Visiting Greece will be an unforgettable experience. Whether that is for its history, or its breath-taking landscapes, or its sparkling life rich in traditions and folklore. One of the most beautiful islands in Greece is most definitely Cephalonia. There are so many attractions here. One more surprising than another, starting with nature. The blue of the sky, the blue of the sea, the colours of the houses and flowers. And not just that.
The landscape is a treasure trove of revelations. There are excursions to go on and panoramas to admire as well as the excellent treasures in the area: the beaches of Cephalonia. This journey will take you on a search for the most fascinating areas and the attractions that you just can’t miss. Argostóli, Assos, the Drogarati Cave and much more too. Find the best places to see in Cephalonia with a Costa cruise.
The Venetians founded this city in the eighteenth century, establishing the centre of Cephalonia here. The last powerful earthquake in 1953 cancelled out most of the Serenissima era architecture, also changing the urban appearance, which now comprises mainly modern constructions. There are, however, several places of interest for those coming here. It is from the seafront that we find the most frequented and socially active part of the city.
There are, in fact, the two museums, the Archaeology one and the Folklore one, there is also the the church of Saint Spyridon and the Saint Theodore. A significant stop on our visit is also at the monument that is in memory of about the two thousand Italian soldiers from the Acqui Division that fought the Nazis just before the end of World War Two. They were slaughtered and buried in a communal grave that is located close to the monument. Don’t forget to go down to the port: you will be able to see several turtles at the most suitable times of day.
Over the years, a geological phenomenon known as Catavothres has developed in the Cephalonia subsoil. They are areas where the sea disappears in the subsoil, channelling itself into long tunnels that cross the entire island from north to west. It was a mystery without any explanation for years, until the path of the water from one side of Cephalonia to another was reconstructed, with the use of a colouring agent.
It is hard to be indifferent when you see such a beautiful sight as the small village of Assos, in the north-west of the island of Cephalonia, where the peninsula of Erissos extends into the sea with its cliffs and overhanging rocks. Not only that, the architecture shows the best of Mediterranean style with the colours of the houses that match perfectly the blue of the sea and sky.
You descend by following a road to the village through olive trees and goats. You reach your destination where you can admire the well-kept houses, with bougainvillea on the walls and blue-painted doors. You can take a trip to the beach with its bars and restaurants nearby. Once you have gone past the port, you come to the climb up to the Castle, which can be seen from the road. At a certain point, the rising road comes to a fork, the longer route takes about 20 minutes to reach your destination but the view from the top is guaranteed.
The 16th-century fortress, or rather what is left of it, dominates the village, which was its main function from the start as decided by the Venetians, who built it: from here, it was possible to spot pirate attacks, extremely common at the time. Today we can still enjoy the beauty of the surroundings observed from a fortunate position. It is also an oasis of peace once inside the ancient walls.
This is the location of the international port, located at the end of a spectacular bay. Sami is a town set between hills and sea, characterised by the modern atmosphere that is also highly attractive. This is a convenient position for starting off in organised trips to the rest of the island, but it also deserves a visit, starting from the comfort of the beach that divides the town on one side from the bathing area of Karavomilos on the other.
Scenes from the film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” were filmed on this beach, and several photos taken on set appear in the town’s bars and restaurants. On this subject, the seafront is filled with restaurants, offering a variety of food at truly reasonable prices. Once you have finished your meal and tried the local delicacies, you can go shopping in the centre, taking advantage of the quiet streets and lanes.
A short distance from Argostoli and Assos, the small village of Fiskardo is a great place to visit if you are spending a holiday in Cephalonia. Its main attraction is its beauty, that has remained unchanged even after the 1953 earthquake that left rubble strewed around the rest of the island and the Ionian archipelago. Incredible but true. The old style architecture is immediately noticeable, from the moment you arrive from the sea in the port area, where yachts weigh anchor next to smaller boats.
Two gravel beaches stands at the two ends of the port, surrounded by typically Mediterranean thick vegetation. If you are wondering where the name Fiskardo comes from, it was the name of a Norman mercenary captain, a Sicilian lord, Roberto Guiscardo, who died in Cephalonia in a battle with the Byzantines.
