KEFALONIA

Greece

Cephalonia or Kefalonia (Greek: Κεφαλονιά or Κεφαλλονιά), formerly also known as Kefallinia or Kephallenia (Κεφαλληνία), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece.

Introduction

Cephalonia or Kefalonia (Greek: Κεφαλονιά or Κεφαλλονιά), formerly also known as Kefallinia or Kephallenia (Κεφαλληνία), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It was also a former Latin Catholic diocese Kefalonia–Zakynthos (Cefalonia–Zante) and short-lived titular see as just Kefalonia.

The capital of Cephalonia is Argostoli.


Talk

A sizeable percentage of the local summer population live abroad in the winter months - there is simply not enough work on the island out of season (Nov - April). Hence the large number of Greeks with American accents on the island. English is understood almost universally, with only senior citizens confined to their native language. Italian is widely recognised, due to the island's strong historical links with that nation. Venture a greeting in Greek anywhere on the island and you will get a warmly enthusiastic response.


Geography

The main island of the regional unit is Cephalonia and has a size of 773 km2(300 mi2), with a population density of 55 people per km2(140/mi2). The town of Argostoli has one-third of the island's inhabitants. Lixouri is the second major settlement, and the two towns together account for almost two-thirds of the prefecture's population.

The other major islands are: Petalas Island, Asteris Island, but they are uninhabited.

Cephalonia lies in the heart of an earthquake zone, and dozens of minor, unrecorded tremors occur each year. In 1953, a massive earthquake destroyed almost all of the settlements on the island, leaving only Fiskardo in the north untouched.

Important natural features include Melissani Lake, the Drogarati caves, and the Koutavos Lagoon in Argostoli.

The island has a rich biodiversity, with a substantial number of endemic and rare species. Some areas have been declared a site in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network.

Mountains

The island's highest mountain is Mount Ainos, with an elevation of 1628 meters; to the west-northwest are the Paliki mountains, where Lixouri is found, with other mountains including Geraneia (Gerania) and Agia Dynati. The top of Mount Ainos is covered with fir trees and is a natural park.

Forestry is rare on the island; however its timber output is one of the highest in the Ionian islands, although lower than that of Elia in the Peloponnese. Forest fires were common during the 1990s and the early 2000s, and still pose a major threat to the population.

Capes

  • Cape Agios Georgios: approximate coordinates 
  • Cape Kounopetra
  • Cape Atheras: north-western corner of island

Flora

Most of the Ainos mountain range is designated as a National Park and is covered with the unique species of Greek fir (Abies Cephalonica) and black pine (Pinus nigra).

Fauna

Cephalonia is well known for its endangered loggerhead turtle population which nest on many beaches along the south coast of the island. A small population of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, also lives around the island's coast, especially on parts of the coast which are inaccessible to humans due to the terrain. Caves on these parts of the coast offer ideal locations for the seals to give birth to their pups and nurse them through the first months of their lives.

The European pine marten is known to live on the island.

Over 200 species of birds have been spotted on the island.


Climate

Cephalonia has hot, sunny summers and mild rainy winters. During winter it can occasionally snow in the mountains of the island. It is very wet in the wettest month of December when 115 mm of rain can fall. Conversely, it can be very dry in July when usually there is no or little rainfall. Rain in the summer can usually be seen, but the dry air prevents it from being felt as it is evaporated before it reaches the ground.

Climate data for Argostoli

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)14.3
(57.7)
14.1
(57.4)
15.7
(60.3)
18.5
(65.3)
22.9
(73.2)
27.0
(80.6)
29.5
(85.1)
29.9
(85.8)
26.9
(80.4)
23.5
(74.3)
19.0
(66.2)
15.5
(59.9)
21.5
(70.7)
Daily mean °C (°F)11.3
(52.3)
11.1
(52)
12.3
(54.1)
14.9
(58.8)
19.7
(67.5)
22.6
(72.7)
25.1
(77.2)
25.7
(78.3)
23.0
(73.4)
19.9
(67.8)
15.9
(60.6)
12.6
(54.7)
17.8
(64)
Average low °C (°F)8.3
(46.9)
8.0
(46.4)
9.0
(48.2)
11.2
(52.2)
14.5
(58.1)
18.2
(64.8)
20.6
(69.1)
21.6
(70.9)
19.1
(66.4)
16.3
(61.3)
12.8
(55)
9.7
(49.5)
14.2
(57.6)
Average rainfall mm (inches)93.1
(3.665)
100.0
(3.937)
66.6
(2.622)
49.7
(1.957)
20.4
(0.803)
10.5
(0.413)
1.3
(0.051)
5.6
(0.22)
31.3
(1.232)
94.7
(3.728)
155.9
(6.138)
150.0
(5.906)
779.1
(30.672)
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)9995310137111270
Source: meteo-climat-bzh


