Welcome to Kefalonia... the diamond of the Ionian Sea, were you can admire green rocks that plunge suddenly into the crystal clear blue waters, picturesque villages and small towns highlighted by old mansions and "humble" farmhouses and the ruins of ancient cities. Kefalonia has been called the island of contrasts. Roman, Venetian, and Byzantine ruins are side by side with unbelievably beautiful beaches. Its capital, Argostoli, is where the sea pours into spectacular swallow-holes and disappears endlessly into subterranean tunnels forming a rare geological phenomenon.
Kefalonia lies south of Lefkada, north of Zakynthos, and west of Ithaki. It has 254 km of coastline and a population of 27,650. The prefecture of Kefalonia includes Ithaki and various neighbouring islets.
Kefalonia is a mountainous island with Mediterranean vegetation. Evergreen bushes such as holy grow on its soil. Kefalonian fir trees, cypress trees, arbutus, and holy thrive on mount Ainos, which occupies the largest part of the island. The flora of the island includes rare kinds of flowers, such as the mauve lilies Paeonia mascula-russi, the Poa cephalonica, the Saponaria aenesia, and the Scutellaria cephalonica. Ordinary flowers such as violets and saponaria also grow there.
Woodcutting and animal grazing have been prohibited since 1966 when the 28,000 acres of the mountain were proclaimed a national park. The top of Mount Ainos (about 5400 feet tall), where wild horses are said to live, offers an enchanting view of the Ionian Sea.
The Islands capital, Argostoli, is built in a sheltered bay known as "The Lagoon of Koutavos". Argostoli contains an arched bridge built by the English in 1813 called "The bridge of Drapanos". On the bank, opposite of Argostoli, one can see the ruins of the ancient city of Krani.
Kefalonians are considered singular, energetic, and ingenious people. They are well known for their intelligence, and are excellent traders. There are over 365 other villages spread over the Island which has an area of around 260 square miles. Kefalonia has had a chequered history which has left it with many interesting ancient sites scattered around it. They include such places as two Venetian fortresses (Assos and Travliata), numerous monasteries, Byzantine churches, Mycenaean tombs, the remains of an Acropolis (Antisamos), the Roman villa site at Skala and much, much more!
Recent history has also left its mark on the Island. Kefalonia was occupied during the Second World War (as portrayed in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin). Shortly afterwards was the Greek Civil war and the Islanders had hardly any time to recover from this before the devastating earthquake of August 12th 1953 destroyed 90% of the buildings.
Today Kefalonia has a population of around 35,000. Tourism and agriculture play a large part in the economy. Despite strong cultural influences from the Venetians, French and British, it has retained its own Greek character, unlike more easterly parts of Greece.
The people are wonderfully hospitable and welcoming. Life revolves around the family and children are welcomed wherever they go. Kefalonia boasts hot, dry summers when temperatures can soar above 40 degrees Celsius in August. Winters are usually quite mild with heavy rainfall which helps to maintain the lush vegetation through most of the summer.
The capital of Kefalonia offers a cosmopolitan mix of shops, bars and restaurants. It houses all the Administrative offices of the island and has the largest number of shops, banks and tavernas than any of the other towns. The islands bus network appears to radiate out from its recently re-vamped Bus Station opposite the Lagoon.
The Main square and pedestrianised Lithostroto are the places to see and to be seen in in the evening. There are no beaches as such but nearby Lassi has more than enough to make up for it.
CASTLE OF AGIOS GEORGIOS
The medieval castle of Agios Georgios is situated near the village of Peratata, on a 320 m. hillside. The castle was built in the 13th century to fortify the islands old capital which was housed there until 1757. The castle owes its name to the large church of Agios Georgios, which is situated in the region and is celebrated glamorously. The castle, along with the island, fell in succession into the hands of the Byzantines, the Franks, the Turks and the Venetians. On December 24, 1500, after a persistent battle the Venetians, the Spanish and the people of Kefalonia were able to liberate the castle from the Turks. The severe damage to the buildings led to a restoration supervised by the mechanic Tsimaras, which lasted for four years. Until the earthquake in 1636, the castle thrived and housed storage rooms, a hospital, barracks, private residencies and a prison in which the more liberal people of Kefalonia were kept, whom the current conquerors considered dangerous. The Castles entire surface area is 16,000 square metres, and the walls are 600 m. long. The three ramparts face Argostoli, the East and Peratata, respectively. The Castle also includes loopholes, observatories and cannon positions. Inside the Castle, one can admire the tower called "Old Fortress", as well as part of the walls, underground arches, the throne of the Venetian Lord and a catholic church, where the nobles of Kefalonia were buried.