Melissani Cave and Lake
Also in the area, about thirty kilometres from Fiskardo, we find another natural wonder: Melissani Cave. In this case too, its extraordinary beauty is greatly owed to the fact that the cave has remained unspoilt for centuries. The cave was only discovered in 1951, and became a tourist site with guided tours inside it only after the 1953 earthquake. A tremor caused a part of the upper wall to crumble, allowing sunlight to filter through and which has since given rise to exceptional blue reflections to shine in the cave.
The cave and lake are two inseparable treasures. You can visit the first chamber of the lake by boat, until you reach an island under the filtering sun's rays. In the second underground chamber, you will be able to see several stalactites and stalagmites, proof of its long history. The best time to visit is between midday and two in the afternoon, when the light of the sun is more intense and offers its best magic. The water coming from underground water beds is fresh water, which then merges with the sea's salt water. To enter the cave and enjoy this unique spectacle, you can set sail from Sami, in front of the island of Ithaca.
If you are looking for a beach with all facilities, you have come to the right place. As it is a place traditionally frequented by English tourists, over the years several hotels have been built here with many amenities.
The beach is exceptionally well cared for. There are many free stretches here, and a long pine forest where bathers can find refuge from the sun during the hottest hours of the day. Several restaurants offer inexpensive meals and close to the town, guides mention an area where you can visit the ruins of a Roman villa with mosaic floors in a good state of conservation.
Another earthquake, which happened 300 years ago, partially brought the Drogarati Cave to light. The cave was formed 150 millions years ago, and was opened to tourists starting in 1963. It is close to Melissani Cave and is split into two separate environments, one named the “royal balcony” is the smaller one embellished by hundreds of shiny stalactites, the other is known as the “Chamber of Exaltation” and is a true natural amphitheatre with excellent acoustics. An absolutely beautiful sight to see.
Thanks to these characteristics, the second chamber regularly holds musical exhibitions by several artists during the summer period, with the possibility of holding an audience of 500 spectators. These shows in such a special context are extremely special, and are an unforgettable experience.
Fragata and Monastery of St Gerasimus
The Cephalonia religious calendar in this tiny village in the Valley of Omala, foresees – in the first weekend after the August bank holiday – the Robola Festival. It precedes the harvesting season and is dedicated to the local white wine, which enjoys a straw-yellow colour and an intense flavour. A characteristic festival that will allow you to enter the spirit of Greece.
Between Fragata and the village of Valsamata, about 400 metres above sea level, we find the most famous monastery in Cephalonia, founded in the 16th century. It is also known as the Monastery of New Jerusalem and is a well-known destination for pilgrims. The patron saint of Cephalonia lived as a hermit in a cave in Lassi for six years and as his last station chose the high plains of Omalon, where the monastery was built.
There are two churches here: the oldest contains the remains of St Gerasimus, the other is more modern, dating back to the reconstruction period following the 1953 earthquake. You reach it by walking through an ancient garden that forms a paved road full of wells that are allocated to collecting rain water. In the months of August and October, when there are days dedicated to the saint, the number of visitors reaches its peak.
St Andrew’s Monastery
One of the most beautiful churches is about ten kilometres from Argostoli, close to the ruins of St George’s Castle, not far from the village of Peratata. The reconstruction after the 1953 disaster was also an opportunity that led to the rediscovery of some works of art that had been hidden by plaster by the English in 1832.
It was three Benedictine nuns who rebuilt the church in 1579 after a period of abandonment. The building is currently home to a convent of nuns. The Byzantine Ecclesiastical Museum, housed inside, is also worth a visit. A relic described as the “holy remains of the apostle Andrew's right foot” is also interesting”.
There are two occasions celebrated in this church: on 30 November for the apostle Andrew and the Friday of what is known as “diakeninismou”, the week that follows the Orthodox Easter, when Zoodochou Pigi, the high protector of the monastery, is celebrated.
One of Cephalonia's exclusive characteristics is its conformation: in addition to its fantastic beaches, on the wonderful blue sea, the inland contains more than one mountain that stands at more than one thousand metres above sea level. Mount Ainos (pronunciation: Enos), for example, reaches 1628 metres height. There are several legends that have grown around this place, including the one that tells the story of a dragon living in this place, that the local people described as a terrible creature that appeared out of the grey rocks.