Economy

Wine and raisins are the oldest products exported, being important until the 20th century. Today fish farming and calcium carbonate are most important.

Agriculture

The primary agricultural occupations are animal breeding and olive growing, with the remainder largely composed of grain and vegetables. Most vegetable production takes place on the plains, which cover less than 15% of the island, most of which is rugged and mountainous, suitable only for goats. Less than a quarter of the island's land is arable.

Until the 1970s, most Cephalonians lived in rural areas, while today, two-thirds of the population lives in urban areas, with the other third in rural towns and villages close to farmland.

The island has a long winemaking tradition and is home to the dry, white lemony wines made from the Robola grape.

Olive oil production

Olive oil production is a major component of Cephalonia's economy. Until the 18th century, the quantity of olive oil produced on the island just covered the needs of the residents. However, the pressure of Venetian conquerors’ for olive plantation, especially after the loss of Peloponnese and Crete, resulted in increasing the production to such a degree that the first exports to Venice began. Before the 1953 Ionian earthquake, there were 200 oil presses operating on the island; today, there are thirteen. There are over one million olive trees on Cephalonia, covering almost 55% of the island's area. Olive oil is very important to the island's local, rural economy. “Koroneiki” and “theiako” are the two main varieties cultivated on the island, followed by a smaller number of “ntopia” and “matolia”. Kefalonian olive oil has a green tone, a rich, greasy touch, and low acidity.

Tourism

Tourism to Cephalonia started in the early 19th century. Even the Royal Family of Greece sent their children in the summer months to Lixouri, in the early 20th century, but the island was not discovered by most tourists until the 1980s.

Tourists from all over Greece, Europe and the world visit Cephalonia. It is a popular vacation destination for many Italians, due to its proximity to Italy. As one of the largest islands in Greece, it is well-equipped to handle the influx of tourists during the summertime and it has something to offer to everyone.

Two cultural attractions, the picturesque fishing villages of Fiscardo and Assos, and various natural attractions, including Melissani underground lake, Drogarati cave and Myrtos beach, have helped popularize Cephalonia. The film, Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), shot on the island itself, made Cephalonia more widely known.

Transportation - Get In


By plane

The main airport is located near Argostoli and Lassi, and is a typical small island airport. In other words, if there are two or more planes on the ramp, it can get very crowded! The main travel days are Tuesday and Sunday, and it's bedlam on both days. Remember that chaos is a Greek word and just go with the flow—the staff are surprisingly cheerful and relaxed. There is a small cafe bar and gift shop both before and after security.


By boat

You can also arrive by frequent ferry from Italy, Patras on the Greek mainland, or other islands.

Transportation - Get Around

KTEL operate bus routes between the towns and villages, but routes are too infrequent to be of much use to tourists. Unless you have arrived on your own yacht, in which case you'll have no problem getting to most parts, you need a car or bike if you plan to get around. There are car ferries from the mainland, and many car hire places in town, though prices vary. Although all travel operators are against motorcycle hire, as long as you have some bike experience, renting a 100cc scooter for the duration of your stay can work out reasonably. Just make sure you check the bike out for previous damage before you hire it. Most of the hire places are in Argostoli and Lassi.

Taxis are fairly reasonable and individual arrangements can be made with drivers to pick you up at specified times from beaches, etc. They are usually helpful and friendly.

As of 2015 some roads are closed due to earthquake damage.

Distances from Argostoli are: Lassi 2 km, Sami 24 km, Skala 40 km, Fiskardo 50 km.

