I moved to Kefalonia because of the diversity and beauty of this island which attracted me like a magnet.
The beautiful island of Kefalonia, also known as Cephalonia or Kefallinia, is the largest of the Ionian Islands, the sixth largest in Greece and is located west of the mainland in the outlet of Patraikos Bay, between Zakynthos and Lefkas Islands.
It is easily accessed through its ferry ports and international airport. Ferries connect the island to mainland Greece, Italy, Zakynthos and Ithaka whilst the airport brings visitors from many European destinations.
The island is about 781 km2, with a coastline length of 250 km and a population of around 36.000 people. The capital town of Argostoli has one-third of the island’s inhabitants. Lixouri is the second major settlement, and the two town’s together account for almost two-thirds of the prefecture’s population. Important shipping ports include Argostoli, Lixouri, Poros and Sami.
The island has a rich biodiversity, with a substantial number of endemic and rare species. Some areas have been declared a protected site in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network. The Mountain Ainos (a National Park since 1962 supporting rich flora and fauna) looks impressive from far away and is even better to explore. Kefalonia is well known for its endangered loggerhead turtle population which nests on many beaches along the south coast of the island. A small population of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus Monachus, also lives around the island’s coast, especially on parts of the coast which are inaccessible to humans due to the terrain. Dolphins are regularly spotted from the shoreline and from boats.
The landscape is wild; we have rare geological phenomena such as the intriguing Katavothres, some of the best beaches and waters in Greece, beautiful sunsets, Venetian castles, scenic walking trails, extreme sports, archaeological sites, local festivals and local delicacies. Kefalonia is a destination that combines everything that a visitor can dream of and it still keeps the serenity of an undiscovered island.
Tourism really took off during the 1980’s and the popularity of the movie Captain Corellis Mandolin (2001) which was shot here in help boost visitor numbers. However the island retains its wildness, traditional charm and village atmosphere whilst offering visitors comfort and amenities necessary for a great holiday.
In order to make your discovery of the island easier we have divided it into 8 regions. Discover the regions of Pylaros (north central), Sami (east), Paliki (west), Elios-Pronnoi (south east), Errisos (north), Argostoli (central including the capital city of Argostoli), Omala and Ainos (central), and Livathos (south) in our Travel Guides. The huge variety of accommodation, attractions and activities means that there is something to suit all ages and budgets.
Because of the islands diverse landscape and settlements there are many varied activities in which to participate.
At the beach swimming, snorkeling and watersports including stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) and kayaking are fun activities! Some beaches have organized games of volleyball.
There are numerous diving sites to explore around the island - some featuring wrecks – check out the diving schools around the island.
Boat tours leave from every major port and resort on the island. They vary from self- driven motor rentals to organized days trips including fishing tours and private yacht charters, check each operator to see what tours they offer and if they pick up or collect from other ports.
For more extreme activities the island offers a multitude of locations for caving, cycling, mountain biking, coastering, rock climbing/abseiling, caynoning, Jeep safari’s, and even paragliding! Wild Nature Expeditions, Outdoor Kefalonia or Unexplored Kefalonia all of them organise energetic and extreme sports.
Kefalonia Horse Riding Stable and Bavarian Horse Riding Stable and Donkey Trekking Kefalonia stables near to Sami give riders the chance to discover off the beaten track locations, as do the walking and hiking trails of the island.
You can take self-guided walks and hikes or go with an organized group such as Wild Nature Expeditions, Outdoor Kefalonia or Unexplored Kefalonia. There are many sign posted paths that range from the flat and easy to the more challenging.
Kefalonian beaches are hard to surpass; they range from the secluded, wild and natural to the more organised and popular. In 2018 there were 13 Blue Flag beaches on Kefalonia (source http://www.blueflag.gr/).
Sandy beaches are generally found on the southern coast of Kefalonia, and also the Paliki peninsula, and are usually shallow and warmer. Avithos, Saint Thomas, Ai Helis, Poros, Xi, Lepeda, Atheras, Vouti, Skala, Katelios, Koroni and Makris and Platis Gialos.
More rugged, wild and dramatic beaches are usually less populated with the exception of the world famous Myrtos, Antisamos and the beautiful Petani. Manias, Kousoupia, Fteri & Ammidi, Platia Ammos, and Dafnoudi are difficult to reach unless by walking, hiking or by boat trip.
Pebbly beaches are great for snorkeling and reflect the turquoise water beautifully but you may need beach shoes to walk comfortably. Assos, Horgota, Alaties, Foki, Agia Eleni, Emblissi, Lagadakia, are all stunning but some are more organized with sunbeds, umbrellas and refreshments than others so check before leaving.
