EXPLORING THE ISLAND
Argostoli is the capital of Kefalonia and sits on the banks of the Koutavos Lagoon. The Earthquake of 1953 destroyed the pretty “Venetian style” town with its paved streets and tiled rooves. The town bustles with good shops, tavernas and bars.
The main nesting site on Kefalonia for the rare and protected Loggerhead Turtles, known as “Caretta Caretta” is on Kaminia beach on the south easternly tip of the island. The turtles normally come back year after year to the place they were born to lay their eggs, however more recently we’ve seen nests along the coast as far as the Lassi beaches and on Xi beach on Lixouri, so thankfully their numbers are increasing. It’s very unlikely that you will see the turtles on the beach as the conservation agency protects and patrols the beaches. If you would like further information or possibly to get involved during your stay then please contact Nikos at Wildlife Sense on (0030) 6984 865941.
On occasion you can see turtles off the harbourfront in Argostoli hoping for a few fish from the fishing boats. Another recent visitor to the fishing boats has been a seal!
The Koryalenios Historical & Cultural Museum and Public Library
Open 8am – 2pm everyday except Sundays.
The museum houses many interesting and historically documented exhibits. These include costumes, furniture, armoury, china, glass and a fascinating display of photographs and pictures showing the splendid architecture of Argostoli before the earthquake struck in 1953 as well as the devastation it caused and how the island has subsequently been rebuilt. There is also a fine collection of lace and icons in the museum. Portraits of Britain’s most celebrated Kefalonian residents, Sir Charles Napier and Lord Byron are on display together with extracts of their books and impressions of the island during the British Protectorate, at the turn of the last century, are available. All the items on display are labelled in Greek and English.
Katavothres or “The Mill”
In 1835 an English resident was walking by the sea when he heard a noise of running water beneath his feet. He had the site excavated and discovered a stream of sea water flowing inland at such a rate he decided to build a corn mill on it. In 1965, with the use of coloured dyes, a scientist discovered that the water actually flowed from Katavothres over to the east of the island taking 14 days to appear in Melissani Lake. Nowadays you can still see the water holes, but the water wheel is no longer working. There is also a café bar where you can have a nice relaxing drink at the waters edge.
In the age of carriages and promenades, the British built a charming 8km drive around the tip of the peninsula from Lassi to Argostoli. It is known as the Piccolo or Mikro Yiro, meaning Short Circuit.
The Kastro of Agios Yiorgos
After extensive restoration work the castle was reopened in 2001. From June onwards the castle is open every day except Mondays.
Situated on a hill above the village of Travliata, the Kastro is the best preserved of any Venetian fortress in the Ionian. It was built on the site of a Mycenaean settlement – you can still see the remains on the summit. With uninterrupted views down to Argostoli, across to Lixouri and easterly as far as Katelios you can easily see why it was the chosen spot for the Castle.
Lord Byron spent 6 months in 1823 in this beautiful village and was 'quieted enough to be able to write'. His stay was commemorated by a small marble slab, set in a garden wall and inscribed 'Lord Byron's Ivy'. The ivy is still going strong but the house is no longer there.
Tombs of Mazarakata
These late Mycenaean chamber tombs are each approached by 'dromoi' paths and contain rows of rock cut graves. The remarkable pottery found in them when excavated in 1900 was found to be late or sub Mycenaean ware of the 12th Century BC. Some of these exhibits are on display at the Archaeological Museum in Argostoli; most are now housed in Athens.
There is historical evidence that has lead people to believe that Lakithra was the centre of many late Mycenaean settlements. In contrast to Mazarakata, the tombs here are vertical. Lord Byron used to walk regularly from his home in neighbouring Metaxata to this location. A rock with a memorial plaque marks the spot.
After the 1953 Earthquake the village was completely rebuilt by the wealthly Giorgos Vergotis. He took his inspiration from California where he had spent a great deal of time. The village now has a sports stadium, colonial style Theatre and rows of tidy Californian styled houses surrounded by green lawns. A mausoleum has been built in the village and his remains lay there. His family still have a house in the village.
Convent of Agios Andreas
The convent of Agios Andreas is found on the outskirts of the village of Peratata and is the home to a series of 12th Century frescoes, discovered after the 1953 earthquake during the renovation work. It also claims to house the Saint's velvet shod left foot and some fine icons.
Convent of Agios Gerasimos
St Gerasimos Notaras is Kefalonia's Patron Saint. Born in 1509 in the Peloponnese, he was a renowned exorcist and known for his water divining powers and green fingers. There is a large church dedicated to him nestled in the vast Omala Valley surrounded by Mount Ainos and Mount Roudi, half way between Sami and Argostoli. The church is currently only open on Feast Days whilst they finish the interior decor. However, behind the church is the convent of Agios Gerasimos with its small chapel, where you can see the ornate casket in which the saints body is kept. Also in this chapel are the steps leading to the cave where St Gerasimos lived as a hermit for many years.
