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Locals in Kefalonia say that when God make the island, he was in a great mood; all it takes is a visit to Kefalonia, to convince you that they are right! The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is serene and charming, straightforward and full of mysteries, calm and wild, all at the same time, exactly like the Kefalonians! If you’re searching for cheap air tickets to Kefalonia, you will be enchanted by the heartfelt welcome of the locals and enthralled by their legendary Kefalonian “madness”; they are active and innovative, particularly attracted to arts and literature, they love to sing their arriettes and traditional serenades called “cantada”, they love to hate their island every now and then, but only they have the right to do so! Kefalonia is an island of beautiful contrasts, boasting some of the world’s best-rated beaches, lush green fields, vineyards and mountains, sandy and pebbly coasts along rugged rocks and wild scenery. Historical monuments and locations of great cultural value are everywhere to be found, among traditional villages, cosmopolitan towns and picturesque bays. Make your pick from one of the numerous cheap hotels in Kefalonia and, once you’ve set your base, head out to explore as much of the island as you can; swim in beaches like Myrtos and Antisamos, taste delicious kratopita, alida and mandola and wash them down with plenty of Kefalonian Robola!
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, all of which share a long history. The list of rulers that passed from Kefalonia is long, starting at first as a part of the Roman and then of the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans conquered the island in 1484, only to be overthrown by the Venetians in 1500, following a siege around the Castle of St. George.
The Venetian rule lasted for three centuries and greatly influenced the thriving culture, language, music and tradition of Kefalonia, encouraging economic and artistic development and providing freedom for the locals; unlike the rest of the Greek population elsewhere in the country who were subject to a cruel Turkish regime.
In 1789, the French Revolution became a reality and has its consequences on the island of Kefalonia, with Napoleon Bonaparte claiming ownership of the island from the Venetians. The Frankish rule was short-lived but essential to the founding of schools, libraries and educational institution. In 1809, Kefalonia became an English protectorate, until its final annexation to Greece, in 1864.
- During World War II, Kefalonia was occupied by Italians and Germans; famous is the massacre of 9,600 Italian soldiers from the 33rd Acqui Division by the German troops and a monument was built in their memory.
- The event that marked the history of Kefalonia and greatly defined its future was the major earthquake of 1953, that devastated the entire island, except for Fiskardo, leaving thousands of injured and homeless.
Moments of glory and moments of darkness, joy and sadness have shaped Kefalonia and its inhabitants as we know them today. A traditionally famous travel destination for travellers around the globe, if you have never visited, now is the time!
The airport of Kefalonia (Κρατικός Αερολιμένας Κεφαλλονιάς) is located 10 kilometres south of Argostoli, capital of Kefalonia and it is accessible by bus services.
Getting around Kefalonia
Public transport within Kefalonia consists of an extensive bus network. Fares depend on the route and minimum taxi fare costs around 3.30€.
Argostoli is the capital and largest city of Kefalonia, situated to the northwest, within the protected location of Argostoli bay. The ’53 earthquake brought down the entire city and destroyed its elegant Venetian architecture. Nevertheless, Argostoli is still a charming and lively city, the focal point of Kefalonia and a location with many sights, hotels, restaurants and cafes.
- Start from the Vallianou Square and follow the road to Lithostroto, the paved street where the main market of Argostoli is situated. From there, you can head down to the port and see the iconic De Bosset Bridge, constructed in 1813 by Swiss engineer Charles Philippe De Bosset, under the auspices of the British rule. The bridge crucially altered the everyday life of the locals, as it bypassed the 5-kilometre treacherous route around the Koutavos lagoon.
Nowadays, it undergoes restoration, in order to become pedestrianized and to serve as a historical monument.
On the other side of the port, you can see the statue of much-loved Kefalonian poet Nikos Kavvadias, gazing at the sea.
- Continue to the Katavothres, where you can witness a unique geological phenomenon. When seeing the sea water mysteriously disappearing on that location, specialists conducted an experiment. The results showed that the disappeared water reappeared in the town of Sami, 30 kilometres away from Argostoli! The reason? The Katavothres, ridges by the sea that are connected to a natural underwater tunnel network that ends in Sami. Visit before sunset, spot the Katavothres and the watermill and get ready for an astounding view of Argostoli’s sunset!
- On the other end of the street, right after you pass by Fanari beach, the Lighthouse of Agioi Theodoroi (Fanari) is arguably one of the most romantic places in the city. Built in 1828 by R.P. Kennedy, it is 8 metres tall, features 20 Doric columns and is topped by a smaller tower.
Once you’ve admired the view to the Paliki Peninsula, you can follow the Lassi road towards the airport of Argostoli and find many beautiful beaches alongside, Makris and Platis Gialos, Ammes, Minia, Ai Helis and Avythos Beaches being the most notable.
