Last Updated on January 16, 2024
“If I am a poet, I owe it to the air of Greece,” said Lord Byron while visiting the Greek island of Kefalonia. And, I know why…
Kefalonia (sometimes spelled Cephalonia) possesses a raw beauty that awakens the soul.
Enchanting turquoise waters lap the shores of pristine beaches. Fragrant wild herbs cover cypress-green hills. Cicadas chirp their delight under the blindly bright sun.
This is the stomping ground of the great Odysseus, a land of deep history with an ancient Mycenaean tomb and Venetian ties. This is the place where Hollywood comes to film movies like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Kefalonia calls to anyone dreaming of a My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3–Mama Mia-flavored holiday. Anyone interested in investigating the mysteries of the past. Anyone looking for renewal, relaxation, and a visceral connection to nature.
Located on the western part of the country, Kefalonia is the biggest island in the Ionian Sea. The unspoilt haven offers the best of Greece without the crowds of better-known destinations like Mykonos and Santorini.
Kefalonia is a scene-stealing, show-stopping splendor. The idyllic isle boasts 17 Blue Flag beaches that dazzle the senses with choices for every palate – Xi Beach with its red sand, Petani Beach with its white, Skala Beach with its golden pebbles… and, of course Myrtos Beach, the crown jewel.
For years, I’ve traveled to this under-the-radar gem, the home of my father’s family. And, I’ve realized it would take a lifetime to experience its many wonders. So, when my friends visit for only a few days, I take them to see the best of the best.
5 Must-See Places in Kefalonia
Gazing on Myrtos from the scenic overlook, I couldn’t ask for a more picture-perfect moment. Verdant hills interrupted by limestone cliffs drop to meet the sky-blue sea.
“This is the best place to watch the sunset on the island,” I tell my friends.
The resplendent white beach below woos us like a siren. The drive down the narrow road with hairpin turns adds to our anticipation. A paraglider gracefully floats through the air. We park, walk past the snack-bar restaurant, and, finally, I stand with my feet in the stunning cyan water.
An ethereal and powerful energy greets me. It’s not possible to grasp the size and majesty of this beach from the top. I swim, keeping in mind that in certain weather I’d easily be the currents’ plaything, but today, I feel cradled in what surely must have been the Gods’ swimming pool.
North of Myrtos isolated on a thin isthmus, lies the picturesque fishing village of Assos. The quaint town reminds me of Italy, of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. Enjoying the romance and tranquility, we stroll through bougainvillea-lined alleys and stop at a waterfront café.
Leisurely, we take in the fishing boats bobbing, the swimmers floating, and the serenade of the ever-present cicadas.
Then for more breath-taking views, we hike up to the Venetian castle built to protect Kefalonia from pirates in the 16th century.
At the northernmost tip of the island, we find Fiskardo. The historic harbor town attracts an A-list crowd including Madonna, Jon Bon Jovi, Giorgio Armani, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg to name a few.
“Why do celebrities flock to Fiskardo in particular,” my friends want to know.
I point out pastel-painted Venetian buildings as we saunter past the sailboats moored in the marina and explain. All of Kefalonia once shared this architecture. Then in 1953, an earthquake devastated the island. Fiskardo alone, was left intact.
Coming here is like traveling back in time.
Down the short, but slippery and steep stairway we descend to admire a work of art 100 million years in the making: Drogarati Cave. From the natural platform called the Royal Balcony, I marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites erupting from the ceiling and the ground. Each centimeter took over 100 years to grow!
We walk into the Chamber of Exaltation, a cavern large enough with acoustics so great that famed singers, like opera star Maria Callas, performed here to audiences of 500 people.
Of course, I too, must test out those acoustics.
A feeling of awe comes over me when I spot the light streaming into Melissani, a cenote-like underground lake. The rays cascade in from the hole in the earth high above. The mesmerizing aquamarine water glows beneath us as we board the wooden rowboat in amazement.
Incredibly, I can see all the way to the bottom even though our boatman said it’s 39-meters deep. He paddles us around and sings. With the noon sun overhead, Melissani shimmers a blue-green kaleidoscope of color. The reflecting sunbeams dance up the wall, adding to the spellbinding magic.
When we leave, a part of my soul stays behind with the mystical radiant wonder.
Plan A Visit to Kefalonia
The Best Time to Go
The weather in Kefalonia is most enjoyable May-October. The best time of year is September when it’s still warm enough to swim and not as busy as the July/August high season.
How Get to Kefalonia
By Plane: The way to reach Kefalonia by air is to fly into Argostoli Airport. Check out the airport web site for a list of airlines that service the island.
To get the best deal on airfare, look to connect to a low-cost carrier in a major European, like Paris, Rome, Vienna. Many flights come into Kefalonia in the summer.
The easiest connection from the U.S. seems to be through London.
By Ferry: The two routes used to get to from the mainland to the island include Patras to Sami and Killini to Poros.
By Bus: Buses go to Kefalonia from the main bus station, Kifisou KTEL, in Athens. In this hybrid option, the bus drives to the port and then onto the ferry.
***Be sure to check schedules since they change by season and year.
Getting Around Kefalonia
Where to Stay in Kefalonia
With stunning Makris and Platis Gialos Beaches at its footsteps, Lassi, a neighborhood of the island’s capital Argostoli, is a popular place to stay. White Rocks Hotel and Princess Hotel are especially welcoming.