bittlestone after him, contend that Palliki is the original Ithaka, kingdom of Odysseus.

Lixouri theatre

Lixouri is a charming small town with a very relaxed atmosphere. Tavernas and shops line the main square, right behind the ferry port where the boats from Argostoli and Kyllini call in. Nearby, at Lepeda, is an excellent sandy beach while, a little further, the red sands of Xi beach stretch endlessly along the south coast. Between Lixoúri and Xi is Mantzavinata, centre of red wine production on Palliki.

Although Lixouri suffered the brunt of three big earthquakes early in 2014 it remains a vibrant community.

lourdas
Lourdas

Lourdas village lies about halfway down the l-o-n-g, winding hill from Vlakhata (on the Argostoli – Poros road) to the beach, a long stretch of white sand and pebbles, backed by allotments and a few beach bars. Although the allotments are slowly being encroached on by new tourist accommodation it's still very relaxed.

Lourdas bay

Lourdas accommodation tends to be dotted between the olive groves from Vlakhata down to the beach while tavernas, bars, shops, etc, are mostly between Lourdas village and Vlakhata. Great for a pretty peaceful holiday but car hire definitely recommended.

Markópoulo

This quiet village above Katelios bursts into life on the 14th and 15th of August when the Assumption of the Virgin festival is celebrated, for other unique natural phenomena occurs at this time: the appearance, in and around the church, of small, harmless snakes with the sign of the cross on their head.
 
Legend has it there was a convent here at the time when passing pirates pillaged whatever took their fancy. The nuns prayed to God to be spared and He obliged by turning them into snakes. Every year the snakes return to the church.
markopoulo

melissani
Melissani Lake

An amazing subterranean lake fed with sea water from Argostoli via underground passages. Some 160 metres long and 40 metres wide, the lake reaches depths of 39 metres yet the water is totally clear.

Once an enclosed cavern, numerous earthquakes caused the roof to, well, cave in, leaving a hole through which the sun shines in, providing natural illumination. Originally accessed via rope and winch, some years ago a tunnel was cut providing easy entrance.

In ancient times the cave was used as a place of worship and clay figurines of Pan and the Nymphs have been excavated here. Local boatmen will row you around this enchanting grotto and give you a brief history of the cavern. Simply stunning, don't leave Kefalonia without seeing Melissani.

Tip: the best time to see Melissani is around 12:00 midday, when the sun is directly overhead. However, this is when most of the tour buses aim to be there so, to avoid being at the back of a long queue, aim to get there around 11:30 – 11:45.  

Divers may be able to participate in an organised dive in Melissani, for more info contact the local dive schools.
Click on link to watch a video clip of a Melissani dive.

Monastery of Agios Gerasimos

Up in the mountains is the flat, fertile Omala Valley. Here Gerasimos divined many wells - still in use - and  discovered the cave where he finally resided. After his death and subsequent canonisation a small church was built over the cave.  Visually pleasing from the outside, the interior wall paintings are even more impressive. In the silver casket are the mummified remains of Gerasimos, patron saint of Kefalonia and ‘eccentrics’ (of which Kef has a fair few!)

Climb down the narrow steps into his small cave: if you emerge with unmarked clothing you've led a pure life.

My shirt must've picked up some dirt before I went in.
agios gerasimos

kipoureion
Monastery of Agios Andreas

Repository of one of Saint Andrew’s feet and also to numerous artefacts rescued from other churches around the island after the ‘quake of 1953. Lovely old church, well worth a visit.

Monastery of Kipoureion

On the remote west coast of the Palliki peninsular, the old monastery of Kipoureion sits on the edge of a vertical cliff face and is famous locally for beautiful sunsets.


Looking down from Kipoureion monastery

Mount Ainos

At 1628 metres, the highest mountain on Kefalonia and all of the Ionian Islands. When the Venetians arrived it was so thickly forested they called it Monte Nero, the Black Mountain, but the native fir tree (Abies cephalonica) was ideal for boat building; many were logged and the forest now covers a much smaller area.

