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Kefalonia: the largest of the Ionian islands

Kefalonia (also Cephalonia), is the largest island of the Ionian archipelago, an ancient Venetian possession for almost 300 years, between 1500 and 1797. The island is located in the Ionian Sea off the Greek coast in front of the Gulf of Patras.

Kefalonia is located in the center of the arch of islands formed to the south by Zakynthos and to the north by Lefkada, flanked to the north-east by the smaller island of Ithaca. Island of mountainous nature, its highest mountain, Monte Ainos (1,628 meters), called in ancient times by the Venetians Monte Nero (Black Mountain) because of its dark color, is located in the southern part of the island.

The island is made up of two distinct bodies joined together by an isthmus and separated by the Gulf of Argostoli. To the west is the Paliki peninsula, while the largest part of the island extends to the east. Due to its mountainous nature, the coast of Kefalonia is very often high and rocky, interspersed with some beautiful beaches.

The main centers are the modern city of Argostoli and the small town of Lixouri, both located along the Gulf of Argostoli. To the north are the village of Assos, dominated by a Venetian fortress, and close to the northern tip of the island the charming village of Fiskardo where the Venetian imprint is clearly visible. The main port of the island, Sami, is located on the east coast in front of the island of Ithaca.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO VISIT IN KEFALONIA

Kefalonia, like most of the Ionian islands, is a relatively green island (for Greek canons) where the olive tree and cypress predominate. But don’t expect to find the classic blue domes of the churches and the whitewashed lime houses typical of the Cyclades.

The prerogative of Kefalonia is to be a little known island (leaving aside the war events of the Second World War). About the size of the isle of Mull, not yet devastated by mass tourism. Where you can still discover villages in the interior that recall those of a few years ago, family taverns not yet dedicated to plucking passing tourists, beaches frequented only by local inhabitants at their times (in the central hours of the day).

The houses of Kefalonia have not preserved anything of the traditional architecture (except in the center of Fiskardo) because they were mostly rebuilt in the 60s and 70s after the destruction caused by the 1953 earthquake.

If during your holiday in Kefalonia you happen to perceive strange oscillations in the place where you are, do not be alarmed too much, the locals will reassure you (as has happened to us personally) by telling you that minor seismic phenomena are quite frequent in the Ionian islands. The profile of the island is characterized by even high mountains (the highest peak is that of Mount Enos which reaches a height of 1,628 meters) and rocky and sheer coasts.

THE PALIKI PENINSULA

The Paliki peninsula, in the western part of the island, is the most interesting part of the island due to the variety of the landscape and the uncrowded beaches. Its eastern side is lapped by the deep gulf of Argostoli (from the map it looks like a fjord but in reality it is a lagoon) which overlooks Lixouri, which is the only place on the peninsula where there are all services that interest the tourist (market, bank, pharmacy …). On the southern side of the peninsula there are a series of reddish sand beaches closed by white limestone cliffs not too high (Xi, Kunopetra).

The hinterland of the Paliki peninsula is in some places arid, almost desert with deep torrential valleys, in others less barren with modest crops. On the western side of the peninsula the coast is generally high. Steep roads allow you to reach the 300 steps beach (Platia Amos) which is very beautiful and uncrowded, the tiny Aghia Elenis beach (in the afternoon it is all in the shade), the wide Petani beach (where there is a tavern where you can eat discreetly).

THE BEACH OF MYRTOS (MIRTHOS)

From Lixouri, twenty minutes by ferry takes you to the administrative capital of the island, Argostoli. As an alternative to the ferry, you can take the monotonous coastal road that runs along the narrow and long gulf of Argostoli, taking between 45-50 minutes by car. From Lixouri you can reach Myrtos (Mirthos) in about half an hour, what is considered the most beautiful beach on the island, (which is located much lower than the coastal road). Also from Lixouri it takes about 45 minutes to get to Assos. This is a village located on an isthmus at the foot of a peninsula on the top of which stands a Venetian fortress. In just over an hour you arrive in Fiskardo, a picturesque Venetian center with ancient and well-kept buildings that overlooks a small harbor from which ferries leave for Lefkada and Ithaca.

From Argostoli, moving south, you enter Pessada, from where ferries leave for Zakynthos. Continuing further south you reach the beautiful Koroni beach. Another destination is the national park of Mount Enos (famous for the presence of a variety of endemic fir from the island) which can be reached via a slightly uneven, but very scenic dirt road. A final curiosity to report is the event held on August 15 in Markopoulo, for the feast of the Assumption. It seems that the place is invaded by hundreds of harmless snakes that crawl everywhere from the beginning of the month and disappear after the feast.

Text written by Luca di Lalla.

HOW TO GET TO KEFALONIA

FLIGHTS: The island of Kefalonia has an international airport located along the south-western coast 10 km south of Argostoli. Normally the island is connected with Athens, Preveza / Lefkada and Zakynthos. But during the summer the flights increase in considerable numbers and Kefalonia is directly connected with many European nations. Including Austria, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Netherlands.

FERRIES: The island is directly connected by ferries with Patras, Kyllini, Astakos and Igoumenitsa as well as with the other Ionian islands (Ithaca, Zakynthos, Lefkada).

Southern Kefalonia: Argostoli, Koroni, Markopoulo, Sami and Poros

Northern Kefalonia: Myrtos (Mirthos), Assos and Fiskardo

Paliki Peninsula: Platia Amos, Aghia Elenis, Petani, Kunopetra and Xi

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