The Ionian island of Kefalonia rose to world stardom following the publication of the best selling novel “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” authored by the British writer Louis de Bernieres, and it’s subsequent film adaptation starring Nicholas Cage, John Hurt and Penelope Cruz.
Whilst the book and film shone the spotlight on Kefalonia, the island’s natural beauty is the real star of the story. My own memory of seeing Kefalonia for the first time was as the flight from Newcastle curved to place the emerald green forests of Kefalonia Abies (a fir tree native to the region) at the centre of the dazzling blue Azure Ionian Sea.
So what are the best places to visit and things to do in Kefalonia? Here is my list:
1. Myrtos Beach
One of the most photographed beaches in the world and not just Greece, Myrtos Beach beckons you in for a dip. Its a pebbly beach, but nice smooth stones and as you enter the blue water you can see right down to the bottom due to it’s unpolluted clarity.
As you head north on the main road towards the tip of Kefalonia, one detour you must make is to the beautiful village of Kefalonia. Considered to be Kefalonia’s most beautiful village (and there is considerable competition) Assos lies at the foot of one of Kefalonia’s ruined castles affording magnificent views. The harbour is lined with taverna’s and restaurants and is a most sublime spot for lunch or dinner.
3. Melissani Cave
Situated close to the town of Sami, Melissani Cave is a beautiful place to visit and is not just an ordinary cave. The cave is reached by boat and it’s highlight is an area where the roof fell in so light illuminates the water. Greek mythology refers to it as the cave of the nymphs and the guide will tell you the story as he rows you peacefully through the cave.
Lying to the north of Kefalonia, Fiskardo is often considered to be the most beautiful island in the Ionian Sea. Because of it’s location it was spared the destruction heaped upon the rest of Kefalonia during the 1953 earthquake and retains the fell of a traditional Ionian village, resulting in the Greek government declaring Fiskardo an area of great natural beauty, now protected by law.
5. Drogarati Cave
5km to the south of Sami, Drogarati Caves attracts numerous visitors every year. First discovered 300 years ago after an earthquake revealed its entrance, the caves were opened to the public in 1963. Although the stalactites have been damaged over the years by earthquakes, they continue to evolve and change as water drops and solidifies to increase the shape and size of the stalactites.
6. Agios Gerasimos Monastery
Saint Gerasimos is the patron Saint of Kefalonia. He came from a wealthy family and first arrived in Kefalonia in 1555 where he first lived in a cave near Lassi. He founded the monastery in the Omala Valley in Kefalonia in 1560. It has been reconstructed and can be visited close to villages of Fragata and Valsamata.
7. Mount Aenos
The tallest mountain on Kefalonia, Mount Aenos affords some spectacular views of this most stunningly picturesque island. Visitors can drive as far as the transmitter station from where they can walk the last part of the journey to the summit. They can sign a visitors book there and take in the magnificent vistas from 5,341ft above sea level.
8. Antisamos Beach
On an island famed for it’s beaches, Antisamos beach ranks as among the best on Kefalonia. It’s beauty comes from the combination of lush green vegetation found on mountains overlooking the turquoise blue bay. The producers of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin clearly recognised the beauty of Antisamos beach as they used it for a number of scenes in the film.
Located in a sheltered bay, Argostoli is the capital of Kefalonia. It is a working port with a great promenade to stroll along and watch local fishermen unloading their catch. As well as a theatre and museum the main square is a great place to sit and watch the world go by in one of Argostoli’s bars and tavernas.
10. Take a Day Trip to Ithaca
Ithaca is Kefalonia’s sister island and famous as the home of Odysseus, in which the plot of The Odyssey features his delayed return to Ithaca as one of it’s key elements. Its a short trip by ferry from Kefalonia but it is a big step back in time to a simpler lifestyle untouched by the modern world. With friendly people, lush valleys and clear blue seas, Ithaca is a great place to escape to for a few hours.