A Flavour of Kefalonia and Ithaca
Despite the march of ‘progress’ it is away from the larger conurbations of Argostoli, Lixouri and the main resort areas that the true heart of these islands is to be found. The genuine friendliness, the accommodating nature, the impish sense of humour of the islanders; the relaxed, easy going pace of life is to be found in these places – tranquil, quiet, havens offering the rewards of times and places forgotten in our own hectic lifestyles.
Aghia Efimia Kefalonia
The mythical island of Ithaca shelters a natural harbour on the north east coast of Kefalonia overlooking the calm waters of Sami Bay – Aghia Efimia.
Beaches lead gently down to the warm sea and there are a host of tiny, secluded coves for perfect bathing. The crystal clear Ionian is ideal for swimming, snorkelling, or scuba diving.
Aghia Efimia may be small, but it offers all the facilities you will need. There are well-stocked mini markets, a couple of bakeries offering warm bread baked on the premises – just think of those breakfasts! – And a superb choice of cafes and tavernas around the harbour. Here you will find everything you need for the perfect relaxing holiday.
Sami and Karavomilos Kefalonia
Although Sami is a small town, it is an important harbour for the island. The ships for Italy as well as the ferryboats that connect Kefalonia with the other islands anchor here. Its long waterfront is lined with shops; shaded restaurants and tavernas serve a variety of tempting meals and snacks.
In the hills above Sami, seek out the ruins of Ancient Sami the most important of the four great city-states that ruled Kefalonia over 3000 years ago and minted its own coins.
Near to Sami set in a bay of exceptional beauty is Antisamos, a crescent of white shingle snuggling into lushly forested hills spilling down into a wine dark sea. One of the most exquisite pebble beaches in Kefalonia.
Karavomilos is a pleasant, quiet retreat at the western side of the bay of Sami and home to our accommodation at the Sami Beach Hotel. The village has a small park, eucalyptus tree-lined beach and a lake. Pull up a chair at one of the cafes, head for the beach or sit in quiet contemplation by the lake.
Close by explore Melissani Lake by boat. You will float over the unimaginable colours of the water in all the shades of peacock, blues and greens, dazzling in the light from the opening high overhead.
Visit Drogarati Cave still developing after 150 million years, a glut of orange and yellow stalactites and stalagmites, a stunning cathedral like central chamber with extraordinary acoustics, Maria Callas once sang here.
The picturesque village of Kioni on the north east coast has many examples of original architecture.; there are also spectacular views towards the islands of Astokos, Arkoudi, Meganisi and Lefkas.
The central church of the village is Aghios Ioanis which has many icons. Two large festivities with live music and dance take place in Kioni, the 24th June is for Aghios Ioanis and the 20th of July for Aghios Elias, which is a small church, one mile from the three windmills, built on the rocks by the sea. On the 20th July, the people of Kioni reach the small church with their fishing boats to attend the service.
The Castle of Saint George Kefalonia
Firmly woven into the history of the island, there are references to a castle having been here since the 11c. Some 15,000 people used to live clustered around this castle, which was the islands capital and seat of government until 1757.
The impressive fortress looms high on a hill above the village of Travliata. The ramparts, 10 – 15 metres high offer fantastic views of the surrounding area.
The capital of the island since 1757.
Visit the Archaeological Museum; it contains a remarkable collection of Mycenaean finds. Also visit the Folk Art Museum whose aim is to preserve the memory of the historical and social conditions, which prevailed in Kefalonia before the 1953 earthquake. On the waterfront there is a fresh produce market, open every day except Sunday, worth a visit especially in the morning, there is a wonderful array of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Exogi Village Ithaca
Exogi sits at an altitude of 340 metres on the slopes of the Homeric Mountain of Neion. It is one of the oldest villages of Ithaca located 22 km north of Vathy. The picturesque village is surrounded by a verdant landscape overlooking Aphales Bay and the neighbouring islands. Exogi used to be one of the main villages of Ithaca during the Middle Ages due to its position that protected the village from pirates. When the pirate threat decreased, most of the inhabitants of the village moved to the coast and founded the villages of Stavros and Platrithias. The main church of Exogi, the church of Agia Marina, is lovely and its feast day is celebrated on the 17th of July with live music, food, wine and dances in the beautiful main square of the village.
