In the heart of the Ionian Sea lies the island of Kefalonia – a majestic, mysterious island with a rich cultural and historical heritage. For lovers of beach holidays, its resorts are a real godsend. Whether you prefer secluded spots where you can laze and think or lively beaches where you can have some fun, you’ll find the perfect spot.
The landscapes of Kefalonia are very diverse and each one has its own special atmosphere. You will meet romantic bays, beaches with entertainment programs and mysterious caves. Geologically, Kefalonia is divided in two parts. The eastern coast is dominated by the soft outlines of the mainland, while the western coast (called Paliki) abounds in sheer cliffs.
The island’s name “Kefalonia” refers to the mythology of ancient Greece. A hero named Cephalus is said to be the founder of the family from which King Odysseus, who ruled Ithaca, descended. Cephalus took possession of an island four kilometers from Ithaca and named it after himself. By the way, the modern local people often call themselves the descendants of Odysseus. Another legend says that the word “Kefalonia” is related to the name of the rock Kefalus, due to which the place was nicknamed “The Island with the Head”.
The history of Kefalonia goes back far into the Paleolithic era. The first humans settled there in the 15th century BC: it was a tribe of Lelegians who worshipped Poseidon. The development of the region transformed it from a pagan settlement to a highly organized civilization by the time of the Trojan War. Wealthy ship owners and bankers have long been descended from Kefalonia.
The Climate of Kefalonia – Cure by Nature
Kefalonia has long been the epicenter of tourist life, and this disposes to everything: an amazing nature and plenty of opportunities for recreational activities. Kefalonia has a Mediterranean climate, typical of Greece. Most of the rain falls in winter, and summers are usually hot and dry.
Peak temperatures come in July, which is when tourism reaches its peak. Tender waters welcome in their smooth waters, because the temperature of the sea never drops below +25 degrees during the summer. The winter season in Kefalonia is mild Mediterranean style, with almost no snow cover. The salubrious sea breeze, the pine air, the radiant sun, make the weather in Kefalonia a true land of health.
Tourist excursions in the lands of Kefalonia
From the first minutes of the stay, the traveler is captured by the riot of colorful life of the local population. It reigns here everywhere: in the bustling squares and trading markets, in the narrow streets with original houses and smart red roof tiles, in the national cafes, where the vacationer gets acquainted with the traditions and centuries-old customs of this corner. The Greek island of Kefalonia opens to tourists a string of numerous excursions. Activity is the main thing that is required from the wanderer to keep up with the changing visual array of beauties.
Excursions in Kefalonia have become an occasion for locals to proudly assert themselves by revealing the brilliance of the treasures, and for tourists, a great opportunity to be enriched by the impressions of the wonders they have seen. A tour, which includes the key sites of Kefalonia: Katavotres, Myrtos beach, the Castle of Assos peninsula, the caves of Drogarati or Melissani cave lake and the Monastery of St. Gerasimos, are a must for every traveler. You can recuperate between exploring all these beauties in the cozy cafe of the cute village of Fiskardo.
The journey begins with the very foundations of the universe, dating back 300 centuries ago, when the grandiose caves were formed – an obligatory component of modern sightseeing. The stalactite relics in the Drogarati and Melissani caves will take you on a phantasmagorical journey and transport you to a different dimension, hidden deep underground.
A visit to the monastery of St. Gerasimos, the true talisman of the island, forces you to think high and join the local spiritual culture. Having satiated with the spirit of righteousness, travelers will merge with the world of idleness, visiting the factory “Robolla” – a famous wine producer, where everyone can taste the whole bouquet of the Greek drink. Finally, travelers will have the opportunity to debunk for themselves the intriguing myth generated by the snakes of Kefalonia – a miracle, which is considered in the vicinity due to the similarity of the cross on the heads of the reptiles.