HISTORICAL & CULTURAL SITES & MUSEUMS:
Drapano Bridge is a world record holder
Mycenaean tombs can be found at Tzanata and Mazarakata whilst Roman villa mosaics can be found at Agia Efimia and Skala and a Roman cemetery at Fiskardo. Ancient Sami and the Archaic Temple of Apolo are two more important sites.
There are many significant old and new religious buildings all over the island housing icons, paintings and manuscripts, including the Monastery of Agrillion, Agios Fanetes, Kipouria Monastery, Old Sissia Monastery, the little church of St John Chrysostom, the church of Panagia Lagouvarda , the church of Gravaliotissa, the Monastery of Mother of God-“Themata”, Monastery of Zoodohos Pigi, Panagia of Atros (the oldest monastery on the island), and the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos.
Important monuments are scattered over the island ; a Venetian castle at Assos, Saint George’s castle at Peratata (first capital of the island), the Venetian Lighthouse and Byzantine Basilica at Fiskardo, the Drapano Bridge and The Lighthouse (Fanari) of Agioi (Saint) Theodoron at Argostoli
Casa-House Museum is a fine example of what an old Kefalonian Bourgeoisie house contained, and Corgialenios Museum of Folklore and Cultural History lets you explore all facets of historical urban and rural life. The Focas Cosmetatos Foundation has personal collections and publications as well as a great collection of photos from before the earthquake of 1953.
In the Nautical Museum of Sami, located just outside of the village on the road to Argostoli, you will find 22 hand-made wooden shipping vessels spanning an history of 3,500yrs. At the Kotsanas Museum in Argostoli you can find working models and fine examples of Ancient Greek Technology, located at Maistratos Port.
TOWNS & VILLAGES:
The two largest towns on the island are the capital Argostoli (the largest) and Lixouri. There are many traditional villages; Fiskardo is undoubtedly one of the prettiest villages on the island. Assos has an unusual landscape and its charming atmosphere. Around the south there are colourful villages where rich shipping families lived. Agia Efimia, Poros and Sami are bustling harbour villages, Katelios is a quiet sea-side fishing village, whilst Skala and Lassi are more touristic.
Abondoned villages can give us a real glimpse into the past and help us recreate in our minds what village life was like many years ago. Old Vlachata, Traces of old Agia Efimia, Old Farsa and Old Valsamata are worth exploring.
NATURE & GEOLOGICAL PHENOMENA:
Rare geological phenomena appear on the island. At Katavothres you can discover the story behind how the water travels from the sink holes and re-appears in Karavomilos Lake. Melissani Lake is one of the most impressive open caves in the world at its ethereal beauty is magical. Drogarati Cave is an impressive cave with remarkable formations of stalactites and stalagmites. There is a huge system of caves in the Sami area. Kounopetra is another unique quirk of Kefalonia.
Koutavos Lagoon provides a habitat for migrating birds as does the Livardi Marshes and Tzanata Resevoir – all fabulous places for bird watching. The Botanical Gardens in Argostoli provide an oasis and interesting information about the flora and fauna of the island.
Mount Ainos, located 30 km from Argostoli, was known as Monte Nero (Black Mountain) during the Venetian period due to thick forestation of the dark Kefalonian Fir tree (Abies Cephalonica). From its summit (1628m) on a clear day it offers awe inspiring views of the southern coastline, Paliki Pennisula, the inland valleys and mountains, 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 and there are numerous mountain trails. 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. If you are lucky you may see the wild horses on the lower slopes. In summer the summit can offer great respite from the heat and in winter is often snow-capped.
Let food be the medicine and medicine be the food.
A lot of guests have mentioned to me that vegetables and fruit do not have the same taste when at home. A good old friend sent me a photo of him, from previous holidays, eating watermelon at the beach, "I can't wait to come back to taste it again he says".
Well, it is real that artisanally produced food tastes better because of its seasonality, the attention and care of the productions processes it is subjected to, but it's not only that, when you buy food from an artisan you get in touch with his arts, story, failures and joys and so you are not just buying food, but you are supporting a life experience.
Find a local artisan, you will be surprise of the things you could learn; they will make you touch and smell their products, realise the different varieties and colours, the textures and aromas, how each region and climate affects their taste.
Consume seasonal local products, discover from which kind of soil they come from, with which water they where watered and which hands had shaped them, will bring you closer to the local community and make you create constructive human relationships with the local people, here is the nourishment for the body and the soul.
Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and climate the island of Kefalonia it is lush in