In Greece Kefalonia island is an exceptional place, where incredible sights can be discovered. The largest member of the Ionian Islands can be reached from Lefkada by boat excursions and by ferries both, which arrive to the charming fishing village, Fiskardo. Kefalonia seems quite similar to Lefkada in some geographical features, but as you will see, there are a lot of differences also. Now let’s see, what you should know about this gem, and why worth to visit!
The island has several names, which you can meet: its widely used name is Kefalonia, but it is known as Kefallinia, Cephalonia, Kefaloniá, or in Greek language Κεφαλονιά. This land is the largest member of the Ionian Islands with an area of 786 km2, but there are some other islands nearby with larger population.
As the largest Ionian Island, Kefalonia 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 the ancient times Kefalonia was under Roman rule, some villages have archeological sites from this era. In the traditional Kefalonian villages, such as in Fiskardo, in Skala or in Agia Efimia beautiful Roman mosaics can be seen, which were villas of noblemen.
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 on strategic places. Under the rule of Venetians Kefalonia fluorished, 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. In the next year Ottoman Empire arrived and attacked the region, and the Turkish army occupied Kefalonia as well some other Ionian Islands. Due to an agreement in 1807 Kefalonia was given back to France, but this period was short: in 1810 the island became British province. The British continued the local developments, and the original bridge of Drapano was built, 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, libraries were founded, and other improvements were made.
Despite the progress the inhabitants of Kefalonia wanted independence after hundreds of years of occupation, and there were several rebellions against British Kingdom. In 1864 finally the island joined to Greece, with all the other Ionian Islands.
The years of World War II. in Kefalonia
The period of 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 local garrisons. In 1943 after the armistice of Italian Army, German soldiers 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 peace arrived only in 1949.
The big Kefalonia Earthquake in 1953
In the year of 1953, after a few years of war a terrible natural disaster happened, which was the largest earthquake in Kefalonia in the last centuries. In August 12, 1953 a series of strong earthquakes hit the island, and destroyed almost every villages. The epicentre of the earthquake was located on the southern side of the island, and the greatest damage was suffered by the southern parts. This disaster is known in Greece as the big Ionian Earthquake of 1953, because other Ionian Islands, such as Zakynthos and Ithaca were also seriously damaged. Thousands of locals emigrated to the Greek mainland from the island, and also to other countries such as to USA or to Australia.
What to see
Kefalonia island is famous for its beautiful landscapes, medieval castles and unique geographical phenomenons. The island has one of the best sights in Greece, 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 this event formed a breathtaking natural pool. When the sun shines into the cave (usually around noon), water colours can be seen as turquoise blue, as the best beaches. Melissani cave is visited by thousands of tourists every year, it is located near Karavomilos village.
Under Kefalonia island there is an extensive cave system: like giant spiderwebs, these small underground caves are connected to each other. Next to Argostoli, which is the capital and the largest town of the island, there is a large sinkhole, known as Katavothres. At the sinkholes of Katavothres sea water flows slowly underground, and a few days later it show up on the other side of the island.
Signicant local attractions are the 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. On the island a lot of monasteries and churches date back to middle ages: one of the most important of these the Sacred Monastery of Agios Gerasimos.
Kefalonia best beaches
The beaches of Kefalonia island belong to the best beaches in Greece: Myrtos beach is has been voted several times into a top 10, just like Porto Katsiki beach in Lefkada. The local beaches are extremely varied, where travellers can find a lot of places with soft golden sand, coarse sand, rocks and pebbles also. Most of the beaches in Kefalonia are organized with parasols, sunbeds and bars, but if you like unorganized beaches, you can find some as well.
If you are looking for the best beaches in Kefalonia, take a look to Myrtos beach, Petani beach, Skala beach, Xi beach, Antisamos beach, Lourdas beach and Lassi.
The largest town, which is also the capital of Kefalonia is Argostoli. This is a small, but charming town of Greece with a lot of services, restaurants and an important port. The most beloved tourist resorts are Lassi, Skala and the area of Lourdas, where traditional taverns, coffee bars, supermarkets and car rental companies are situated. When you spend your holiday here, don’t forget to travel to the picturesque fishing villages: the most beautiful gems are Assos, Agia Efimia and Fiskardo.
The airport of Kefalonia (Anna Pollatou National Airport, IATA codename: EFL) was built near Argostoli. The airport connects the island with several countries of Europe 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.
Kefalonia can be reached from Lefkada island by daily boat trips from the port of Nidri and from the port of Vasiliki. The ferries between these two islands depart from Vasiliki village and arrive to Fiskardo, but there are ferrylines which depart from the nearest ports of the Greek mainland, such as from Killini or from Astakos.
Where to stay
The tourism of Kefalonia island grows every year: now more than 2000 apartments, studios and villas are waiting for travellers. If you are looking for atmospheres of tiny fishing villages, hiking places in the mountains, or a bustling areas 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, the right answer is Kefalonia!