Systematically rated among the top ten beaches of Europe, Myrtos received worldwide acclaim with the Hollywood blockbuster, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. Backed by steep limestone cliffs, this two-kilometre stretch of white shingle gives onto a moody sea, which changes colour from milky turquoise to indigo with the swirling of the waves. Postcard-perfect scenery aside, on-site facilities include a snack bar, sunbeds and parasail hire, showers, W.Cs and a telephone. Development is restricted in the vicinity of the beach, but there are a couple of nice tavernas at the start of the road leading down to the beach in Divarata.
Rimmed by water, Assos is one of the most beautiful and picturesque villages of Kefalonia. It is built amphitheatrically around a peninsula with steep slopes crossed by a narrow strip of land in which there is a still-standing Venetian castle. This is one of Assos’ principal claims to fame. The other is its architecture with traditional, colourful houses, old churches and narrow alleys with blooming bougainvillaeas wafting their heady aromas. There are two pebbly beaches on the bay, a larger one with loungers and a smaller one without. Both sport scenic views and crystalline waters, ideal for snorkelling. Assos also offers boat hire if you’re looking to explore the many small coves and beaches that are only accessible from the water.
Linking Kefalonia to Lefkas, Ithaca and Astakos, the quaint little fishing harbour of Fiscardo on the northern side of the island is often dubbed “Greece’s prettiest village”. Having remained virtually intact after the catastrophic earthquake of 1953, Fiskardo retains much of its original 18th-century architecture and has been rightfully declared a historical site. With rows of Venetian houses in vibrant pastels, it’s as postcard-pretty as they get. The impression of time standing still is somewhat halted, however, as there is an array of posh restaurants and bars catering to an upscale clientele arriving here in their luxury boats. A definite yachtsmen’s paradise nowadays, Fiscardo was a sleepy village until the 1960s when it was “discovered” by a handful of trailblazing hippies.
On the east coast of Kefalonia, right opposite the island of Ithaca, Agia Efimia is a scenic fishing village with an array of waterside cafes and tavernas running parallel to the sheltered marina. A popular spot for yachting flotillas, it offers boat hire options and it’s home to one of only three diving centres in Kefalonia for those who want to delve deeper into the treasures of the Ionian coast and sea. Surrounded by crystalline waters and fir tree-cloaked mountains, Agia Efimia is also a short drive (about 20 minutes) away from the world-famous, paradisiacal Myrtos beach.
One of the most magical, must-visit spots on the island, Melissani cave is located close to the town of Sami, about 20km from Argostoli, the capital of Kefalonia. Named after a nymph who drowned herself here as the god Pan, bizarrely, failed to return her affections, this B-shaped cave consists of two lake-filled chambers, one of which has a collapsed roof letting the sunlight shine in. At noon when the sun is right overhead, the light hits the turquoise-blue waters, bathing the space with blue light – this is the best time to come on one of the small boats which regularly ferry visitors through the cave. There is moreover a balcony on top of the cave offering awe-inspiring interior views from above.
According to speleologists, Drogarati Cave near the town of Sami, is over 150 million years old. It was discovered some 300 years ago when a strong earthquake revealed its entrance and has been receiving visitors since 1963. With mind-blowing stalactite and stalagmite formations, Drogarati is also famous for its remarkable acoustics. The cave’s big hall – which measures an impressive 900m2 – is called “Sala of Apotheosis” and hosts world-class performances – the Bavarian Philharmonic Orchestra played here in 2014 – and amateur acapella singers alike – i.e. visitors who are tempted to put these famous acoustics to the test.
At 1,628 metres Ainos is the tallest mountain in the Ionian islands. The views from the summit are worth the trek up. On a clear day one can see the whole of Kefalonia, most of Ithaka and parts of Zakynthos, Meganissi and Lefkas, also Kyllini and the mainland coast. Covered in ⅔ with a single species of fir called Abies Cephalonica, and hosting a local herd of semi-wild ponies, Ainos is a precious reserve and the only National Park located on a Greek Island.
Argostoli is Kefalonia’s largest town and capital since its foundation in 1757. In its current form, however, it is a relatively young town which was rebuilt almost completely from scratch after the catastrophic earthquake of 1953. Modern-day Argostoli is relaxed and buzzy in equal measure, with a thriving nightlife and foodie scene, great shopping and a wealth of attractions, including museums, monuments and natural geological phenomena to name a few.
Poros is a picturesque village with about 1,000 residents in the southeastern part of the island. Built against the backdrop of lush green forests, it sports a beach with clean, turquoise waters and is surrounded by countless bays. Poros is one of the main ports of Kefalonia connecting the island to the mainland – Kilini and Patra – and also has a marina for yachts. There are plenty of restaurants and traditional tavernas and quaint cafes, lining its waterfront as well.
Katelios is a small fishing village on the southeast of the island which was used for the transport of goods and people to Zakynthos and the mainland. Twenty years ago there were just fishermen’s cottages and huts here, but development has picked up the pace ever since. The local taverns are renowned for their delicious seafood, while there are several scenic walking routes around. Katelios is relaxed and laid-back still, ideal for nature lovers since there are often Caretta turtles to be spotted on the neighbouring beaches.
At the southernmost corner of Kefalonia, Skala is one of the island’s liveliest tourist resorts. Featuring a 5km long, beautiful beach with thick sands and pebbles and crystalline, blue waters, it is just the spot to practice water sports or simply relax and enjoy the scenic views. There is a great choice of restaurants and tavernas in the area – some of which are quite good.