Non-tourist Greece. Going to Kefalonia
Planning a vacation in 2021 was a lot easier than in 2020, but the logistical difficulties, worries about vaccinations, and the uncertainty that the trip will actually happen, no one cancelled.
There were several criteria for choosing a vacation spot: comfortable flight from Kiev, interesting nature (so that it was not Crete with the same type of semi-desert landscapes) and remoteness (inaccessibility). The suddenly opened route of the new Ukrainian low-cost airline Bees Airline to Araxos airport in the Peloponnese helped me to make up my mind. A couple of google searches and the prospect to relax on a beautiful island, proclaimed a national park loomed ahead.
Of course, during a pandemic such a trip seemed risky: There were too many things that could go wrong. Although in September Greece was one of the most loyal countries to Ukrainians: vaccinated travelers (including holders of two doses of Coronavac and Covishield), tourists with a fresh PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a certificate of immunity were accepted. One of these documents had to be provided for the ferry trip as well – and so in our case of a week-long trip, the PCR would have to be done on the island, which didn’t seem like a very realistic prospect.
The mask regime was in effect indoors and in transport, and according to official rules even applied to the closed areas of restaurants and bars. But in reality, many things like the form that had to be filled out upon entering the ferry were a mere formality. And checking the vaccination certificate (we had Coronavac) at the border and at the entrance to the ferry in the application “Dia” took no more than a minute.
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, an archipelago in western Greece. At a glimpse it may seem a typical Greek island wilderness – with beautiful bays, cliffs, cute little villages and a couple of ancient ruins. But everything is, as usual, a little more complicated and ancient.
“Kefalonia is heavily dependent on tourism – but it’s not at all like the rest of Greece.
Of course, Homer wrote about Kefalonia (the coveted Ithaca is a stone’s throw away). But five thousand years before Homer, people lived here: they fished, grew olives, and prayed to Poseidon. And perhaps, the god of earthquakes: they happened here with enviable regularity, each time breaking the usual relief and forming the bizarre outlines of “the island with the head” (and that’s how the name is translated from the Greek). The last major one, by the way, happened just in 1953: it destroyed almost all the cities except the northernmost – Fiskardo. People had no resources to restore their habitual way of life, so many left: some went to the mainland, others to Germany. And those who stayed slowly rebuilt churches, houses and wharves, opened harbor taverns and… didn’t look too much into the future. All this was told to us on the way to the ferry by the old cab driver Gerasimos. That, by the way, is the name of a good half of the men of Kefalon – after a local saint who used to hermit on a high mountain and work miracles.
Today, Kefalonia is heavily dependent on tourism, but it’s not like the rest of Greece. Instead of semi-private beaches and all-inclusive, there are marinas for sailing yachts, taverns with 7 tables, where the owners cook and serve themselves, small guest houses and uncoiffed perfect beaches. And the main stream consists, in fact, of sailors (for example, wealthy Austrians keep their yachts here), old Englishmen and Germans and Italians who arrive by direct ferry from Brindisi.
And here begins the main quest. For most passengers, the flight from Kiev to Araxos is just a charter to a chain hotel on the mainland. It’s certainly pretty, but we wanted more than just a sandy beach and olive groves. And so we decided to get to the island of dreams by ferry – thanks God, the Kiev flight arrived at 8 am and there was a full day ahead.
There were exactly two variants to get to Kefalonia from Araxos: the ferry from the port of Killioni to the town Poros (35 km from the airport, travel time – one and a half hours) or from the town Patras (the third largest in Greece) to the island port of Sami (more than three hours). After planning the logistic of the trip and checking the ferry schedule we decided to make a round trip: Araxos – Kilini – Poros – Sami – Patras – Araxos.
The first round is to get to the ferry in the village Killioni, thirty kilometers away from the airport, where there is no public transport. And it’s not a problem: good-natured cab drivers, though not able to tie two words in English, but half an hour (and clearly on the meter!) to get to your destination and offer their services on the way back.
The second round is the ferry. From Killini to Poros Port in Kefalonia during the season (May to October) there are three ferries a day: morning at 10:00, afternoon at 15:00 and evening at about 8:00. Flights are operated by a local company, Levante Ferries. Having read from home that there might not be enough seats on the ferry and that document checks might be delayed due to restrictions, we decided not to take the risk and get tickets for the afternoon flight. And when we arrived at the pier at 9 am we decided to change the tickets – on which we got perplexed looks and reactions like “if you don’t have a car, what difference does it make” (in general, tourists on their own two cars don’t have to worry about the number of seats). Around noon we were in place – on a semi-wild island with sparse tourists.
