Kefalonia (Greek: Κεφαλονιά) is believed to have derived its name from the mythological figure Cephalus, the son of Hermes and a hero in ancient Greek legends. This picturesque island, with its captivating landscapes and historical significance, reflects a deep connection to the rich tapestry of Greek mythology and history. It is is the largest of the Ionian Islands in Greece.
The northernmost peninsula
A major tourist area adjoining Argostoli.
A tourist area south of Argostoli.
The westernmost peninsula
Kefalonia towns are clean, friendly and small enough to get around with no hassle. It's the breathtaking natural scenery you visit this gorgeous island for, and visitors will not be disappointed. Lush forests, breathtaking mountains, and dizzyingly high cliffs dropping down to glittering azure seas are what Kefalonia is all about. The towns are mere conveniences—except for Fiskardo, they were all leveled in the 1953 earthquake, so most of what you see is of functional concrete construction with no nod to aesthetics.
- 1 Argostoli (Αργοστόλι) – is the main town, which has serious shops and a rather underwhelming museum
- 2 Agia Efimia (Αγία Ευφημία) – a sleepy fishing village north of Sami, becoming increasingly popular with tourists
- 3 Fiskardo (Φισκάρδο) – at the northern tip of the island, is popular with yachts and rather pricey and upmarket. It is the only part of the island which survived the earthquakes of the last century intact, but extensive refurbishment and repairs have given it a rather bijoux feel rather than one of authentic old Kefalonia
- 4 Lixouri (Ληξούρι) – the island's second city and faces the capital, Argostoli, across a kind of elongated bay (there is a ferry)
- 5 Poros (Πόρος) – a yacht marina and a picturesque village on the eastern edge of the island, rather self-contained between the sea and mountains, and has a substantial ferry port slightly separated from the rest of the town
- 6 Sami (Σάμη) – the port town on the eastern part of the island facing Ithaka (the ferry from mainland, Patra, arrives here.)
- 7 Skala (Σκάλα) – at the south-eastern tip of the island, is a popular and relaxed resort focused on beach holidays
- 1 Assos (Άσος, Asos) – in the north-west, has a scarily steep descent to a Venetian castle on a small peninsula.
- 2 Kato Katelios (Κατω Κατελειος) – waterfront village on the south coast.
- 3 Lourdas (Λουρδάτα, Lourdata) – A spartan and sleepy village scattered alongside a beautiful long, sandy beach on the southern coast.
Kefallinia, Kefalonia, Cephallonia—so good they named it thrice. You may also hear islanders pronounce it as "sefalonia". The region, incorporating the neighbouring island of Ithaki (Ithaca) is known as Kefallinia, hence the name of the airport. The island is best known as the setting for the 2001 film Captain Corelli's Mandolin, though the level of movie-related merchandising is not as great as you might expect, even in Sami, the old-fashioned port in the East of the island, the portside of which was turned into a kind of set for the film.
A sizeable percentage of the local summer population live abroad in the winter months - there is simply not enough work on the island out of season (Nov - April). Hence the large number of Greeks with American accents on the island. English is understood almost universally, with only senior citizens confined to their native language. Italian is widely recognised, due to the island's strong historical links with that nation. Venture a greeting in Greek anywhere on the island and you will get a warmly enthusiastic response.
The main airport is located near Argostoli and Lassi, and is a typical small island airport. In other words, if there are two or more planes on the ramp, it can get very crowded! The main travel days are Tuesday and Sunday, and it's bedlam on both days. Remember that chaos is a Greek word and just go with the flow—the staff are surprisingly cheerful and relaxed. There is a small cafe bar and gift shop both before and after security.
- KTEL operate bus routes between the towns and villages, but routes are too infrequent to be of much use to tourists. Unless you have arrived on your own yacht, in which case you'll have no problem getting to most parts, you need a car or bike if you plan to get around. There are car ferries from the mainland, and many car hire places in town, though prices vary. Although all travel operators are against motorcycle hire, as long as you have some bike experience, renting a 100cc scooter for the duration of your stay can work out reasonably. Just make sure you check the bike out for previous damage before you hire it. Most of the hire places are in Argostoli and Lassi.
- Transfer Services: You can choose a private company to prebook your airport transfers or any transfer throughout Kefalonia island.
- Private Tours: Private Tours options on standard or fully customized routes.
The island consists of four peninsulas, and includes some fairly serious mountains, which all goes to make for some outstanding scenery. A series of earthquakes, the last in the 1970s mean there are relatively few relics of antiquity in the island, but architecturally it doesn't look very different from most of Greece.
- Asos village. The island's loveliest village, is on a charming little peninsula.
- Roman villa. The Roman villa just outside Skala, with mosaic floors more or less intact, is worth a visit - recent finds have added to its attraction and digs continue in the area.
