With its stunning unspoilt beaches, relaxed and friendly locals and incredible Greek cuisine, Kefalonia has a charm about it that makes you want to return time and time again. The island is most known for being the setting for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – the novel by Louis de Bernières, and it’s easy to see how the mystical coves and endless beaches could inspire such a love story.
If it’s sunshine, relaxation and fantastic food that combine to create your perfect getaway, then you need look no further than Kefalonia, with around 4,000 people living here, everyone waves at each other and catches up for a gossip by the side of the road (or in the middle of it) – Kefalonia feels like authentic Greece, and not an island resort designed for tourists. You’re more likely to spot a local tucking into some Saganaki than you are a fellow holiday maker.
Many of the towns and villages were badly damaged in the earthquake of 1953, and yet the scenery that has been rebuilt is colourful and bright, just like the locals that built them. The capital, Argostoli is scattered with independent boutiques, traditional Greek restaurants and Tavernas, with no high rise hotel in site. It surprised me to discover such a beautiful unspoilt place within just a few hours flight of London.
Of course there is the odd bucket and spade shop dotted about the island, and some of the beaches have sun loungers to rent, but instead of the hoards of people you’d expect to find on such stunning stretches of sand, there’s just a small group of fellow sun worshippers, many of whom are locals.
Many beaches are even more secluded, set within a hidden cove or only accessible by boat, and the best way to discover them is to hire a car and take a drive along the clifftop roads – ensuring you wind your way to Myrtos (above) – one of the most photographed stretches of sand in the world.
If beaches aren’t your thing or you’d just rather spend the day by the pool, you’ll find pools with incredible vistas over the ocean at both the hotel and villas of Unique Kefalonia. Dotted with comfortable sun loungers and sofas that invite you to enjoy an afternoon snooze, the pool is just a few steps away from your bedroom at the F Zeen Retreat.
The rooms open up to views of either the blue-green clear sea and sandy coastline, or the hotel’s impeccable luscious gardens. The hotel and villa collection is family owned, and the owners are so proud of their beautiful island, and it’s not hard to see why.
If you want to sample some Greek food and experience local cuisine, you’ll be spoilt for choice in any of the islands’ towns. We dropped into the fishing village of Fiskardo and explored the Venetian shops and houses before settling down for lunch at a quaint restaurant by the harbour. A word of warning though – the Greek have a habit of fooling you at meal times, each time you think you’ve finished, another plate appears from nowhere! But when the spread includes just-caught seafood, fresh salads and creamy cheese selections, there’s always room for more.
If you’re wondering where the fantastic wine that you enjoyed with your food is from, then there’s a high chance it’s from the Gentilini Winery and Vineyard. A boutique family run vineyard consisting of just a few farm house style buildings, the un-assuming vineyard produces 90,000 bottles of wine a year, with a core selection of six wines that you can sample at one of their tastings. They now export all over the world, including to Britain, but there’s nothing better than enjoying a crisp glass of white wine while snacking on fresh bread, oil and tomatoes under the dappled sunshine at the vineyard itself.
Other Places to See
As well as the island’s incredible food and wine offerings and beautiful beaches, there’s plenty more to see. One not to miss is Melissani lake, an underground hidden collapsed cave with crystal clear waters, it’s truly breathtaking. Rent one of the small boats to be taken inside the cave, and float above the mythical waters.
Elsewhere on the island boat trips can take you to huge caves or deserted beaches, and the island of Ithaca is just a short boat trip away too.
If a more lively beach is more your scene, then a trip to Costa Costa for sunset is for you. With beach cabanas, cocktails and a long stretch of powdery sand, it’s the perfect spot to spend the day or settle in for sundowners.
A morning spent at Fiskardo is a beautiful way of catching a glimpse of a traditional fishing village, with Venetian buildings that survived the 1953 earth quake. You’ll be spoilt for choice for lunch options, and can then escape the sunshine in the dappled streets exploring the independent boutiques and gift shops.
Discover more of Kefalonia in my Video Diary of our trip here.
Do yo have any tips for visiting Kefalonia? Or perhaps you’ve been inspired to visit! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!