Now a national park, a variety of bird life can be seen around Ainos and a small herd of wild ponies roam the mountainous slopes above Arginia, near the monastery of Zoodochos Pigi. Ainos itself is a life-giving source as it absorbs rainfall and then releases it, via natural springs, providing a supply of fresh water to the island all year.
ponies

myrtos
Myrtos Beach

From the cliffs above, Myrtos must be one of the most stunning beach views anywhere in the world and one of the most photographed. Turquoise blue waters lap lazily on to the gorgeous white beach of soft sand… er… re-write… the beach is mostly pebbles and the ‘sand’ is more like grit. The beach shelves sharply into the sea and getting back on to the beach is like climbing a wall of marbles. Then there’s the treacherous undercurrents…

A narrow, winding road leads down to the beach, which is very popular in summer - but definitely best viewed from above.


Pessada

A village best known as being the port for the ferry which runs morning and evening between Kefalonia and Agios Nikolaos on Zakynthos. Very little at the port in the way of facilities.


Petani


On the remote west coast of the Palliki peninsular, Petani bay resembles Myrtos. Although the view isn’t so visually dramatic from the cliffs above, the beach is better, it’s safer to swim and there's a couple of tavernas on the beach which offer good, traditional food at reasonable prices.

Petani, photo by DaveO
petani

poros
Poros

Poros is a traditional Greek coastal village based around three picturesque bays, all watched over by Mount Ainos. By day Poros can be quiet, as people relax on the sweeping sand and shingle beach of the northern bay or explore the local area – nearby is the 1,200 year old Atros monastery and, a little further, the impressive remains of a Mycenaean tomb dating back to 1350 BC. The working port occupies the southern bay while the square sits behind the town beach, in the middle bay. By night this area comes alive as visitors mingle with the locals in an informal appreciation of local delicacies – fresh fish and Robola. There's no UK package tours to Poros so it’s ideal for independent travellers who want a flavour of ‘real Greece’.


Sami

With the aid of amazingly realistic sets, Sami was transformed in to old Argostoli for the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, centred around the Hotel Kastro on the main square. After filming the sets had to be removed so that Sami could return to its role as ferry port for connections to Patras, Athens, Italy and Ithaka.

Sitting at the southern end of the Ithaka straits, Sami was capital of the island when it was part of Odysseus’ kingdom and nearby are the natural wonders of Drogaráti, Melissáni and Karavómilos, also the beautiful white pebble beach of AntiSamos.
Sami seafront, early morning
sami

skala
Skala

In winter Skala is just another quiet Kefalonia community but in the summer it bursts into life as the liveliest resort on the island, the four kilometre stretch of sand and shingle beach more than ample for the new hotel complexes.

Still a village, Skala 
offers the usual tourist facilities plus a chemist, doctors and ATMs.

By night, Skala’s tavernas and bars bustle with life while by day people laze around the pools, sunbathe on the beach, enjoy the variety of water sports or explore Kefalonia.


Svoronata

About ten minutes from the airport by car or coach, holiday accommodation is spread out in the olive groves between the village of Svoronata and the nearby sandy beaches, thus Svoronata offers a very relaxing holiday in a laid-back environment with just enough tavernas and local shops to keep everyone supplied with essentials while Lassi and Argostoli are within easy reach by car.

Svoronata sunset, by DaveO
svoronata
Trapezaki

Virtually a continuation of Lourdas beach, Trapezaki is a small village offering mainly villa holidays within reach of its pleasant beach. Car recommended.

Vrisi
‘The Spring’

A traditional garden taverna
on the village square in
Tzanata, near Poros, Kefalonia
-
Fresh food from the charcoal grill &
daily specials from the oven
Local wines and tsipouro
-
26740 72035

Tasos & Kiki Miliaresis
Tzanata

Through the gorge and two - three kilometres out of Poros, on the Poros - Argostoli road, can be found the substantial remains of a Mycenaean tholos (beehive) tomb, similar to (but smaller than) the tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae. Discovered in 1991, it has been claimed to be the final resting place of mighty Odysseus and, certainly, human skeletal remains were uncovered in the grave. However, scientific analysis suggests a king slightly pre-dating this legendary figure. Little of great monetary value was found as tomb raiders had previously looted the site, what was found is on display in Argostoli museum.  Open 09:00 - 18:00 , Tuesday - Sunday. Well worth a look when you're in the area.

Xi

Pronounced Ksee, it's a l-o-n-g stretch of fine red sand and clear waters on the south coast of the Palliki peninsular. The small cliff behind the beach may look like rock but it’s an amalgam of clay and mud which, when mixed with the clean sea water and applied to the skin, has a surprisingly rejuvenating effect.





Volleyball in the sea at Xi, on the Glass Bottom Boat Beach BBQ
xi



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