Kefalonia – Cephalonia
is an island you can return to again and again, and still discover something new.
A paradise for nature lovers, this lush island has a special kind of fir which grows only here and nowhere else in the world. There are wild horses on the mountainside, and goats and rabbits with golden teeth because of the minerals in the ground. In the sea swims the turtle Caretta Caretta, dolphins and the monk seal Monachus Monachus, and the waters of the island are considered amongst the cleanest in the world.
Marvelous beaches, an underground cave and lake, the tomb of Odysseus, the fishing village Fiscardo, the Robola wine, Lord Byron’s view…Kefalonia – Cephalonia is truly an island of much variety, and anyone who enjoyed Louis de Bernier’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” and wants to see what the island is really like will not be disappointed.
It is an island of many miracles: on the day of the Virgin Mary, the 15th of August snakes come into the village Markopoulo, blessing the Church of Our Lady with their presence.There is a flower on the island that only blossoms on this day. The patron saint Gerasimos’ well preserved body is sometimes said to have seaweed on his feet – local folklore has it that he visits his friends St. Spyridon and Nectarios on the neighbouring island Zakynthos (Zante) and Corfu. The sea water that disappears under the ground at Katavothres and pours out on the other side of the island.
In Argostoli you have most of the nightlife, cafes, the cinema, banks, bus station and harbour. Lixouri and Sami are quite large places, and here you will find many bars and taverns as well. Fiscardo offers the perfect idyll, it is small and very cozy, and so is Ag Efimia, Skala and Poros. There are many more places to stay but they won’t all fit in here.
Kefalonia – Cephalonia is already mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. He called the island Deuchalion, and said it then belonged to the kingdom of Odysseus and that it sent warriors to fight in Troy. We do not know for sure why the island has its name. It is either because it is the largest island in the Ionian archipelago, Cephali means “head” in Greek, or it got its name after the first king, who according to mythology was called Cephalus.
There have been paleolithic findings around the island dating 50 000 years back in time. Kefalonia – Cephalonia was united with Ithaca and the mainland at that time, and you can still see from the shape of the two islands that they once were one.
During Mycenaean time the island of Kefalonia seems to have been very rich . Later on the men of the island are mentioned in wars against the Persians (5th cent. BC) and there were alliances with several other city-states like Athens, Corinth and Sparta. In 188BC the Romans conquered Cephalonia and they sold its inhabitants as slaves and looted the island. The island also suffered pirate attacks many times through history.
At the end of the 12th century AD the Francs conquered the Ionian islands, and were to stay until the Turks defeated them in the 15th century. Then followed Venetian rule from AD 1500 to 1797. Cephalonia was to suffer several Turkish attacks, and in 1797 Napoleons army invaded the island. A year later the British help the Russian/Turkish army take over. In 1807 the French came back, and two years later the British seized power.
In 1864 the island was finally liberated, but was to be occupied by Italian and German military during the second world war.
In 1953 there was a terrible earthquake which destroyed most buildings on the island, and killed many. Only the northern village of Kefalonia- Cephalonia ,Fiscardo ,was saved and is today the only village on the island with older architecture.
What to see
Most island tours include the cave Drogarati and the underground lake Melissani, the monastery of Ag (St.) Gerasimos, the picturesque Fiscardo and a view of the amazing Myrtos bay.
You should also try to visit the Venetian Castle of Kefalonia, nunnery of Ag (St.) Andreas,Robola wine factory, the plaque of Lord Byron with its wonderful view, as well as the perfectly built Kourkoumelata village which has been rebuilt almost as it was before the earthquake.
In Argostoli there is an archaeological museum as well as a folklore museum. Just outside Argostoli is Katavothres where the water disappears under the island, only to come out on the other side.
In the beautiful little village Assos you can visit a Venetian Citadel, and enjoy a nice meal in the tiny harbour. Assos is also called the Honeymoon village, since Charles and Diana made a stop here with their yacht when newly wed.
In Skala are the remains of a Roman villa with a beautiful mosaic floor.
From the island there are daytrips to the neighbouring islands Ithaka, Lefkas and Zakynthos (Zante), and to Ancient Olympia on the Peloponnese.
What to Do
You can enjoy water sports at many beaches, for example Makrys Gialos, Platys Gialos and in Skala. In Skala there is also horse riding. In Ag Efimia there is a diving school.