Destinations


Regions

  • Erisos - The northernmost peninsula
  • Lassi - A major tourist area adjoining Argostoli.
  • Leivathos - A tourist area south of Argostoli.
  • Paliki - The westernmost peninsula

Cities

Kefalonia towns are clean, friendly and small enough to get around with no hassle. It's the breathtaking natural scenery you visit this gorgeous island for, and visitors will not be disappointed. Lush forests, breathtaking mountains, and dizzyingly high cliffs dropping down to glittering azure seas are what Kefalonia is all about. The towns are mere conveniences—except for Fiskardo, they were all leveled in the 1953 earthquake, so most of what you see is of functional concrete construction with no nod to aesthetics.

Argostoli is the main town, which has serious shops and a rather underwhelming museum.

Lixouri is the island's second city and faces the capital, Argostoli, across a kind of elongated bay (there is a ferry).

Agia Efimia A sleepy fishing village north of Sami, becoming increasingly popular with tourists.

Fiskardo, at the northern tip of the island, is popular with yachts and rather pricey and upmarket. It is the only part of the island which survived the earthquakes of the last century intact, but extensive refurbishment and repairs have given it a rather bijoux feel rather than one of authentic old Kefalonia.

Poros, A yacht marina and a picturesque village on the eastern edge of the island, rather self-contained between the sea and mountains, and has a substantial ferry port slightly separated from the rest of the town.

Sami The port town on the eastern part of the island facing Ithaka (the ferry from mainland, Patra, arrives here.)

Skala, at the south-eastern tip of the island, is a popular and relaxed resort focused on beach holidays.


Other destinations

  • Assos, in the north-west, has a scarily steep descent to a Venetian castle on a small peninsula.
  • Kato Katelios - waterfront village on the south coast.
  • Lourdas (Lourdata) - A spartan and sleepy village scattered alongside a beautiful long, sandy beach on the southern coast.

Accommodation & Hotels

There are relatively few hotels, most accommodation is in apartments, the majority of which are block booked by the tour operators. However it isn't too hard to find rooms to rent. Kefalonia isn't a night life island but Lassi in particular can be a bit noisy at night due to the open air bars. Most of Europe closes down during high summer and heads south. Consequently July/August tend to be very busy (especially with Italian camper vans!). September is a lot quieter, although this is also the time when the rains can start.

Beaches

Most beaches have sunbed hire, a cafe bar, and sometimes water sport activities at the livelier beaches.

  • Avythos has the island's best beach bar.
  • Antisamos near Sami is also stunning (blue water, white stones, mountains in a circle around the small bay) but has a permanent traffic jam around it. The beach was featured in the Corelli film.
  • Dafnoudi is small, isolated and usually quiet.
  • Horgota Beach - The jetty in the film of Corelli, where Mandras throws Pelagia into the sea.
  • Kaminia Beach is a lovely shallow beach between Anno Katelios and Skala, where you may see a turtle!
  • Koroni is an impressive stretch of sand and a nesting site for the loggerhead sea turtle.
  • Makrys Gialos and Platis Gialos in Lassi, not far from Argostoli, are two stunning beaches, but predictably busy.
  • Myrtos Beach, in the west, is the first choice and has been repeatedly voted one of the best beaches of the world. It is popular and therefore can be busy. This beach has a very steep shore break (you are out of your depth about 10ft out!) so it is not recommended for non-swimmers. Also take plenty of suncream, as the beach is made up of white stones, and in high summer can be blindingly hot.
  • Petanoi, on the Lixouri peninsula is a wonder of nature and resembles Myrtos.
  • The beach of Xi, south of Lixouri, is a lovely sandy beach and always seems to have space and peace.
  • Vouti is quiet and has a very decent refreshment canteen.

Culture


Monasteries and churches

Across the broader island, two large monasteries are to be found: the first is that of Haghia Panagia in Markopoulo to the southeast, and the other lies on the road between Argostoli and Michata, on a small plain surrounded by mountains. This second has an avenue of about 200 trees aligned from NW to SE, with a circle in the middle, and is the monastery of Saint Gerasimus of Kefalonia, patron saint of the island, whose relics can be seen and venerated at the old church of the monastery. The monastery of "Sissia" was probably found by Francis of Assisi, it was destroyed in 1953 but the ruins still exist. Although much of the island was destroyed by earthquakes, many notable churches all over the island have survived, some dating back to the renaissance. The ornaments of the churches are influenced by Venetian manierism.


