Kefalonia top resorts
Kefalonia top resorts
Kefalonia is a wonderful, friendly and, of course, sunny destination, where you are guaranteed a delightful holiday full of swimming, sunbathing and sampling delicious cuisine and exceptional local wine. As it only offers limited nightlife, it is ideal for families or couples seeking a quiet getaway.
The island is large enough to offer quite a bit of variety, from some of the Ionian’s most iconic beaches, through traditional mountain villages to the archipelago’s highest peak, 1652m Mount Enos. The most famous and visited resorts are Lassi, close to the capital Argostoli, Skala in the southeast, the port town of Sami on the east coast and ritzy Fiskardo at the extreme northern tip. There are, however, plenty of other options to stay in.
The capital Argostoli is largely modern, having been mostly destroyed in the 1953 earthquake, but its authentic character, its setting and its cultural attractions lend it a good deal of appeal. On the opposite side of the bay from Argostoli, Lixouri is another working town with an attractive harbour front and a good location for exploring the wilder west side of the Palliki (Lixouri) Peninsula.
Between Argostoli and the popular resort of Skala, a string of excellent beaches runs along the south coast, the best being Trapezaki, Lourdas and Katelios. On the east coast, near Sami, Aghia Efimia is a picturesque fishing harbour that has become quite established as a place to stay.
Scarcely any old buildings survived the catastrophic earthquake of August 1953, so Argostoli’s architecture is uniformly modern, yet the town is not devoid of character. Its elongated shape is sandwiched between a high ridge and the lively seafront, which runs from the Drapano causeway (now closed) to the Katavothres Sea mills a couple of kilometres to the north.
As a base, it is most suited to couples or individuals who want to get a taste of real Greece away from the tourist trail and take advantage of the greatest concentration of cultural sights that Kefalonia has to offer. Foremost among these is the Archaeological Museum, which contains a fascinating collection of ancient pottery, statuary and votive objects. The two other main attractions are the Korgialenios Historical and Folklore Museum, displaying a range of cultural and religious items, and the Focas-Cosmetatos Foundation, which has an interesting array of historical artefacts and artwork. The Foundation also runs the lush botanical gardens on the southern edge of town.
Eating, drinking and nightlife establishments are concentrated in three areas: the seafront, the central square, Platia Valianou and the pedestrianized street Lithostroto, which runs south from it. This strip is also where you will find most of the town’s shops; well worth a browse. A couple of the restaurants put on performances of kantades, the local folk ballads, otherwise fresh fish and local specialities such as Kefalonian meat pie are enough of a draw in themselves. There is an ample selection of café bars and a couple of big indoor clubs for night owls.
In some ways, Lixouri, which sits quietly across Argostoli Bay from the capital and is linked to it by frequent ferries to save the long drive between the two, is a smaller mirror image of it. Also modern, it has a long seafront, a central square just inland from the water and a decent though smaller range of places to stay, eat and drink. It is, however, lacking in any cultural attractions and has a much sleepier feel. Consequently, it is best for couples or families who are seeking a very peaceful time.
What Lixouri lacks in attractions compared with Argostoli, it makes up for in the proximity of a decent beach. A long thin strand runs south from the port and is where the majority of the town’s hotels and apartments are to be found. It is also a good base for exploring the Palliki Peninsula.
On the southern edge of the peninsula, the popular red sand beaches of Xi and Megas Lakkos offer a full range of facilities. Just further along stands the enormous Kounopetra, whose name means “moving rock” and indeed it used to be unstable until the big earthquake locked it into position. Further east, Agios Nikolaos is a lovely sandy beach.
The real gem, however, is marvellous Petani beach on the peninsula’s west coast, a stunning curve of pebbles set into the mountainside, serviced by a couple of tavernas. Whilst in the vicinity, you can also pay a visit to the peaceful monastery of Kipoureon.
Trapezaki beach is rather a hidden gem that not a lot of foreign visitors know about or ever visit. The long stretch of sand mixed with some shingle is divided in the middle by a very short shady spit, used mainly as a car park. It is behind this that the area’s only taverna is situated. The sea is shallow for a good 10–20m and so fine for kids, who might also like to explore the mini caves and play in the rock pools at the western end.
There is only very limited accommodation in the immediate vicinity, namely one large luxury hotel and a few villas dotted on the hillside between the beach and the turn-off at Mousata-Poriarata. If you do stay here, it is one of the best jumping off points for the medieval castle of Agios Georgios, on its own mini peak inland from the main road. Further inland, towards the centre of the island, the Robola Winery is open to visitors and right next door is the atmospheric monastery of Agios Gerasimos, the patron saint of Kefalonia.
Also known as Lourdata, the beach at Lourdas is one of the finest on the south coast, a wide and long strip of whitish sand with a few pebbles thrown in. It is dramatically situated beneath the brooding flank of Mount Enos, the highest mountain in the Ionian Islands. The access road down from Vlahata on the main road comes out in the middle of the beach, from where the best choice of accommodations and beachside tavernas lie on the eastern side. Once more, this is ideal territory for families and quieter couples, although there is a laid-back sort of buzz about the place.
Of the places to visit nearby, Vlahata itself is a very genuine mountain village with a couple of favourite local haunts where you will be given a warm welcome. Four kilometres further east and a short way off the main road, the monastery of Sissia takes its name from a mythical association with St Francis of Assisi. Unfortunately, the original building was devastated in the 1953 quake and the modern replacement is a tad characterless.
Katelios, properly Kato Katelios to distinguish it from Ano Katelios further inland, is another delightful little resort, also suited to families and couples. There is more of a genuine feel to the place as it is indeed a sleepy fishing village, though only a handful of boats now ply their trade from the tiny harbour.
From the small quay, an unbroken line of around half a dozen restaurants, mostly specialising in super-fresh fish and seafood, and a relaxed bar constitute the sum total of seaside facilities. Further places to eat and the majority of accommodation, either in small hotels or apartments, are spaced along the road back through the rural area behind.
The beach on the other side of the quay at Katelios itself is perfectly decent but the one at nearby Ratzakli is even better, though you should be aware that it is a nesting site for the loggerhead turtle. The area is also famous for the even stranger seasonal appearance of dozens of harmless black snakes. Every year in the build-up to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15th, these small reptiles are claimed to appear spontaneously to be handled by the local priests at the Panagia of Langouvarda church in Markopoulo, up on the Poros road.
Although not blessed with much in the way of beaches, Aghia Efimia is a pleasant resort, the sort of place that is best for couples seeking a relaxed spot to lounge in cafés than spend endless hours sunbathing. It is also home to one of only two scuba diving operations on Kefalonia. This small port on the island’s east coast has always played second fiddle to Sami but is a laid back and attractive town, arranged around the sharp right angle of the harbour. It is here that the cast and crew of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin apparently used to come and unwind after shooting, particularly at the café-restaurant that bears the films name.
A range of accommodations – no big hotels but the odd small one plus a plethora of apartments and villas – and eateries is clustered around the port, along the access roads and round the headland south of the harbour. You might find yourself fighting for space on the thirty metre strip of shingle amusingly known as Paradise Beach and so prefer to swim at the small coves en route to Sami or at the better beach there. Alternatively, it is only a fifteen minute drive across the neck of the island to the stunning beach of Myrtos.