Kefalonia – Cephalonia Beaches
Two of the best sand beaches are to be found in Lassi and are called Makrys Gialos and Platys Gialos. They are suitable for children, but can get quite busy during high season. Myrtos is probably the most photographed beach in Greece but the road down to it is so steep and winding that no bus can take you there, so you’ll have to either walk all the way or rent your own vehicle. It is a pebble beach and the sea quickly gets deep, so it is not an ideal place for small children. In Skala there is another long sand beach. In Fiscardo you will have to get into the sea from rocks, but the water is crystal clear. Petanias is also a nice pebble beach. If you can, you should also try to get to the paradise beach Antisami, which is outside Sami, but has no bus connections. There are many more beaches and they are all special in one way or the other.
Most of the clubs and bars of Cephalonia are in and around Argostoli. There are also places in Sami, Lixouri, Skala, Poros and Fiscardo, but they do not get as busy as in Argostoli. Kefalonia – Cephalonia is not a party island, but the nightlife is quite good anyway, and during high season you will think you have ended up in somewhere in Italy because of the many Italian holidaymakers. There are usually really good beach parties organized as well.
There is a wide variety of both local and international restaurants. The rule “eat where the Greeks are” apply here just as on any other island.
As if rising from the infinite blue sea, standing tall and solid, mount Ainos features a National Park of unique beauty and rarity. The National Park of Ainos in Kefalonia is close to Argostoli and Sami and it is the smallest national park in Greece.
Ainos National Park was established in 1962 in order to protect the indigenous specimen of elati (Abies Cephalonica), which covers a ground of 1973 hectares.
In the fir forest appear various specimens of bushes such as gortsies, krategi, etc. Northwest of Ainos in Roudi mountain, lush vegetation of bushes covers a ground of 46 hectares and is a separate part inside the park. Τhe fir forests of Mt. Ainos are so dark green looking almost black, that the Venetians called the mountain Monte Nero (‘Black Mountain’).
In the highest rocky areas prevail briar genistas. Αpart from the rich flora of the park, its fauna is also of high importance. Mammals such as fox, beech marten, hare and others, as well as rare birds and serpents (petroperdika and fidaetos) shelter here.
Inside the Park shelter the famous wild horses of Ainos. Some claim these are descendants of the wild horses of Thessaly, one of three ancient Greek breeds now extinct, since their similarity to ancient horse sculptures is really impressive. 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.
They managed to survive in the wild nature in scant of number herds. Today only a few dozens have remained in the slopes of Ainos.
The park is a paradise for hikers, especially on its East side, which is more savage. The flora is rich of indangered species in danger like endemic varieties of orchids. The fauna is very interesting too, with rapaces, reptiles and little mammals (foxes by instance), wich are very rare elsewhere on Cephalonia or on other islands.
During a long hike more surprises are to come. Uncharted trails, mysterious lakes and caves of unrivalled beauty await you to explore!
This fantastic scenic horseshoe bay, lies just around the coast from Sami and can be first viewed from high up on your approach from Sami. The beach of Antisamos is one of the best known beaches of Kefalonia with a beautiful and attractive pebble beach and turquoise waters, surrounded by impressive fertile hills. Real untamed beauty. The natural outstanding beauty of the place is absolutely breathtaking!
Along the cliff top road people park their vehicles in order to capture the best views of this beach. The crescent sweep of sand , shingle and pebbles form a neat bed for people to rest and take in the scenery or slope off into the glorious clear waters. The stunning tree covered mountains sit majestically behind the bay and your eyes become dazzled by the enormality (sic) of dark green lushness that interrupts the blueness which is all around.
There is no shade on this Blue Flag beach, however there are beds and sunshades to rent. The facilities are limited, no watersports on offer here however there is a beach bar for refreshments and snacks.
Antisamos is the most popular beach of the north east coast of the island and is used by tourists staying in nearby Sami. In high summer the beach does get very busy and the car parking area tends to fill up so you may have to park further along the beach.
