Kefalonia

The largest and most mountainous of the seven Ionian Islands and boasting the highest peak, Mount Enos, Kefalonia, also known as Kefallinia and Cephalonia, is noteworthy for its delightful bays and beaches, and pine-covered slopes, and made internationally famous as the film setting for Captain Correlli’s Mandolin.

Although fossils date back to 50,000 BC, the first definitive references to Kefalonia are in Herodotus where the four city states, Sami, Pali, Krani and Pronnoi were allies of Corinth and such spent their time fighting for independence from Athens. Prospering in Byzantine times, the island spent hundreds of years as the plaything of the Normans, of Venice, and various dukes and counts including the colourful pirate, Count Matteo Orsini. In 1823 Byron spent three months here working as an agent of the Greek Committee in London. In 1953 Kefalonia suffered a massive earthquake, but thanks to donations from thousands of Kefalonians who lived abroad, most towns and villages have been sympathetically reconstructed.

Kefalonia’s capital town Argostoli, rebuilt in utilitarian style after the 1953 earthquake, boasts a British-built pedestrian bridge across the lagoon and trendy cafes and smart shops on the relatively elegant Lithostroto. A Museum of History and Folklore depicts interesting scenes of the capital before and after the earthquake. Kefalonia’s greatest assets, however, are its beautiful coves, bays and beaches. On the west coast, the perfect horseshoe harbour of Assos and its adjoining isthmus provides great swimming, better perhaps than the more famous Myrtos beach which, although extraordinarily beautiful, is coarse-pebbled and dangerous if the surf is up. With calmer waters and smaller pebbles, Agia Efimia is a fishing village on the east coast, and between it and the more functional port of Sami, lies the Melissani cave which contains an underground lake partially open to the sky. Nearby, the cave of Drongarati offers multi-coloured stalactites and stalagmites, and is the occasional venue for concerts. On the southern tip of the island there’s the busy resort of Skala with its superb sand and gravel beach fringed by pines plus it even boasts some extensive mosaic flooring in a free-to-enter Roman villa.

On the southwest corner Katelios at the western end of Mounda Bay is loved by Argostolians and tourists alike for its fantastic seafood, tiny harbour and the sandy beach backed by flat fertile plains. Svoronata, 3km south of Lassi, is only minutes from the airport, but is peaceful and scenic with olive groves and fields full of wild flowers. Svoronata village is about 1km inland although our hotel, Astra Village is just 150m from Ammes; a 100m stretch of sandy beach popular with families as the water remains shallow for quite a distance. 800m from vibrant, buzzing Lassi, Platis Yialos offers easy access to a string of delightful turquoise beaches including the Blue Flag awarded Platis and Makris Gialos.

Kefalonia is a delightful island to visit with its glorious beaches and interesting history, fantastic caves and feisty locals, thymescented honey and local specialities of seafood and riganata (feta cheese mixed with bread, oil and oregano), plus there’s easy ferry access from Sami to the island of Ithaka, ancient home of Homer’s hero, Odysseus, and if you’d like to enjoy a twin centre holiday, Zante (Zakynthos) is easily reached by ferry from Pesada on the southwest coast.

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