However, it is not only the land of Kefalonia island that promises the satisfaction of curiosity, the azure waters promise to satiate every vacationer with an itinerary around the islands. The Onassis Dreams Cruise is a sea voyage that encompasses an entire complex of three islands, at the end of which you will uncover the secret of Onassis’ ancestral past. The starting point of the cruise will be the port of Sami, with ships on course for the picturesque island of Meganisi. Fans of the saga about the triumphant adventures of Odysseus will discover the bouquet of heroism on the land of Ithaca, where the line of cruise ships heads. There, everyone can pay tribute to the man-made statue erected in honor of the hero of Homer, who became a symbol of more than one generation of Greeks.
Kefalonia has an inexhaustible supply of curiosities, able to imprint in the hearts and memory of all those who once touched them. You can appreciate the scale of this magnificence through tours, the cost of which ranges from $50 to $300, it is the best opportunity to spin in the whirlpool of Greek passions.
Kefalonia’s Outstanding Sights
Once you get to Kefalonia, you can’t limit yourself to a beach vacation. It is a land of rich culture and ancient monuments with a rich history can be found almost at every step.
A series of attractions will help open the course to the Fortress of St. George. Its powerful walls were laid 7 km from the capital of Kefalonia. It was built at an elevation of 320 meters above the sea and when you reach this altitude, you’ll see a carpet of green emerald greenery, where the island is immersed. The first mention of the fortress is recorded in folios in the XII century, during the reign of the Byzantines. It was an architectural monument in the shape of a polygon, whose scale stretched to 16000 meters, the fortress was reputed as a protector and took under its guardianship residents, protecting them from the hostile raids of invaders and marauders. Fighting steadfastly, the fortress fell in 1953: no human creation can resist the might of natural forces. Thus, the glorious days of St. George ended, where stone ruins sorrowfully rise in place of its former power.
Hunters of antiquity are attracted by the Venetian castle, a majestic stone fortification located in the picturesque village of Assos. The building looks like it came down from a fairy tale about brave times of chivalry. The castle conceals the spirit of fierce wars and real battles, when in 1798-99 the Russians and the French fought here in a deadly battle.
Journeys to sacred religious sites in Kefalonia will help you feel the harmony and peace. Rare icons, unique altars and ceremonial attributes can be seen in the active churches and monasteries. The Monastery of St. Gerasimos is one of the most revered religious sites in Greece. Tourists visit it almost every day and on October 20, the islanders celebrate the day of its founder.
For 5 years the ascetic ascetic led a moderate life in the caves of Lassi, where the present temple is built, and in 1560 he laid the first stone of the magnificent monastery. Gerasim’s relics to this day rest peacefully within the walls of the temple.
In conclusion we should pay attention to the non-handmade sights of Kefalonia – those that were given to us by nature itself. The cave of Drogarati is particularly famous, as it excites the imagination with its bizarre relief. Situated at a depth of 60 meters, the cave was formed as a result of a massive earthquake. It was discovered in 1963 and since then, many onlookers have made the 40-meter ladder, a plunge that takes them to a height of 20 meters. This is how Kefalonia appears to all visitors, impressing them with its incredible concentration of wonders, curiosities and masses of entertainment.
The Beaches of Kefalonia
The fame of the coasts of Kefalonia has long gone beyond Greece. These attraction locations have received worldwide recognition and officially carry the blue flag, an international award for the exceptional qualities of the water, which everyone can appreciate while having a holiday in Kefalonia.
The crown of excellence is with Myrtos – a well-appointed beach, loved by many and protected from the winds by mighty rocks. The calm water surface of Myrtos amazes with its color variation, playing with all hues from sky-blue to soothing deep blue. The fame of Myrtos Beach made the world’s headlines in 2006 when it was included in the prestigious Forbes list with comparisons such as “the cleanest” and “livable”.
The beach of Kefalonia Xi is a real gem among other beach places, it is distinguished by the rich hue of the sand, which can easily be compared to a Burgundy wine. This recreational spot is much loved by all supporters of balneotherapy, where everyone can appreciate the healing power of the mud baths. This is a great opportunity for the whole family to recuperate, relaxing in Cifalonia with children .
The real tourist peak is on the coasts of Athissamos and for those who yearn for peace and harmony with nature, the sands of Dafnoudi can be a tempting retreat. A visit to the legendary Skala Beach, a model of cleanliness and cleanliness, will allow you to experience the whole kaleidoscope of nature of the “island with your head”. The temperature of the waters in Kefalonia is yet another reason to fall in love with this paradise.