Music

The Ionian Islands have a musical tradition called the Ionian School. Lixouri has the Philharmonic Orchestra (since 1836) and Argostoli the Rokos Vergottis Conservatory. Richard Strauss visited Lixouri some times where he had an affair with the pianist Dora Wihan (born Weiss).


Literature and film

The novelists Nikos Kavvadias (1910–1975) and the Swiss Georges Haldas (de) (1917–2010) spent parts of their life on the island. Andreas Laskaratos was a satirical poet and wrote about the society in the town of Lixouri. Lord Byron wrote parts of "Prelude" and "Don Juan" in Livatho. Perhaps the best known appearance of Cephalonia in popular culture is in the novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin, by the English author Louis de Bernières. The book is believed to have been inspired by the picturesque village of Farsa, just outside Argostoli. The love story comprising the theme of the book is set before and after the Acqui Division massacre, during the Second World War, and the film adaptation was released in 2001.

During filming there was lively debate between the production team, local authorities as well as groups of citizens, as to the complex historical details of the island's antifascist resistance. As a result, political references were omitted from the film, and the romantic core of the book was preserved, without entering complex debates about the island's history. In 2005 Ennio Morricone made his film Cefalonia, also about the massacre.


Museums

  • Korgialeneios Museum (under the Korgialeneios Library) in Argostoli
  • Kosmetatos Foundation in Argostoli
  • Archaeological Museum of Argostoli
  • Iakovatios-Library (and museum) in Lixouri
  • Museum in Fiskardo
  • Kefalonia Natural History Museum

History


Legend

An aition explaining the name of Cephallenia and reinforcing its cultural connections with Athens associates the island with the mythological figure of Cephalus, who helped Amphitryon of Mycenae in a war against the Taphians and Teleboans. He was rewarded with the island of Same, which thereafter came to be known as Cephallenia.

Cephalonia has also been suggested as the Homeric Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, rather than the smaller island bearing this name today. Robert Bittlestone, in his book Odysseus Unbound, has suggested that Paliki, now a peninsula of Cephalonia, was a separate island during the late Bronze Age, and it may be this which Homer was referring to when he described Ithaca. A project which started in the Summer of 2007 and lasted three years has examined this possibility.

Cephalonia is also referenced in relation to the goddess Britomartis, as the location where she is said to have 'received divine honours from the inhabitants under the name of Laphria'.


Archaeology

In the southwestern portion of the island, in the area of Leivatho, an ongoing archaeological field survey by the Irish Institute at Athens has discovered dozens of sites, with dates ranging from the Palaeolithic to the Venetian period.

From an archaeological point of view, Cephalonia is an extremely interesting island. Archaeological finds go back to 40,000 BP. Without doubt, the most important era for the island is the Mycenaean era, from approximately 1500–1100 B.C. The archaeological museum in Cephalonia’s capital, Argostoli – although small – is regarded as the most important museum in Greece for its exhibits from this era.

The most important archaeological discovery in Cephalonia (and indeed in Greece) of the past twenty years is that, in 1991, of the Mycenaean tholos tomb at the outskirts of Tzanata, near Poros in southeastern Cephalonia (Municipality of Elios-Pronni) in a lovely setting of olive trees, cypresses and oaks. The tomb was erected around 1300 B.C; kings and highly ranked officials were buried in such tombs during the Mycenaean period. It constitutes the largest tholos tomb yet found in northwestern Greece and was excavated by archaeologist Lazaros Kolonas. The size of the tomb, the nature of the burial offerings found there, and its well-chosen position point to the existence of an important Mycenaean town in the vicinity.

In late 2006, a Roman grave complex was uncovered as the foundation of a new hotel was being excavated in Fiskardo. The remains date to the period between the 2nd century BC and the 4th century AD. Archaeologists described it as the most important find of its kind in the Ionian Islands. Inside the complex, five burial sites were found, including a large vaulted tomb and a stone coffin, along with gold earrings and rings, gold leaves that may have been attached to ceremonial clothing, glass and clay pots, bronze artefacts decorated with masks, a bronze lock, and bronze coins. The tomb had escaped the attention of grave robbers and remained undisturbed for thousands of years. In a tribute to Roman craftsmanship, when the tomb was opened, the stone door easily swung on its stone hinges. Very near to the tomb, a Roman theatre was discovered, so well preserved that the metal joints between the seats were still intact.

