Kefalonia holiday villas guide

Kefalonia is a big island with beaches, caves, fresh seafood, wineries, walking, diverse natural habitat and history in abundance. All of this makes a spectacular backdrop to your luxury villa holiday. Read on to find out more about what it is that makes Kefalonia so perfect for your next villa break.

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Luxury Villas in Kefalonia

Kefalonia is the largest island of the Ionian Islands, however it is not best known for its size but for its unspoiled beauty, stunning sandy beaches, lush forests, spectacular mountains and for neighbouring with Ithaca, the homeland of one of the most famous myths of Ancient Greece’s culture: Ulysses. Myrtos, considered one of the best beaches in the world with glistening white sands, turquoise waters and surrounding cliffs, is without a doubt the most emblematic image of the island of Kefalonia. The island’s wartime travails were recorded in the novel and film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which did much to put Kefalonia holidays on the map. From its capital Argostoli, sitting on a large southern bay, to Skala in the south-east and Sami on the east coast, the island’s towns owe their fresh, newly-minted look to the 1953 earthquake. Fiskardo in the north, was relatively untouched, and has a little more history. Kefalonia (sometimes also spelled Cephalonia) is a true discovery for anyone searching for a small slice of paradise.

Towns and Villages in Kefalonia

Argostoli stands across an inlet, its two parts connected by the Draponi Causeway, which dog-legs across the bay like a drunken, semi-sunken bridge. Argostoli has several museums (of history, archaeology, folklore). Across the island, Sami is a busy port and a good base for east-coast beaches, and has two renowned caves to explore: Drogarati and Melissani. Fiskardo, on the northern tip, is one of the places in the island that is richer in heritage with Venetian architecture, Byzantine churches and even a few vestiges of a Palaeolithic settlement. Barely harmed by the earthquake, Fiskardo is very picturesque and exclusive with wonderful tavernas and a 19th century harbour popular among the yachting crowd.

Argostoli

The Countryside in Kefalonia

Picture a mountain range covered in olive groves and vineyards, dotted with sheep and goats, and surrounded by beaches. That’s Kefalonia. As you explore, you will find ruined buildings, but also new villages, courtesy of the devastating 1953 earthquake. Try to reach the summit of Mount Ainos (at over fifteen hundred metres the island’s highest mountain) for views of the entire island. Make sure you do not miss dramatic Assos, draped across an isthmus that leads to a sea-girt mountain topped with a Venetian castle.

Mount Ainos

Arts and culture in Kefalonia

Visit the monastery of Agios Gerasimos, especially during its two great festivals on August 15th and October 20th, or take in the History and Folklore Museum and the Focas-Cosmetatos Foundation in Agostoli—Brits will be particularly interested in paintings by Hellenophile Edward Lear. Fiskardo has an Environmental and Nautical Museum, in a renovated mansion, and three rooms of mosaics in Skala’s Roman villa show animals and people surrounded by intricate geometric designs. Look out too for concerts in the Drogarati Cave near Sami: the acoustics are magical. 

Monastery of Agios Gerasimos

Nature in Kefalonia

The stars of Kefalonia’s natural world are its loggerhead turtles, which nest in Katelios Bay and especially Kaminia (sometimes called Mounda) beach. Grass snakes, vipers and adders live here too: a snake-handling ceremony is staged in the church at Markopoulo, west of Skala, on August 15th. The story goes that nuns here prayed to be turned into snakes to avoid death (or worse) at the hands of pirates.

Agia Efimia

Eating and drinking in Kefalonia

Choice places to eat include the back alley, main square, and seafront tavernas (for relaxed eating and drinking) and estiadoria (for more formal dining) in Argostoli; and places on the beach at Skala, around the port at Sami, and overlooking the harbour at Fiskardo. Whitebait, red mullet, grilled lamb, and pork are generally good, as is the local wine, made from the white Robola grape—you can visit the winery behind Agios Gerasimos Monastery.

Sami Bay

History in Kefalonia

Kefalonia’s history is long and august. The island was home to an important Mycenaean colony (1500–1100 BC)—Argostoli’s Archaeological Museum has an impressive collection of finds. Look out for the 12th century BC kylix (a conical, footed cup) and a spiral gold necklace from the same period. The most traumatic events are more recent: Italian occupation from 1941, Nazi invasion in 1943, civil war up to 1949, and finally the earthquake of 1953. Kefalonians must have wondered what on earth they had done to deserve all this.

Lighthouse of Saint Theodoroi

Relaxing in Kefalonia

Kefalonia is a great place for relaxing on the beach: the Livatho peninsula south of the capital, or Myrtos Beach in the north are ideal for sunbathing, building sandcastles, swimming and water sports. Angling is also popular, with quaysides Argostoli and Sami often thronged with rod-bearing locals and visitors. Walking (try Mount Enos) and cycling too are popular, both delightful ways of exploring the island. Indeed, some places worth visiting, such as Agios Georgios, are only accessible under your own steam, since there is no public transport. Most towns have cycle-hire centres where you can get up-to-date advice.

Myrtos Beach

The Coast of Kefalonia

Enjoy terrific coastal scenery between Poros and Skala, or on Fiskardo’s peninsula. In the south-east, Skala has fine beaches, and in the east Sami boasts two, including a dramatic shingle one to the east at Andisamis. Pride of place, however, goes to Myrtos Beach, where sand and blue sea made it, according to one recent survey, the fifth-best beach in the world

Pebbled beach at Skala