General Information on Kefalonia
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands, with a surface area of about 904km², and approximately 42,100 inhabitants. The Prefecture of Kefalonia also includes the islands of Ithaca, Kastos and Kalamos. The island is definitely one of the most popular destinations in the country and it is considered to have one of the most spectacular landscapes in Greece.
Kefalonia is very mountainous, its highest peak, mount Ainos, reaching an altitude of 1,520 meters; it is the only mountain in the Mediterranean to have an unique fir tree called “Abies kefallia”. It is a protected species and the area has been declared a National Park. Plains, lakes and rivers, caves, dense and verdant forests and wonderful beaches with golden sand compose the unique landscape of Kefalonia. A large number of tourists visit Kefalonia during peak season, but the island is well equipped to cater for them. The number of visitors has increased since the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001), inspired by the homonymous book, was filmed on the island.
History of Kefalonia
The island was named after the mythical hero Cephalus, who arrived here as a refugee from Athens during the Paleolithic era. After displacing the initial inhabitants known as Taphians, he founded the four main cities of the island. These independent cities were named after Cephalus' sons: Sami, Pahli, Krani and Pronnoi. The island participated in the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars on both sides of Athens and Sparta.
In 187 B.C., the Romans took over Kefalonia and used it as a strategic spot by turning it into an important naval base. In the 11th century A.D., the island fell under Frankish rule, which was ended by the Byzantines. Later, Kefalonia passed to the Normans and the Ottomans, who conquered it with the help of Ahmed Pasha. Then, the Venetians gained control, moving the capital to Argostoli, after a strong earthquake in 1757 destroyed Saint Giorgio’s Fortress. The Venetian rule ended in 1797 with the arrival of the French, who were later defeated by the allied fleet of the Russians, the Turks and the English.
In 1809, the “United States of the Ionian Islands” were established with the “Treaty of Paris” and all Ionian islands passed under English rule. In 1864, Kefalonia was united to independent Greece, about the same time as the rest of the Ionian Islands. During World War II, the island was occupied by the Italians. In 1943, Italy capitulated, but its troops refused to leave. As a punishment, German forces killed more than 5,000 Italian soldiers. In 1953, the whole island was leveled during an earthquake, but for the northern regions. Damage was estimated to tens of millions of euros, but the real damage occurred when many inhabitants left the island. It is estimated that 100,000 people out of 125,000 left the island shortly after the earthquake.
Towns & Villages in Kefalonia
Argostoli: It is the largest village of Kefalonia as well as the capital and main port, with a population of 14,000 inhabitants. Argostoli is situated in the centre of the island’s southern part on the far end of the bay bearing the same name. The entire village was destroyed by the earthquake of 1953. The town has been rebuilt since then, but unlike the capital of Zakynthos, no efforts were made to maintain the traditional architecture and the local color. Argostoli is nowadays a modern and cosmopolitan town, very busy and has many interesting features and activities to offer.
Fiskardo: This village is situated 50km away from the capital. It is the northernmost port of Kefalonia and it is famous, because it is one of the few villages that have not been destroyed by the earthquake of 1953. All traditional and Venetian buildings have therefore been preserved and give a unique charm and atmosphere to the village. Due to its beauty, Fiskardo has become a popular destination and attracts thousand of visitors every summer.
Lixouri: It is the second largest village of the island and lies on a peninsula across the water, 33km away from Argostoli. Like in the case of Argostoli, most of the Venetian buildings of Lixouri were destroyed in the earthquake of 1953 and today only a couple of mansions remain. Nowadays, the village is a major tourist resort and accommodates many visitors during summer.
Assos: It is a small, charming village situated 36km away from the capital of the island. The 1953 earthquake reduced the original village to rubble, but French funds have helped rebuild it in a style that is largely harmonious to the surrounding landscape. Dominated by ruins of a 16th century Venetian castle, the village of Assos stands on a small peninsula. The traditional architecture, the narrow alleys, the hospitality of its inhabitants and the lovely small taverns perched on the quayside compose the charming atmosphere of one of the “must” places of Kefalonia.
Sami: It is located on the eastern coast of Kefalonia, 22km away from the island’s capital. Sami used to be the capital of the island, but today is just a significant ferry port and a fast-growing holiday centre. The area combines an extended coastline, which includes some astonishing beaches, and a most interesting inland created by impressive hills.
