Kefalonia a gem in the Ionian Sea. It carries a rich history in cultural tradition. It’s the biggest Ionian Island and the green of its mountains blend with the blue of the water making it truly unique and a beloved destination.
It’s home to some of the best beaches in all of Greece and a very dramatic landscape that I liken to a mini Crete. The food here is also phenomenal as is to be expected with food in Greece. They grow much products locally which means you’ll get the freshest of foods.
Where is Kefalonia?
Kefalonia is the most middle island in the Ionian sea. It’s located on the north western corner of Greece with the main islands being Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos. Corfu actually is right on the Greece-Albania border whereas Zakynthos is quite far south.
It’s easy to do a trip to all the islands mentioned by ferry which offer regular connections between the islands. I took the ferry from Zakynthos to Kefalonia to continue my Ionian adventure.
The island is considerably larger than Zakynthos and runs about 45km east to west. The main towns of Kefalonia are Argostolia, Sami, and Fiskardo in the north.
When to visit Kefalonia?
The high season in Kefalonia is mid June to End of August. This is the warmest time of year as well as when all the Europeans do their summer travels. All the restaurants will be open and hotels will be charging their peak rates.
Since I visited Kefalonia in 2020 during the height of the Coronavirus, the summer months were still very quiet. However, during normal times, I’d recommend visiting Kefalonia during the shoulder months.
The drop off in tourists is very noticeable in the months between April and June, as well as September to October. The weather will also be slightly milder where you won’t be sweating profusely during the day but still warm enough to swim in the ocean. Prices for accommodation will also be lower.
Getting around Kefalonia
Kefalonia, like most Greek islands is a pretty sparsely populated island. It’s larger than Zakynthos but with even less people at around 35,000 full time residents with most living in around the main towns.
If you are planning to stay in a resort with the all inclusive style options, then you won’t need much more than a taxi from the airport. You can book day trips and tours to visit the famous sights and you’ll be sorted.
However, if you want to explore more of the island at your own pace, renting a car, scooter, or quadbike is a must. I rented a car for almost 2 weeks that I took to explore Zakynthos and Kefalonia. This is an absolute must in these islands if you want to do anything. As Kefalonia is much bigger with lots of steep hills, I’d recommend a car instead of a scooter/quadbike.
Driving in Kefalonia is very easy. The roads are more developed than the ones I had driven on in Zakynthos with actual lane markers and generally wide lanes. However, be careful which roads you choose because Google Maps often told me to go down roads which ended up being nothing but dirt roads! There are a lot of these so be very mindful which paths you choose!
What to do in Kefalonia?
Like all Greek islands, you’ll never go bored traveling in Kefalonia. It’s an extremely geographically diverse island with huge mountains and the most idyllic beaches. In addition, there are the cutest little villages in Kefalonia left over from when the Venetians controlled the island.
As the island is quite big, I’d recommend really planning out where you’re going for the day as it can take 1h+ to get from place to place.
My biggest advice for Kefalonia is not to rush it. The island might look small on a map but there’s so much to see. It’s all about relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty of the island and two days will not be enough. I’d recommend at least 4 nights here to really unwind and enjoy it.
Without a doubt, this is the most well known and most beautiful beach in Kefalonia. It’s ranked up there with the Shipwreck beach in Zakynthos for must visit sights and natural beauty. It’s consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in Greece and it’s not hard to see why!
Expect huge crowds here in the summer months as it is very popular. However, traveling during Coronavirus ensured that the crowds were never too bad. As well, travel here in the offseason in the months of October or November and while the water won’t be super warm, the surface temperature will still be plenty warm to enjoy the natural beauty.
The cave lake is the result of geological process called karstification, in which the limestone bedrock is dissolved by groundwater creating subterranean caverns. The existence of a karstic network across the island was proven in a 1963 experiment, in which green dye dumped into sinkholes on the other side of the island (Katavothres) resurfaced 14 days later in Melissani lake.
Nowadays, the lake is easily visited by tourists and a ticket gets you into a rowboat that takes you around the cake and its absolutely crystal clear waters. The cost is €6 per person and the boats depart quite regularly as they just wait until it fills up. The whole boat ride only takes 15 minutes.
The fishing town of Fiscardo is a favorite of yachters and flotillas and is also an artist colony and was the only village not devastated by the 1953 earthquake. Once a quiet village it has now been ‘discovered’ and the lobsters which were so easily found and caught by anyone with a mask and snorkel and flippers have now become rare and only found in the local fish restaurants.
Because it was spared the destruction of the earthquake many of the old Venetian buildings still survive and in the off-season it is a beautiful and enjoyable place to visit. But like most of the island, July and August can be a frustrating time to be here.(more on that later). Hotels are a little expensive and generally unavailable during the tourist season.
