What to see in Kefalonia – Ionian Island
What to see in the island of Kefalonia (or Kefalonia): The island of Kefalonia offers landscapes and historical details that should not be missed. It is the largest island among the seven Ionian sisters with its 904 square km, 48 km in length and a maximum width of 30 km.
Kefalonia is famous for its mountainous landscape, its rich history linked to World War II and its countless beaches, which make it a true natural oasis and a popular destination for those who love nature, good food and quiet holidays.
Kefalonia owes much of its international fame to the movie 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', filmed especially in the east coast town of Sami and on the nearby beautiful Antisamo beach. The most fascinating places on the island are undoubtedly its seaside resort towns that offer unique landscapes, such as the famous Myrtos beach, included among the thirty most beautiful beaches in the world, located in the Pylaros region, with incredibly crystal clear waters.
Kefalonia's beaches can be quite different from each other, some are characterized by small bays such as Assos, others with large coastal areas such as Antisamos and Skala, ports and inlets such as Argostoli, Lassi and Lixouri. The island is also characterized by the presence of many caves and coves, such as the Grotta delle Nymphs on Lake Melissani, two kilometers from Sami, where salt water and fresh water combine for a unique natural spectacle.
Let's see the towns, the beaches, and the main attractions to see on the island of Kefalonia:
- Towns to visit in Kefalonia
- Best beaches in Kefalonia
- Natural attractions to visit
- Art and culture on the island of Kefalonia
- Where to stay in Kefalonia? best towns
- General recommendations for visiting Kefalonia
- How to get to Kefalonia?
Towns to visit in Kefalonia
The ideal way to visit and get to know Kefalonia is by rental car, driving among the many villages that resisted, in part or in full, reconstruction after the 1953 earthquake, photographing characteristic villages such as Lixouri, Fiskardo, Kastro, Assos and Skala. Villages where you can find the typical beaches of the Greek islands, together with unique elements of small seaports, between small towns and villages dedicated to tourism.
Argostoli is the main city and capital of the island of Kefalonia, founded by the Venetians in the 18th century. It is the heart of the island and the center of commercial and tourist activity. Unfortunately, there are very few remains of its neoclassical architecture from the period of domination by the Serenissima. A devastating earthquake in 1953 has damaged much of its rich architectural history.
It is inescapable that the reconstruction has altered the city's urban design, giving it a predominantly modern appearance. However, this does not mean that it lacks attractions and places worth visiting.
The city offers a wide range of attractions, from the lively promenade that is the epicenter of social life, to the two museums (the archaeological museum and the folklore museum), passing through the church of San Spiridione, as well as the Lighthouse. of San Teodoro. You will also find the monument to the fallen Italians of the Acqui Division, which pays homage to the massacre perpetrated by the Germans against Italian soldiers after the 1943 armistice. A sad episode that claimed the lives of hundreds of people and is remembered in a tomb near the monument.
Fiskardo, in the north of the island, is the most characteristic and romantic town of Kefalonia, with shops, restaurants and beaches for tourists. About 40 kilometers from Argostoli and about twenty from Assos, Fiskardo is a must for a holiday on the island of Kefalonia. It is a small fishing village along the island's north coast, miraculously escaping the earthquake that struck the Ionian archipelago in 1953.
The circumstance has allowed the city to keep its architectural features almost intact, which has proven to be an excellent tourist attraction over time. To see the port area where both the vacationers' yachts and the locals' fishing boats are moored. Also, on either side of the port, two small beaches surrounded by rich Mediterranean vegetation.
Colorful houses, small bars, typical restaurants and Venetian-style buildings welcome the many tourists who choose Fiskardo as their destination for their stay in Kefalonia, to enjoy peace and relaxation. Here, yachtsmen and international celebrities spend their summers, making it a popular and eventful place throughout the summer. Along the road are coves where you can spend a day at sea, stones and rocks where you can dive from a beach equipped with everything necessary for tourists. A few kilometers further, you can reach the beaches of Foki and Emplisi.
In addition to the romantic atmosphere of the port and the beautiful sea of Fiskardo beach, the town also offers other types of attractions, such as the Norman ruins dating back to the 11th century, which make up the remains of an ancient church that, according to tradition, housed the remains of Guiscardo, a Norman leader who gave the town its name. Fiskardo is the ideal destination to stay on the island, especially for young couples and families looking for a romantic and quiet corner of paradise, where they can dedicate themselves to the sea.
Skala is one of the destinations with the greatest tourist services on the entire island. Over the years, several accommodation facilities have sprung up behind the beach. Particularly loved by English tourists. In fact, the quality of life on the island's southeast side is more than good. The beach is very well maintained, with free sections and other private ones (lidos and facilities), not to mention the pine forest just behind the beach, where you can safely take refuge when the sun hits too hard.