Agia Efimia: It is situated in the northeastern part of the island about 30km from the capital of Kefalonia. This pretty and small fishing harbor has just recently become a tourist resort. However, a large drawback of the area is that the surrounding beaches are all small with stone and shingle.
Poros: The village of Poros is located 41km southwest of Kefalonia’s capital. The settlement is lovely with a fine marina that serves the harbor of Patras and the port of Killini, and a wide selection of taverns, mostly settled in the main square of the village. The dense and verdant vegetation along with the crystal blue sea make this village one of the most beautiful areas of the island. The town beach known as Aragia is a 600m stretch of shingle and sand, with sun beds and other facilities available.
Kourkoumelata: It is a picturesque village situated 10km away from the capital of the island. As most of Kefalonia’s villages, Kourkoumelata was totally destroyed by the earthquake of 1953. However, it was rebuilt with the financial support of ship-owner Giorgos Vergotis, who reorganized and rebuilt the village according to the neoclassical architectural tendencies of those times.
Beaches in Kefalonia
Myrtos: This beach is the trademark of Kefalonia and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beach has fine white sand, wonderful turquoise waters and it is surrounded by impressive and majestic rocky cliffs. Although Myrtos is usually very calm, you need to be careful of undercurrents. A snack bar, sunbeds and umbrellas are available on the beach.
Antisamos: The new track that was created for the Corelli movie provides much easier access to this amazing beach now. The beach is located near Sami, 22km away from the capital, and has pebbles and turquoise waters. Due to its natural beauty, the beach attracts thousands of visitors every summer.
Xi: Just east of Vasta bay lies the popular beach with the singular name of Xi. The beach is nice and long with orange and red sand and clear waters. Sunbeds, umbrellas and water sports facilities are available. However, due to its size, you have a choice between the organized part of the beach, or the isolated one after a 5-to-10-minute walk.
Lounrdas: It is located at the south coast of Kefalonia and has white coarse sand and pebbles. It is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, 1km long, and partly organized. The old village situated behind the beach, with its traditional square and amazing view, is also worth a visit.
Skala: This is one of the largest sandy beaches of Kefalonia located at the southeastern part of the island. Skala is a popular destination to visitors of all ages. The beach has a blue flag award and has many tourist facilities. The old village located on the hills behind the beach –about an hour's walk up the hill– is worth a visit.
Petani: This beach is situated on the west coast of the Lixouri peninsula. The beach has mainly stones and shingles; it is 600m long. It also has the blue flag award, but remains a peaceful place with limited tourist facilities.
Ai Helis: The beach is located on the south coast, in the area of Svorouata, near the airport. It is one of the most popular beaches of Kefalonia. Golden sand, crystal clear waters and yellowish rocks resembling emmental cheese, compose an excellent set.
Avithos: This beach, like Ai Helis, is also located in the southwest part of Kefalonia, in the area of Svorouata, close to the capital of the island. Avithos is a rural area where dive trees and citrus orchards are plenty. The beach is long, sandy, unorganized and faces the tiny island of Dias, with views to Zakynthos on clear days.
Pessada: It is situated on the south coast of Kefalonia and it is the docking port of the Zakynthos ferry. There are no real beaches here, only small coves, some with flat rocks and some with sand and pebbles. Nearby, Agios Thomas beach is the most popular part of the region. It is a small sandy cove with impressive volcanic rock formations and some facilities.
Platis Gialos & Makris Gialos: These two beaches are situated just outside Argostoli, in the Lassi area. Due to their close distance of the capital, they are considered to be among the most crowded beaches of Kefalonia. However, Platis Gialos is less developed than Makris Gialos and also quieter. They both have fine soft golden sand and gently sloping shorelines that make them great for children.
Top Things to Do in Kefalonia
1. Museums: Kefalonia has many museums. The most interesting ones are the Archaeological Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Corgialenion Historical and Folk Art Museum. The Archaeological Museum houses various finds from the prehistoric, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The Natural History Museum is located in the village of Davgata. It was founded in order to introduce the natural environment of Kefalonia and Ithaca to people. The museum contains precious and interesting information about the fauna and flora of both islands. Last but not least, there is the Corgialenion Museum located in the capital of Kefalonia. The museum was founded in order to preserve the memory of the political, economical, social and historical conditions of the island before the earthquake of 1953. The collections of the museum include various documents, icons, maps, photographs and many more, dating to the beginning of the 15th century onwards.