Unforgettable scenery and the towering remains of a Venetian fortress. It is described as the most ‘atmospheric village’ on the island, clinging to a small isthmus with picturesque houses overlooking the harbour.
The centre of the village is Paris Square, which offers relaxation in the shaded comfort of its tavernas.
A track leads from the village up to the fortress that guards Assos. The Venetians built the fortress in the 1590’s to protect the inhabitants from pirates. If you’re in the mood for romance, be in Assos at sunset to see the sun go down behind the castle and the light streaming across the ruins.
Vathi the capital and largest settlement on the island of Ithaca has one of the most spectacular harbour approaches in the world – it is a splendid place, one of the most idyllic seafront settings in Greece.
Delightful red roofed houses are set amongst enchanting scenery and the centre is a photo opportunity of twisting streets and picturesque cafes. Stroll around the harbour with its array of shops, have coffee at one of the many kafeneions, visit Nikos Markatos in his beautiful shop full of paintings and local crafts or, simply watch the fishermen mend their nets.
Myrtos Beach Kefalonia
This famous beach is the star of Kefalonia and recognised as one of the finest in Greece. It has been voted one of Europe’s most beautiful.
With its towering cliffs, turquoise water and spectacular views from the coast road, it is not difficult to see why. A perfect afternoon suntrap, seasonal sun beds and umbrellas are available for hire and there is a canteen.
The Monastery of Agios Gerasimos Kefalonia
The monastery located in the Omala valley is named after the patron saint of the island. He was born in the Corinth area of Greece in 1507 into a wealthy family. He settled in Zakynthos before coming to Kefalonia where he established the nunnery that bears his name. He spent his monastic life here until his death in August 1579.
Main religious festivals are held on 16th August and 20th October. The saint’s sarcophagus is taken in procession through the streets. Traditionally people with various afflictions lie in the path of the sarcophagus believing a cure is possible. The monastery is much visited by Kefalonians and is a major centre for pilgrims from all over Greece.
Aghia Sofia Kefalonia
Some eight kilometres off the ‘back road’ from Aghia Efimia to Fiskardo, Aghia Sofia is reached over possibly the best piece of tarmac in Kefalonia to present one of the islands hidden gems; a delightful horseshoe bay of crystal clear waters affording lovely views of Ithaca. Out of ‘high season’ there is peace and tranquillity here – take some bread to feed the resident sea going ducks.
Mount Ainos Kefalonia
The last preserve of the rare Kefalonian fir tree; towering over the rest of Kefalonia these primeval firs give a whole new dimension to the island. Here you can begin to imagine what Kefalonia looked like 500 years ago.
The route to the top of the mountain is rough in places. The highest point is 1628 metres and rewards the intrepid with a magnificent panorama; the whole area was declared a National Park in 1962. There’s also plenty of wildlife: foxes, hares, weasels, pine martens and protected bird species, the golden eagle and the osprey – you might even be lucky enough to spot the wild ponies.
The tiny village of Frikes is the perfect place to totally unwind.
Have lunch or visit Symposium Restaurant to see the collection of black and white photographs that adorn their walls and show how Frikes looked in times gone by. In high season there are ferries from here to Fiscardo in Kefalonia and some of the other islands.
The northern most village on the island that retains its original Venetian architecture. Its pastel-shaded buildings, that give the place the feel of a chocolate box, have long made Fiscardo a retreat for Europe’s rich and fashionable.
Xi Beach Kefalonia
This large beach is 8km south of Lixouri and is unusual for its red sand, which contrasts sharply with the putty white cliffs behind. There is also a type of rock here, glina that crumbles so easily you can rub it into a paste – women use it as a cosmetic treatment. There are seasonal tavernas; sun beds and umbrellas can be hired on the beach.