Generally, this is one of the highest mountains in the whole of Greece and the whole area surrounding it has been declared protected thanks to the establishment of the National Park of Cephalonia, that spreads over 1200 hectares. Inside the park, in fact, there are several unique features such as an autonomous fir tree species called Abies Cephalonica, widespread on the mountain slopes starting at 800 metres.
The biodiversity of the fauna, including several species of migratory birds, turtles and also a colony of wild horses is noteworthy The Park is extremely well cared for, with clear directions along the paths to follow, allowing trekkers to reach the top.
Panoramic tour around Myrtos
The dazzling beauty of this famous beach is equivalent to the one on Zante, the famous queen of Ionian beaches. The main reason for so much attraction - that has remained unspoilt over the years, in spite of the fact that it is frequented by thousands of tourists - lies in the fact that the only possible access is a winding path through the countryside and along the slope towards the sea.
The path is a road about two kilometres long that includes an amazing view for those enterprising enough to choose it. The walk crosses the village of Divarata and includes some downhill bends, but the effort will be worth it in the end. The beach is wonderful, and is also one of the most photographed in the world.
Just a few minutes away by car, you can enjoy a lovely tree to the Sarakina Gorge. It takes about an hour to pass through it. It is an exciting experience, and there are ropes to hold at some points in the crossing, the riskier parts, but it is a great walk in the fresh water that flows down the valley.
It was once a fishing village. Today it is a well-known tourist resort. The port is a departure point towards one of the many wonderful isolated coves that can only be reached from the water. The town has narrow streets and a large central Venetian-style building. The most famous, white-pebble beach is Paradise Beach. The name says it all. You can enjoy a Caribbean experience here, in a picture-perfect setting with an ideal climate.
Daily village life takes place along the port wharf. There are several bars and restaurants here, including a couple of cocktail bars that stay open until late and where you can listen to music.
Near Agia Efimia, you will find a tavern with the same name and that offers local delicacies. Nearby, you can visit the Thematon Monastery, just a short distance from the village and immersed in a relaxing atmosphere. It stands 600 metres above sea level, surrounded by greenery. A path leads up to it that allows you to enjoy views that will take your breath away. Another way to enjoy the trip is to hire a Jeep nearby and make the climb in comfort.
Saint George’s Castle
The first fortress built by the Venetians on the island, based on the first Byzantine buildings, has recently been renovated and thus restored to the splendour of times gone by. Climbing up to the castle means being able to admire the wonderful view. In particular, at sunset, the view of the Trapezaki and Avithos beaches. Its history begins in 1100. It was a Byzantine manor house, renovated several times and even changing role. The walls are dated: they were built in 1504 by the Venetians. In recent years, several renovation projects have been carried out and the castle has been given back its original attraction and might.
It is located above the town of Peratata. For a time, when it was animated by people and activities, it was the capital of Cephalonia but in 1757 Argostoli took on this role instead. Some post-Byzantine works are kept inside, and the ruins of a bridge can also be seen that dates back to the period of French rule. You can also see the ruins of an old catholic church named after Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas). There is a legend that refers to a tunnel linking the castle to the town of Argostoli, but it has never been found.
Memorial to the Fallen from the Acqui Division
At the far end of the Argostoli peninsula, on the road to Lassi, a road sign shows the place where a memorial to the Italian Fallen from the Acqui Division has been built, close to the communal grave where the soldiers’ corpses were buried. They did not want to surrender to the Germans and decided to fight them, hoping that the Americans would intervene, right at the end of World War Two. However, the Allies did not arrive in time and the Nazis were merciless and rapid in their reaction: the Italians were all shot within two days. There were about two thousand of them, also the Italian press at the time stated a much higher number, 9 thousand.
Rows of corpses were line up on the roads, with the smell of blood everywhere. Very few of them managed to save themselves. The monument is a large one and carries six plaques, with the names of every fallen solider on them. The numbers are there two: 26 officers, 26 petty officers and 1250 soldiers. Shot: 155 officers, 5000 petty officers and soldiers. Lost at sea: petty officers and soldiers: 3000. One of the most dramatic pages in our history.
Set sail for Cephalonia with Costa Cruises
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