- Fiskardo. Nestled in a lush, sheltered bay, where international celebrities drop anchor.
- Castle of Agios Georgios, Kastro. at Perata offers panoramic views
- Palaia Vlachata. The ghost village of Palaia Vlachata, abandoned after the devastating 1953 earthquake.
- Archaeological sites. Archaeological Museum at Argostoli, Korgialenio Historical and Cultural Museum at Argostoli, Iakovatios Library at Lixouri, Byzantine Museum at Livathos, Tomb of Mazaraka at Livathos, Royal Tomb at Tzannata, Roman Villa at Pronni, Assos Castle at Erissos.
- Churches and Monasteries. Agios Gerasimos Monastery at Omala, Agios Andreas Monastery at Livathos, Kipouria Monastery at Paliki, Blessed Mary and Snake Monastery at Markopoluo.
Towards the centre of the island there are two noteworthy caves:
- Drogorati Cave. The beautiful Drogarati Cave in Sami seems to have suffered somewhat from the loss of rather a lot of its stalactites and stalagmites (allegedly due to occupying German forces using them for target practice during World War II). Dragarati Cave is located at Haliotata, 3 km from Sami, 120 m above sea level. The cave is 95 m deep and has a constant temperature of 18 °C. The cave is considered as one of the finest in Greece. It measures 65 m × 45 m and is 20 m high.
- Melissani Cave. Melissani Cave at Karavomylos (actually a lake, formed when part of the land above collapsed during an earthquake), filled with brilliant blue water from an underground current which mysteriously flows right under the island, is a memorable experience. Melissani Cave is located at Karavomylos, 2 km from Sami town. The cave is 160 m long and 40 m wide. The stalactites are 16,000 to 20,000 years old.The floor is covered by a lake, about 40 m deep. In the centre of the lake is a small island. Archaeologists habe discovered artefacts from the 4th and 3rd century BC, related to the cult of the god Pan, as well as a number of female figures, the famous nymphs of Melissani. The cave is open every day from 09:00 to late afternoon.
- Fanari Road. This is a pleasant coastal walking or driving route around the coast north of Argostoli and Lassi, which takes in a few sights such as the Lighthouse of Saint Theodoroi, Katavothres waterwheel and some smaller beaches.
- Rent a boat. In Agia Efimia there are a few rentals, such as Yellow Boat - and spend the day visiting secluded beaches which can only be reached by boat. Of the many boat excursions available, one to nearby Ithaca is particularly recommended. Also, the glass bottomed boat tour run by Captain Maki is a must.
- Horseriding. There are a number of horseriding stables in Kefalonia and it is possible to arrange a ride into the mountains, through ruined villages and ancient vineyards, where the bells of the mountain goats and the cry of eagles are the only sounds to punctuate the silence—gorgeous, and highly recommended, even in the height of summer.
Most beaches have sunbed hire, a cafe bar, and sometimes water sport activities at the livelier beaches. Some of the beaches are suitable for nudism as well
- 1 Avythos has the island's best beach bar.
- 2 Antisamos near Sami is also stunning (blue water, white stones, mountains in a circle around the small bay) but has a permanent traffic jam around it. The beach was featured in the Corelli film.
- 3 Dafnoudi is small, isolated and usually quiet.
- 4 Horgota Beach - The jetty in the film of Corelli, where Mandras throws Pelagia into the sea.
- 5 Kaminia Beach is a lovely shallow beach between Anno Katelios and Skala, where you may see a turtle!
- 6 Koroni is an impressive stretch of sand and a nesting site for the loggerhead sea turtle.
- 7 Makrys Gialos and Platis Gialos in Lassi, not far from Argostoli, are two stunning beaches, but predictably busy.
- 8 Myrtos Beach, in the west, is the first choice and has been repeatedly voted one of the best beaches of the world. It is popular and therefore can be busy. This beach has a very steep shore break (you are out of your depth about 10ft out!) so it is not recommended for non-swimmers. Also take plenty of suncream, as the beach is made up of white stones, and in high summer can be blindingly hot.
- 9 Petanoi, on the Lixouri peninsula is a wonder of nature and resembles Myrtos.
- 10 The beach of Xi, south of Lixouri, is a lovely sandy beach and always seems to have space and peace.
- Vouti is quiet and has a very decent refreshment canteen.
Local honey - be sure to buy Kefalonian wild thyme honey (it really does taste special) and the local wine, Robola.
There are any number of tacky gifts to be had, though to be fair most of the tourist shops have remained reasonably tasteful and low-key. Souvenirs are aplenty as you'd expect. Some of the jewelry is of reasonable quality and price - you are unlikely to get ripped off in Kefalonia and the Greeks are generally keen to see you get what you pay for in any transaction.
