Kefalonia is known as the largest and one of the most amazing Greek islands, which has exceptional natural beauties, just like Lefkada!
The island is called by several names: the best known name is Kefalonia, but the island is well known as Kefallinia, Cephalonia, Kefaloniá, or in Greek language Κεφαλονιά. The largest member of the Ionian Islands with an area of 786 km2, but there are some other islands nearby with larger population.
History of Kefalonia (Cephalonia)
The largest Ionian Island has a unique and rich history. Some archeologists think this island was the geographical center of Homer’s Ithaca, the real birthplace and home of Odysseus. There are many proof from the Mycenaean era, several ancient tombs were discovered in the area.
In ancient times Kefalonia was under Roman rule, several villages have precious archeological finds from this era. Traditional Kefalonian villages like Fiskardo, Skala or Agia Efimia have beautiful Roman mosaics, ruins of villas or ancient cemeteries. In medieval times the island was under the control of Venetian Empire and Ottoman Empire as well. Ottomans conquered Kefalonia first, but the first Turkish rule lasted only for 20 years. The Venetian army liberated the island in 1500, and they have built many fortifications all over Kefalonia. The Venetians made Kefalonia one of the richest island in the region, it was known as a commercial center of the Ionian Islands.
After Venice was conquered by the French in 1797, Kefalonia had a new ruler for a short time. Next year Ottoman Empire arrived and attacked the region, and the turkish army occupied Kefalonia with some other Ionian Islands. In 1807 thanks to an agreement Kefalonia was returned to France, but only a few years later, from 1810 the island became British province. In this period was built the original bridge of Drapano, when Charles Philippe de Bosset was the provisional governor of Kefalonia. This period was prospering for the island, because many of new buildings were constructed, important libraries were founded, and other improvements were made.
Some years later the people of Kefalonia wanted independance after hundreds of years of occupation, and there were several rebellions against British Kingdom. In 1864 after some riot the island joined to the Greek state, with all the other Ionian Islands.
Kefalonia during the years of World War II.
The World War II. was stressful and very sad for the people of Kefalonia. The island was firstly under Axis command, mostly Italian powers were present in garrisons. In 1943 after the armistice of Italian Army, German soldiers are arrived and took control over the island. The German forces considered the Italians as traitors, because Italian soldiers did not want to use their weapons against the Greeks. German soldiers received an order to destroy the Italian forces, and thousands of Italian soldiers and officers were executed. This sad story inspired the famous writer, Louis de Bernieres to write his bestseller, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
After the end of the World War II., Greek Civil War aggravated the situation, and the long-awaited peace for the people arrived only in 1949.
The Earthquake of 1953 in Kefalonia
In the year of 1953, after some years of the war another disaster happened. Kefalonia island is situated directly next to a tectonic plate, and earthquakes are not unknown. In August 12, 1953 a series of an earthquake hit the island, and destroyed almost every villages of the island. Epicentre of the earthquake was located on the southern side of the island, so the greatest damage was suffered by the southern parts of Kefalonia. This natural disaster is known as the Ionian Earthquake of 1953, because other Ionian Islands, such as Zakynthos and Ithaca were also seriously damaged. Because of their loss thousands of Kefalonian people were emigrated to the Greek mainland and also to other countries like USA or Australia.
After a slow regeneration, nowadays the most important economic parts of Kefalonia are agriculture and tourism. This is a beautiful island with amazing natural attractions with great beaches and sights.
Best sights of Kefalonia island
Kefalonia is far famous for its beautiful landscapes, medieval castles and unique geographical phenomenons.
The island has one of the most spectacular lake which is situated in a cave. It is known as the ‘Lake of the Nymphs’, or its most common name as Melissani lake. Several years ago the roof of the cave was collapsed by an earthquake, and made an interesting natural pool. When the sun shines into the cave (usually around noon), water colours will be as turquoise, as the best beaches. Melissani cave is visited by thousands of tourists every year, it is located near Karavomilos village.
The island has several well preserved fortifications from Venetian times. The most popular castles of the island are St. George castle next to Peratata village, and castle of Assos at Assos village.
Under Kefalonia island there is an extensive cave system. Like giant spiderwebs, these small underground caves connect the island’s main areas. Next to Argostoli, near to the capitol, there is a large sinkhole, where sea water is absorbed by these caves. This sinkhole is called as Katavothres, and a small water mill has used the power of flowing water.
At Katavothres sea water is flowing slowly underground, and a few days later and several kilometres away flows again into the Ionian sea.
Best beaches of Kefalonia, recommended for beach entusiasts
Kefalonia island has a lot of amazing beaches. The most famous is called Myrtos beach, which has been voted several times as one of the best beaches in Greece. The beaches of Kefalonia island are extremely varied, where you can find a lot of beaches with soft golden sand, coarse sand, rocks and pebbles also. Most of the beaches are organized with parasols and sunbeds, but if you like unorganized beaches, you can find some.
Some favourites of the most beautiful beaches of Kefalonia are Myrtos beach, Petani beach, Skala beach, Xi beach, Antisamos beach, Lourdas beach.
The capital of Kefalonia is Argostoli, which is a small, but modern town with all the facilities you need. There are many popular tourist resorts such Lassi or Skala with large number of traditional taverns, coffee bars, supermarkets and car rental companies. If you interested in picturesque fishing villages, just visit the beautiful gem called Assos, Agia Efimia or Fiskardo.
The villages which not to miss in Kefalonia island are Assos, Fiskardo, Argostoli, Agia Efimia, definitely worth a visit.
The airport of Kefalonia (Anna Pollatou National Airport, IATA codename: EFL) was built near Argostoli, and has been renewed in recent years. The airport connects the island with several countries such as United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Czeh Republic, or Austria. If you are looking for a flight to Kefalonia, take a look for charter flights and low cost airlines, some of these are Condor, Olympic Air, Smartwings, EasyJet, Ryanair, Jet2, Transavia, Volotea.
Where to stay in Kefalonia island?
The island is waiting for visitors with friendly hosts and more than thousand great apartments, studios and villas. The largest tourists resorts are located in the south side of Kefalonia, where the largest mountain of the island, called Ainos can be find. If you are looking for atmospheres of a small fishing village, a good hiking place in the mountains, or a bustling area with a lot ot tourist services, this island offer several great options.
If you are looking for an amazing island in Greece which is similar to Lefkada in natural beauties, just visit Kefalonia!.