Back in Argostoli, the Archaeological Museum is definitely worthy of your time, boasting incredible archaeological collections from the Mycenaean period of Greece. The Korgialeneio Historical and Folklore Museum is also of much interest, focusing on Kefalonia’s culture and tradition and presenting the pre-earthquake Kefalonia, through collections of historical documents, personal items, photographs, furniture and other memorabilia.
Close to Argostoli, you can visit two places that reflect Kefalonia’s history and religious heritage:
- The Castle of Saint George is perched at the top of a hill above Peratata village and is an officially designated monument. Built by the Byzantines to provide protection from pirate attacks, it acquired its final form during the 16h century; the Venetians, after besieging the castle and overthrowing the Turks, extended the walls and established their headquarters there, until 1757, when they moved the capital to Argostoli.
- The Monastery of Saint Gerasimos is located on the plateau of Omala, at the foot of Mount Ainos and is the most precious religious site in Kefalonia. Dedicated to Saint Gerasimos, patron saint of the island, it houses the saint’s relics and includes his crypt.
Saint Gerasimos is celebrated on October 20th and on August 16th with great feasts that end with a litany procession of his relics and an icon of the church at the streets of Argostoli. The locals call him “The Saint” and Gerasimos is the most common name in Kefalonia.
Leaving the capital, we continue with Sami, one of the island’s three main ports, 30 kilometres southeast of Argostoli. Sami is famous for its two caves and one – at least – magnificent beach:
- The cave of Melissani is made up of an underground salt lake. The ceiling of the cave has been damaged, resulting in a hole that permits some sun light to enter the cave and create beautiful reflections and a fascinating turquoise colour. Entrance is permitted for a fee and it includes a boat trip and a guided tour.
- The cave of Drogarati was accidentally discovered around 300 years ago, when part of the roof collapsed during an earthquake. Situated 60 metres below ground level, this cave forms a unique geological phenomenon and features impressive stalagmites and stalactites that were moulded by sea water. Due to its extraordinary acoustics, the cave frequently hosts concerts.
Heading to the South of Kefalonia, you will find Lourdata and Lourdas Beach with a long sandy beach and azure waters. The road ahead is lined with a bunch of excellent beaches, until you reach Skala, at the easternmost point of Kefalonia. Skala is one of the island’s most famous tourist resorts, it has a 12-kilometre-long beach and many hotels and apartments.
Opposite Argostoli, at the Paliki Peninsula, Lixouri is Kefalonia’s second largest city and traditionally “at war” with Argostoli. You can reach Lixouri either by ferry (20 minutes from Argostoli port) or by car, driving at the scenic route around the peninsula. A different side of the island can be seen within that area, full of vineyards, olive groves, red and white beaches.
Petani Beach is one of Kefalonia’s best beaches with white pebbles, clear sapphire waters and marvellous views. The exotic beach of Xi has fine red sand and is lined with dramatic rocks of white clay, which many visitors use as a face and body treatment mask!
Heading to the North of the island, you can expect to see more traditional villages with remnants of Venetian architecture, due to the fact that the northern part of Kefalonia was not so badly hit by the earthquake.
Your first stop is Assos, a very picturesque village with fine examples of Venetian architecture and a fabulous castle. The Castle of Assos is the largest castle of Kefalonia and was built after the Castle of Saint George to provide complimentary protection. Dating back to 1584, the castle has five towers and it’s surrounded by 2,000-metre-long walls, making up a splendid backdrop!
The fantastic and extremely popular beach of Myrtos is really close to Assos.
Constantly voted in the top 5 best beaches in the world, Myrtos Beach will leave you speechless. The combination of dramatic rugged rocks that surround and “hide” the cove, white pebbles and the colour of the sea, deep blue with brush strokes of azure, sky blue and turquoise, is unbeatable!
Extra tip: Don’t park near the beach. Instead, park high on the winding street that leads to the beach and take your most memorable photos! Walking to the beach can be tiring, but it is completely rewarding in the end.
For a more intimate experience, follow the signs to Emplysi and Dafnoudi beaches, a few kilometres down the road. Once well-kept secrets, they’re becoming more and more popular, but you can still avoid the crowds by visiting early or late in the summer.
Continue to Fiskardo, the northernmost and most cosmopolitan town of Kefalonia. Mostly undamaged by the earthquake, Fiskardo retains a great deal of its Venetian architecture and has a fairy-tale feeling everywhere around its streets, nooks and crannies.
Get there to walk by the waterfront, see luxurious yachts, blend in with actors, singers and celebrities and taste delicious but pricey seafood. At the port of Fiskardo, there are ferry connections to Lefkada and Ithaca.
Kefalonia’s official language is Greece, but everyone speaks fairly good English and at least one more language, Italian mainly.