At the heart of the island lies the impressive valley community of Omala, which has a very different landscape to the rest of Kefalonia. Hundreds of vineyards are cultivated here and at 700m above sea level, the shadow of mount Ainos provides the perfect condition for the grapes to grow and produce Kefalonia’s famous Robola wine. The views are wonderful throughout the valley, dramatic mountain slopes, and an unusual round-about with a magnificent huge oak tree in the middle of a long straight road leading to the patron Monastery. Omala is the smallest community in Kefalonia and the only one without a shoreline, it covers 46.7 square kilometers and has a little more than 1000 residents.
It is very pleasant to drive around the picturesque traditional villages of Valsamata and Fragata, Michata and Panochori of Omala Valley; approximately 3,000 to 4,000 people live on the slopes of Ainos.
Mountain Ainos, located 30 km from Argostoli, known as Monte Nero (Black Mountain) during the Venetian period due to thick forestation of the dark Kefalonian Fir tree (Abies Cephalonica), is the tallest mountain of the Ionian islands with an elevation of 1,628 metres (5,341 ft). On clear days, the view includes the NW Peloponnese as well as the islands of Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Ithaca. A road which passes over the mountain range connecting traffic from southwestern to the eastern part of the island, is one of the few roads going into the mountain range.
If you like nature and hiking you can combine your visit with a walk around the abandoned, yet atmospheric, pre earthquake villages that are still standing on the slopes of Ainos and/or take an enjoyable walk to one of the trails that lead to mount Ainos offering amazing views. On the mountain itself there are several trails varying in difficulty; The Environmental Centre of Ainos – Chionistra is an ideal fairly easy, circular hiking path of 6,184m. Vlachata – Environmental Centre of Ainos trail has a moderate level of difficulty and reaches 2,065m. length.
Digaleto – Megas Soros trail is 6,595m. long, it begins north of the Digaleto community and ends at Mt. Ainos’ highest peak. It’s an easy to moderate level of difficulty hiking trail. Epano Eza – Melissi trail is of moderate difficulty and reaches 2,596m. in length. Kissos – Petasi – (Nyfi) – Megas Soros – Kissos trail has parts of easy to moderate level of difficulty although considerable hiking experience is required at some locations due to steep slopes.
Various sporting and alternative activities take place on Mount Ainos including mountain biking, star gazing, and jeep safaris – take a look at Wild Nature Expeditions and Outdoor Kefalonia.
The Management Body of Mt. Ainos National Park is responsible for the protection and conservation of the National Park. The offices of the management body are located in the Koutavos Environmental Centre in Argostoli. The personnel of the management body can organize tours in the National Park of Mt. Ainos, thus offering visitors a day full of beautiful experiences in a marvellous Fir forest with many rare and endemic plant species and in a unique Kefalonian natural environment.
Saint (Agios) Gerasimos Monastery the Patron Saint of Kefalonia, proudly stands here with a history spanning more than 500 years. Hundreds of Pilgrims from all over Greece gather here twice yearly (on the 20th October and 16th of August) to celebrate the saint and pay homage to his relics.
Each year, during August, two big Robola Wine celebrations (Panigyri) take place in the area dedicated to the production of Robola wine, organized by Omala’s local associations at Fragata and Valsmata. At these Panigyri you can enjoy local traditional dances and music, while tasting goat stew and sampling free Robola wine!
In this area you can find the Robola Cooperative Winery which has been in operation since 1987. The winery is a contemporary, but small-scale, wine factory where it is worth taking a tour and sampling the wines. There are also a few private wineries in the area.
Visit the Zoodochos Pigi (life-giving source) monastery and stream above Arginia where if you are lucky, you can see the wild horses of Ainos that come here to drink water. There is also a fabulous trail here.
Each August, around the feast of the Assumption on the 15th, snakes appear at the church in the tiny settlement of Arginia to rest on the icon.
The village of Old Valsamata is an interesting glimpse into the past with its abandoned church, tower and houses with overgrown shrubs and trees poking through the remains. The village of Fragata offers a pleasant atmosphere with great views of Ainos and the surrounding valley.
The Management Body of Mt. Ainos National Park is responsible for the protection and conservation of the National Park. The offices of the management body are located in the Koutavos Environmental Centre in Argostoli. The forest flora includes many varieties of wild flowers, and other wonders hide there, like a large variety of orchids, of which are endemic, just like the violet of Kefalonia. You will also find mushrooms, and its fauna consists of various species of reptiles, bird’s such as the woodpecker, blackbird and hawk, as well as mammals.
As impressive as this forest might be you will also be amazed by your encounter with the small semi-wild horses (Equus caballus) which you will see mostly at the SE side of the mountain. Almost as rare as the golden-toothed goats are the wild horses of Ainos!