Restaurants are reasonably priced and most are around the waterfront. Frommers recommends the Faros, while Lonely Planet recommends The Captain’s Cabin and Taverna Nicolas, but hint at the near impossibility of finding a table in the summer unless you get there early.
The west coast ofthe island is known for having the best beaches as well as the most beautiful landscape. If you start at Fiscardo and travel south you will come to the village of Assos with it’s port, one of the most picturesque in Greece, pastel colored houses and it’s Venetian fortress.
Assos is located only a few kilometers from Myrtos Beach so be sure to visit both together. Assos is an even smaller place than Fiskardo and there really isn’t much to do here besides admire the perfect little houses. I think there are better options to be had if you are looking for a place to eat.
Make sure to also admire the beauty of Assos from the main road high above the town!
Perallia Patani Beach
If you liked Myrtos Beach, then you will for sure also love Patani Beach. Located on the little peninsula to the west of the mainland, this beach is almost like a sister to Myrtos Beach. It is usually less crowded than Myrtos but also has the stunning water colors.
Ferry to Ithaki for the Day
If you have more than a few days to spare for Kefalonia, definitely consider doing a day trip to Ithaki, or Ithaca. In Homer’s “The Odyssey”, it is the mythological home of Odysseus after he was stranded following the battle of Troy. I actually remembered reading these stories while I was in school and it’s always amazing to be able to pair these stories with reality.
Ithaki is another island, much smaller in size, located to Kefalonia’s northeast. It is known for its lush green landscapes as well as its beaches that are both stunning and undiscovered. It’s even more sparsely populated compared to Kefalonia so you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere at times.
Getting to Ithaki
From Kefalonia, you can drive to the port town of Sami. There is a regular ferry connection between Sami and Ithaki that leaves every day in the summer months. In 2020, it left at 08:15am in the morning from Sami port. On the return, there is a ferry from Ithaki to Sami at 16:15 and 22:15.
I think a day is all you really need to see Ithaki. Of course, if you have your own boat, there is so much to explore that you could easily make this a multiple day trip. We ended up taking the 08:15 ferry there and took the 16:15 ferry back.
What to do in Ithaki?
Ithaki is spoiled with an array of beaches easily accessible by car. However, the true gems can only be explored by boat so if you’re on a day trip, make sure to rent a boat well in advance.
Otherwise the main towns of Kioni and Vathi are very beautiful and well worth the visit!
The island is known for its lush green landscapes and it’s a big contrast even from neighboring Kefalonia. If you come here during the offseason, it can feel like a sort of ghost town. Even during the peak of summer in July, it felt like there were very few people walking around.
In addition, a visit to the mythical home of Odysseus is also a must. They aren’t the most impressive ruins but it offers a great view of the island and is very cool if you’re any bit into Greek mythology.
Where to eat in Kefalonia?
What blog post about a Greek destination is complete without talking about food? Greece has some of the most amazing food in the world and quality of ingredients in this country is second to none.
Kefalonia, as it is one of the larger islands in Greece, is blessed with fertile agricultural lands. They grow their own olives, vegetables, fruits, and amazing livestock like sheep and goats. The quality of food here, as is with Zakynthos and Crete (which was just mindblowing) is incredibly high here and you won’t go hungry. Best of all? It’s quite cheap and affordable.
Lorraine’s Magic Hill
Without a doubt, this was our favorite meal of the island. It is located in Lourdata Beach on a small hill overlooking the beach and ocean. Lorraine’s restaurant is absolutely charming and she grows a lot of her own food, which is then used on the menu for the night. You can see her beachfront garden from the restaurant.
This restaurant is an absolute institution on Kefalonia. It’s located really far out there in the little peninsula on the islands western side. We spent a day exploring this little peninsula and this restaurant was the highlight.
Located nearby to the beach, this taverna just oozes charm with its perfect stone floors and a stunning display of Greek bougainvillea trees. The food is, as expected with these tavernas, absolutely delicious. Had some of the best grilled chicken and shrimp saganaki of my life here.
Olive Lounge and Restaurant
Located next to Il Borgo on the top of the hill, Olive Lounge is a slighly modern twist on Greek food. The owner was a pleasure to speak to and the food here is fantastic. The Greek salad here was done to perfection as well as the grilled octopus which was the best I had in Kefalonia.
We stopped here for a bite on the way back from exploring Myrtos Beach. Had easily one of the best Greek salads of my life here as well as delicious whole grilled seabream. They have a beautiful terrace as well that overlooks the valley.
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