Now renamed “the island of Captain Corelli” after the dramatic film which has relaunched it as a star of international tourism, Kefalonia (also known as Kefallonia) is an island which has been able to reborn from the devastation of war and earthquake.
The sad past today can be seen only in museums: the present is made of sun, scent of oleander and excellent wines. In summertime the small towns of the island are full of tourists, attracted here by the right combination of tourist services, traditions and landscapes.
Myrtos Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Greece, has appeared in magazines and travel sites all over the world and remains one of the most beautiful places where to take a picture frame, take a dip in the blue water or wait for a spectacular sunset.
Rent a car and explore the most beautiful beaches of Kefalonia; have fun driving along its winding roads that offer wonderful panoramic views; go into the mountainous regions of the island to breathe an air of times gone by, among grazing goats, ancient monasteries and ruined castles.
Do you want to go to Kefalonia but don’t know which village to choose as a base? Here are the ones we suggest.
Razed to the ground by the earthquake of 1953, Argostoli has proudly risen again and today is a charming town with a lively main square and a long pedestrian street full of stores and boutiques.
Deprived of its ancient buildings, Argostoli cannot boast the mythical charm of other towns of the Ionian Sea, but it has definitely preserved its Greek soul and has been able to make it a tourist attraction, managing to charm visitors with its typical taverns, the small bars for aperitifs and the relaxing seaside promenade.
Argostoli is an excellent base for exploring the island and is equipped with numerous tourist services. To sleep you will find a wide choice of apartments, studios and vacation homes, as well as fifteen hotels from 2 to 5 stars and a camping.Accommodation in Argostoli
At 25 km from Argostoli there is Sami, the main port of the island. A modern town scenically set between a magnificent bay and steep hills behind it, Sami is often just a stopover for tourists arriving by ferry, but it is worth a visit or better yet you could choose it as a base for your vacation.
Without having to move much you will find beautiful beaches, castles, ruins, ancient monasteries and beautiful walks. The offer of hotels and apartments is less than in other places, but prevail the economic solutions and medium category.Accommodation in Sami
Lassi is the tourist village par excellence, born around two beautiful beaches. Its purely tourist vocation is made evident by the high concentration of hotels, vacation villages, residences, apartments and studios in the area, well distributed in different price ranges: there is something for everyone!Accommodation in Lassi
Fiskardo is the white fly of Kefalonia: escaped the earthquake, has preserved its beautiful Venetian buildings and has become the most chic and cosmopolitan place of the island.
Maybe because of its elegant soul at times even snob, maybe because of the yachts that crowd its characteristic harbor, Fiskardo is a sort of Greek Portofino: it is not surprising, therefore, that among the accommodations available in Fiskardo prevail luxury hotels and villas, with super-luxury tips such as elegant suites and period houses reserved exclusively for adults.
If you like the area but can’t afford 4 stars or more, don’t despair: the offer of hotels and apartments is very wide, so you’ll be able to find good accommodations of medium or low category. If you don’t have your own yacht, you can always take a ferry to Lefkada, only an hour and a half away.Accommodation in Fiskardo
One of the most beautiful areas of Kefalonia Island is Paliki Peninsula, with its typical villages, reddish or cream colored rocks, green plains with cultivated fields and vineyards and characteristic colorful houses.
Lixouri is the main town of the area and the second tourist resort of the island. It can be reached more easily by ferry than by car, with a crossing of about half an hour: this “inconvenience” has become one of the reasons of charm of Lixouri, which seems almost an island in itself.
The choice of accommodation is really wide, with a prevalence of apartments and vacation homes compared to hotels.Accommodation in Lixouri
Kefalonia has over 240km of coastline and has numerous beaches, for every taste.
Myrtos Beach on the island of Kefalonia (or Myrthos, not to be confused with Crete) is one of the most famous and photographed beaches in all of Greece and has appeared in more magazines and covers than an international supermodel.
Admire it from above in all its breathtaking beauty: it is an arc of white pebbles more than a kilometer long, squeezed between impressive limestone cliffs and bathed by a beautiful turquoise sea. Then descend the vertiginous zigzag road to reach your well-deserved corner where you can lay out your towel.
