Holidays in the Ionian’s largest and most diverse island
Captain Corelli’s paradise lost: beautiful beaches, delightful ports, a national park and locals always game for a laugh
In the Ionian Sea, between other exotic islands, stands grand Kefalonia. Much photographed, much talked about, much loved, by Greeks and foreigners alike. Not just because of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the 2001 film that attracted so much attention, but also because of its sheer beauty, its stately towns and many other impressive attractions.
Argostoli, Lixouri, Fiskardo, Assos, Lake Melissani… here the names alone are something to conjure with! This, the largest of the Ionian islands, with its sparkling azure waters, dazzling beaches and deep emerald green mountains, has been a popular holiday spot for decades. The inhabitants of Kefalonia have a reputation for being the wittiest Greeks – always ready with a joke, a smile and a helping hand. Their laid-back attitude toward life is infectious and within hours of your arrival, you’ll feel as carefree as they do.
Things to do in Kefalonia
Argostoli, the fun-loving capital
Set alongside a deep bay, Argostoli has a funky charm that grows on you as you sit in the lively main square with the locals, the majority of whom are night owls. Rummage in the market, stroll down its handsome flagstone streets and sip the famous Robola wine in its welcoming cafes and bars.
Explore a bit and you’ll find monuments left over from the 19th century British Protectorate period. And for an in-depth introduction to island culture from the 15th to the 20th century, pay a visit to the outstanding Corgialenios Historical and Cultural Museum, one of the finest in Greece, and to the extensive Corgialenios library. The capital of Kefalonia will add a cultural flair to your holidays.
Mt. Enos: the ‘Black Mountain’
The highest mountain in the Ionian, Enos takes its name from the black pine (Abies Cephalonica) that once covered it completely and grows nowhere else. It has been a national park since 1962, known for its wealth of wildflowers. It’s also home to a special breed of pony, Equus cabalus.
You’ve probably seen these beaches before on posters and postcards or in scenes from films because they’re among the most gorgeous in the Mediterranean. Their waters cover the entire range of blues and greens, lapping against pure white sand or smooth round pebbles.
Myrtos, perhaps the most spectacular, lies at the bottom of towering limestone cliffs. But don’t miss Petani and Skala. Or Poros, where the forest is reflected in the sea, intensifying the colour. Makry Gialos, whose turquoise waters rock to the music of beach bars, gives a cosmopolitan touch. And Xi, where pale green waves meet fine red sand, offers an unforgettable change of pace. The beaches of Kefalonia are waiting to be discovered.
Assos: perfection in miniature
Many people think this tiny port is the prettiest settlement on the island. You’ll catch your first glimpse of it from above. Built on a narrow strip of land, it’s few houses hug the shore, keeping their traditional Venetian-era character amidst a host of the tall plane, poplar, palm and olive trees. The 16th-century Venetian castle presiding over the whole scene is too invites you to climb up to take a closer look.
Fiskardo, sailors’ haven
Another enchanting miniature, the picturesque port of Fiskardo is hardly a secret to sailors and celebrity yacht owners. But landlubbers love it too for its charming 18th-century buildings, which give it a feeling of timelessness that transcends the cheerful hubbub in its popular fish restaurants and boutiques.
Hidden gems of Kefalonia
Levitating in the depths of a cave
The 50 shades of turquoise in the underground Lake Melissani are mesmerising. Get into the boat for a tour and you’ll think you’re floating somewhere in space. With sunlight filtering in from above, the cavern reminds you of a cathedral. And when your boatman bursts into song, the first lilting notes of an Italianate cantata echoing around the walls, you’ll realize that this is a truly heavenly experience.
The ‘mysterious’ Sea Mills at Fanari, near Argostoli
Once upon a time, the seawater disappeared into ‘swallow holes’, rocky crevasses at such a rate that it was used to power two flour mills. No one knew where it went until scientists put a dye in the water that ended up in Lake Melissani on the other side of the island. Kefalonia is full of such strange geological phenomena.
A paradise for sea activities
Kefalonia is the perfect island to explore by boat, with endless private beaches and bays of exceptional beauty, such as Myrto and Makri Gialos. Visit coves that embrace the rare beauty of all the thing to do in Kefalonia, perfectly encapsulate the aesthetic of this Ionian idyll. For lovers of action and activities, Kefalonia offers all sorts of water sports at all the large organised beaches, as well as sea kayaking and scuba diving in impressive locations full of surprises such as little caves teeming with underwater life.
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