The highest point in the Ionian Islands with the summit at 1,555 metres. The mountain forests contain the Kefalonia Fir tree, indigenous to the island. The views are spectacular: northeast to Ithaca and Lefkas; east to the mountains on either side of the Gulf of Corinth and south, 1,500 metres down to Lourdata and out to Zakynthos. If you are lucky you may also see the wild horses who live on the mountain.
A small sleepy fishing hamlet, surrounded by sandy beaches and some good fish tavernas.
Skala is more of a typical tourist resort today with its variety of gift shops, restaurants and Tavernas.
On the outskirts of Skala you can find a mosaic floor (all that remains today) of a Roman villa dating back to the second half of the 2nd Century AD. In the main hall of the 'villa' the mosaic shows a young man being torn to pieces by a lion, tiger, puma and a leopard; and the long inscription below, signed by the artist suggests that this scene was an allegorical warning to guests not to allow themselves to be destroyed by envy of their host's prosperous villa.
Above the resort is the village of Old Skala, destroyed by the 1953 earthquake, but with stunning views.
The third largest town and harbour on Cephalonia. It is a fairly busy port with daily ferries to the nearby island of Ithaka and the Greek mainland, but without the hustle and bustle of a large town. There are many tavernas along the harbour front, selling a variety of typical Greek cuisine.
The coastline between Sami and Agia Efimia contains many beautiful beaches.
100 steps lead down to the cave, which opens out into a huge cavern with a roof covered in stalactites.
The spectacular cave and lake of Melissani, is located between Sami and Agia Efimia. The lake, previously underground, was discovered hundreds years ago after an earthquake, which resulted in part of the roof collapsing. From Katovothres near Argostoli, seawater travels beneath the island's central mountain range, merges with other underground freshwater streams and re enters the sea at Karavomilos near Sami, via the lake of Melissani.
Reached by a sloping subterranean passage way, three little boats are waiting for you and will row you around the lake and into the cave of Pan, where there are many stalactites.
Sunlight pours through the hole in the roof turning the water into a brilliant turquoise colour. The Lake is open until sunset but the Lake is at its best when the sun is high.
This attractive little horse shoe bay is located north of Sami. The mountain range behind Agia Efimia has wild rabbits with golden teeth on account of bromide found in the natural springs.
A pretty village set on it’s own peninsular with a small harbour and a waterfront of café bars and tavernas. The facades of several 19th Century houses are still in evidence. A Venetian fortress is perched high up on the hillside over looking the village and was built between 1593 and 1595. It was originally used as a refuge for the population of the area, but in later years was used as a prison. The fortress is in ruins however extensive plans are in place to renovate and restore it to its former glory. The track up to it is fairly steep in places but well worth the effort for the views from the top.
The only village on the island that survived the 1953 earthquake relatively unscathed. Less than 200 people live here in the winter, but in the summer the harbour fills with visiting yachts. Waterfront houses, tavernas and shops brighten anyone's day with all the pastel colours of the rainbow. Chic shops and restaurants.
The Roman Remains
The name of the Original Roman settlement in Fiskardo has yet to be discovered. It is thought to have been a bustling and thriving community, as its geographical position made it a crossroads in the broad and busy net of sea routes. It was also one of the last safe ports of call before the long voyage to Italy.
The Roman Graveyard
On the coast road out of Fiskardo towards Tselendata, just beyond Panormos taverna and facing Ithaca are the remains of an ancient Roman graveyard. This was discovered accidentally during work carried out by the Greek Telephone Company in 1993.
The excavations following this discovery have revealed parts of the large graveyard dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. So far a total of 27 graves have been discovered.
The Roman Baths
More recently the remains of some Roman baths were discovered and were extensively excavated in the summer of 2004. These remains can be clearly seen on the beach in Zavalata Bay, just slightly further on from the Roman graveyard. These baths are thought to be one of the most important finds in the whole of Greece in recent years. However it has led to speculation that the village of Fiskardo has in fact been built on top of the original Roman settlement.
The second largest town on Kefalonia, Lixouri lies across the bay from Argostoli. During the 2nd World War the German army used Lixouri as its base on the island.
The peninsula has a completely different feel to the rest of Kefalonia as the area is not as mountainous. The sunset over Lixouri is breathtaking and is best seen from Petani in the north or from the cliff tops close to Kipoureon Monastery.
Regular car ferries run to and from Lixouri to Argostoli.