Experience Kefalonia - 2017
Why should I visit?
The Greek Islands are made up of approximately 6,000 islands, but the majority are uninhabited, and actually impossible to live on (or visit for that matter). There are around 80 islands that are where the Greeks call home, however only about 20 of them have a relatively sizeable tourism trade. Spilt into 6 different clusters, or groups; you have the Ionian Islands, which lie west of the mainland, the Cyclades which lie south, the Dodecanese which lie to the east, the Sporades which lie north east and the Samos islands which lie to the north. Crete is a whole different island on its own, and sits happily in the south, as the largest Greek island of them all.
So which one should you choose?
Quite frankly all of them. Greece is an incredible country, and one that I have spent a lot of time in. I adore everything about the culture, food, weather and landscapes, that change from island to island giving you so much to see (and photograph), whilst travelling around. I’m sure you will fall in love with the Greek islands, just as I have and to help you on your way I’m going to introduce to you the island of Kefalonia, which forms part of the Ionian cluster of islands in the west.
If you follow me on Instagram and other social media platforms you’ll know that I recently paid a visit with my partner to both Kefalonia and nearby Lefkada for my birthday, and was completely blown away by the rustic, authentic and rugged landscapes of both islands. Everything about the Greek islands is the reason why I love to travel. In the past I've travelled to Poros Island, Santorini, Mykonos, Ios, Corfu, Kos and Crete. Kefalonia is definitely in my top 2.
4 days in Kefalonia
Kefalonia is best known to most for the setting of the book, and movie of the same name; Captain Correlli's Mandolin. It’s the largest of the Ionian islands, and is beautifully green, charming and incredibly picturesque, with landscapes that make capturing good photographs very easy.
The island itself has a very under developed feel, and isn’t at all touristy, and even though we went just before high season starts, I’m told by the locals that the atmosphere and laid back feel of the island doesn’t really change. Whether you’re travelling here on a romantic break or with friends and family, the mind blowing views of some of the best beaches in the world, will be waiting to welcome you to their shores.
Things to do on Kefalonia:
Visiting Kefalonia was a very easy decision for us to make, but I was completely awe struck by the quaint, charming, beautiful little town of Assos, where we had chosen to stay for 4 nights on the island. Imagine vast colours of pretty flowers draped over and decorating every building. A view of the bay, with a background of little pastel coloured apartments, and crystal clear flat waters that make the idea of going in for a swim very inviting (even if the water was cold when we were there). The visibility as you swim out to the secluded beach here, or round to the second bay immersed in nature will have you reaching for your GoPro in a second.
Due to the size of the town, there are only a small handful of restaurants here, and two small grocery shops, which for us was actually really refreshing. It isn’t touristy at all, and whilst we did hear the beautiful British accent, it wasn’t overpowering and certainly didn’t make us feel that we had not left the UK. Assos is the number 1 “thing to do” on tripadvisor, so I think that fact speaks for itself. If you choose to spend a day here lazing on the pebbled beach, swimming in the calm waters, and indulging in some fine Greek food than it will be a day of your trip very well spent. If you choose to stay here as we did, I would highly recommend that you stay at Linardos Apartments (just to point out I wasn’t sponsored by them or paid to say that). It’s an authentic, warm, well run, small set of apartments, with balconies that all look out onto the bay of Assos. Every morning when you wake up, the sun beams through your French doors that open out onto your balcony, where you’ll be met with “the view”. Calm, relaxation, tranquillity and beauty. What more could you want.
Just outside of Assos on the top of the mountain is the fortress, also known as the Castle of St George, which I highly recommend you visit. You can hike up there using the newly paved footpath, or you can take the more rustic route on the site of the mountain, with much better views and it's still very safe. Don't worry about putting on your hiking boots for this though as it's only roughly a 30 minute walk up to the fortress, where you're met with stunning views over Assos and peace and quiet. When we ventured up it was "golden hour" (best time for taking photos), and we were the only two people around, apart from two friendly goats grazing and minding their own business. It's like a magical fairytale land, with every different type of flower and big, strong tree's spreading the colour green throughout.
Myrtos Beach should be next on your list of places to see when visiting this island. It has been previously voted one of the best top 10 beaches in the world, and I couldn't agree more with this statement. It was so hard for me to believe that this beach was in Europe! As you drive down the mountain, you are met with the most magnificent sight. We had to pull over immediately to take photos. Speaking of pulling over, be sure to hire a car in Kefalonia or a bike, but please don't do as the locals do and ride around without a helmet. You'll never be safe without one, not to mention your travel insurance will not cover you if anything happens.