How to get to the island?
Kefalonia has been loved by the Greeks themselves and many wandering tourists since ancient times. The island is closely connected with the mainland through air routes and ferry lines. Flights from Athens are a favorite way to travel quickly and comfortably. Upon arrival, the doors of Kefalonia airport, near Lassi and Argostoli, open to every guest.
The sea waters link the ancient island with the Peloponnese peninsula. The largest ports of Kefalonia, Kilini and Patra, offer to all travelers a fascinating one and a half hour trip between the nearby islands.
Another opportunity to reach the land of Kefalonia is offered by buses from Athens. They are more time-consuming, but within 7 hours you can see many landmarks and stunning scenery of these places.
Non-tourist Greece. Going to Kefalonia
Planning a vacation in 2021 was a lot easier than in 2020, but there were logistical difficulties, worries about vaccinations, and the uncertainty that the trip would actually happen.
There were several criteria for choosing a vacation spot: comfortable flight from Kiev, interesting nature (so that it was not Crete with the same type of semi-desert landscapes) and remoteness (inaccessibility). The suddenly opened route of the new Ukrainian low-cost airline Bees Airline to Araxos airport in the Peloponnese helped me to make up my mind. A couple of google searches and the prospect to relax on a beautiful island, proclaimed a national park loomed ahead.
Of course, during a pandemic such a trip seemed risky: There were too many things that could go wrong. Although in September Greece was one of the most loyal countries to Ukrainians: vaccinated travelers (including holders of two doses of Coronavac and Covishield), tourists with a fresh PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a certificate of immunity were accepted. One of these documents had to be provided for the ferry trip as well – and so in our case of a week-long trip, PCR would have to be done on the island, which did not seem like a very realistic prospect.
The mask regime was in effect indoors and in transport, and according to official rules even applied to the closed areas of restaurants and bars. But in reality, many things like the form that had to be filled out upon entering the ferry were a mere formality. And the check of the vaccination certificate (we had Coronavac) at the border and at the entrance to the ferry in the application “Dia” took no more than a minute.
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, an archipelago in western Greece. At a glimpse it may seem like a typical Greek island wilderness – with beautiful bays, cliffs, cute little villages and a couple of ancient ruins. But everything is, as usual, a little more complicated and ancient.
“Kefalonia is heavily dependent on tourism – but it’s not at all like the rest of Greece.
Of course, Homer wrote about Kefalonia (the coveted Ithaca is a stone’s throw away). But five thousand years before Homer, people lived here: they fished, grew olives, and prayed to Poseidon. And perhaps, the god of earthquakes: they happened here with enviable regularity, each time breaking the usual relief and forming the bizarre outlines of “the island with the head” (and that’s how the name is translated from the Greek). The last major one, by the way, happened just in 1953: it destroyed almost all the cities except the northernmost – Fiskardo. People had no resources to restore their habitual way of life, so many left: some went to the mainland, others to Germany. And those who stayed slowly rebuilt churches, houses and wharves, opened harbor taverns and… didn’t look too much into the future. All this was told to us on the way to the ferry by the old cab driver Gerasimos. That, by the way, is the name of a good half of the men of Kefalon – in honor of a local saint who used to hermit on a high mountain and work miracles.
Today Kefalonia is heavily dependent on tourism – but it is not at all like the rest of Greece. Instead of semi-private beaches and all inclusive – marinas for sailing yachts, tavernas for 7 tables, where the host cooks and serves himself, small guest houses and untidy ideal beaches. And the main stream consists, in fact, of yachtsmen (for example, wealthy Austrians keep their yachts here), old Englishmen and Germans and Italians who arrive by direct ferry from Brindisi.
And here begins the main quest. For most passengers, the flight from Kiev to Araxos is just a charter to a chain hotel on the mainland. It’s certainly pretty, but we wanted more than just a sandy beach and olive groves. And so we decided to get to the island of dreams by ferry – thanks God, the Kiev flight arrived at 8 am and there was a full day ahead.
