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Kefalonia in the Ionian islands, North west Greece

Kefalonia

Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands (688 square kilometres) and is easily the most beautiful with some breathtaking scenery and the best beaches in Greece. Kefalonia is the centre of the Ionian group and sits just opposite the coast of the Peloponnese with the small island of Ithica between. Out of all the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is the most unique, the rugged mountains and green forests are much more like the mainland in the Peloponnese than its neighbouring islands.

Melissani cave Kefalonia
Melissani Cave, Kefalonia

Kefalonia has had an increase of popularity in recent years since the book 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' and the movie of the same title was filmed on the island. Kefalonia is now one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean, not just for the beautiful beaches but for the rich history and the rare wildlife and plants, including Monk seals and the endangered Loggerhead Turtles. The island is also home to the famous caves of Drogarati with its multicoloured stalagmites and the subterranean lake of Melissani.

Towns and villages of Kefalonia

Fiscardo

Fiscardo is in the north of Kefalonia, about 50 km north of the capital Argastoli, opposite the small island of Ithica and is built around a picturesque harbour. Fiscardo is considered the prettiest town on Kefalonia with much of the older buildings, especially the Venetian, surviving the great earthquake of 1953 which destroyed most other towns and villages in Kefalonia.

Fiscardo was originally called Panormos but was renamed after the Norman Robert Guiscard who conquered Kefalonia in about 1085 AD. Nowadays the town does have a large amount of tourism but still keeps its original charm as does most of Kefalonia. There are some very nice beaches around the town (most are pebble) and the scenery in the surrounding area is breathtaking with much of it being dense forest. The most popular part of Fiscardo is the horseshoe harbour which is very picturesque with all the small fishing boats, the area is very touristy with lots of tavernas, bars and cafes along the waterfront.

As well as having a beautiful harbour and town, Fiscardo is also famous for its two lighthouses, one was built by the Venetians in the 16th century whilst the other was built by the British in 1895.

Argastoli

Argastoli is the capital, main port and largest town on Kefalonia, it is situated on a peninsular with a natural harbour, the surrounding area is green forested mountains, which is very scenic. The town is very busy with all the main shops and restaurants there as you would expect and does cater for tourism. Argastoli does lack the old Venetian charm and buildings that you find in Corfu town as all of this was destroyed by the earthquake that hit Kefalonia in 1953, although the town was rebuilt to the same plan, and is still a very pleasant place.

The most popular area with tourists is the harbour and the long seafront promenade which is lined with palm trees and is cobbled with stones from the sea, there are also many tavernas and cafes as well as a permanent vegetable market. Argastoli also has two squares which are popular with both tourists and locals, Platea Valianou and Kabanas. Platea Valianou is the main square in Argastoli and is lined with bars and restaurants as well as four hotels, it is also used by the town to hold any festivals or celebrations. Kabanas Square or bell tower square is also very pleasant and has a bell tower there where you can get fantastic views of the town.

The main shopping area of Argastoli is along the pedestrian street Lithostrotto which is full of shops and is also the liveliest part of the town, both day and night. Most of the bars and clubs are found in and around Lithostrotto street and the main square.

The main landmark of the town is the Drapano Bridge or De Bosset causeway, which is about 900 metres long and connects Argastoli to Drapano. It was built in 1813 by a Swiss man (De Bosset) for the ruling British empire. In the middle of the bridge is a large obelisk or column called 'Colona', the bridge is now pedestrianised so can be safetly and pleasantly walked across. There is also an Archaeological museum in Argastoli with artefacts from the island including Mycenean, Greek and Roman items. The nearest beach resort to Argastoli is Sami which is a few kilometres away.

Lixouri

Lixouri is the second largest town on Kefalonia and sits on the opposite side of the Argastoli bay to Argastoli, separated by about 33 km. There are regular ferries from the capital to Lixouri which takes approximately 25 minutes. Lixouri is very much like Argastoli only smaller, a picturesque harbour a main square in the town, and like the rest of Kefalonia only a few of the old Venetian buildings stand after the earthquake.

Lixouri sits on the Pali peninsular which has some of the best beaches in Kefalonia such as Petani and Vatsa bay.

Assos

Assos is about 36 km from Argastoli and is one of the most picturesque and romantic places on Kefalonia. The village has just over 100 habitants and sits around a horseshoe shaped habour on a small peninsular. The most famous landmark of the village is the 16th century Venetian Castle which is the largest on Kefalonia, its walls stretched for over 2 km following the natural contours and enclosed the whole peninsular. The castle is fairly interesting and is worth visiting although it is a steep walk up to it from the village.

Poros

Poros is the main port that links Kefalonia to the mainland of Greece, the town was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1953 and is surrounded by some of the most dramatic scenery on Kefalonia, including an 80 metre gorge. The town has many excellent beaches, and not too crowded, compared to other resorts on Kefalonia, you also don't pay the same prices as you would in the more popular resorts.