The trip itself on the ferry was as comfortable as possible (closed inner deck with air conditioning and a cafe with coffee and hot pastries, open upper deck with awnings and some viewing places in the bow), and also incredibly beautiful. The Ionian Sea is the deepest and cleanest (because of a tectonic fault), and therefore the water in it is an incredible blue, which turns to emerald green as you approach the wooded island.
The place for a leisurely vacation with trips to explore the island we chose rather intuitively – with the help of google maps and a list of suggestions on a bunkering. And we didn’t regret it, because we were, in our subjective opinion, almost in the best place.
Poros town, where the ferry comes from Killini, climbs a slope between two mountains (about 900m) and consists of two parts. In the part where the marina is, there are only two streets and a couple of alleys, a few hotels and exactly the two most authentic harbor tavernas. The northern part of the town is a little more civilized: a promenade by the sea, as many as seven taverns, supermarkets, a school, and a police station. But we stayed in the southern part – in the guest house at the beautiful hostess Isabella. The photos of the perfect balcony with a view of Ithaca and the sunset over the sea bribed us. And they did not let us down: everything was even more chic. The hostess – an Italian, treated muffins with jam and local wine, advised on beaches and taverns, and even organized a rental car – with another Gerasimos, her familiar tavern chef (and therefore we did not even need a deposit).
After traveling around almost the entire island, we realized that we were in the right place that met all our needs for this vacation: small, authentic, with pebble beaches and rocks from which you can dive, amazing water color and fantastic nature. But Kefalonia is so diverse that it will satisfy many different needs: for example, in the neighboring village of Skala – more infrastructure and a huge sandy beach. And in the southern part of the island, around the main town of Argostoli – large hotels, beach bars and discos.
About the beaches we have to tell separately. Since Kefalonia – a national park, almost all the beaches here have received the “blue flag” and are rightly included in all the top, not only in Greece, but also throughout the Mediterranean.
The beach of Saint Paraskeva between the towns of Sami and Ayia Efimia. A perfect typical Greek beach with olive grove, cicadas, cozy lagoon and emerald water. And also – with a flock of curious fish that will swim up to you with unclear purpose and pose for photos.
Myrtos beach in the northwest of the island is the same “best beach in Greece,” which falls almost on the first Google query. The absolutely incredible aquamarine color of the water and the complete absence of little or no habitable places around – its main features. It’s all about active geological processes, which are still going on, and thanks to which the water gets the tiniest marble crumb. The beach is especially beautiful in the sunset rays, when the sun illuminates the marble cliffs. But here is its cunning: to get here without a car is almost unreal, and the road is a narrow, winding and fairly steep serpentine from the top of the mountain to the beach. You should not let your guard down!
Ellinica Beach. Rocks, minimalism, sparseness – everything you need. There are many small beaches like this, all equipped with at least stairs with railings. But they are completely wild, so it’s best to stock up on water and snacks. And sunscreen.
St. Thomas beach. On the left is a cozy little cove with a sandy entrance to the water and an azure color of water. On the right – the rocky ledge, grottoes and equipped platform with ladders and places for safe diving. Other amenities are a bar, a tavern, and a parking lot with a church named after Thomas. Perfect!
Spasmata beach near the airport is a classic of Kefalon’s semi-wild sandy and rocky beaches. You can relax in the shadow of the hills, and you can take a deck chair with an umbrella for a token fee of two coffees – and clean the whole day, watching the cruisers call at Argostoli port, and directly overhead every half hour go to take off.
In Poros itself, where we stayed, there are two main beaches: a kilometer long beach with a comfortable entrance to the water, bars and promenade, and endless deserted Maximus – a three kilometer long beach on the other side of the hill, where for the whole week, it seems, except for us, no one appeared.
Equally wonderful beaches are Antisamos, Foki near Fiskardo, Koroni, Pessada, and Avitos. But on the exploration of all of them we just did not have enough time, and most importantly – strength, it really did not want to hurry and spend at the beach less than half an hour. Therefore, advice – stop at any of the known, when you drive a car, depending on time and desire.
An important point: many beaches, which are listed on the maps as beaches, are accessible only by boat. The road to them either does not exist, or it is unpaved, unlit and rests on a farm with grunting pigs. Therefore, it’s worth checking not only with the map, but with a satellite mode of Google Maps.
