Spectacular countryside, hidden beaches and laid-back towns are yours for the taking on holidays to Kefalonia – aka Captain Corelli’s isle.
Captain Corelli’s isle
The biggest of the Greek Ionian Islands, Kefalonia shot to fame in the Hollywood blockbuster, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Take one look at the place and you’ll see why its scenery was deserving of the big screen. Tree-studded hills stand guard over sprawling vineyards, and honey-hued sands are kissed by turquoise waters.
The popular resorts
Skala, in the south-east, leads the way as far as holiday resorts are concerned. Its long beach is backed by pines, and its nightlife is the liveliest on the island, with stylish bars and music clubs setting the tone. Lourdas, further west, is also popular. Life here revolves around the sleepy main square, and the village is fringed by 2 miles of coastline. Then there’s Lassi, which people flock to from far and wide to watch the spectacular sunsets.
Wherever you choose to stay, the island’s main attractions are within day-tripping distance. Don’t miss Myrtos Bay, a spectacular chalk-white beach which Captain Corelli’s directors couldn’t resist slotting into the movie. And pay a visit to the age-old chambers at the Drogorati Caves.
Things to See and Do in Kefalonia
The beaches in Kefalonia are among the most photogenic in Greece – we’re talking white slithers of sand that give way to forest-trimmed bays. And the great thing about this island is, if you rent a car and just drive along the coast, you’ll stumble upon near-deserted beaches that look like they haven’t been visited in years.
The big beach
Makris Gialos Beach, in Lassi, is the liveliest stretch of coast on the island. Restaurants, bars and cafés line up behind the white sands, keeping visitors going with food and drink all day long. Have a go at snorkelling while you’re here – the water is really clear and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a loggerhead turtle or two.
The secret beach
With a quiet village setting and no sand-side facilities to speak of, Vatsa Beach, about a 5-minute drive from Lassi, is usually devoid of visitors. The golden sands are home to nothing but a single Greek taverna, so it’s worth bringing a picnic with you if you plan on staying a while.
Sami and Lassi have stores packed with straw trilby hats, imitation Havaiana flip-flops and beach inflatables. But for more authentic take-homes, Skala is the place to seek out. The pine-shaded village square is bordered by cubbyhole shops selling pottery, ceramics and lace. They also stock quality local produce, like giant knuckles of cheese, spicy soutsoukaki sausages and pots of honey.
Kefalonia’s answer to high-street brands like M&S can be found in busy Argostoli. Lithostrato Street, in particular, is a good bet for local fashions, Lancôme make-up counters, and miniature Greek versions of Debenhams and House of Fraser. You’ll also see some names you recognise, such as The Body Shop.
Fiskardo is a bit of an A-list haunt, so keep an eye out for celebrities while you’re trawling the boutiques here. The best ones are down by the harbour, and include top-end names like Gucci and D&G. You can get your hands on anything from designer sunglasses and new-season handbags to one-of-a-kind cocktail dresses and jewellery made for showing off.
The harbour in Fiskardo has an upmarket feel, thanks to its fairy-lit restaurants and luxurious wine bars. You’ll find every type of cuisine going here – from gourmet Thai to traditional Greek. Over in Skala, you can walk off your dinner with a stroll around the ruins of the 3rd-century Roman villa on the outskirts of town – they look spectacular when they’re lit up after sunset.
Kefalonia’s capital, Argostoli, has a great set of bars, bouzouki clubs and discos – most of which spiral out from the main square, Platia Vallianou. You’ll also find a couple of nightclubs here, which attract celebrity DJs in the summer months. Lassi is another good option for a night out. Wander down the main strip, and you’ll find a parade of live music venues and karaoke bars.
Kefalonia meat pie
Meat pies are what Kefalonia does best. The pies are made from a crumbly, thick-crusted pastry case, which is filled to bursting with tender meat, rice and vegetables. The meat varies depending on where you go, but lamb, beef and pork are the most popular options.
In the winter time, locals huddle around their kitchen tables and tuck in to giant bowls of bourbourelia with ladle-like spoons. It’s a thick, warming soup made with locally-grown beans, corn and grain, and is usually served alongside big wedges of freshly-baked bread.
This is the Greeks’ take on bruschetta. Dry slices of bread are rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Grated tomatoes are then spread on top, along with a sprinkle of sea salt and dried oregano. Some restaurants will add some extra bits and pieces, like black olives, crumbled feta cheese or green pesto.
Granted, this might not be the most attractive dish in the world – but it sure is tasty. What’s more, with just three ingredients, it’s really simple to make. Tomatoes are either grated or pureed in a food processor, before being cooked in a generous pool of olive oil. Whisked eggs are then added, to form a scramble that’s goes really well with toast.
Kefalonia is famous for its Robola wine – a dry, white variety with a fruity flavour and a crisp, lemony aftertaste. It’s quite light, so it goes with just about everything. Pair it with a meaty tuna fillet or a swordfish steak to bring out the flavour of the fish.
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Not for nothing is this stylish town on Kefalonia’s northern tip known as the St Tropez of Greece. Demi Moore and Jon Bon Jovi have been spotted here, while Roman Abramovich parks his yacht in the harbour. It’s Fiskardo’s beauty and history that attracts the A-list – it mostly escaped the 1953 earthquake, so you’ve got candy-coloured Venetian buildings draped in bougainvillea.
Karavomilos is a peaceful fishing village on the east coast of Kefalonia. It wraps around the west side of Sami Bay, and is separated from the waves by a beach. There’s no sand – instead, you’ll find smooth white pebbles warmed by the Mediterranean sun, and shaded by a curtain of eucalyptus trees.
You can skip the crowds at this quiet, traditional fishing village on Kefalonia’s southern coast. It’s a pretty place, with just a couple of beaches, a little harbour and a smattering of shops and high-quality tavernas. It’s all about recharging and rejuvenating here, but when you want more action, lively Skala is just a 10-minute drive away.
Assos is a restful village on the west coast of Kefalonia, a beautiful Greek island south of the mainland. It’s nestled on the side of a horseshoe-shaped bay filled with azure waters. There are a handful of waterside tavernas down by the harbour, each with views of the pebbly beach. At the back of the village are rolling hillside carpeted with cypress and pine trees. And on top of one of the hills sits a huge 16th-century fortress overlooking the village.
Bazukata keeps a very low profile on the Greek island of Kefalonia. It’s a tiny hamlet that sits quietly on a cypress-clad hillside right up in the north, with views across to the neighbouring island of Ithaca. This tranquil place isn’t spoilt by shops, bars and restaurants – though it’s made sure holidaymakers get all those at the nearby town of Fiskardo.
Chalikeri is a tranquil little hamlet sat on a eucalyptus-covered hillside along Kefalonia’s north-western coast. Peace and quiet is what this spot is all about – you get a few beautiful villas dotted about the greenery, a couple of sandy coves down the road, plus some hiking routes that set off into the olive groves. Everything else is taken care of at the nearby coastal village of Fiscardo.
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