I love Greece and truly believe that it is the best place to spend your summer holidays (I’ve spent 4 summers in Greece, on different islands)! Why? Because there are beautiful beaches, the food is amazing and affordable, and the people are friendly and relaxed. As I just got back from a 5-day trip to Kefalonia, and I have never written about my holidays in Greece on the blog before, I thought now is the time to write a review of the island before my slight tan fades away completely. By sharing some pictures and tips I hope that you will see why I love this place so much and maybe inspire you to visit this wonderful island on your next holiday!First off: the basics! You can reach Kefalonia by boat (from Kyllini or Patras on the mainland) or by plane. One thing that rather annoyed me is that there are no direct flights from Paris to Kefalonia, which might be why there are so few French (and so many British and Italian) tourists on the island. Last year we arrived at the end of August/beginning of September and had to fly to Athens where we then took a short flight to Kefalonia. This year, while checking the various possibilities (this was a very last minute trip), I found that a flight from London or Bristol in the U.K. was way cheaper than flying from Paris and that it was also direct, so my bf and I spent a few days in England visiting my Aunt then came to Greece with Easyjet.
In general, it is best to book way ahead of time if you’re planning to travel during the summer months. If you can, travel in June or September as the island will be less crowded, it will be less hot (in August the temperature can be close to 40 degrees), and travel/accommodation will be cheaper.
Another important point: RENT A CAR! Although there is a bus service that runs on the island, I cannot imagine having to wait in the sweltering heat for a bus and not having the freedom to explore the island on my own timetable. Also, there are certain roads that are too narrow for buses and therefore you will miss out on potential discoveries. I recommend Ionian Cars, as the guys were great and were willing to meet us at the airport when we arrived, even though it was very late at night.
As this was our second time to the island and it was for only a short visit, we decided to stay in Lassi, which is a small town in the South of the island near the capital of Argostoli and close to the airport. We were here last year with friends and found it to be the ideal central base for exploring the island. Although there are many hotels full of British/Italian tourists and the restaurants along the main road of this town are nothing special, there are hidden beaches and cute tavernas to be found if you are up for a little adventure. Alternatively, if you plan to really explore the entire island, Agia Effimia is also a good base (we stayed here several days last year) as it is located further North, so closer to Assos or Fiskardo.
For basic rooms in Lassi for around 100 Euros/night for 2 people, I would recommend either Simatos Apartments (no sea views but super friendly staff) or Sunshine Resort (at a higher elevation so great sea views from balcony, but quite a hike up a big hill if you don’t have a car).
With that said, here are my list of things you must do when in Kefalonia:
1) Visit the gorgeous town of Assos: The drive to get there might have been a little stressful, as we swerved along mountainous roads, braked as we crossed several goats sitting directly in our path (they don’t give a *@&!), and descended again following a zigzag road composed of a series of sharp hairpin turns (luckily I have a bf who’s a fearless driver), BUT Assos is worth so it! Once you have made it back to sea level you can walk around the adorable town full of colorful little houses surrounded by flowers, eat in one of the several cute restaurants along the bay, and chill at a little beach where you can swim and think to yourself “am I dreaming?”. From the car park you can also hike up to the ruins of Assos Castle, situated on a 170 m high rocky hill. It is free to visit and offers magnificent views (see picture below).2) Take a picture at the famous Myrtos beach: while the experience of being on the beach itself wasn’t so spectacular (you are quickly out of depth and currents can be strong, there is no shade, parking can be tricky, and there are lots of wasps), the view from the road above that takes you down to the beach is too breathtaking not to visit. I mean, this is the beach featured on almost every postcard of Kefalonia, so it would be a shame not to see it in person. 3) Be a tourist in Melissani cave: I admit that once I saw the tour buses parked outside I wanted to run away, but this cave is still worth a visit as I’ve never seen anything like it before. A lake located in a cave, where a large opening lets the sunlight stream in. You walk down a dark (and refreshingly cool) tunnel into the cave and wait for a little rowboat to take you on a 15 minute tour of the cave. Entry costs 7 Euros/person, which I admit is expensive for a 15 minute trip around the lake, but I’m still happy I saw it. Just wish it wasn’t so full of people, as it kills the magic a little.4) Follow the path that leads to Pessada beach: This beach requires a little hike down some steps, followed by a short walk over some spiky rocks (tip: buy a pair of those ugly but very useful water shoes, you will thank me later), but you eventually arrive to the sheltered little cove with soft white sand. It is very popular in the summer and can often be very crowded. In September there were relatively few people but this year, in the height of August, there wasn’t room to lay a flip-flop, so we clambered over some other rocks, walked a little, and then descended onto a rocky plateau where we were completely alone. That’s how we do! Snorkelers will love this beach as it is full of fish and the water is crystal clear! 5) Walk in the golden sand of Xi or Megas Lakkos beach: These beaches are located on the Pali peninsula, right across from Argostoli (ferries run from the capital to Lixouri to shorten the driving time), and will impress you with their beautiful stretches of golden red sand. It definitely gives you a change from the mainly pebble beaches on most of the island and you can easily rent sunbeds and umbrellas if you want some additional comfort. The water is relatively calm and shallow so these are good beaches for kids too.6) Take a ferry to the magical island of Ithaca: technically this is not a thing to to do IN Kefalonia, but if you have the time to visit the home of Odysseus (for all you Greek mythology buffs) then I highly recommend it. We stayed here only 2 days but I would have loved to have explored even longer as this island is very authentic, with less tourists, and a truly natural, untouched beauty. It is easily accessible by a ferry that leaves from the town of Sami (about a 40 minute trip across). Random fact: Some scenes from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin were filmed in Sami! The main town of Vathy is charming and you can observe the small fishing boats and groups of Greek fisherman who sit together chatting in the tavernas along the waterfront throughout the day. Drive up North and you will have magnificent views of the sea (and of Kefalonia in the distance) and maybe even discover some magical, secluded beaches! Just be prepared that the roads are narrow and sometimes not well paved. Now, to the most important part of any holiday…FOOD!!!