CHURCH OF THEOTOKOS DOMATAS
The church of Theotokos (Virgin Mary) is situated in the village of Domata, southeast of Argostoli. The coffin in which G. Sklavos transferred the relics of Patriarch Gregorios V to Odessus is kept here. In the church, there is a beautifully carved wooden icon stand.
Drogorati cave stands a few kilometres outside the town of Sami. It is 45 metres in width, 21 metres in depth, and 9 metres in length. It consists of two parts. The upper part has collapsed and only huge stalactites of different colours remain. The second part is the cave (65 x 45 m), which is accessible to tourists and houses cultural events. It has extraordinary acoustics, thus its name: "Hall of Deification". The officials are seated on the "Royal Balcony", which offers a spectacular view from the top of the cave. The musicians are seated on the opposite side at an especially tailored podium along the cavity of a rock. The cave can accommodate about 500 viewers. The regulated lighting in combination with the multi-coloured stalactites creates a picture of unique beauty.
Iakovatios Library is situated in Lixouri, housed in the beautiful mansion of Iakovati after whom it was named. The majority of the chambers walls are beautifully decorated, depicting the familys previous glamour. Among the 20,000 volumes in the Library, there are 7,000 volumes from the valuable archives of the Iakovati family and 5,000 volumes which belonged to the Professor of Theology, Mr. Alivizatos. The most valuable book of the collection is "The Complete Works of Hippocrates", published in 1595. In a special chamber in the Library, one can admire a small collection of icons and other ecclesiastic heirlooms of the 10th and 15th century, the most significant of which are the icons of "The Miracle at Hones" by Michael Damaskinos and "The Assembly of the Michaelmas" created by the monk Filotheos Skoufos.
The area of Karavomilos is situated northwest of Sami. After an investigation conducted by Yannis Petrohilos and, in 1963, from the Austrian scientists Zolt and Maurin, it was discovered that the waters, which one loses track of in Katavothres, flow into the village of Karavomilos by underground rivers every 15 days. Thus, a small salt-water lake has been created here. This unique phenomenon attracts many tourists to the area.
Katavothres, situated 3 km outside Argostoli in the area of Fanari, constitute a peculiar geological phenomenon. At first it was observed that the water from the sea went into the ground through holes and then it disappeared. After a thorough investigation, initially performed by Ioannis Petrohilos and in 1963 by the Austrian scientists Zolt and Maurin, it was discovered that the water, through underground rivers, flooded in the village of Karavomilos, in the east, 15 km away and in the spring Fridi at Agia Eyfimia, after approximately 15 days. In this area, in the early 20th century, there was a hydroelectric factory and ice factory, for the exploitation of the underground water.
KORGIALENIO HISTORICAL AND FOLK MUSEUM
Korgialenio Historical and Folk Museum is situated in the center of Argostoli. It was established in 1966, in an area of 300 sq. m. The Museum exhibits the local costumes, furniture and embroidery of Kefalonia. Other exhibits includes heirlooms and other ecclesiastic items, pictures, paintings, maps, manuscripts, coins, jewels, silver and metal craftworks and much more. In a special chamber in the museums basement, the Historical Archives of Kefalonia display historical manuscripts from the 16th -19th centuries, depicting several historical periods. The building also houses the Korgialenios Library.
The Korgialenios library is housed in the Korgialenios museum, in Argostoli. It was founded in 1924 with money donated from Marinos Korgialenios, after whom the library was named. Although it suffered from the earthquake of 1953, the library was restored. Today, it is open to the public. It holds 46,000 volumes and many significant cultural events take place here every year.
Kounopetra is situated 9 km south of Lixouri. The locations visitor comes across a very significant geological phenomenon. To be more specific, from the sea emerges a huge rock which, before the earthquake in 1953, used to move constantly and rhythmically. After the earthquake the rocks base was relocated and the rock stabilized to its current place. Tradition claims that English ships tied Kounopetra with thick ropes and chains and attempted unsuccessfully to remove it.