The beach was used as the Italian encampment in the film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Before this film was shot the winding track which leads down to the beach was very rough, but it was resurfaced and is now much better for vehicles
Assos is situated in an enchanting site on the northwest coast of Kefalonia. It is a traditional Venetian-style fishing village, a perfect holiday destination for those who seek peace and quiet. The magical view from the castle is unforgettable, not to mention the peaceful and charming little harbour which delights the visitor. Assos with its rich history, amazing beauty and calmness is an ideal holiday destination, only 25 minutes by car from Aghia Efimia, 20 minutes from the famous beach of Mirtos, 20-25 from the cosmopolitan Fiskardo and about 1 hour from Argostoli.
Its history dates back before 1584 when during the Venetian domination, Assos was the capital of the northern part of the island. The castle on top of the hill was built to offer protection against the pirate attacks. Before the earthquake in 1953, the castle was used as a prison. During the earthquake the village was devastated and all housesapart from very few were destroyed
Agia Effimia was the seat of the Pylaros municipality of Kefalonia (also spelled Cephalonia) in Greece. The small town is based around a traditional fishing village centred on a small harbour. It contains a number of taverns, bars and shops as well as tourist accommodation and local residences. The main activity in the village is now centred on tourism. The harbour is popular with sailing holidays, and is the home to flotilla sailing groups. Many of the old buildings in Agia Efimia were destroyed in the 1953 earthquake, although a few original buildings survive.
Fiskardo is located on the northern tip of Kefalonia in an area so beautiful that the Greek government has protected it by law. Around Fiscardo, dense forests reach down to innumerable small coves where pebble beaches are lapped by crystal clear water.
Uniquely in Kefalonia, Fiscardo retains the architecture and ambience of a by-gone era – a time when the Venetians ruled Kefalonia. The picturesque harbour is surrounded by Venetian-style houses painted in pastel colours, in summer the harbour is filled with vessels from small sailing boats to large yachts all nestled together a few feet from pavement restaurants and cafes specialising in traditional Greek cuisine.
Kefalonia is the largest of the seven Ionian Islands and Fiscardo is one of 365 villages on the island. Exploring the island by sea and land is a journey of endless discovery – remember this is Greece where you can turn a corner and find yourself in front of an ancient temple.
So, on behalf of all our village, welcome to Fiscardo and enjoy your stay on this beautiful, exceptionally safe and sheltered harbour.
The cave lake of Melissani is one of the most enchanting and well known attractions of Kefalonia as well as being a site of great historical interest. Located at Karavomilo, very near Sami, it was rediscovered in 1951 by famed Greek speleologist G. Petrocheilos and opened to the public following extensive access works. A large section of the cave roof has collapsed, allowing sunlight to filter through the overhead vegetation and giving the water a brilliant turquoise colour.
In antiquity the lake was a place of worship for the god Pan and the nymph Melissanthi. According to the myth, Melissanthi drowned herself in the lake over her unrequited love of Pan. Another version tells of a shepherdess called Melissanthi who accidentally fell into the lake and drowned while searching for a lost sheep. In the lake lies a small isle on which the archaeologist S. Marinatos discovered a shrine dedicated to Pan. The finds, which are now displayed at the Argostoli Archaeological Museum, include a clay figurine of Pan, a plate depicting dancing nymphs, a clay tablet depicting a procession of nymphs and a small tablet with a relief carving of a female figure.
The cave lake is the result of geological process called karstification, in which the limestone bedrock is dissolved by groundwater creating subterranean caverns. The existence of a karstic network across the island was proven in a 1963 experiment, in which green dye dumped into sinkholes on the other side of the island (Katavothres) resurfaced 14 days later in Melissani lake.
Today, visitors can take a guided tour of Melissani cave lake in small rowing boats and enjoy the magical spectacle of its stalactites and sunlit turquoise waters.
Drogarati Cave was discovered over 300 years ago following a strong earthquake. The caves are 60 metres below ground and these eerie caves stay a cool 18 oC with a moisture level of 90%.
It is said that the caves are over 100 million years old. The formation of stalactites is due to the movement of rainwater travelling up through the rocks, soaking up the rocks’ minerals. Among others are iron, copper, salt and calcium. The water then reaches the end of a stalactite as droplets and dropping slowly from the tip, they help it to grow very slowly. A stalactite takes thousands of years to reach the stage you see today, as the creation of just one centimetre takes about 100 years.
The cave which is about 900 metres square has excellent acoustics and classical and pop concerts have been performed there.
