“It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece, but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her” said once Henry Miller. I can only wholeheartedly agree with him! Having just come back from Kefalonia, one of the Greek islands in the Ionian Sea, I have to say I instantly fell in love with its beauty and tranquility. There is something beautiful about the simplicity of its lifestyle, which after London’s hassle and bustle felt like a breath of fresh air.
Greece has been on my travel bucket list for a long time so when the time came to choose next holiday destination, my husband and I decided to visit one of the Greek islands. Being a diligent travel researcher, I talked to several of my Greek colleagues and acquaintances to see where they (not tourists!) go for vacation in their homeland. Kefalonia was one of the top mentions so we quickly booked flights and hotel accommodation with anticipation of a great holiday!
I have to say Kefalonia is stunning and if you want to see it for yourself, just watch Capitan Corelli’s Mandolin, which takes place on this island. Wherever you go in Kefalonia, there is a sense of peace, and tranquility. May be because we went during the low holiday season (end of May) or may be it is a less touristy island; thus, quieter and more intimate which we loved. Even though the island has suffered greatly from the 1953 earthquake and there are few historical relics left, there is still plenty to do and see. Just make sure to rent a car (average prices for a small car were around 30 euros/day) since you won’t be able to get around this relatively big island without one.
I would advise at least a week for your Kefalonia explorations (trust, you won’t want to leave!) but if you are pressed for time and chose island hopping, here are my tips of what to do and see.
Day 1: Argostoli, Myrtos Beach and Assos
Argostoli is the centre of the island and one of the main ports in Kefalonia stretching along the sea front. If you drive from the south of the island, on the way to Argostoli you will pass Lassi, which is often mentioned by many tourists as a place to stay. While Lassi has some of the nicest beaches, it’s way too touristy with rows of hotels and restaurants that look like any other seaside destination. So, skip Lassi and keep on driving if you want something different!
When we were there it looked a like a sleepy town with few shops open and small groups of men sitting in cafés and sipping their coffees.
One of the main attractions in Argostoli is the De Bosset Bridge, designed by the Swiss engineer Charles Philippe De Bosset in 1813, that connects Argostoli peninsula with the rest of the island.
During the walk on the bridge, one will see a stone obelisk Kolona as a symbol of gratitude to Great Britain that used to be Kefalonia’s protector in the 1800s.
The lighthouse of Saint Theodoroi is another attraction of Argostoli. It’s much smaller and simpler than I imagined with 20 columns and only 8 meters tall! It was also built under the British rule and was part of the Greek navigation system.
Although relatively small town, Argostoli has few museums, such as Archeological and Historical and Folk Art museums, worth checking out. Or you can just take a stroll through its streets and do your own exploring. For example, pop into a local church which I did and loved.
Or have a light lunch or drinks in one of the tavernas on the promenade and watch blue skies and feel sea breeze…Also, if you come to Argostoli harbor in the morning you can see some loggerhead turtles in the water, waiting for their share of fishermen’s catch of the day.
After Argostoli, we got back in the car and continued driving along the western coast of the island to head to infamous Myrtos beach. I have to say I’ve been to many great beaches around the world, but Myrtos beach just blew me away. It’s not surprising that it’s considered one of the most beautiful beaches not just in Greece, but the world! Just look at these photos!
After a drive on a long and winding road through the mountains, a stunning view of the Myrtos beach opened to us and I had to take the photo.
Imagine different shades of blue and turquoise against white cliffs and pebbles. The sea was a bit too cold for me but sunbathing under the loving Greek sun was great!
What is really great about this beach is that it’s quite long and very intimate, although I read it can get really busy during summer months. There were no loud cafés, no beach hagglers/vendors and plenty of space to have your own private spot. There is also a beautiful cave at one end of the beach that is worth seeing.
Such a beautiful and blissful corner of the island…
After some sunbathing and relaxing by the sea, we continued our journey to Assos, a cute small village on the west coast. Assos looks like a miniature Italian Positano or Cinque Terre with colorful houses sitting on the hill overlooking the harbor.
It’s such a romantic spot and has everything you need to relax – a small beach and several cozy tavernas and shops…
…and even a castle on the top of the hill should you be interested in seeing it.
We found a cute taverna overlooking the harbor and with the views on the castle. Since seafood is really good in Greece, I wanted to try some local sardines, while my hubby opted for seafood risotto.
This was another perfect spot in Assos to have some drinks and watch the sun go down.
Day 2: Melissani Lake, Agia Efimia and Antisamos
For day 2 I would suggest heading to the east coast and see several famous spots at once. I heard of Melissani Lake from my Greek friends even before I came to Kefalonia, so that was a definite must see. For 7 euros a small boat like this one will take you to explore the lake and if you are lucky, hear opera singing and jokes of the captain.
The lake inside the Melissani cave has two chambers. The roof in the first one collapsed letting the light reveal the beauty of lake’s crystal blue waters. I suggest getting there around noon when the sun is high up with direct light over the lake.
According to the myth, the lake is named after a nymph Melisanthi who either drowned here by accident or committed a suicide suffering from unrequited love.
In the second chamber you can see super long stalactites and stalagmites revealing a thousand years of history.
After the stop at the Lake, we headed to Agia Efimia – a picturesque port nearby. I have to say the drive to Agia Efimia along the coast was probably one of the most pleasant experiences of my vacation. Blue skies, sea and lots of forestry on both sides of the road.
Agia Efimia is a small village with a harbor where you can see lots of boats and vessels from different countries moored. It has lovely tavernas and cafés perfect for a lazy afternoon.
We stopped in one of the tavernas as I was on the mission – to try a meat pie, a local dish specific to Kefalonia.
It’s a mix of rice and meat cooked under the pastry crust and served with chips so much-loved by the tourists!
After a filling lunch, I wanted to sample local gelato (for research only!). It was really good and helped me to cool off before we headed to the next destination.
Finally, I saw these cutest traditional felt slippers which would be perfect for cold winter months back in London. Only 10 euros, what a bargain!
The last stop for the day was Antisamos beach. Remember I mentioned Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in the beginning of the blog? Well, this beach was one of the film locations just as was the Myrtos beach.
I have to say the beach itself was underwhelming although the surroundings were beautiful. Plus, the pebbles and stones were quite large making it hard to walk or lay down for sunbathing unless you rent one of the sun lounges.
But I still enjoyed the scenery, soaking in the sun and imagining how much the film crew with Penelope Cruz, Nicolas Cage and Christian Bale enjoyed Kefalonia during the filming.
I hope you enjoyed Part I. Check out Part II for the rest of the trip adventures and practical tips to help with you plan an unforgettable vacation.