Ainos is the highest mountain on Kefalonia and in all the Ionian islands, at an elevation of 1628m at its summit (around one mile above sea level). In comparative terms, it's higher than Ben Nevis in the UK (1344m) and just slightly higher than the city of Denver, Colorado, USA (1609m).
views from the summit are worth the trek up. On a clear day the whole
of Kefalonia, most of Ithaka and parts of Zakynthos, Meganissi and
Levkas are visible, also Kyllini and the mainland coast.
A few metres below the summit, known as Megalos Soros, are the remains of a once-famous temple to Zeus Ainissos, or Ainios, mentioned in the works of Hesiod. On a plateau some 600m below the summit is the Andreas Michalitsianos Telescope. The premises, originally built for the Hellenic Air Force, are now used for the Eudoxos project. Born 1947 in Alexandria, Egypt, Andreas Gerasimos Michalitsianos was the son of a ship's captain from Kefalonia who died at sea in 1952. By this time the family had moved to New York City, USA. Having developed an interest in astronomy at an early age he pursued his interest through academic study and worked on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Awarded the NASA Meritorious Achievement Award and promotion to the Senior Executive Service of the United States, Michalitsianos was Chief of the Laboratory for Astronomy and Solar Physics at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre at the time of his death in 1997. Between the radar dishes and the summit is the recently renovated old isolation hospital.
|During the Venetian period Ainos was known as Monte Nero (black mountain) due to thick forestation of the dark Kefalonian Fir tree (Abies cephalonica). During the 18th century the forest covered an area of 14 x 5 kilometres but the tall, straight trees proved highly suitable for shipbuilding and many were logged. Originally native to the island, demand for their wood was such that, during British rule, Sir Charles Napier, High Commissioner of the island, had some exported to meet demand and today the trees are found on the Peloponnese and Evia and are also known as the Greek Fir. I've heard that some were also exported to Canada and Russia. Napier was also responsible for construction of the road to the summit and the preservation of the forest, although a number of fires have reduced the forest and today patches of bare white rock are visible in places. In 1962 the Greek government declared the Ainos forest a national park and thus protected it by law. Albeit classified as a "Lower Risk Near Threatened", Abies cephalonica is on the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.|
|Ainos appears to be riddled with subterranean channels which collect the heavy winter rain and release it throughout the long, hot, summer months, keeping Kefalonia greener than most Greek islands. The thin soil on Ainos suits the Robola grape variety and many small vineyards are scattered across and down the slopes. The main winery on the island, the Robola Cooperative, lies in the foothills of Ainos on the flat, fertile, plain of the Omala valley which is supplied with water from the many wells divined by Agios Gerasimos.|
The mountain also supports a variety of wildlife including numerous herds of goats. Local legend has it that the goats of Ainos have gold teeth. Undoubtedly, Jason could have saved himself a lot of time and trouble by capturing and breeding some of these, and made a fortune in the process. Sadly, it's just another Kefalonian myth, although something in their natural diet does give their teeth a golden glow (or so I've been told).
|Almost as rare as the golden-toothed goats are the wild horses of Ainos. Some claim these are descendants of the wild horses of Thessaly, one of three ancient Greek breeds now extinct (Achaean, Thessalian & Thracian). Others reckon they are descended from escaped or released livestock. Most likely they are escaped / released horses descended from Pindos ponies, which were captured, broken and traded at horse fairs in Aitoloakarnania (the Greek mainland opposite Kefalonia, north of the Gulf of Corinth) and Arta. The Pindos ponies themselves are thought to be descended from Thessalian stock. Officially the ponies are not a recognised breed but are classed as a Type B Mountain Pony. Whatever, they are cautious creatures, prone to flight if approached (so maybe they're descended from Pegasus?) If you're very quiet you might catch a glimpse of them around the Zoodochos Pigi ("life-giving source", i.e. fresh water) monastery above Arginia.|
Slightly more common are birds of prey such as Griffon vultures, common buzzards, Eleonora’s Falcons and the huge Eagle Owl. Golden Eagles may still be seen although they no longer appear to nest on the island. Other bird life on and around Ainos includes the black woodpecker and the white-backed woodpecker and many birds once common in the UK can still be seen on Kefalonia. You may also come across hares (some with 'silver' teeth), tortoises, various snakes and lizards.
Argostoli – Sami road the narrow, winding road commissioned by Napier
clings to the mountainside and is now surfaced to the summit. Down the
other side, coming out near Arginia, is a rough track suitable only for
4x4s - the track terrifies some people and may be
during the winter and early season.
Although the track over the summit isn’t recommended there’s a surfaced road across the mountain that's a very pleasant drive. From the Argostoli – Sami road take the turn to the summit and, just before the huge radar dishes, take the left fork. This road leads through some beautiful scenery in the Pyrgi area into the hill villages on the Poros – Sami road.