One local speciality is Kefalonian meat pie, available in quite a few restaurants. It's a hearty farmhouse dish rather than haute cuisine. Getting a really good example is not easy, however - the Captain's Table in Argostoli is perhaps your best bet for this local dish. Food in most establishments is okay rather than spectacular, with traditional Greek dishes as well as menus catering to Italian and British tourists. It's worth tapping into local knowledge about where to eat.
If you're in Argostoli, visit the big bakery on the main street opposite the harbour and buy the little round cheese pies - they're fantastic.
There is a lovely cafe/restaurant at the entrance to the Venetian fortress in Kastro, shaded by trees, with very friendly owners - a Greek man married to an Englishwoman (Nicki). Their homemade cakes are delicious.
Visit the lovely Dionysos tavern in Poros, with a spectacular view to the island of Ithaca and the marina. There you may find one of the most mouth-watering meat pies (kreatopita) in the island, as it is prepared according to a traditional Kefallonian recipe (with up to three different types of meat). Additionally, slightly exotic scenes in Dionysos are the squids that slowly dry while hanging under the sun, waiting to be fried. Nonetheless, the specialty of the restaurant is mousakas, a small bite of which leaves a mouthful of flavours.
- Olive Lounge.
Popular drinks are:
- Frappe - instant ice coffee. Drunk by everyone, cheap and refreshing, a "ticket" to sit outside a cafe for hours, like the Greeks do.
- Freddo Cappuccino - an iced cappuccino. Also drunk by everyone and stronger than a Frappe and easier on the stomach.
- Ouzo - Greek anise-flavoured liqueur.
- Mythos - good Greek lager, very swiggable after a long day in the sun and usually quite reasonable.
Lassi has a number of bars along the main road, many of which have 'happy hour' promotions in the evening.
- [dead link] Logos Grand View, Stefanos Studios. Quality bar above the main road in Lassi with panoramic views of the sunset and a wide range of cocktails.
- [dead link] So Simple, Lassi main road, ☏ . Exotic decor, cocktails, pop/rock music and sport on TV.
- [formerly dead link] Trentis, Lassi main road. Bar with outdoor terrace. Popular with UK visitors.
There are relatively few hotels, most accommodation is in apartments, the majority of which are block booked by the tour operators. However it isn't too hard to find rooms to rent. Kefalonia isn't a night life island but Lassi in particular can be a bit noisy at night due to the open air bars. Most of Europe closes down during high summer and heads south. Consequently July/August tend to be very busy (especially with Italian camper vans!). September is a lot quieter, although this is also the time when the rains can start. See the city articles for accommodations in Fiskardo or Skala.
- Green Bay Hotel. A fairly new building, lying by the sea in Karavomilos-Sami Kefalonia near the cave-lake of Melissani.
- Luxury Stone Villas Gaia & Nemus, Steliata, Fiscardo. Villa Gaia & Villa Nemus are in a small village called Steliata at the northern part of Cephalonia. Both villas are restored olive oil mills, built of traditional stone and dating back to 1895. Gaia & Nemus are fringed by tastefully preserved ruins and verdant forests in a quintessentially rural setting yet at the same time only 500 m away from village amenities, 2.5 km from the beach and 4 km from the picturesque Fiscardo bay.
- Panas Hotel, Spartia. Offers three-star hotel rooms next to the beach.
- Avithos Resort. Avithos Resort in Kefalonia stands out as a resort with a unique character, giving the feeling of a small neighbourhood; a family friendly hotel.
- The seasons of Nickolas, Agia Efimia. A small hotel in Agia Efimia that is tastefully decorated , run by a family that remind us what Greek hospitality used to be
- Vassaliki. The only nudist hotel on the island.
- Eliamos Villas Hotel & Spa. A five-star retreat on the southern shores of Kefalonia above a secluded beach.
Free wifi is provided in many apartments and bars.
Kefalonia has very little crime, although be careful in busy areas as most petty crime is the cause of tourists. Traffic, as everywhere in Greece, can be a little mad in towns. Out in the hills, the roads wind precariously around the sides of mountains. Some are passable only with a good four-wheel drive vehicle, though the main routes are fine.
Watch uneven pavements in dimly lit streets.
The local police have a very low key presence and generally confine themselves to issuing speeding tickets and being suspicious of Albanians. You'll need a rep or interpreter if dealing with them for an insurance claim.
Mosquitoes are a minor issue in inland accommodation, less so by the beaches.
There are plenty of ferry connections to the mainland and the other Ionian islands (Corfu, Zante, etc.) and Italy, though Kefalonia isn't really on the traditional island hopping route. There are air services to Athens.