A dissertation published in 1987 claims that St. Paul, on his way from Palestine to Rome in AD 59, was shipwrecked and confined for three months not on Malta but on Cephalonia.

According to Clement of Alexandria, the island had the largest community of Carpocratians, an early Gnostic Christian sect, because Carpocrates lived on the island.


Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the island was the center of the Byzantine theme of Cephallenia. After 1185 it became part of the County palatine of Kephalonia and Zakynthos under the Kingdom of Sicily until its last Count Leonardo III Tocco was defeated and the island conquered by the Ottomans in 1479.


Venetian rule

The Turkish rule lasted only until 1500, when Cephalonia was captured by a Spanish-Venetian army, a rare Venetian success in the Second Ottoman–Venetian War. From then on Cephalonia and Ithaca remained overseas colonies of the Venetian Republic until its very end, following the fate of the Ionian islands, completed by the capture of Lefkas from the Turks in 1684. The Treaty of Campoformio dismantling the Venetian Republic awarded the Ionian Islands to France, a French expeditionary force with boats captured in Venice taking control of the islands in June 1797.

In 1596 the Venetians built the Assos Castle, one of Cephalonia's main tourist attractions today. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the island was one of the largest exporters of currants in the world with Zakynthos, and owned a large shipping fleet, even commissioning ships from the Danzig shipyard. Its towns and villages were mostly built high on hilltops, to prevent attacks from raiding parties of pirates that sailed the Ionian Sea during the 1820s.


French, Ionian state period and British Rule

Venice was conquered by France in 1797 and Cephalonia, along with the other Ionian Islands, became part of the French départment of Ithaque. In the following year the French were forced to yield the Ionian Islands to a combined Russian and Turkish fleet. From 1799 to 1807, Cephalonia was part of the Septinsular Republic, nominally under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, but protected by Russia.

By the Tilsit Treaty in 1807, the Ionian Islands were ceded back to France, which remained in control until 1809. Then Great Britain mounted a blockade on the Ionian Islands as part of the war against Napoleon, and in September of that year they hoisted the British flag above the castle of Zakynthos. Cephalonia and Ithaca soon surrendered, and the British installed provisional governments. The treaty of Paris in 1815 recognised the United States of the Ionian Islands and decreed that it become a British protectorate. Colonel Charles Philippe de Bosset became provisional governor between 1810 and 1814. During this period he was credited with achieving many public works, including the Drapano Bridge.

A few years later resistance groups started to form. Although their energy in the early years was directed to supporting the Greeks in the revolution against the Turks, it soon started to turn towards the British. By 1848 the resistance movement was gaining strength and there were skirmishes with the British Army in Argostoli and Lixouri, which led to some relaxation in the laws and to freedom of the press. Union with Greece was now a declared aim, and by 1850, a growing restlessness resulted in even more skirmishes. Cephalonia, along with the other islands, were transferred to Greece in 1864 as a gesture of goodwill when the British-backed Prince William of Denmark became King George the First of the Hellenes.


Union with Greece

In 1864, Cephalonia, together with all the other Ionian Islands, became a full member of the Greek state.


World War II

In World War II, the island was occupied by Axis powers. Until late 1943, the occupying force was predominantly Italian - the 33rd Infantry Division Acqui plus Navy personnel totalled 12,000 men - but about 2,000 troops from Germany were also present. The island was largely spared the fighting, until the armistice with Italy concluded by the Allies in September 1943. Confusion followed on the island, as the Italians were hoping to return home, but German forces did not want the Italians' munitions to be used eventually against them; Italian forces were hesitant to turn over weapons for the same reason. As German reinforcements headed to the island the Italians dug in and, eventually, after a referendum among the soldiers as to surrender or battle, they fought against the new German invasion. The fighting came to a head at the siege of Argostoli, where the Italians held out. Ultimately the Germans prevailed, taking full control of the island. Approximately five thousand of the nine thousand surviving Italian soldiers were executed in reprisal by the German forces. The book Captain Corelli's Mandolin (which was later made into a film of the same name), is based on this story. While the war ended in central Europe in 1945, Cephalonia remained in a state of conflict due to the Greek Civil War. Peace returned to Greece and the island in 1949.


