As everyone begins to jet off for their summer holiday of the year, I thought I would share with you 11 reasons as to why you should visit Kefalonia, one of the Greek Ionian Islands. If you are still deciding on a last minute trip away, or even planning ahead for next year, there are many reasons why you should consider the island.
Last September, Anthony and I spent a relaxing week on the beautiful island of Kefalonia, famous for being the location of the novel and film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin starring Nicholas Cage. I recommend giving it a watch before you go. You will fall in love with the scenery; I even watched it again once home because I missed the views so much.
1.Stunning Landscapes and Views
Many of the Greek islands are stunning with their own unique qualities, but what makes Kefalonia so special is how green the island is. Unlike other Greek islands, Kefalonia gets quite a bit of rainfall in comparison, but the rain is part of its beauty. The island is also very raw and rugged which I loved. Kefalonia lies in the middle of an earthquake zone, in fact, whilst there we experienced an earthquake during the night of a storm. Our apartment was on high ground but we could still feel the earth shaking below. In 1953, a large earthquake destroyed many roads and buildings on the island. To this day, there are still many areas that were affected that remain in the same condition.
If you going to travel around the island, which I recommend you do because there are some beautiful little gems to visit, then you should consider hiring a car. Transport is not great on the island so having your own car will make getting around a lot easier. Due to the rugged roads and mountains, be prepared for lots of cliff side driving, lots of wandering goats and lots of unmissable views. Expect to pull over multiple times just to get out and enjoy the scenery.
When choosing somewhere to stay, I can’t recommend Lassi enough. It is also where we stayed and I am so happy we made the decision to stay there and not elsewhere. Firstly, it is only a short drive away from the airport, so perfect when you just want to check in and relax after a flight. Don’t worry, the planes fly in the opposite direction so you don’t have to worry about a flight taking off above you.
The beaches at Lassi are the best on the island for a day relaxing on a sunbed, with the occasional swim in the sea. Many people like to stay in Skala and prefer the beach there but personally, we weren’t as impressed as we were by Lassi. There are multiple sandy beaches along the coast, some small and private and others such as Costa Costa that were larger, played music, provided water sports and had serving waiters and waitresses for your needs.
Along the main road, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. They are mostly all Greek restaurants and I think there was one Chinese restaurant as well. If you’re looking for fast food chains, you definitely won’t find them on the island. Trust me, you don’t need them. Also along the main road are supermarkets, souvenir shops, a selection of boutiques, rent-a-car services and a few bars. The nightlife isn’t great, so if you are looking for somewhere to party every night, then Lassi isn’t the place. Luckily we weren’t fussed about nightlife, but we did like to grab a cocktail or two after dinner in a bar called ‘So Simple.’
On the way out of Lassi along the main road towards Argostoli, you can visit Saint Theodore’s Lighthouse and there are also the Italian World War 2 memorials, dedicated to the lives lost on the island whilst Italy occupied the island.
Argostoli is the capital of Kefalonia and it is not too far from Lassi. Before we hired a car, we decided to walk from our apartment to Argostoli one evening for dinner. It took us a while to walk but it was nice to experience the sun setting over the changing scenery.
There is plenty to see and places to eat in Argostoli as well as watch and feed turtles. There are also a lot more bars and clubs in comparison to Lassi, and you can grab a taxi back afterwards. It is a lot easier than walking back again.
I didn’t take many pictures of Argostoli as we didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it is definitely worth a visit or at least a drive through.
4. Myrtos Beach
If there is one reason to visit it Kefalonia, it has to be to see Myrtos Beach. It is utterly breathtaking in pictures but even more so in real life. Make sure to pull over at the viewing point to take the famous photo from above, before driving down to experience it for yourself. I honestly could have sat and looked at it all day.The beach is not sandy but has the most beautiful, chalky white pebbles against the turquoise sea. Seriously stunning. Unlike the beaches in Lassi, Myrtos is a lot more rugged and wild and you really feel exposed to the elements. We didn’t dip in the sea but I had previously heard that it can quite dangerous as there are strong currents and undertows. I was too busy taking photographs from every angle. The place is a photographers dream.
Fiskardo is a small seaside village in the very north of the island. It is also the only place on the island that was not damaged by the 1953 earthquake. Therefore, many of the buildings are the oldest on the island and have a Venetian style to them. They are extremely photogenic with their pastel coloured walls and shutters. It’s very pretty for a little stroll with an ice cream in hand.
Along the port, there are lots of restaurants to choose from and relax by the water’s edge. There are also lots of different little quirky shops and you can hire a boat to travel to nearby Zakynthos.There is a small pebble beach near the centre of Fiskardo, but if you travel out a little further afield, there are so many hidden little coves you have to explore.