It would be a crime to go to Kefalonia just for the beaches (even if amazingly beautiful). And though the island has no antique ruins and medieval fortresses (with rare exception), there are enough sights for a good two weeks of leisurely travel. The resort towns of Assos, Fiskardo (the only place in Greece where seals live!) and Liksouri (where the Greek royal family used to send their children for vacations) are a sheer beauty! Alas, a week on the island was not enough to explore it completely – so these treasures will remain for the next visit.
But I managed to realize my childhood dream and get to the coveted island of Ithaca, which I’ve been trying to discover on the maps since my childhood, having read “The Odyssey” in a stupid illustrated retelling when I was eight. Of course, it turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined: greener, wilder, and … quite small. Though even this is a relative concept: having decided to feel like real Ulysses and return home properly, we decided to hike from the ferry to the main city and spent almost three hours: it seems that it was the longest six kilometers in my life. But we made it, thanks in large part to a bottle of Kefalon rosé and a beach in an olive grove halfway down the road.
“The hustling merchants, the seabass and dorad sorters, the dozens of species of sea clams – nothing seems to have changed in the last hundred years.”
If an adventure like a trip to a neighboring island isn’t for you, head to Argostoli, the island’s capital, in the early morning. Morning is the key word: around eight or nine o’clock fishermen moor at the pier by the old market. They take out of the nets the seabasses and perches they’ve caught, uncover anchovies and langoustines. Unmarketable catches are sent back into the sea – and it is just for it that enormous 1.5-meter loggerhead turtles, happily jumping out of the water and begging tourists (and the latter are only too glad to feed them secretly from the volunteers-zookeepers), come. In recent years, loggerheads have become a real local attraction. But the fish market in Argostoli is not to be missed either: swarming traders, sorting sea bass and sea bream, dozens of species of shellfish – nothing seems to have changed in the last hundred years. It was especially pleasant to find an ancient tavern right in the market building and go there for breakfast – the taste of freshly caught sea bream in English menu is incomparable with what you can buy in our country.
There are also more conventional attractions in Kefalonia. For example, the ancient Melissani Cave near the town of Sami. The water flowing from Argostoli to Sami under the whole island, washed out a depression in the soft rocks – approximately how the cave with steep walls and emerald ice water, where, according to legend, the nymphs lived, was formed. It was discovered only in 1951 and instantly associated with ancient legends. Now the place is a typical tourist attraction with queues, ticketed entrances and buses of tourists, which does not cancel its beauty. As in any other part of Greece, the mountainous landscape of Kefalonia is inevitably accompanied by old revered monasteries. Among the most famous is the monastery of St. Gerasimos near the highest point of the island (1600 m, however).
How to rest on the island of Kefalonia – what do I need to know?
The island of Kefalonia (Greece) is a great place to rest, which will appeal to fans of bright beaches and sunny resorts. It is nestled in the heart of the Ionian Sea and is the largest of the islands in the region.
Kefalonia has a surface of 800 square kilometers. On its territory is located Enos mountain range, the highest point – 1628 m. The largest city is Argostolion, which is also the capital of Kefalonia province. The local population is only 40 thousand people.
Kefalonia is a fairly young resort in Greece. During World War II it was badly damaged by the enemy army and in 1953 there was an earthquake that destroyed everything that had been built on the island. These events are the reason that the infrastructure and tourism in Kelephonia began to develop only in the late 80s of the 20th century.
The island has an airport, which is located near the capital of Kefalonia. Most often planes from the Greek capital of Athens land here, but the city also receives chartered flights from many European countries. Travelers can get to the neighboring islands of Greece by ferry. In addition, this means of transport takes residents to the coast of the Peloponnese, to the ports of Patras and Kilini.
Kefalonia is popular for its modernized places like nightclubs, cafes and movies, but there are also quiet coasts and beautiful mountains, where the iron hand of progress has not yet reached.
The best beaches in Kefalonia
The most popular attraction of the island is its coast. In total, there are more than 60 beaches on Kefalonia. Among the most popular, beautiful, picturesque and clean are the following.
It is located in a small village of the same name, 40 km from the capital of the island. The Ionian Sea here is very calm, the water is clear and clean, blue. The beach is pebbly and long enough. There are no sun loungers and umbrellas, but you can rent a boat and go on a fascinating journey through the bays, inaccessible by other means of transport. In the vicinity there are restaurants and cafes, in the village there is an ancient castle, which offers a panorama of the sea. Can be reached by car, a great place to relax with children. To the beach, it is better to arrive in the morning to take a place in the parking lot, as it has a very modest size.