The Great earthquake of 1953

Cephalonia lies just to the east of a major tectonic fault, where the European plate meets the Aegean plate at a slip boundary. This is similar to the more famous San Andreas Fault. There are regular earthquakes along this fault.

A series of four earthquakes hit the island in August 1953, and caused major destruction, with virtually every house on the island destroyed. The third and most destructive of the quakes took place on August 12, 1953 at 09:24 UTC (11:24 local time), with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter magnitude scale. Its epicentre was directly below the southern tip of Cephalonia, and caused the entire island to be raised 60 cm (24 in) higher, where it remains, with evidence in water marks on rocks around the coastline.

The 1953 Ionian earthquake disaster caused huge destruction, with only regions in the north escaping the heaviest tremors and houses there remaining intact. Damage was estimated to run into tens of millions of dollars, equivalent to billions of drachmas, but the real damage to the economy occurred when residents left the island. An estimated 100,000 of the population of 125,000 left the island soon after, seeking a new life elsewhere.


Recent history

The forest fire of the 1990s caused damage to the island's forests and bushes, especially a small scar north of Troianata, and a large area of damage extending from Kateleios north to west of Tzanata, ruining about 30 square kilometres (12 sq mi) of forest and bushes and resulting in the loss of some properties. The forest fire scar was visible for some years.

In mid-November 2003, an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter magnitude scale caused minor damage to business, residential property, and other buildings in and near Argostoli. Damages were in the €1,000,000 range.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 20, 2005, an early-morning earthquake shook the south-western part of the island, especially near Lixouri and nearby villages. The earthquake measured 4.9 on the Richter magnitude scale, and its epicentre was located off the island at sea. Service vehicles took care of the area, and no damage was reported. From January 24–26, 2006, a major snowstorm blanketed the entire island, causing extensive blackouts. The island was recently struck yet again by another forest fire in the south of the island, beginning on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 during an unusual heatwave, and spreading slowly. Firefighters along with helicopters and planes battled the blaze for some days and the spectacle frightened residents on that area of the island.

In 2011 the eight former municipalities of the island lost their independence to form one united municipality. After losing its role as the capital of the island in the 19th century, Lixouri lost also its role as a seat of a municipality after 500 years. The Technological Educational Institute of the Ionian Islands closed one faculty in Lixouri and one in Argostoli.

Things to see

The island consists of four peninsulas, and includes some fairly serious mountains, which all goes to make for some outstanding scenery. A series of earthquakes, the last in the 1970s mean there are relatively few relics of antiquity in the island, but architecturally it doesn't look very different from most of Greece.

  • Asos village. The island's loveliest village, is on a charming little peninsula.
  • Roman villa. The Roman villa just outside Skala, with mosaic floors more or less intact, is worth a visit - recent finds have added to its attraction and digs continue in the area.
  • Fiskardo. nestled in a lush, sheltered bay, where international celebrities drop anchor
  • Castle of Agios Georgios. at Perata offers panoramic views
  • Palaia Vlachata. The ghost village of Palaia Vlachata, abandoned after the devastating 1953 earthquake
  • Archaeological sites. Archaeological Museum at Argostoli, Korgialenio Historical and Cultural Museum at Argostoli, Iakovatios Library at Lixouri, Byzantine Museum at Livathos, Tomb of Mazaraka at Livathos, Royal Tomb at Tzannata, Roman Villa at Pronni, Assos Castle at Erissos
  • Churches and Monasteries. Agios Gerasimos Monastery at Omala, Agios Andreas Monastery at Livathos, Kipouria Monastery at Paliki, Blessed Mary and Snake Monastery at Markopoluo.