There are also several restaurants, almost all with an excellent quality / price ratio. Not far from the village, easily accessible on foot, there are also the ruins of a 3rd century Roman villa with interesting mosaics. Just 2 kilometers from Skala, archaeologists have also discovered a temple dedicated to the cult of the god Apollo, dating back to the 7th century BC.
Lastly, Skala is famous as a breeding ground for the Caretta-Caretta turtles, the last sea turtles in the Mediterranean Sea.
Sami is the main port of Kefalonia, where the ferries of the main companies that connect Italy and the rest of Greece with the island dock. Located along the east coast, it is a tourist destination mostly for young people who are looking for a place on the island where they can reconcile days at sea with the discovery of sites of historical and cultural interest.
In Sami it is possible to visit the Acropolis of the ancient city of Sami, with the ruins of the city walls that house the Church of Agios Nikolaos, a medieval church where you can admire its frescoed apse, as well as other ancient paintings. Walking from Sami to the beach, the Agrillon Monastery, dating from the 18th century, offers a breathtaking view of the coast. A few kilometers from the town center there are two wonderful caves, natural spectacles that attract and fascinate curious tourists, the Melissani Cave in the homonymous lake, where the light creates special light and color games.
The Drogarati Cave dates back about 100 million years and is covered almost entirely by stalactites and stalagmites. Sami also offers a small and cozy beach, partly equipped with all the comforts for tourists, and not far from another of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Antisamis beach.
Assos is a small town located along the northwestern side of Kefalonia, along the Erissos peninsula, characterized by rocky cliffs overlooking the sea and a predominantly agricultural interior. Assos, being on the coast, has always experienced income from fishing and only in more recent years has this added to the tourism economy.
The town is a beautiful example of Mediterranean architecture and is therefore considered one of the most picturesque towns on the island. The other is the presence of a 16th century fortress built by the Venetians as a sighting and defense against pirate incursions, widespread in the second half of the 16th century. Today some remains of Assos castle ruins. However, the view from the ruin abundantly rewards the lack of everything else.
Best beaches in Kefalonia
Kefalonia has approximately 240 km of coastline where you can admire more than 50 different beaches: some small, stone or sandy, free or equipped for the needs of tourists. The island's beaches are present in the various coastal areas and touch each side of the triangular shape of the island, both to the east, west and south.
In the southern part of the island of Kefalonia there are many beaches, including the best known of Makris Gialos, Platis Gialos, Lourdas, Kanali, Koroni, Kaminia, Spartia, Ammes and many others. The most beautiful on the south coast, which deserve to be visited, are undoubtedly the red beach of Xi, where you can bathe in the clay of the cliffs that reach the sea, and the small and characteristic beaches of Aghios Thomas and Sparthia. The beaches of Kaminia and Potamakia are wider and better equipped, about two kilometers of beaches, cradle of caretta-caretta turtles.
In the southeast area of Kefalonia there are the long beaches of Skala and Limenia, stone and sand beaches with crystal clear waters, equipped with amenities for a day at the beach, bars and water sports. The wonderful bay of Antisamis beach, an expanse of white stones, is one of the most famous on the entire island, due to the colors of the almost transparent sea. Small and cozy beaches of Sami, Foki and Fiskardo, characterized by a lively town, make them the ideal destination for a sunset break with dinner or cocktails in one of the different bars.
Unique and perhaps little known, the Emplisi beach is, instead, the true paradise of the east coast of Kefalonia. No bar or service for tourists is present on this small beach where the white stones reflect a transparent and clear blue sea.
In the western part of the island is the most famous beach of Kefalonia, Myrtos beach. Here there are services for tourists who want to spend a day at the beach, therefore they are suitable for families with children, but there are also panoramic views that offer one of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. Along with that of Myrtos, Petania is among the largest sandy beaches on the coast, full of rocks for snorkeling, with very few bars and two small restaurants. Small inlets like Vouti and Lagadakia offer views of a crystalline sea, free beaches and no crowds, even in the height of summer.
The most beautiful and most visited beach on the entire island is undoubtedly Myrthos, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. Myrthos is a wonderful beach that has kept its environmental peculiarities intact over the years. The merit is mainly due to its not very simple accessibility.
To get there, it is necessary to follow a path about two kilometers long in the small village of Divarata (alternatively you can get there by boat). The protected position, not forgetting the lush vegetation around it, has preserved this beach. It is so wide that even in August there is room for everyone! A panoramic photo from above is a must.