When we think of the ocean, the immediate colour that comes to most peoples minds is blue. Myrtos Beach, and the ocean that presses against it is a completely new level of blue. I'd never seen water this blue, it was like an azure blue of the brightest kind. The beach is pebbled, as are most beaches on Kefalonia so be sure to pack jelly shoes or beach shoes that let you enter the water with them, otherwise it can be a little tricky. Whilst your bathing in the sun or swimming through the completely flat waters here, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that you wont be surrounded by tourists. Myrtos beach is a quiet, laid back beach, and is very rarely busy, which is so nice to experience when you're travelling through somewhere as commercialised as the Greek islands.
Another fantastic beach on the island is Antisamos beach in Sami, on the East coast of the island. It's famous and well known for being heavily featured in the Hollywood Movie starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It's again a pebbled beach, with sun loungers this time. It gets slightly busier than Myrtos Beach, but still quiet enough to feel like you're not on top of other sunbathers. There are two beach bars here with delicious food, and even better service. Throughout the month of May when we visited we didn't have to pay for any sun beds at any of the beaches on the island, we just had to buy a drink from the bar, which is unusual in Europe. Still we were really impressed, and I've been told this runs through into high season.
Other places to visit on Kefalonia:
Argostoli Town - Quaint, charming little greek town, with a church as the epicentre of the community. Local children playing in the square, whilst their parents sit back drinking their Greek coffees, surrounded by delightful little Greek restaurants.
Sami - Beautiful little coastal town that you pass through on the way to Antisamos Beach. Population of this little town is only about a 1000 people, but its unique charm draws people in, with the nearby port, excellent beaches and great little eateries.
Fiscardo - Stunning harbour and fishing village, with a port that connects you through to the nearby island of Lefkas, or Lefkada (where we went next).
Skala - This town has been completely rebuilt, after it was destroyed in the earthquake that hit Kefalonia in 1953. Skala is the most popular tourist destination on the island and is quite built up, but it still isn't anywhere near as built up as some of the other, more popular Greek islands. Skala still retains its natural beauty, with long beaches, crystal clear waters and coves.
Day trip to Ithaca - This is something we didn't have the time to do, but I will 100% be back, so will do it then. Ithaca holds the history of Greek Mythology. It was written in Homers iliad that King Odysseus, King of Ithaca, battled with the sea and sea monsters on his journey back from The battle of Troy.
Melissani caves - The Melissani caves are stunning. You are taken through them by little wooden boats, and if you visit around lunchtime when the sun is at its highest, the rays pour into the caves and set the water alight with a magical blue colour brighter than any sky.
How to get to Kefalonia
Arriving into Argostoli airport from London we jumped into a taxi, which was ready and waiting, and paid €60 for our trip north to Assos. The length of time it took was around 1 hour 15 minutes, as we climbed up and up the small windy mountain roads (not for the faint hearted). If you are slightly scared of heights (as I am), you’ll be distracted by the many herds of the cutest little goats on the roads as you pass through, grazing in the Kefalonian sun. A great start to our trip, and it will be to yours I’m sure.
If you choose to arrive in by ferry from another Greek Island, you’ll be arriving into one of three ports; Sami on the Eastern side of the island, Poros in the South East or Fiscardo in the North. Greek island hopping by ferry is extremely easy, and usually the ferries are of a high standard and leave on time, so don’t hesitate to explore using this method of transport if you have the budget and the time.
Kefalonia - culture and food
Kefalonian locals are some of the nicest, politest, most helpful people I've come across. Their warm faces, with bright wide eyes and sun kissed skin welcome you with open arms to experience their island and their home in the best possible way. When travelling I would always advise to make an effort to immerse yourself in the local language and customs. Luckily for me I'm Greek, so I can can speak a little and understand a lot, but even if you're not, a simple "Yassas" (Hello) or Efharisto (Thank you) will do the trick.
Greek food is all about meat, more specifically lamb. Be sure to try the local dishes, such as the Kefalonian sausage grilled on the BBQ with lemon, Kleftico, Souvlaki, Mousakka, Tzatsiki and all other starter dips, and cheeses (especially feta and saganaki).
In Assos we had incredibly tasty suckling pork, fresh sea bream, meze's of greek dips and souvlaki. Panos restaurant was our favourite. As we travelled outside of Assos and around the mountainous island of Kefalonia we made sure we indulged in as much Greek food as we could. When in Rome!
Should I visit Kefalonia?
Kefalonia as an island remains relatively unspoilt after the dramatic earthquake in 1953, which is why I whole heartily recommend you visit this island, and base yourself in the north, either in Assos or Fiscardo as they remain towns that are both unscathed by the quake. The beaches here are exceptional, as are the natural landscapes, the weather and the people.