Kefalonia, with its green, pine-covered slopes and Mount Ainos majestically towering over the surrounding azure blue waters, is the biggest island of the Ionian Sea.
Does its name ring a bell? Very possible! The island of Kefalonia was the setting for the 2001 movie “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, in which Nicolas Cage played an Italian captain during WWII. The choice for Cage to play an Italian captain might be debatable, but the movie certainly did a lot for the tourism industry of Kefalonia: a lot of people want to go and see this quiet, serene and stunning place for themselves!
I visited the island a few times during my sailing trip around the Ionian islands and found some of the best things to do on Kefalonia:
The first place I visited was Fiskardo, the only village that survived the 1953 Ionian earthquake and managed to preserve its traditional 19th century pastel-coloured houses. It isn’t always easy to spot them though, the waterfront has been transformed into one long line of tavernas and cafés, ready to serve the yachties who flock here in summer. The tavernas offer the kind of dining experience most people desire when they make plans to visit the Greek Islands, though instead of gazing at the sea you are more likely to be watching someone showering on the back of his chartered sailboat…
Fortunately the characteristic back alleys have been able to keep some of their charm and at night, when the yachties are tucked away into their beds, the place turns back into the serenity it has always known. Despite it being overly busy during the summer months, it is still worth a visit!
Most people don’t stray far from the coast when they visit Fiskardo and you can kind of see why. It’s hot, the sea is warm, there’s a taverna right there…but there are some great walking trails around Fiskardo, leading to some lesser known places. A local organisation has set up walking trails, or you can follow some of them in a very handy Sunflower guidebook dedicated to Kefalonia.
Leaving the village behind, I set off for a walk along the old Venetian lighthouse, past a ruined Christian basilica while taking in the views. Pretty soon the first beach is in sight: Emblissi Beach. It is very tempting to have a swim, but if you are looking for an even more remote place, continue walking uphill through the forest until you reach Kymilia Beach.
There are several walks around Fiskardo that I could definitely recommend if you want to venture inland: how about reaching the “Queen’s throne”, said to be dating back to the “The Golden Age of Greece” or walking through the almost completely ruined village of Psilithrias, once the biggest and most important village in the area? Today Psilithrias is a picturesque ruin, with overgrown gardens and dilapidated houses, but a new wind seems to be blowing as some of the houses are being renovated and turned into Airbnb accommodation. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave that up to you to decide…
Whatever you do, make sure not to miss out on one of the best places to visit on Kefalonia: Assos! Assos is basically a small isthmus in a sheltered bay beneath the ramparts of an imposing 16th century Venetian castle! Sounds good right? Well, it LOOKS even better! There’s almost no place for yachties to moor, which makes it a lot quieter than Fiskardo. There are only a few tavernas in Assos and early morning is the best time for a wander around its nearly deserted streets! Make sure you walk up to the castle, not only for its historical background, but also for the amazing views it offers over the village and the bay!
Have you been to Kefalonia? Or any other Greek island? What is your favourite?