There were exactly two variants to get to Kefalonia from Araxos: the ferry from the port of Killioni to the town Poros (35 km from the airport, travel time – one and a half hours) or from the town Patras (the third largest in Greece) to the island port of Sami (more than three hours). After planning the logistic of the trip and checking the ferry schedule we decided to make a round trip: Araxos – Kilini – Poros – Sami – Patras – Araxos.
The first round is to get to the ferry in the village Killioni, thirty kilometers away from the airport, where there is no public transport. And it’s not a problem: good-natured cab drivers, though they can not associate two words in English, but in half an hour (and clearly on the meter!) to get to your destination and offer their services on the way back.
The second round is the ferry itself. There are three ferries a day from Killini to Poros Port in Kefalonia during the season (May to October): morning at 10:00, afternoon at 3:00 pm and evening around 8 pm. Flights are operated by a local company, Levante Ferries. Having read from home that there might not be enough seats on the ferry and that document checks might be delayed due to restrictions, we decided not to take the risk and get tickets for the afternoon flight. And when we arrived at the pier at 9 am we decided to change the tickets – on which we got perplexed looks and reactions like “if you don’t have a car, what difference does it make” (in general, tourists on their own two cars don’t have to worry about the number of seats). Around noon we were in place – on a semi-wild island with sparse tourists.
The trip itself on the ferry was as comfortable as possible (closed inner deck with air conditioning and a cafe with coffee and hot pastries, open upper deck with awnings and some viewing places in the bow), and also incredibly beautiful. The Ionian Sea is the deepest and cleanest (because of a tectonic fault), and therefore the water in it is an incredible blue, which turns to emerald green as you approach the wooded island.
The place for a leisurely vacation with trips to explore the island, we chose rather intuitively – with the help of Google map and a list of suggestions on the booking. And we were not sorry, because it was, in our subjective opinion, almost in the most successful place.
Poros town, where the ferry leaves Killioni, climbs on a slope between two mountains (about 900m) and consists of two parts. The one with the pier has two streets and a couple of alleys, a few hotels and exactly the two most authentic waterfront taverns. The northern part of the town is a little more civilized: a promenade by the sea, as many as seven taverns, supermarkets, a school, and a police station. But we stayed in the southern part – in the guest house at the beautiful hostess Isabella. The photos of the perfect balcony with a view of Ithaca and the sunset over the sea bribed us. And they did not let us down: everything was even more chic. The hostess – an Italian, treated muffins with jam and local wine, advised on beaches and taverns, and even organized a rental car – with another Gerasimos, her familiar tavern chef (and therefore we did not even need a deposit).
After traveling around almost the entire island, we realized that we were in the right place that met all our needs for this vacation: small, authentic, with pebble beaches and rocks from which you can dive, amazing water color and fantastic nature. But Kefalonia is so diverse that it will satisfy many different needs: for example, in the neighboring village of Skala – more infrastructure and a huge sandy beach. And in the southern part of the island, around the main town of Argostoli – large hotels, beach bars and discos.
About the beaches we have to tell separately. Since Kefalonia – a national park, almost all the beaches here have received the “blue flag” and are rightly included in all the top, not only in Greece, but also throughout the Mediterranean.
The beach of Saint Paraskeva between the towns of Sami and Ayia Efimia. A perfect typical Greek beach with olive grove, cicadas, cozy lagoon and emerald water. It’s a perfect typical Greek beach with a flock of curious fish that will come up to you and pose for a photo.
Myrtos beach, in the northwest of the island, is the “best beach in Greece,” which comes up almost on the first Google query. The unbelievable aquamarine color of the water and the complete absence of any habitable places around it are its main features. It’s all about active geological processes, which are still going on, and thanks to which the water gets the tiniest marble crumb. The beach is especially beautiful in the sunset rays, when the sun illuminates the marble cliffs. But here is its cunning: to get here without a car is almost unreal, and the road is a narrow, winding and fairly steep serpentine from the top of the mountain to the beach. You should not let your guard down!
Ellinica Beach. Rocks, minimalism, sparseness – everything you need. There are many small beaches like this, all equipped with at least stairs with railings. But they are completely wild, so it’s best to stock up on water and snacks. And sunscreen.