MONASTERY OF PANAGIA ATROU
The monastery of Panagia Atrou is situated a few kilometers from the port of Poros, on a green slope (500 m. in altitude). It is the oldest monastery on the island, as it was built before 1264. The scenery is of unique beauty and the view is captivating.
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
In the chambers of the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, one can admire findings during excavations on the island. Some of the exhibits are the findings from the Mycenaean Tombs of Mazarakata and Metaxata, sculpts, pots from the prehistoric and the post-Mycenaean era, tombstones, coins, seals, small objects and copper weapons. The exhibits are dated back to geometric and the ancient era, the classical period, the Hellenistic, the Roman period and the Byzantine era. The most significant of the exhibits are a bronze head of the 3rd century BC and the sign "Tripis Damatri Ke Kora " of the 6th - 7th century BC, dedicated to goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The sign was found in the location of ancient Krani.
THE BEACON OF AGIOI THEODORI
The beacon is situated in Fanari, near Argostoli. It was built in 1820, styled after an English design. During an earthquake in 1953, it was at once destroyed, but it has been restored to its original state.
THE CASTLE OF ASSOS
The castle (Kastro) of Assos, the focal point of Assoss peninsula, was built by the Venetians in the late 16th century in order to protect the city from pirate raids. Today, one can still admire part of the walls and the arched entrance gate. In the Castle, one can see the ruins of the Venetian High Commissioners house, the barracks and the church of Agios Markos. From here, the view of the sea and the lovely bay of Mirtos is so unique it attracts many tourists.
THE CAVE OF AGIOS GERASIMOS
The Cave of Agios Gerasimos, the islands patron saint, stands 3 km south of Argostoli. In its interior, there is a chapel with a guest use for the pilgrims who visit the Cave on the saints feast day. According to tradition, the saint was born in Trikala of Korinthia and was a member of the famous Notaras family. He became a monk and spent 12 years in the Holy Land and five years in Zakynthos. In 1560, he took possession of the Cave and stayed there until he founded his monastery at the village Peratata.
THE CAVE OF MELISSANI
The cave of Melissani, outside Sami, is one of the most significant sights on the island. As the excavations of 1963 have shown, it has taken its name from the nymph Melissanthi. These excavations brought to light aspects of the nymph, a statuette, and an earthen tray with a depiction of Pan. In 1951, an ancient lamp, which is now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, was also found there. The cave is 40 metres in width, 36 metres in height, and 3.5 metres in length. Inside, it is covered by water 20 to 30 meters in depth due to the collapse of a part of the roof. Small boats carry visitors there to admire the spectacular sight of the stalactites and the changing colours of the water. An artificial balcony offers an enchanting view from the top of the cave.
THE MONASTERY OF AGIOS GERASIMOS
Agios Gerasimos is the patron saint of the island. On its feast day, the monastery is swarming with pilgrims. According to tradition, he was born in Trikala of Korinthia and was a member of the famous Notaras family. He became a monk and spent twelve years in the Holy Land and five years in Zakynthos. He came to Kefalonia in 1560 and stayed in the cave of the same name, south of Argostoli. Later, he founded the monastery and took residence there until his death on August 15, 1579. Two years later, on October 20, 1581, his relics were placed inside the monastery. He was canonized in 1622. In the courtyard, there is a big plane tree and a well, which is said to have been dug by the saint himself. Inside, there is a trap-door where he is said to have spent the greater part of his life. On the 15th of August and the 20th of October, big festivals and processions take place. Many miracles are connected to the saints relics and icon.
THE RUINS OF ANCIENT KRANI
The ruins of Ancient Krani are situated on the bank of the Lagoon of Koutavos, opposite Argostoli, in a green area with running waters. Excavations cast light upon ruins of buildings, walls and a doric temple dedicated to the goddess Demeter. These findings date back to the 7th and 6th century BC. Part of the areas findings are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli. Krani was one of the four most prominent towns on the island during the Mycenaean Era, as Thucydides and Herodotus have indicated.