Towards the centre of the island there are two noteworthy caves:

  • Drogorati Cave. the beautiful Drogarati Cave in Sami seems to have suffered somewhat from the loss of rather a lot of its stalactites and stalagmites (allegedly due to occupying German forces using them for target practice during WWII). Dragarati Cave is located at Haliotata, 3 knm from Sami, 120 meters above sea level. The cave is 95 meters deep and has a constant temperatur of 18 degrees Celsius. The cave is considered a s on of the finest in Greece. It measures 65 meters x 45 meters and is 20 meters high.
  • Melissani Cave. Melissani Cave at Karavomylos (actually a lake, formed when part of the land above collapsed during an earthquake), filled with brilliant blue water from an underground current which mysteriously flows right under the island, is a memorable experience. Melissani Cave is located at Karavomylos, 2 km from Sami town. The cave is 160 meters long and 40 meters wide. The stalactites are 16.000 to 20.00 years old.The floor is covered by a lake, about 40 meters deep. In the center of the lake is a small island. Archaeologists habe discovered artefacts from the 4th and 3rd cent BC, related to the cult of the god Pan, as well as a number of female figures, the famous nymphs of Melissani. The cave is open every day from 9am to late afternoon.
  • Fanari Road. This is a pleasant coastal walking or driving route around the coast north of Argostoli and Lassi, which takes in a few sights such as the Lighthouse of Saint Theodoroi, Katavothres waterwheel and some smaller beaches.

Things to do

  • Rent a boat. In Agia Efimia there are a few rentals, such as Yellow Boat - and spend the day visiting secluded beaches which can only be reached by boat. Of the many boat excursions available, one to nearby Ithaca is particularly recommended. Also, the glass bottomed boat tour run by Captain Maki is a must.
  • Horseriding. There are a number of horseriding stables in Kefalonia and it is possible to arrange a ride into the mountains, through ruined villages and ancient vineyards, where the bells of the mountain goats and the cry of eagles are the only sounds to punctuate the silence—gorgeous, and highly recommended, even in the height of summer.

Food

One local speciality is Kefalonian meat pie, available in quite a few restaurants. It's a hearty farmhouse dish rather than haute cuisine. Getting a really good example is not easy, however - the Captain's Table in Argostoli is perhaps your best bet for this local dish. Food in most establishments is okay rather than spectacular, with traditional Greek dishes as well as menus catering to Italian and British tourists. It's worth tapping into local knowledge about where to eat.

If you're in Argostoli, visit the big bakery on the main street opposite the harbour and buy the little round cheese pies - they're fantastic.

There is a lovely cafe/restaurant at the entrance to the Venetian fortress in Kastro, shaded by trees, with very friendly owners - a Greek man married to an Englishwoman (Nicki). Their homemade cakes are delicious.

Visit the lovely Dionysos tavern in Poros, with a spectacular view to the island of Ithaca and the marina. There you may find one of the most mouth-watering meat pies (kreatopita) in the island, as it is prepared according to a traditional Kefallonian recipe (with up to three different types of meat). Additionally, slightly exotic scenes in Dionysos are the squids that slowly dry while hanging under the sun, waiting to be fried. Nonetheless, the specialty of the restaurant is mousakas, a small bite of which leaves a mouthful of flavours.

Drink

Popular drinks are:

  • Frappe - instant ice coffee. Drunk by everyone, cheap and refreshing, a "ticket" to sit outside a cafe for hours, like the Greeks do.
  • Freddo Cappuccino - an iced cappuccino. Also drunk by everyone and stronger than a Frappe and easier on the stomach.
  • Ouzo - Greek anise-flavoured liqueur.
  • Mythos - good Greek lager, very swiggable after a long day in the sun and usually quite reasonable.

Money & Shopping

Local honey - be sure to buy Kefalonian wild thyme honey (it really does taste special) and the local wine, Robola.

There are any number of tacky gifts to be had, though to be fair most of the tourist shops have remained reasonably tasteful and low-key. Souvenirs are aplenty as you'd expect. Some of the jewelry is of reasonable quality and price - you are unlikely to get ripped off in Kefalonia and the Greeks are generally keen to see you get what you pay for in any transaction.

Stay safe / healthy

Kefalonia has very little crime, although be careful in busy areas as most petty crime is the cause of tourists. Traffic, as everywhere in Greece, can be a little mad in towns. Out in the hills, the roads wind precariously around the sides of mountains. Some are passable only with a good four-wheel drive vehicle, though the main routes are fine.

Watch uneven pavements in dimly lit streets.

The local police have a very low key presence and generally confine themselves to issuing speeding tickets and being suspicious of Albanians. You'll need a rep or interpreter if dealing with them for an insurance claim.

Mosquitoes are a minor issue in inland accommodation, less so by the beaches.

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