Poros is great for hikers as the countryside around the town is perfect for walking with some amazing routes whether it be along the beaches or up into the mountains which have great views of Poros. For people who are interested in history Poros does have the Mycenaean tomb of Tzanata which was discovered and dug by Heinrich Schlieman who also excavated Troy and Mycenae.

Sami

Sami is the second largest port on Kefalonia and is about 20km away from Argastoli in the north east of the island. The town is considered to be one of Kefalonia's most picturesque town with a very beautiful bay and harbour. Much of the movie Captain Correli's Mandolin was filmed in Sami which doubled for war time Argastoli! Sami is also steeped in history which dates back to pre history, there was even a Mycenaean Acropolis on Vigla hill in the town.

Caves and Lakes of Kefalonia

The cave of Melissani

Melissani is a subterranean cave about 2km from Sami and is one of the most famous and beautiful sights on Kefalonia. The cave is 40 metres wide and about 36 metres high, the clear blue lake inside the cave is 30 metres deep in places and is constantly being refilled by natural springs.

There is a small tunnel into the cave for small boats to take visitors into the cave for a small entry fee. The cave is famous for its amazing stalactites and the colour of the water that changes with the sunlight. There are plenty of myths associated with the cave, the name comes from a shepherdess who fell into the cave and drowned whilst looking for her sheep. Other myths centre around a nymph who committed suicide in the cave. Many archaeological artefacts have been found in the cave some date as far back as pre Mycenaean and are associated with the worship of a mother goddess.

Drogarati Cave

The Drogarati Cave is also near Sami and is about 150 million years old and is about 40 metres underground, it was discovered 300 years ago after an earthquake. The cave is famous for its many huge stalagmites which can be seen by visitors.

Kefalonia wildlife, Monk Seals and Loggerhead Turtles

Kefalonia has some of the most amazing and endangered wildlife in Europe including Dolphins, Monk seals and Loggerhead turtles.

Monk Seals

The monk seal is the only Seal left in the Mediterranean sea and is one of the most endangered mammal species on earth with only about 500 still exisited which are only found in the Mediterranean and over half in Greece, many in Kefalonia. According to ancient text such as the Odyssey there were thousands of monk seals found on beaches through out the Greek world.

Loggerhead Turtles

Loggerhead turtles are the only turtles to nest in Greece and are most famous for doing this on the nearby island of Zakinthos, but they also nest on Kefalonia all along the southern beaches their main one being Mounda beach. They can also be seen in Argastoli near the bridge.

Dolphins

Dolphins are found throughout Greece and are commonly seen i the waters off Kefalonia especially near the waters off Sami.

Kefalonia Beaches

It is difficult to write about all the beaches on Kefalonia as there are so many great beaches, infact some of the beaches have been voted as the best in the world. So here are just a few of the most famous beaches on Kefalonia, hopefully more will be added later.

Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia

Easily the most famous beach on Kefalonia and probably in Greece is Myrtos which is a semi-circular beach of white coral sand and an amazing blue sea surrounded by steep rocky slopes. The beach features in many travel magazines as one of the best beaches in the world and is the most photographed beach in Greece. Myrtos beach is about 20km from Argastoli.

Antisamos Beach, Kefalonia

Antisamos Beach is 2km from Sami and after Myrtos beach is Kefalonia's second most famous beach. This long beach of white pebbles has an amazing backdrop of green forested hills and clear turquoise waters. The beach was used for some of the beach scenes in Captain Correli's Mandolin.

Petani Beach

Petani Beach is about 20 km from Argastoli on the west of Kefalonia. The beach has clear blue water and is surrounded by cliffs giving it quite a striking picture.

Kefalonia- Information

Kefalonia is now one of the most popular islands in Greece and the world. Despite the earthquake in the 1950's that destroyed much of Kefalonia's Venetian archetecture it is still on the most scenic places in Greece. The island of Kefalonia is also famous for its endangered wildlife such as the Loggerhead Turtle and the Monk Seals.

It is often believed that Kefalonia is actually the ancient kingdom of Oddeseus and not nearby Ithica.

Location - Corfu is in the West of Greece in the Ionian islands, opposite the Peloponesses.

Travelling to Kefalonia: Kefalonia can be reached by plane from many international airports, the islands airport is at Minies, about 9 kilometres from Argostoli. Kefalonia also is linked to the mainland and other islands by regular ferries, there is even a regular bus service from Athens.

Tips:Kefalonia is the perfect Greek island with amazing scenery a typical Greek feel and yet hasn't given completely over to tourism like so many other places. Kefalonia is very popular with both package tours and the jetset, so be prepared to pay a little more than you would on other islands