Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands covering an area of 786 km2 which also makes it the sixth largest island in Greece although today it only has a population of 35,801. With its incredible beaches, outstanding natural beauty, stunning scenery, picturesque villages and long, colourful history, Kefalonia has something to offer everyone.
A coastline of 254 kilometres gives Kefalonia some of the best beaches in Greece. From the spectacular Myrtos Beach, one of the most photographed beaches in the world to Kaminia Beach where the Caretta-caretta turtles come every year to make their nests and lay their eggs and Xi Beach, on the Pali Peninsular, the only red sand beach on the island.
The peaks of Mount Ainos rise up to 1628 meters and its slopes are covered by a dense forest of a rare black fir, the Abies cephalonica, named after the island and the reason it is was designated a National Park in 1962. Trekking though the mountains on a clear day you can see the islands of Ithaca, Lefkas and Zakynthos as well as parts of the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. While exploring this beautiful wilderness you may also glimpse the wild horses that live on the higher slopes.
Take a trip back in time at the picturesque villages of Fiscardo and Assos where you can still see the pretty, pastel coloured Venetian houses that adorned the whole island before the powerful earthquake in1953. On the east coast between Sami and the quaint fishing village of Agia Efimia is the underground lake of Melissani that is filled by sea water that crosses the island. This geological mystery starts at the Katavothres sink holes near to the resort of Lassi and the sea water takes 15 days to travel the 17km to reach the other side of the island rejoining the sea at Karavomylos.
The main town Argostoli has been the capital of the island since 1757 and is amphitheatrically built around the harbour. Today it is a modern town having been rebuilt after the 1953 earthquake. There is a lovely pedestrian shopping area, coffee bars galore along the harbour front and a good choice of restaurants and tavernas. In the mornings the fishing boats arrive to sell their catch and provide a great opportunity to spot the Caretta-caretta turtles as they circle the boats hoping for some scraps from the fishermen. At the far end of the bay is Koutavos lagoon, a wild bird sanctuary and the Drapano Bridge originally built in wood by Colonel de Bossett in 1813 during the British Rule.
Just outside Argostoli high on a hill is Saint George’s Castle. Originally it was built as a Byzantine Citadel in the 8th century and was the administration centre for the Ionian Islands. In 1500 when Kefalonia was taken by the Venetians they reinforced the citadel’s walls and made it the capital of the island. From the castle you can see across to Saint Andrew’s monastery which, in the 15th century accquired the holy relic of the left foot of the Apostle Saint Andrew which can be seen inside the church within the grounds. There is also an eccliastical museum that was established to house artifacts from churches all over the island that were destroyed during the 1953 earthquake.
Saint Gerasimos, the patron saint of Kefalonia, arrived in the Omala Valley in1560 to rebuild the chapel and he went on to found a nunnery which he named New Jerusalem. Today the Saint’s relics are kept in a glass case within a magnificent silver sarcophagus in the small church that has been built above the cave where he lived. His cave can still be reached by climbing down a 3 metre high ladder which is located towards the back of the church. Within the grounds of the monastery is the new and magnificent church that was completed in 1992 and dedicated to Saint Gerasimos. As far as the eye can see around the monastery are the vineyards of the award winning Robola wine and the winery is open every day for visitors to taste the local wines of Kefalonia.