Introduced to the world by blockbuster novel, and later film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Kefalonia boasts myriad appeals: Imposing, jagged scenery, amicable, happy-go-lucky locals, sleepy rural villages, chic, cosmopolitan hotspots, and that’s not to mention some of the most idyllic beaches in the whole of Greece. And the best part is that despite the surge of fame, this blue and green island –the largest of the Ionians– remains mercifully untouched by mass tourism. Between swimming, snorkeling and playing on paradisiacal shores, exploring voguish spots and off the beaten track locations, or simply savouring life under the Greek sun, you’ll not have even a moment’s boredom in Kefalonia.
The island’s largest town and capital since its foundation in 1757, Argostoli, seamlessly fuses a laid back, nonchalant aura with the hustle and bustle of modern city life. With a lively nightlife and foodie scene, great shopping and a wealth of attractions, including wonderful beaches at a stone’s throw, Argostoli is a go-to destination for a romantic gateway, a family holiday or a vibrant friends escape.
One of Greece’s most photographed and systematically voted among the best worldwide, Myrtos beach, is an experience to be savoured at least once in a lifetime. Framed by tall, steep cliffs, it sports an incredible curve of perfect white sand, leaking into bright turquoise waters. The sunset is dramatic here, with the tangerine reds blending into the deep blue, as the day gives way to the night —indeed it is not difficult to see why Myrtos is an all-time favourite for romantic couples.
Perched on the water’s edge, Assos Village has Venetian ruins, traditional, colourful houses and narrow alleys with blooming foliage and old churches. Exceedingly quaint and very popular, It is located on a bay with two pebbly beaches, a larger one with loungers and a smaller one without. Both sports picturesque views and crystalline waters, ideal for snorkelling.
Named after a nymph who drowned herself here as the god Pan –somewhat bizarrely– did not return her affections, this B-shaped cave consists of two lake-filled chambers, one of which has a collapsed roof letting sunlight filter in. Small boats ferry visitors through the cave, and the best time to come is at noon, when the sun is right overhead, hitting the turquoise-blue waters and bathing the space with magical light.
The quaint little fishing harbour of Fiscardo on the north of Kefalonia is often dubbed “Greece’s prettiest village”. Unlike the rest of the island whose buildings were largely destroyed by the earthquake of 1953, Fiskardo retains much of its original 18th-century architecture. Thanks to its natural harbour, it is also a yachtsman’s paradise lined with luxury boats and upscale restaurants and bars. With rows of Venetian houses in sugary shades of rose, green, lilac, pink, orange and red, indeed Fiscardo paints a postcard-perfect picture. And the sight of posh couples and yachties debating which taverna serves the freshest seafood is exceedingly common. A sleepy village until the 1960s when it was “discovered” by a handful of hippies, Fiskardo is an idyllic go-to place to spend leisurely, laid back moments, away from the maddening tourist crowds.
The setting of many a scene of Hollywood hit Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Antisamos is undoubtedly paradisiacal, though it does get crowded, as it is one of the most well-organised beaches on the island. With luscious green hills cascading down to sea level, it sports turquoise, clear waters full of fish, and pearly white pebbles that shine extraordinarily.
Named after the cove that is shaped like the letter X, this unique, well-organised beach is surrounded by spectacular cliffs made of white clay, and has soft red, brown sands. There are several beach bars and watersports facilities, but further away you can find some spots that are free of sunbeds and umbrellas. The clay itself is thought to be therapeutic, that’s why many choose to rub it on their skin.
Surrounded by luscious cliffs, this stunning beach boasts turquoise blue waters and white sands scattered with the occasional pebble. It is partly organised but if you are willing to walk a bit further towards the end of the rocks you’ll find yourselves enveloped in blissful calm.
Discovered some 300 years ago when a strong earthquake revealed its entrance, Drogarati Cave is according to speleologists, estimated to be over 150 million years old. Since 1963 it has been receiving visitors who come to admire the remarkable stalactite and stalagmite formations. The cave also boasts remarkable acoustics –the Bavarian Philharmonic Orchestra played here in 2014– and most visitors attempt to test them with bouts of a capella singing.
At 1,628 metres Ainos is the tallest mountain in Kefalonia and the only National Park located on a Greek Island. Covered in ⅔ with a single species of fir called Abies Cephalonica this precious reserve is also home to a local herd of semi-wild ponies. With staggering views, all the way to Zakynthos, Lefkada and Ithaki and several signposted routes, Mt Ainos is a hiker’s paradise, too.