2. Caves: The most interesting caves of Kefalonia are the Drogorati Cave and the Mellisani Cave. The first one is located a few kilometers away from Sami. The main cave is 45 meters wide, 21 meters high and 9 meters long. Due to its size and great acoustics, this cave often hosts various concerts. The Mellisani Cave is located outside Sami and is 40 meters wide, 36 meters high and 3,5 meters long. The cave interior is covered by 20-30 meters of water and the cave is reachable only by boat. The hole on the roof, which was created by the earthquake of 1953, and the brilliant aquamarine water give an eerie blue experience to visitors.
3. The Castle of Agios Georgis: Between the resorts of Argostoli and Lassi are the villages of Peratata and Travliata, along with the remarkably well-preserved Venetian Castle of Ag. Georgis; this was built in the 13th century as a fortification to the old capital of the island. Its total surface area is 16,000 square meters and its walls are 600 meters long. Inside the castle, the tower called “Old Fortress” used to be the throne of the Venetian Lord. Also, one of the coats of arms decorating the massive bastions conceals a secret tunnel, which ran to a lagoon in Argostoli.
4. The Cave of Saint Gerassimos: Located in the area of Lassi, in Argostoli, this natural cave is where Saint Gerassimos, patron of the island, lived before moving to the Omala valley where he reorganized the monastery known today as Agios Gerasimmos. A small church has been built in the cave, in honor of the saint and attracts many pilgrims. From this spot, one can enjoy a fantastic view over the sea.
5. Monasteries: Two of the most interesting Monasteries of Kefalonia are: the Monastery of Saint Gerassimos and the Monastery of Panagia Artou. The first one is also and the more venerated monastery of the island. It is situated on the top of a green valley in Omala, near the villages of Fragata and Valsamata. The monastery is impressive with a little chapel and a new richly decorated church. The Monastery of Panagia Artou, which is dedicated to Virgin Mary, stands at an altitude of 500 meters on the top of a green hill, a few kilometers from the village of Poros. Originally built during the 8th century, it is the oldest monastery of the island. It is said to have been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times.
How to Reach Kefalonia
Air: There is at least one daily flight between Kefalonia and Athens. During summertime, Kefalonia is also connected to multiple international destinations via charter flights.
Bus: From Kefalonia to Athens there is a daily bus on the Argostoli-Poros-Kyllini-Patra-Athens route. Also there is a bus taking the Argostoli-Kyllini-Athens route and another one on the Argostoli-Sami-Patras-Athens route. The price of these services includes ferry tickets and all journeys take around eight hours.
Ferry-Domestic: Kefalonia has six ports: Sami, Argostoli, Poros, Lixouri, Pesada and Fiskardo. At least two ferries daily connect Sami to Patras (2 ½ hours) and Vathi in Ithaca (1 hour). From Poros and Argostoli there are at least two ferries daily to Kyllini in the Peloponnese. During summer, boats connect most of Kefalonia ports to the other Ionian islands.
Getting Around in Kefalonia
To/From the Airport: the airport of Kefalonia is located about 9km south of Argostoli and there are no bus services connecting the airport to the capital. You will have to take a taxi.
Ferry: Car ferries run hourly between Lixouri and Argostoli (30 minutes).
Bus: From Argostoli’s bus station there are seven buses daily to the Lassi Peninsula, four buses to Sami, two to Poros, two to Skala and two to Fiskado. There is a daily east-coast service linking Katelios with Skala, Poros, Sami, Agia Efimia and Fiskardo.
Weather in Kefalonia
Kefalonia weather consists of a mild Mediterranean climate with rainy winters and dry, hot summers. Rain is characteristic of the Ionian climate and the average annual rainfall is three times higher than in the Aegean. Winds in Kefalonia never get strong, even during summer.
Top 10 Destinations in Kefalonia
All Destinations in Kefalonia
Map of Kefalonia