Blessed with some of the Mediterranean’s best and most dramatic scenery, the real highlight of Kefalonia is the island itself. Though gaining in popularity it retains an untouched beauty and a rugged charm that is unmatched by some of the more developed islands. Consequently when it comes to highlights it is really the great outdoors that wins all the prizes. Kefalonia’s beaches are some of the finest in Europe and one or two of them consistently win awards and a spot in worldwide best beaches awards (Myrtos Beach is world famous and there are the following blue flag beaches scattered about the islands – Skala, Agia Varvara/Katelios, Aragia Porou (Poros), Platys Gialos, Xi? Petani?. But there are other natural highlights too – the island’s landscape is made up of a series of rolling hills and mountains with lush forests and vegetation filling the vallleys (not to mention the awesome cliffs that tower over many of the beaches.) Indeed Kefalonia’s Mount Enos is one of the highest mountains in Greece. Then there are the world famous Melissani Caves on Lake Melissani and the caves of Drogarati, Zervati, the Kounopetra and the Drakospilia Cave in Lixouri. There are the Sakos caves of Skala and the caves at Fiskardo and there is the Koutavos lagoon and the Agios Gerasimos Cave in Argostoli. Other must-sees include the fountain of Karavomylos and a night spent watching the Katelios Loggerhead Turtles, the awesome Poros Gorge and an afternoon spent hiking around Assos, or indeed around any of the villages, so beautiful are the surrounding trails.
Kefalonia’s relationship with nature is also responsible for another fascinating highlight of the island – its history. After all the earthquakes that have shaken the island on and off for centuries and left much of it in ruins only serve to add to the beautiful and timeless feel of the island. Every village has its own share of ruins and there are numerous fascinating ruins and historic sites to explore, from the Archeological Museum and the Folklore Museum in Argostoli to the Lixouri municipal library (and archaeological collection) and from the Venetian lighthouse and Norman Castle in Fiscardo to the Venetian fortress in Assos to the thirteenth century monastery of Sissia near Vlahata and most famously of all the Venetian fortress at Ayios Yiorios. Take time out to see the Bridge of Drapano and visit the lighthouse of Agioi Theodori, the monastery of Panagia Platitera and the remains of the stone baths in Fiscardo. As well as that, explore the Paleochristian Basilica ruins, the remains of the Roman Mansion and the remnants of the Apollonas Doric Sanctuary as well as the ancient town of Sami. Best of all, take a few hours to explore the hundreds of ancient churches and monasteries that can be found all over the island.
As with most things on the island the churches and monasteries that remain have been affected in one way or another by the 1953 earthquake. Consequently some are still intact whilst others are just a shell, or a ruin of their former glory. Nevertheless as most sit in achingly beautiful surroundings, even the old ruins add to the melancholy beauty of some parts of the island. Religious sites worth checking out include the Agios Andreas monastery, the Panagia Thematon monastery, the Panagia Sission Monastery, the Panagia Atrou monastery (as well as those at Tafion, Koronatou, Kipoureon and Agias Paraskevis) and the churches of Agis Spiridonas, Agia Paraskevi and Prophet Elias.
Other island highlights include tours of the coastline either with a guided boat tour or better still out in your own kayak, wandering the old villages wherever you end up staying and experiencing a vast table full of Mezedes dishes with friends and family in one of the local tavernas, restaurants and cafes. Apart from all the fine food you’ll be served at dinner make sure you also get to experience island specialties such as Robola wine, local olive oils and local thyme honey.
Finally no Kefalonia highlights would be complete without the obligatory mention of Captain Corelli and his Mandolin. If you’re a fan of the book and managed to sit through the (awful) movie then you’ll want to visit some of the places you’ve seen on the big screen. Most are in Sami, from the Sami town square to the beaches to the winding streets. It’s a beautiful place to visit anyway so well worth an afternoon of your time.