Natural attractions to visit
Mount Aenos on the island of Kefalonia, at 1,628 meters above sea level, is not only the highest mountain in the archipelago, but also one of the most impressive peaks in all of Greece. It is no coincidence that the mountain, located in the south of the island, was declared a Kefalonia National Park in 1962. The motivations behind the recognition are different.
First of all, the presence of Abies Cephalonica, an indigenous species of fir present massively along the slopes of the mountain, from 800 meters upwards. Secondly, the extraordinary biodiversity of the fauna present, including several species of migratory birds, turtles and even a large colony of horses living in the wild. The path is well maintained and properly marked to allow hikers to easily reach the top from which they can enjoy an incredible view of the island.
If you love caves in Kefalonia, don't miss an interesting visit to the Drogarati Grotto, a 150-million-year-old grotto that "appeared" 300 years ago after an earthquake. About 100 meters long, the Drogarati Grotto is divided into two areas. One, smaller, known as the "royal balcony", houses an infinity of translucent stalactites; the other is a true natural amphitheater with excellent acoustics that has been suggested over the years by tourism development. During the summer, in fact, several musical evenings can be attended by up to 500 people. Concerts or not, Drogarati Cave is another must-see stop for a Kefalonia vacation.
Art and culture on the island of Kefalonia
If after enjoying the sea, the caves and mountain excursions, you want to know the origins and the history of the island through its works of art and architecture, Kefalonia will not disappoint you. Among the things to see on the island there are also monasteries, fortresses and ruins dating back to the populations that dominated the island, including: Agios Gerassimos Fortress, Agios Gerassimos Monastery, Skala Roman Villa, the Agios Georgios Fortress, the Mycenaean Tombs of Mazarakata in Livatho, Assos Castle, the Norman ruins of Fiskardo.
Among the most important museums to visit: the Museum of Natural History in Kefalonia and Ithaka (in Davgata village 10 km north of Argostoli). The Fiskardo Naval and Environmental Museum with important discoveries of the island's naval history, photographs and ship models. The Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, with an important variety of Roman archaeological exhibitions: jewellery, ceramics, bronze figures, coins and traditional works of art. The Folkloric and Historical Museum.
Where to stay in Kefalonia? best towns
Kefalonia is a quiet and natural island with plenty of accommodation options. Especially in the most touristic areas, you will find hotels, inns, b&bs, apartments, and resorts with all the comforts and services.
If you have little time to visit Kefalonia, say less than a week, it is best to stay in one destination and get around by rental car or boat (if you want to visit remote and hidden areas) or by bus (not always a good option). option).
The recommended cities are Argostoli, as the capital offers the greatest services and tourist movement. If you want a quieter area you can look for accommodation in towns like Sami, Agia Efimia in the east of the island.
If, on the other hand, you have more time, you can think about dividing your vacation, spending a few days in the west, to visit all the beaches on that side to the south and the Lixouri peninsula, and a few days in the east to see the beautiful beaches of that stretch of coast.
If you want a more detailed guide, you can read our dedicated post: Where to stay in Kefalonia? Best areas, hotels and apartments.
General recommendations for visiting Kefalonia
1.- The panoramic roads offer unforgettable views, indescribable views of the sea and the coast, if you travel by car (highly recommended) pay attention where you park to enjoy the panorama and pay attention to cars coming from the opposite direction.
2.- Kefalonia is famous for its wine, for its production of honey (in fact, some lament the number of bees!), for the production of soft cheeses, as well as for its cuisine.
3.- Do not miss the Melissani Caves, near Sami, an underground lake to visit in the hours when the sun is high in the sky, in this way you can enjoy the spectacle of the rays that illuminate the interior of the cave!
4.- The Kefalonian sea is fortunately quite warm, in August it can reach 27 – 28 degrees and in July and September, on average, the sea temperature is around 25 degrees. Ideal if you travel with children and love "tropical" beaches.
5.- Kefalonia is famous for its sea turtles (caretta-caretta), many can be appreciated from the seashore, on some beaches you can attend (with attention and according to the instructions of the assistants) the "birth" of the small turtles. An unforgettable moment!
How to get to Kefalonia?
The best way to get to Kefalonia is by plane, thanks to its international airport (just 10 km from Argostoli) you can get there with low-cost flights from the main European cities. In summer there are a large number of flights available, so I recommend booking in advance to find good prices. In winter the number of direct flights from Europe decreases a lot, so as an alternative you can arrive at Athens Airport and from there fly to Kefalonia (only 45 minute flight).
Due to its position, you can also reach Kefalonia by ferry from the Italian coast, there are direct routes from the city of Bari and from Venice or Ancona, with a stopover to Patrasso or Igoumenista. It is a slower option and many times more expensive than the plane.
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