St. Thomas beach. On the left is a cozy little cove with a sandy entrance to the water and an azure color of water. On the right – the rocky ledge, grottoes and equipped platform with ladders and places for safe diving. Other amenities are a bar, a tavern, and a parking lot with a church named after Thomas. Perfect!
Spasmata beach near the airport is a classic of Kefalon’s semi-wild sandy and rocky beaches. You can relax in the shade of the hills, and you can take a deck chair with an umbrella for a token fee of two coffees – and chip away at least all day, watching the cruisers call at Argostoli port, and directly overhead every half hour are taking off.
In Poros, where we stopped, the main beaches are two: a kilometer long beach with a good entrance to the water, bars and promenade, and an endless deserted Maximus – three kilometers of beach on the other side of the hill, where during the week, it seems, except for us, and no one appeared.
Equally wonderful beaches are Antisamos, Foki near Fiskardo, Koroni, Pessada, and Avitos. But on the exploration of all of them we just did not have enough time, and most importantly – strength, it really did not want to hurry and spend at the beach less than half an hour. Therefore, advice – stop at any of the known, when you drive a car, depending on time and desire.
An important point: many beaches, which are listed on the maps as beaches, are accessible only by boat. The road to them either does not exist, or it is unpaved, unlit and rests on a farm with grunting pigs. Therefore, it’s worth checking not only with the map, but with a satellite mode of Google Maps.
It would be a crime to go to Kefalonia just for the beaches (even if amazingly beautiful). And though the island has no antique ruins and medieval fortresses (with rare exception), there are enough sights for a good two weeks of leisurely travel. The resort towns of Assos, Fiskardo (the only place in Greece where seals live!) and Liksouri (where the Greek royal family used to send their children for vacations) are a sheer beauty! Alas, a week on the island was not enough to explore it completely – so these treasures will remain for the next visit.
But I was able to fulfill a childhood dream and get to the coveted island of Ithaca, which I had been searching for on maps since childhood, having read “The Odyssey” in a stupid illustrated retelling at the age of eight. Of course, it turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined: greener, wilder, and … quite small. Though even this is a relative concept: having decided to feel like real Ulysses and return home properly, we decided to hike from the ferry to the main city and spent almost three hours: it seems that it was the longest six kilometers in my life. But we made it, thanks in large part to a bottle of Kefalon rosé and a beach in an olive grove halfway down the road.
“The hustling merchants, the seabass and dorad sorters, the dozens of species of sea clams – nothing seems to have changed in the last hundred years.”
If an adventure like a trip to a neighboring island isn’t for you, head to Argostoli, the island’s capital, in the early morning. Morning is the key word: around eight or nine o’clock fishermen moor at the pier by the old market. They take out of the nets the seabasses and perches they’ve caught, uncover anchovies and langoustines. Unmarketable catches are sent back into the sea – and it is just for it that enormous 1.5-meter loggerhead turtles, happily jumping out of the water and begging tourists (and the latter are only too glad to feed them secretly from the volunteers-zookeepers), come. In recent years, loggerheads have become a real local attraction. But the fish market in Argostoli is not to be missed either: swarming traders, sorting sea bass and sea bream, dozens of species of shellfish – nothing seems to have changed in the last hundred years. Especially pleasing was to find an ancient tavern right in the market building and go there for breakfast – the taste of freshly caught sea bream (in English menu) is incomparable with what you can buy in our country.
There are also more conventional attractions on Kefalonia. For example, the ancient cave Melissani near the town of Sami. The stream of water running from Argostoli to Sami under the whole island, washed out deep in the soft rocks – about the way the cave with steep walls and emerald ice water, which, according to legend, was inhabited by nymphs. It was discovered only in 1951 and instantly associated with ancient legends. Now the place is a typical tourist attraction with queues, ticketed entrances and buses of tourists, which does not cancel its beauty. As in any other part of Greece, the mountainous landscape of Kefalonia is inevitably accompanied by old revered monasteries. Among the most famous is the monastery of St. Gerasimos near the highest point of the island (1600 m, however.)