Kefalonia’s Natural Wonders
Kefalonia won the lottery when it came to natural wonders. With more blue flag beaches than any other island and with dramatic coastline at every turn the whole island could be considered a ‘natural wonder.’ Despite its rising profile though the island is still relatively undeveloped and long may it remain so. Kefalonia has Europe’s finest beaches with one of them (Myrtos) consistently coming in the top ten of most ‘world’s best beaches’ awards. Add to that the blue flag beaches of Skala, Agia Varvara/Katelios, Aragia Porou (Poros), Platys Gialos, Xi? Petani? and there is enough to keep you occupied for weeks just in the beaches. But the landscape of Kefalonia is also something to behold, from the mountains and lush hills at its center to the endless forests, vineyards, orchards, caves, streams, fountains and cliffs. You can head out by foot or on a bike almost anywhere in Kefalonia and find some incredible sights. But if your time is short, here are some particular natural highlights worth checking out:
The Cave of Agios Gerasimos and the Katavothres Lagoon, Argostoli.
Just 3 km outside of Argostoli is the Katavothres Lagoon, a fascinating geological phenomenon unique to the area. The name literally means ‘the swallowing hole’ and the lagoon features a formation into which sea water flows and then drops into deep sink holes. The holes were investigated in the sixties and a purple dye was poured into the holes to see where the water went – and revealed that the water passed through a number of underground rivers before re-emerging in Lake Melissani more than 15km away. Two weeks later the same water pours into the sea at the village of Karavomilos.
Whilst exploring around Argostoli it is also worth checking out the Cave of Agios Gerasimos, the patron saint of the island who lived in the cave from 1560 until he founded a Monastery years later in Peratata. There is a chapel inside the cave to this day.
Kounopetra and Draksopilia Caves, Lixouri
If you head about 9km out of Lixouri (south) you’ll arrive at Kounopetra, a fascinating geological phenomenon. Sitting out in the middle of the sea is a gigantic rock that was famous for rhythmically rocking back and forth until the 1953 earthquake. It is also part of local folklore that the English tied thick chains and ropes to the rock and tried to move it but failed.
Whilst in the area it is also worth popping along to Havdata and the beautiful views out over the Ionian Sea. Take half an hour to visit the stunning Draksopilia cavern, referred to by locals as ‘Dragon’s Cave.’
The Karavomylos Fountain, Melissani Lake and the Drogarati Caves, Sami.
The Karavomilos Fountain, near Sami, is the point at which the aforementioned sink-holes from Katavothres Lagoon expel the water that has passed through the underground rivers and lakes. The endless passages and cavities under Kefalonia’s limestone rock formations are referred to as the ‘Kefalonian Water Mystery’ and the Fountain is worth seeing just because it is the end point of the whole process. However, the main natural highlights near Sami are the world famous Melissani Lake and Drogarati Caves. These are the most famous attractions on the island and everyone should see them. Lake Melissani holds the clearest water you can possibly imagine and you can see everything in the deep water below. But as you go out in a boat into the caves you really want to be looking up – at the fantastic stalactites on the cave roof above you. Similarly you can walk around the Drogarati Caves featuring long corridors of equally impressive and imposing stalactites. Should you get a chance to go there for a concert in summer, make sure you do – the acoustics are amazing.
Turtle Watching in Katelios.
Not only is Katelios one of the island’s best spots for hiking and nature walks it also offers the unique opportunity to watch Loggerhead Turtles come onto the beach and lay their eggs. The beach is protected and there is a local NGO dedicated to keeping the masses away from the beach, but you can take part in a nighttime educational turtle-watch if you want.
Often called the Araki Gap, Poros Gorge is a massive craggy ravine that drops to a depth of about 80m. It is famous because the islanders believe it was carved out by none other than Hercules. The gorge is supposed to represent the footprints of Hercules after he stood on, and crushed, a mountain that used to be there. The area around the gorge (and around Poros itself) is beautiful too, being covered in lush woods of cypress and evergreens, oak forests and orchards, vineyards, natural fountains and rivers, and flora and fauna of all colors and shapes everywhere you look.
Other natural highlights include the Sakos Cave at Skala, the Fiscardo caves, hiking around Assos and walking around the coast on trails that pass from beach to beach.