Speleologists searching the cave, found an extension cave, but could not complete their investigations due to the large amount of mud. They have no doubt that there are more caves linked to Drogarati caves.
Since 1963 Drogarati has been open to the public and is known throughout Greece for its unique features
Myrtos beach is the trademark of Kefalonia Island and is considered as one of the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean and of course of the entire Ionian Islands. Located north of Argostoli (the island’s capital), this impressive beach has a fine golden sand and wonderful turquoise waters (as if someone has thrown bleach in the blue sea); the whole place is surrounded by impressive and majestic vertical rocky cliffs. This pure paradise is one of the most photographed places in Greece and attracts thousands of visitors every summer. A snack-bar, sun beds and umbrellas rentals are available on the beach.
Saint Gerasimos Monastery
The Monastery of Agios (St.) Gerasimos is the most holy Church of the island. It is build located in the village Omala, at the top of the green valley with 40 wells, near the villages Fragata and Balsamata.
Agios Gerasimos is the patron saint of Kefalonia, and its relic is kept in the monastery, in a silver urn.
Agios Gerasimos was a monk from Trikala of Corinth and founded the monastery in the 16th century, renovating an older one, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Agios Gerasimos died in 1597 and sanctified in 1622. He became famous for his miraculous abilities on people suffering from mental illness. The monastery is impressive, with a chapel and a new church with very rich decoration.
Below the Monastery (in early years the Monastery was in front) is a cave, built by Agios Gerasimos, where he held his daily prayeres. Pilgrims from all over Greece come to pray and honor the saint here.
The people of Kefalonia honor the death of Saint Gerasimos the monastery on the 16th August and the restitution of his holy relic on October 20th. On those days, a procession of the saint is taking place. The coffin is moved under the shadow of a plane tree, which was planted by Agios Gerasimos himself. The ceremony is followed by a big festival with music, dancing, food and wine.
Argostoli is the island’s capital since 1757. It is located in the south part of Kefalonia and it is inhabited since archaic times. In the same location to the current town was built ancient Krini, one of the most powerful towns in ancient Kefalonia. During the 1953 earthquakes, Argostoli suffered a lot of catastrophes. Most of the mansions, imposing buildings, churches and bell towers, were ruined by the strong processions.
Argostoli was built from the start. Today it is a modern town, keeping many of its traditional elements, as the new buildings, which were structured according to the Ionian architectonic style. The town is built amphitheatrically with a panoramic view to Koutavos’ lagoon.
It is the biggest town of the island and the trade and administrative center of Kefalonia. Here is the biggest port in the whole island with the biggest tourist movement.
A stroll is not enough to know Argostoli, as the town has many places worth visiting and a beautiful shopping center that will open your appetite for shopping.
The heart of the town beats around the central square and between Lithostroto and Siteboron Street with many shops, coffeehouses and bars.
It is worth taking a stroll along the coastal road Antonis Tritsis, with pebbles that create beautiful patterns. It is ideal for night walks under the moonlight.
In Argostoli you will see some of the most important sites of the island. Kabana square is connected to an important chapter of the island’s history. Kefalonites burnt there Libro d’ Oro, the bible of aristocrats, after the arrival of French in the island. In the same square is also the church of Saint Spyridonas with the famous clock and golden chancel screen.
Don’t miss visiting the archaeological museum that hosts remarkable findings from excavations in Korjalenio Library, roofed under a traditional building and has a rare collection of old editions and manuscripts.
It is worth visiting the bridge of Devosetos, which connects the town with the other end of Koutavos’ lagoon. It was named after the Swiss military governor De Bosset, who gave the order to make it. At first the bridge was wooden, but later became stony with arches and a sill. It was completed in 1812 and has the sane feature since then.
Close to Koutavos’ lagoon are also the remains of the ancient town Krani. You can only see part of the walls, the famous Cyclops walls. You will also see the remains of a Doric temple, dedicated to goddess Dimitra.
You can swim in the organized beach of EOT. In close distance are the beaches of Platis, Makris Gialos, Gradakia and Kamaroules.
The cosmopolitan Argostoli is ideal for staying. Here you will find hotels of all categories and complexes of rooms to let. Nightlife is high and satisfies all tastes. Holidays in Argostoli will be unforgettable.