Travel:- Kefalonia – The Greek Treasure (2019)
Last summer I set about writing a piece on the gorgeous Island of Kefalonia, this year we spent months deciding where to go in Greece – after months of research and debates, we settled on Kefalonia! So why after years of returning do we still keep heading back to this quiet, but not so little island.
You may well have heard of Kefalonia, the Greek Island which is the setting for the film Captain Corelli. It is the lesser visited Island in the Ionian Chain, located South of Corfu and North of Zante.
Kefalonia receives gorgeous weather throughout the summer, whilst receiving a good amount of rainfall in the winter. Its because of this that the Islands scenery is so stunning, green and lush.
The Island was hit by a major earthquake in 1953, with much of the Island being destroyed, many families left, only a few remained. Over the years many of those that departed have been returning to this stunning Island. Today you can still see the ruins of old homes that were just left after the dramatic events.
Thankfully I have been lucky enough to spend a number of great years living and working on this small piece of paradise. Now, much to the dismay of some, I have decided to share some of its ‘must visit’ locations, off the main tourist trail, allowing you to get the most out of a trip to this Greek Treasure.
Access to Kefalonia is easy throughout the summer, with main tour operators including TUI, Thomas Cook, Olympic and Jet2 offering packages. There are also flights available from the likes of EasyJet and British Airways. The number of operators is growing year on year as is the number of flights arriving at the island.
Following the recent sell off of Greek Airports by the government, private operators are looking to increase revenue and have enlarged the landing space at the airport and are now building a bigger terminal building. The new departure terminal is open and the arrivals hall is under construction, this means that currently on arrival you enter a makeshift space. Apart from having to queue outside on the tarmac when busy, the temporary baggage claim area isn’t really too different to the old terminal which has now been demolished, it will however be interesting to see the new and improved facilities once finished.
One of the main pulls of Kefalonia, is that it is not too over-run and whilst the Island is large (The Largest of the Ionian Islands), I wouldn’t want it to get too much busier so as to spoil that charm..
Resorts across the Island vary, with the main bulk of tourists now finding themselves heading to Skala. A busy resort located along a beach road, with a large pebble beach. Skala suits family’s due to easy access, beach and hotels with various board basis catering for those that want to budget. Couples looking for some luxury can also find gorgeous retreats here, including the stunning adult only Tesoro Blu Hotel a TUI Sensimar Hotel with great dining options and a gorgeous infinity pool at the front.
Those looking for some of the nicest beaches however may want to stay elsewhere or travel around the Island. If you are happy to stay self catering there are some great deals close to the airport, in the smaller resort of Lassi.
Located only 5 mins drive from Kefalonia Airport, Lassi is another purpose built resort, with a couple of hotels plus a large number of smaller, family run Self Catering apartments. We have stayed a number of times at Irilena Studios which come highly recommended. Like many apartments in Lassi, it is up a short but steep hill. As Lassi, unlike Skala is all hills, its not really suitable for those with walking difficulties. That said it does have many things that make up for this.
Another option available with TUI is the Lassi Hotel, which is where we stayed during our most recent visit. Hotel rooms are on a bed and breakfast basis and the breakfast served is more that enough to set you up for the day.
Alternatively, those looking for a little more luxury should check out The White Rocks Hotel, with some stunning rooms and suites, the views are great and it has its own access to the beach below.
The beaches are one of the biggest attraction to Lassi, with a number of them being dotted along this coast line. Closest to the Lassi Hotel is Gradakia. A small cove beach, the water is shallow and still so great for paddling and swimming. It features a small beach bar serving up drinks and food as well as sun loungers at the cost of 7 Euro (for 2 sun-beds and umbrella).
Further along the coast and much larger is Makris Yialos. Most of this beach is taken up by a large beach bar/cafe named Costa Costa, it gets very busy during peak times and the sun-loungers are a little more expensive, ranging from 9- 32 Euros(depending on which style you choose). It’s nice to have food and drink served to you on your sun lounger, as well as having toilet and shower facilities at hand.
Or if you enjoy watching planes coming in, then you should head to Ammes, situated at one end of the airport runway, you get to see the planes coming in to land, just in metres above your head.
Another major benefit to being in Lassi and the main reason that we love it, is that you can get to the capital Argostoli in about 15 mins by foot. (And on the way there its all down hill – you may just want a taxi back though).
Argostoli, unlike Lassi is very traditional, with many locals living, dining and socialising in the capital.
It’s a quaint place, with a main square which really comes alive at night. You will find Greek Families, with children playing until the early hours, taking advantage of the cooler temperatures of the night. Tavernas and Cafe’s line the Square serving up some Greek delights, including lots of Gyros, and other Greek dishes.
The τγροκαφτερι (Tirokafteri or Spicy Cheese Salad) is a feta style dip, and you can’t beat the one at Λα Δοκολλα (La Dokolla)
Just off the square, the roads lead to Kefalonia Harbour. The island is popular with the rich and famous, especially those with boats. And while many of the larger yachts moor up in the millionaires playground of Fiskardo, some also like to stay in Argostoli Harbour itself.
By day you can get a boat trip out, or maybe watch the protected turtles seeking out the scraps left by fisherman, whilst in the evening, restaurants and cocktail bars are great for sitting and people watching. One of our favourites in this area is Captains Table, right on the harbour front.
Further down, and more used by locals, you also have a traditional taverna where you go and choose your dinner from whatever has been cooked that day. Usually you will find such dishes as Greek Pastitsio or Chicken from the Oven with lemon Potatoes. This is Greek home cooked food at its most authentic, and less then half the price as you’d find in more tourist centric restaurants.
Although the Island doesn’t have a huge amount of tourism compared to many other Greek Islands, it is large and needs to be explored. This is best done by car, we tend to use a family run business called Pefanis – they have a ZERO excess policy and so you can drive around without worrying about picking up small bits of damage. You can book cars before you arrive here
One must travelled route is the coastal road from Argostoli to Fiskardo. This road will take you winding around the Island with some stunning scenery, including the famous Myrtos Beach.
Further along the road you can then turn off to Assos, a little sheltered bay which is great for swimming and grabbing some food or drink.
Even further north you reach the village of Manganos, just past the small store on the main road is a turn off, which takes you straight down to Agia Ierousalim.
A small secluded beach, with pebbles. You can grab a sun lounger and enjoy this pretty peaceful delight. There is also a Taverna opposite which you can wonder across to, serving up traditional Greek fare. Close to Agia Ierousalim is a second beach, even more secluded and again with a great taverna
Alaties beach really is tiny, with white sand and clear water, you may find your one of only a handful of people here. The Acqua Alaties Beach Restaurant also serves up some amazing food.
We’ve also travelled west and over to the Paliki Peninsular with its rocky and rugged coastline – Petani Beach is set among stunning scenery.
As well as car hire, you can also experience some of the island on organised excursions. This year we also took one of the excursions available – the beach BBQ cruise. Setting off from the port front in Argostoli, they offer half and full day tours. The friendly crew take you out to sea pointing out various points of interest as well as getting to see some of this beautiful island from offshore.
Swimming stops allow you to cool down, plus you may get to witness some of the waters inhabitants, including the great sea turtles or even the odd dolphin.
A full BBQ lunch is served on the beach along with plenty of wine, before using some of the local clay to beautify and exfoliate.
We usually spend a week in Kefalonia each year, and there are many places that we havent visted for a few years, such as Fiskardo, which also has some beautiful walks or Antisamos Beach, which has a hip bar with music, set on a white pebble beach great for snorkelling.
With so many great places to seek out whilst on the Island, you will soon discover that one visit is just not enough.