Kefalonia has one of the most popular and beautiful beaches in Greece – Myrtos. It is a real “pearl” of the island, a visit to which is the goal of every tourist. The water here is azure and clean, as evidenced by the Blue Flag of UNESCO, the sand is white, dotted with pebbles.
The distance from Argostolion (30 km) can be covered by car. The beach is crescent shaped, surrounded by rocks and is located at the foot of two mountains. Sun beds and umbrellas are available for rent, there are cafes and restaurants in Myrtos. The sea is deep, so small children for swimming is not the best. Depending on the weather there can be quite big waves, and complete calm.
The length of the coastal strip – almost a kilometer, on both sides there are high rocks. The water here is clear, even at a depth of a few meters you can see what is happening at the bottom. The waves are quite strong, you can not leave children unattended here, as there is no shallow water. The beach is covered with white pebbles.
Petani beach is fully equipped – it has sunbeds, toilets, summer showers and umbrellas. There are also conditions for snorkeling. There is a café and two big tavernas. Argostolion is reachable by car, a distance of only 20 km. Nearby there is a small parking lot (9€).
The sandy part of the island to the west. The capital of Kefalonia is 34 km away. It is one of the cleanest and longest beaches in Greece. The water is warm and clear and calm during daylight hours. Perfect for family vacations, the depth near the shore is less than one meter, and adults have to walk 25-30 meters for swimming. If you are lucky, in one part of the beach you can see turtles laying eggs in the sand.
You can get to the beach on your own or by public transport (to the village of Skala, then a 10-minute walk), there is parking. On the beach there is a snack bar and cafe with soft drinks and fast food.
The shore and the bottom are covered with white pebbles, the water is crystal clear, azure and warm. The beach stretches for 700 meters and is located 27 km from the island’s capital. The beach is of amazing natural beauty, surrounded by hills of green vegetation and the sea varies its color from blue to turquoise. Antisamos is awarded with the Blue Flag.
The beach can be accessed by private transport (there is parking) from the port of Sami. It is suitable for holidays with children, has all the facilities, including a cafe, sun loungers, umbrellas and a summer shower. By the way sun loungers can be used for free if you order a drink from the bar. If you do not order anything a set of 2 sun beds + umbrella will cost 8 euros.
The disadvantages of Antisamos are lack of natural shade, in some places, the pebbles are quite large, which may cause some discomfort.
Attractions and entertainment: what to do during the holiday
The best time to visit the island is summer. In the period from April to October, life here is booming. Exactly at this time you can enjoy all the entertainments that this Greek island offers.
Kefalonia is rich in both natural and man-made beauties. You can see picturesque landscapes and dive in mysterious caves, or go clubbing and spend time in an expensive restaurant. All travelers should pay attention to the sights that are listed in every Kefalonia guidebook.
Located 120 meters above sea level, the limestone cave has been a victim of photo-hunters and curious tourists for more than 20 years. It accommodates up to 800 people at a time and the total length of the accessible area is 95 meters. Due to its natural acoustics and large area, it is often used for concerts, mostly of operatic and classical nature.
The entrance to the cave is safe and open all year round from morning to evening. Inside, the humidity is high and the temperature is +18°C. Nearby there is a parking lot and a store with souvenirs.
If you like historical sites, be sure to visit this place. The memorial commemorates the events of 1943 called the “Kefalonia Tragedy”, during which 10,000 Italian soldiers who refused to defect to Germany were exterminated. It is a very important page of life for the inhabitants of the island and for tourists it is an interesting place to learn more about the culture of Kefalonia.
The locals consider St. Gerasimus as the patron saint of the island and all those who stay on it. This is why the female monastery, named after him, is the most sacred and revered place of Kefalonia. It is situated 8 km from the capital of Kefalonia, near the mountain Ainos. The church is very beautiful both inside and outside.
Since the coast is the main attraction of Kefalonia, the inhabitants of the island have created over two dozen itineraries for tourists. Today, such excursions are the most popular among the visitors of Kefalonia, as they allow to see the places that cannot be reached by other means of transport.
One of the most famous and most visited boat tours is Captain Vangeli’s Special Cruises. It is a day trip (about 7-8 hours) to charming Ithaca, Fiskardo or colorful Zakynthos with its famous Navaio Bay. On a large, modern boat accommodates 40 tourists and a team of professionals, who cater to visitors and give guided tours. During the trip make several stops – be sure to visit the picturesque caves, a monument to Odysseus, beaches, souvenir shops and cafes. In addition, the ship has a huge advantage – the glass bottom, which allows you to admire the underwater nature. Such a trip will please both adults and children.