THE RUINS OF ANCIENT SAMI
The town of Sami is built at the foot of the Agioi Fanendoi and Palaiokastro hills. Excavations have brought to light parts of the two citadels and the Cyclopean fortification walls of the ancient city which stood north of the present town. It had fortification walls with 22 entrances, was 3,400 acres in length, and 377.6 acres in area. The excavation site also includes parts of an ancient aqueduct, traces of an ancient theatre, buildings, a part of a Roman edifice known as "Rakospito", and three BC tombs. There are also numerous findings on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli. Ancient Sami was a prosperous and powerful town. It was founded by Agaios, son of Arkadias king Lykourgos. It had been settled since the Paleo lithic times. During classical and Hellenistic times Sami flourished because of the growth of trade and the exploitation of mount Ainos timber. Thucydides speaks of the four cities of Kefalonia one of which was Sami. The citadels were built during the Hellenistic period. Ruins of ancient Sami are also preserved in the contemporary town of Sami
Lassi lies fairly close to Argostoli and has a number of fine sandy beaches. Most have taverna/kiosks providing food and drink and one has provision for water- sport activities. The main street of Lassi has numerous tavernas, shops, supermarkets, car hire, tour operators and currency exchange offices. Car parking facilities are more than adequate.
Large enough to have some life with a varied selection of shops, tavernas, bars and cafes. The beach is long, narrow, mostly of sand, with good water sport facilities and even small boat hire.
Although not large by any means, this town is attractive and the compact shopping area provides for most things including motor fuel and automated cash dispensers. The beach is conveniently just across a promenade from the shops but it is rather narrow and mainly shingle. There is also a port area providing services to Killini (on the Mainland), Lefkada and, during the summer period, daily service to Zakinthos (Zante).
Busy working port with ferries arriving from numerous locations including Italy. Plenty of shops and tavernas set around a beautiful harbour front with recently completed yacht moorings. Not much of a beach but nearby Anti-Samos is just breath-taking.
Picturesque fishing village and yachting centre located at the top end of the island. A long drive up from the South but well worth it. Great ambience created by the boat crews and plenty of little gift shops to investigate. Pre-earthquake buildings are readily observed from the quayside. Daily ferry service to Lefkada. Small boat hire facilities operate from a number of locations around the harbour area.
Natural beauty spot on the neck of a peninsula topped by a Venetian Fortress. Only a small village but has everything to create a good and relaxing atmosphere.
Located on the Paliki Peninsula almost directly opposite Argostoli. This is the second largest town on the island and was, infact, once the islands Capital. It is a working town with a beautiful seafront promenade providing a good Greek atmosphere. Ferries run from this sea frontage every hour (every half hour during the summer period) to Argostoli and back. There is a small boat marina there. Nearest ones are Lepada and Xi.
We list the beaches that have good features but there are many others which you will find on your travels.
Makris Yialos and Platis Yialos – a fine long stretch of golden sand with crystal clear waters, plenty of facilities and watersports.
A small sandy beach with snack bars and evening restaurant in high season.
A quiet, sandy beach shelving gently with taverna adjacent. Sunbeds available.
A long, narrow fine shingle beach with sunbeds and umbrellas, limited watersports and beachside snack bars and Tavernas.
Arguably the finest stretch of sand on the island. Between Ratzakli and Skala. Limited facilities but miles of golden sand and shallow waters. A couple of snack bars fringe the beach and a small number of umbrellas and sunbeds. Protected area due to the nearby loggerhead turtle nests.
Sand and shingle, boat hire and beachside snack bars and tavernas. The restaurants here are well-known for their fresh fish.
Miles of sand and shingle beach just a short walk from the resort centre. Good facilities including watersports, boat hire and boat trips.
A sweep of white pebbles in a superb setting with crystal clear deep waters. About 2 km. south of Sami. Tavernas, sunbeds, umbrellas, and watersports.
Probably the most photographed beach in Greece, due to its spectacular setting. Accessed by a long winding hill with some facilities but several good tavernas in the village. Can get very hot and there are strong currents offshore.
In the north of the Lixouri peninsular, accessed by a long, winding road. Sunbeds and umbrellas and a couple of snack bars. Nice sandy beach.
Near Svoronata, nice sandy beach with a nearby snack bars and tavernas. Sunbeds and umbrellas.
Near Kalligata, a nice sandy beach with beach bar and a couple of tavernas just off the beach.