Don’t hope for a beach umbrella unless you’ve arrived here early in the morning: the beach is very popular and therefore always crowded in summer. Be careful because there is no shelter from the sun, so if you miss the last umbrella don’t forget to protect yourself with sunscreen!
If you think you can not stand the heat come here in the late afternoon to wait for the sunset: when the sky turns pink and orange, Myrthos becomes a magical place.
A curiosity: the beach of Myrthos is one of the locations used for the filming of the movie “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”.
Although it is very touristy, Myrthos is not the usual equipped beach with all the comforts, indeed the services available are reduced to a minimum to preserve the natural beauty of the place.
No equipment for water sports or beach volleyball courts, no bars on the beach (only a tavern at the entrance of the beach) and few umbrellas for rent.
True, the beauty of Myrthos will take your breath away, but for a relaxing afternoon by the sea you can choose from many other beaches in Kefalonia. Here are some of the most beautiful:
Not only sea: in Kefalonia you can choose the activity that suits you, whether it’s wandering around the traditional villages or hiking in nature.
The scenic beauties of Kefalonia are not limited to its enchanting beaches. Two popular tourist attractions of the island are the caves of Melissani and Dragorani.
The cave of Melissani, or Melissani Lake, is the most visited: it is a karst cavity a few kilometers from Sami, which can be visited by rowing boat or on foot through a path that leads to the shores of the inner lake. A huge hole in the ceiling, caused by the earthquake of 1953, lets in the sun’s rays, which create an extraordinary play of light inside the cave.
If you are looking for some peace and refreshment without moving much from the center of Argostoli, spend some time in the botanical gardens Cephalonia Botanica, opened in 1998 to protect and introduce endemic plants of the island.
Through interesting guided tours, visitors to the gardens can discover medicinal herbs, aromatic plants, plants of mythology and folklore, and edible plants of Kefalonia. Or you can wander randomly in the park, among plants and artificial ponds.
The headquarters of the Focas-Kosmetatos Foundation, an elegant building razed to the ground by the earthquake and reconstructed faithfully respecting its original appearance, houses an interesting museum with collections of period furniture and coins, permanent exhibitions and temporary exhibitions.
The area outside the building houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to the 1953 earthquake, with photos and period documents showing the city before and after the devastating event.
A candid look at the art and culture of Kefalonia is offered by the Korgialenio Museum of History and Folklore, which displays icons, clothing, furniture and works of art and craftsmanship donated by the island’s wealthy and farming families.
One of the most important pilgrimage destinations of all the Ionian Islands is the Agiou Gerasimou Monastery, founded by the patron saint of Kefalonia in the mid-sixteenth century and today run by the nuns. The original nucleus of the monastery is a small cave, incorporated into a conventual church that houses the remains of the saint.
The fortress of San Giorgio, perched on top of a hill 300 meters high, is definitely worth a visit. Built by the Venetians in the sixteenth century, it remained the capital of the island for over two hundred years, until the title passed to Argostoli.
Climb up here to enjoy a splendid panoramic view of the island, browse in the Byzantine village that stands next to the castle and to listen to live traditional Greek music played in one of the typical taverns.
After so much art and culture, it’s time to know another characteristic side of Kefalonia: its typical wine, the Robola.
Take your car and drive up the mountainous roads southeast of Argostoli until you reach the heart of the green valley of Omala: here are located the cellars of the Cooperative of the producers of Robola of Kefalonia, where more than 300 independent wine growers meet to produce a fine dry white wine with subtle but very pleasant aromas.
Kefalonia is connected by direct low cost flights departing from several European cities, alternatively you can make a stopover in Athens or on one of the most famous islands.
To reach Kefalonia by sea you can take a ferry from Patras: the crossing takes about three hours.
A historical episode that has deeply disturbed the tranquility of Kefalonia is the fierce reprisal of the Nazis against an Italian contingent stationed on the island during the Second World War, which took place after the armistice of September 1943.
These historical events are the context in which the fictional ones of Louis de Bernières’ novel ” Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” take place, from which the famous 2001 film starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz was based.
The massacre of the Acqui division is remembered in a small museum in Argostoli.