6. The Food
I had never really tried Greek food before going to Kefalonia. I have Italian family so I love Meditteranean food and Greek food did not disappoint, especially the cheese. I pretty much lived off saganaki and hot feta straight from the oven. Being a pescatarian at the time, my diet on the island consisted of fresh fish and calamari, lots of fresh Greek salads, aubergines, veggie mezes and tzatziki. Don’t worry, there are plenty of meat options. I actually eat a plant based diet now, so no more saganaki for me.
Every restaurant that we ate at offered a bread basket with butter and if you eat the bread they charge you, if you leave it, then you won’t be charged. We were naive at first and tucked straight in, but how can you not when you’re hungry and it’s sitting in front of you. Many of the restaurants do however treat you to a small desert or fruit after the meal for free. Basically, you won’t go hungry. When in Greece, you have to visit a traditional Greek restaurant which provides entertainment. We left going to one called ‘Zorbas’ in Lassi until our last night as a nice way to end our final night on the island. They like to get you up to join in with Greek dancing, I, however, was too shy and if you need to let off some steam, you can get involved with plate smashing. Anthony certainly enjoyed himself.
Before heading to Kefalonia, I saw a picture of pretty little Assos and I thought to myself, I have to go there. It is postcard perfect. It is a small village full of charm with colourful houses, small and intimate taverns near the water and a peaceful little beach boosting sparkling blue water. A wonderful place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Whilst there is it also worth the walk to the Castle ruins, which is situated at the top of what looks like its own little island but is actually still connected to the mainland. It is quite a long steep walk uphill, but you have a choice of two different routes to take. The paved route takes longer to reach the top but the terrain is smoother and easier. The second route, however, is quicker as it takes you along the edge of the island but the track is narrow and very rocky. We took the latter route and it was so worth it. It was so peaceful and we were surrounded by olive trees and magnificent views of the sea to our left. It was as if no one else was around.
Once you get to the top, you can stroll around the ruins, say hello to the goats (they are everywhere in Kefalonia) and take in the view of Assos below. So, if you are like me and enjoy walking and taking in the scenery, then it is definitely worth the few hours trek. Just please remember to take water. We left ours in the car by accident and were so thirsty.
8. Melissani Cave
I am sure that even if you haven’t heard of Kefalonia before, you would have seen pictures or videos of Melissani Cave before. You can reach the cave by an underground pathway which takes you down to the water. There you can hop on a small boat and go for a tour around the cave. The cave itself is actually quite small, smaller than I thought it would be, so it doesn’t take long to go round. What is special about it, however, is the crystal clear turquoise water.
The best time of day to visit is midday when the sun is directly above the cave and the whole place looks magical. Anthony and I, however, visited earlier in the morning to avoid queueing, so only a small part of the cave was hit by sunlight (shown in the photo below). Just imagine how spectacular it must be when all of the water is that brilliant blue. Nature is so impressive.
Sami is another small town and it is where the majority of the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin took place. It isn’t as pretty or quaint as Fiskardo or Assos, but still charming in its own way. Sami is surrounded by lush green mountains and plenty of restaurants along the water to stop and have a drink. If you are travelling from Melissani Cave, or are heading to Antisamos Beach, then a trip to Sami for lunch should definitely be on the cards.
Whilst we were having lunch, two young locals were fishing in front of us and they succeeded in catching a fish. It was nice to see them going about their every day. That’s what makes Kefalonia special; you don’t feel as though you are surrounded by thousands of other tourists or tourist attractions, but you’re in the very heart of what life on the island is like.
10. Antisamos Beach
After visiting Sami, you have to go to Antisamos Beach. The beach was also featured in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Like Myrtos Beach, there is viewing point you can stop off at and take photographs before driving down to the beach and it is breathtaking. It too is a pebble beach but unlike Myrtos, it has a few bars which also play music. Antisamos Beach is very different to the other beaches on the island because it is surrounded by green mountains. You will forget that you are even in Greece, but somewhere tropical instead. It’s a beautiful beach with such gorgeous views that I definitely wouldn’t miss a visit.
11. Laid back atmosphere
Most of all, the thing I loved most about Kefalonia was its tranquillity. Unlike many other places abroad which cater for a lot of tourists, and have big resorts and lots of noise (which I personally dislike), Kefalonia remains very untouched and natural. As we went in Septemeber, it had started to quieten down on the island and by the end of the week, it felt as though there was hardly anyone else around. When driving through the tiniest little villages and towns, I don’t remember even seeing a face. It was very, very quiet. In fact, many of the residents on the island leave for mainland Greece in the winter and restaurants close in October. I will be returning one day for sure.
So there you have it, 11 reasons why you should visit Kefalonia.
Love Georgie ♥