The largest in the Ionian island chain,
With 350 square miles of beautiful countryside and rugged coastline, Kefalonia is the largest in the Ionian island chain, and, if you haven’t already been charmed by its role as the backdrop for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, it’s beauty – from sheer cliffs and towering mountain ranges to clear blue seas – will take your breath away.
As on so many Greek islands, the best buys are local products. Cephalonia is famed for its crisp white robóla wine, especially Gentilini label (visit their winery at Miniés, on the road between Argostóli and the airport). Mavrodaphne is a dry, intensely red wine, not to be confused with the Mavrodaphne dessert wine produced in the Peloponnese. Island honey may well have a soupçon of fir to it, courtesy of the dense fir forests on Mt Énos. In Argostóli, the main shopping district is pedestrianised Lithóstrato, with all manner of retailers; elsewhere, Fiskárdo has the densest concentration of tourist boutiques.
Food & Drink
Good tavernas are scattered fairly evenly across giant Kefaloniá, though often on the pricey side (especially in yacht-crammed Fiskárdo). Nosing around off the beaten track is amply rewarded – for instance, on the beach below tiny Spartiá village, where Waterway has freshly caught fish on the menu, or at Xouras (Petáni Beach), a great all-rounder with casserole dishes. Paradise Beach Taverna, outside Agía Efimía, is uniformly praised, while in castle-stooked Ássos, jolly Platanos features spit-roasted suckling pig and Panos’ own-grown ingredients. In the two largest, untouristy towns, Lixoúri’s Akrogiali (south end of quay) is ace for cooked dishes, or grills by night, while Argostóli’s Kyani Akti (Andóni Trítsi 1) is an expensive but excellent seafood tavern cantilevered over the water.
Dormition of the Virgin
In and around Markópoulo village church, this is quite possibly the most bizarre version of this important pan-Hellenic holiday. Annually, on or around 15 August, numerous small harmless snakes appear, said in legend to be the nuns of a vanished local convent so transformed to avoid being abducted by pirates. They of course bring luck to the villagers.
Ágios Gerásimos Monastery Pilgrimages
August and October
Gerasimos, although not born on Cephalonia, is the much-loved patron saint of the island, and his relics are kept at the eponymous monastery near Frangáta. On 15-16 August and 19-20 October especially, devout pilgrims come to kiss the cloth-covered feet of the man, removed partially from his habitual sarcophagus and perched in a vertical position.
Each August, Frangáta village hosts a three-day wine-tasting bash, conveniently after the Ágios Gerásimos feast, with robóla wine of course assiduously promoted.
International Argostóli Music Festival
Greek and international artists perform at various venues (some outdoor) in the island capital.
Lixoúri Music Festival
The big bash in the island’s second town, with the local filarmonikí (brass band), which runs a music school here, duly prominent.
It’s best to base yourself at one of the ‘name’ beach resorts rather than the capital Argostóli (though this does have a beach annexe in Lássi) or utilitarian ferry ports Sámi or Póros. Castle-stooked Ássos (mostly studios/apartments), Fiskárdo in the far north, which escaped 1953 earthquake damage (again, self-catering predominantly), and sandy Skála in the far southeast (home to the friendly beachside Anassa Hotel) are especially popular. Exceptions to this pattern include much-praised Trapezaki Bay Hotel (Trapezáki Beach, below Lourdáta), and the intimate (22-room) Odyssey Hotel in Agía Efimía. If you do end up in Argostóli for any reason, pamper yourself at the central, plush Ionian Plaza (Platía Vallianoú).