9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on Kefalloniá
Kefalloniá (Kefalonia, Cephalonia), the largest of the Ionian Islands, is made up of pine-scented limestone mountains slashed by lush, green fertile valleys. In the past, the island depended primarily on agriculture, but since the success of the 2001 film Captain Corelli's Mandolin, based on the book by Louis de Bernieres and starring Penelope Cruz and Nicholas Cage, tourism has become increasingly important. Almost all the island's towns and villages were devastated by a terrible earthquake in 1953, so there is little architecture of historical interest - the one exception being the village of Fiskardo, which somehow survived the destruction. The airport lies nine kilometers south of Argostoli, which is the island's capital.
Unquestionably Kefallonia's prettiest village, Fiskardo lies on the northeastern tip of the island and is the only settlement to have retained its 18th-century Venetian-style architecture from before the earthquake. Backed by a dense cypress glade and built around a sheltered bay, it is popular with sailing crews who moor up their yachts here on summer nights. Most of the houses around the harbor now host upmarket seafood eateries, cafés, and holiday homes.
On the northwest coast, 10 kilometers from Fiskardo, Ássos is a peaceful little village built on a causeway linking a hilly peninsula to the mainland. To reach it, you drive down a series of hairpin bends to where the village nestles in a quaint harbor, rimmed by seafood taverns. The peninsula is capped by the ruins of a 16th-century Venetian castle, which you can walk up to for a closer look (allow about 40 minutes), and there are a couple of pebble beaches close to the village, where you can swim.
3 Myrtos Beach
Close to Assos on the northwest coast, Myrtos is one of Greece's most photographed beaches. Backed by dramatic limestone cliffs and fringing an amazing turquoise-blue sea, this two-kilometer-long beach is made up of smooth white pebbles. The view from the road above is stunning. The beach itself is a little wild - there's no natural shade from the afternoon sun, and the seabed shelves suddenly into deep water with strong currents, so you need to be a confident swimmer.
Kefalloniá's capital, Argostóli, lies on a peninsula on the island's southwest coast. Once an attractive old town, it was almost completely destroyed by the 1953 earthquake and has been rebuilt in modern style, following the original town plan. The main public meeting place is the palm-lined seafront promenade, where local fishing boats moor up. Another tourist attraction is a small archaeological museum, which displays finds from the Mycenaean, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.
On the east coast, 24 kilometers east from Argostóli, Sámi is the island's main port, served by regular ferries to and from Patras on the Greek mainland. The ancient town of Sami lay to the south of the modern town, on the slopes of the double-topped hill - the remains of the acropolis can still be seen, and from here, you have fine views down onto the bay.
6 Antisamos Beach
In a deep, curving bay on the east coast, three kilometers from Sámi, Antisamos is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Made up of white pebbles and backed by hills planted with pine woods, it has limited facilities with just a taverna plus sunbeds and umbrellas for hire. The sea is warm and clear and ideal for snorkeling, and the beach scenes in Captain Corelli's Mandolin were filmed here.
7 Drongarati Cave
Southwest of Sámi, near the village of Khaliotata,the Drongaráti Cave is huge - 95 meters long and 45 meters broad at its widest point. To enter it, you walk down a long flight of steps to arrive in an eerily beautiful cavern, well lit and filled with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. The second chamber has outstanding natural acoustics and occasionally hosts concerts - American-Greek soprano Maria Callas is said to have sung here.
8 Melissani Cave & Lake
Northwest of Sámi, Melissáni Cave is home to an underground lake. To visit it, you walk down a flight of steps to a landing stage, then climb aboard a small rowing boat with an oarsman for a 15-minute trip around the lake. The roof of the cave fell in years ago, so that sunlight enters through the hole in the roof, creating amazing shades of blue-colored light on the cave walls. The best visual effects occur around noon when the sun is overhead. Archaeological finds suggest that the cave may once have been used as an ancient place of worship.
9 Ainos National Park
In the south of the island, Mount Ainos rises 1,628 meters in an area that has been proclaimed a national park. The upper altitudes are covered in dense pine forests of the species Abies cephalonica (Kefallonian fir), which is endemic to Greece and has remained exceptionally pure here due to the isolation of the island. The national park is ideal for hiking and mountain biking, and bird watchers might spot woodpeckers, eagles, vultures, and hawks.