The price for such a tour for a whole day on average is 55-70 euros per person. The cost depends on the route and the company that provides the service.
For lovers of beautiful but extreme entertainment, Kefalonia is a paradise on the territory of Greece. In the waters of the island live thousands of species, many of which are rare or even listed in the Red Book.
To dive on Kefalonia, it is best to visit the special centers. Here you will be offered a suitable option for both beginners and professional divers. Many clubs have modern diving boats that allow you to travel even through the mysterious caves of Kefalonia.
Weather and Climate
On the island of Kefalonia, as in the whole of Greece, a very hot summer, wet winter, warm spring and autumn. You can plan your vacation as early as May, at this time the temperature rises above 21 ° C. The water in the sea gets up to +19 ° C – not fresh milk, but you can swim.
Recreation will be comfortable in the fall. Until mid-October, the sea is warm (+23 ° C). However, the number of rainy days in October is on average 8.
The most relaxing and practical time to relax on the beach is May, June and September. The weather is already suitable, and the influx of tourists, as in July and August, is not yet there. The prices during this period are somewhat lower than in high season.
July and August are traditionally the hottest months. The average daytime temperature is +29-30 ° C and may reach +35 ° C, at night +24-25 ° C. You can stay out of the sea for hours, the water temperature of +26-27 ° C allows you to do so.
In winter, life on this island of Greece dies down, it becomes quiet and comfortable. The temperature rarely drops below 7⁰, there are very warm days, when January and February are absolutely the same as in April.
What to try from the food. Prices
The famous coastline has played a big role even in this area of life. The main delicacies on the island are seafood, which varies depending on the region and time of year. While vacationing in Kefalonia, you must try the following Greek dishes.
- Meat pie. In its popularity this culinary masterpiece is not inferior to seafood. It is cooked not only in restaurants, but also in various taverns around the island. The pie is often made from veal and cottage cheese, with the addition of yogurt (sour cream), flour, eggs, spices and herbs.
- Pastries. Be sure to visit the local bakeries and bakeries, where you can not only find delicious desserts, but also a hearty lunch of pizzas, pies and cakes. Cheesy flatbreads (pies) and homemade fruit cakes are worth checking out. Grilled shrimp and squid
- Squid. Stuffed squid, seafood in sauce, and many other options – these sea creatures are very popular on the island. The traditional recipe adds garlic, olive oil, spices, and lemon to them.
- Moussaka. Layered casserole, the pride of Kefalonia hosts. It is prepared with vegetables (potatoes, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, garlic and peppers), minced meat, cheese, oregano and spices.
- The most popular drink on the island is frappe. It is a delicious cold coffee instant. It is perfectly refreshing and inexpensive. Sold even on the streets and in small cafes.
The choice of eating establishments on the island is large. For lunch for two, you can eat for 10 € or dinner for 80 €.
For example, let’s look at one of the medium-class restaurants with a high rating – Captain Nicolas (click on it to enlarge the photo). The restaurant is in high demand among tourists. It is located in the village of Liksuri on a site surrounded by trees and flowering plants with a beautiful view of the sea – . The staff is attentive and the owner talks to the customers personally.
The fish and seafood are wonderfully cooked and worth ordering here. The average bill is 20-25 € for two people.
Among the rest we can single out the following places:
- Ladokolla stin Plagia in Liskura;
- Cafe Platanos – an atmospheric cafe in Lourdes with democratic prices;
- Kastro Cafe – near the castle of St. George, they serve desserts for 4-5€.
The island of Kefalonia (Greece) is a great place to relax. Here you can not only get away from everyday problems, get some sun and enjoy turquoise waters, but also have fun at concerts, restaurants and ferries. Have a nice trip!
- The island was mentioned in the works of Homer. True, at that time it was called Sama.
- The first known people in Kefalonia lived in the XV century B.C.
- If you want to see the huge turtle carriage, go to the town of Argostoli. There fishermen in boats at the fish market at 8-9 am clean the fish and throw the leftovers into the water, where turtles are already waiting for the “dainties”.
Infrastructure facilities mentioned in the article are marked on the map below.
Video from the island of Kefalonia.
Author: Elena Lunina
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With great benefit and pleasure I read all the articles about Greece. Thanks to the authors. I will use your site when choosing my travel itineraries.