My top 5 restaurants in the South of Kefalonia:
Kamaroules Stamatelatos Τavernaki (Καμαρούλες Σταματελάτος Ταβερνάκι): My favourite place to eat brunch/lunch (they don’t open before noon)! Imagine your own Greek garden, located above a small, rock covered beach, with wooden tables set out among the olive and pine trees. You have the sound of the cicadas chirping, cute little cats lounging in the shade, and a calming view of the sea to enjoy while sipping on your freddo cappuccino. And the food: fresh and delicious! Try the most amazing Greek salad I’ve ever had in my life (with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, olives, capers, and a huge piece of feta cheese mixed with a soft local Kefalonian cheese) with a plate of strapatsada (eggs, scrambled with tomatoes and feta cheese) or a chicken souvlaki plate before heading to the beach.Palia Plaka (Η Παλιά Πλάκα): Located along the waterfront of Argostoli (but at the far end where there are less people), this cafeteria-style restaurant serves up traditional Greek dishes that you can view before ordering as they are displayed inside. They even have fresh fish (I had the perfectly cooked sea bream). Honestly, in my opinion, this is the best place to try homemade Greek dishes such as Kefalonian pie (meat, rice and cheese cooked in pastry), stuffed tomatoes, or pastitsio (pasta dish with ground beef and bechamel sauce) while being surrounded by the locals of the island. They even give you a free dessert!Il Borgo: Located on higher ground, right next door to the ruined Castle of Saint George, this restaurant has beautiful views of Kefalonia and even of the island of Zante in the distance. They serve many traditional Greek dishes, like lamb kleftiko (lamb chop cooked with potatoes, tomatoes and feta), or if you need a break from Greek food (don’t know why you would…but no judgment!) they offer various other choices such as pancakes with maple syrup, steak and eggs, and club sandwiches. Only downside: this place is very popular with tourists visiting the castle.GENTILINI Winery & Vineyards: This isn’t a restaurant but this winery sells bottles of wine that you can take back to your apartment to enjoy in the evening with some fresh Greek produce from the market (we did this a lot). I highly recommend their white Robola wine! They also offer wine tastings (3 wines for 5 Euros) that come with a plate of Graviera cheese, cherry tomatoes, bread, herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.Sto Psito: Another restaurant with a beautiful view, this restaurant is a little more pricey and fancy than the majority of restaurants in Lassi. The food is decent with Greek and Kefalonian specialties available in addition to various grilled meats and pastas. They even have roast piglet on the spit on weekends! The highlight of this restaurant is the view and the ambiance of being surrounded by Greeks and tourists alike while melancholic Greek music wafts around like the breeze coming from the sea. Make sure to reserve here, as it is very popular at night.There you go! I could go on forever about all the things I love about this island (don’t forget Antisamos beach), but I’ll leave it at that for now. Although you don’t see much of the typical white and blue buildings that you see in the Cyclades and many of the towns are relatively modern (Argostoli for example was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1953), Kefalonia is really vibrant and has shockingly beautiful natural scenery that will definitely win you over. That is of course if you are up for the adventure! And don’t worry: people who like the resort holidays and crowded beaches with music and water sports will also enjoy this island as there are plenty of those (e.g. Makris Gialos Beach). Lastly, if you wan’t to know where on the island that beautiful, pristine beach at the beginning of this blog post is located (see first picture)…ask me! I’ll give you the directions! Just be prepared to potentially share it with this one nudist. We saw him two years in a row and he’s not ready to give up his secluded spot!
P.S. If you have any other questions about travelling to Greece, don’t hesitate to send me a message! καλημέρα! 😉