Beaches, beaches and more beaches
Discovering Kefalonia, the queen of the Ionian islands
Kefalonia and the Ionian as a whole feel like the antidote to the Aegean. No barren landscapes here or whitewashed houses, but instead what you have is a unique collection of emeralds and blues, lush hills and waters with colours so intense you won't actually believe your eyes. No photo filters needed.
Kefalonia, like Corfu, is a developed island and particularly popular with British visitors, who have been coming here for years. Despite the established tourist infrastructure, there are still plenty of pockets where you can get a feel of what island life is like. On our trip this summer, we focused on the north, as it's where you will benefit from the most famous beaches, some beautiful seaside towns and villages and, above all, some traditional architecture, of which little remains due to the huge 1953 earthquake.
We chose the port town of Fiskardo as our base, even though it looks and feels more like a village. As it escaped the infamous earthquake almost unscathed, it welcomes you with its beautiful multicoloured buildings, which have a graceful, colonial-type flair. The bay is awash with sailing boats as Kefalonia is a great destination for both experienced sailors who are able to hire their own boat or beginners who fancy a week on the Ionian, literally learning the ropes and seeing beautiful spots only accessible by sea.
If you fancy something simpler and cheaper, you can hire a runabout from Regina boat hire, where little boats can be as cheap as €55 plus fuel per day. Not bad for getting a chance to put your captain's hat on and all for the price of a meal.
Fiskardo has everything you need in its little pedestrianised port area. Plenty of mini markets and cafes, as well as some of the best-known seafood restaurants in Greece. Not your regular taverna fare, most places in Fiskardo are a little more expensive but they do offer a classier dining experience with service to match. The crowd here is a mixture of families and the tanned and beautiful who have just stepped off their yacht. Tassia's is one of the most famous dining destinations which has had many a Hollywood star ordering their favourite dishes. We have to say that we preferred Vasso's (it's the war of the females here!) on the other side of the port. Fantastic service and the food was just great. A perfect choice for a special evening with your loved ones.
This part of the island is a good spot for those who want to discover other Ionian islands while in Greece. In a hire boat you can make the crossing to Ithaca and the miniature harbour of Ancient Polis and walk up to the village of Stavros for lunch or a coffee. If you would prefer something more organised, head for the village of Agia Efimia, where you will be able to board cruises for Ithaca or even a combination of three nearby islands. Agia Efimia and Assos are two of the cutest options for lunch or dinner. Little picturesque ports with tavernas right on the water, with views to die for as the sun sets. There are plenty of accommodation options here too for those wanting a quiet holiday.
But let's face it, we all know what the real star attractions are in Kefalonia. Beaches, beaches and more beaches. Using the north of the island as your base, your choices will be endless. Hiring a car is a must for those who are not seafaring types, but the drives will more than compensate you. The villages you will pass on the way and the views out to sea will demand your camera is always at the ready. Starting with Myrtos, one of the most photographed beaches in Greece, you will soon discover how blessed this country is. Everything in this setting is perfect. The colour of the water is better than any painter could have imagined and the rocky backdrop just makes it all the more dramatic. But there is more to Kefalonia that the really famous beaches. So many coves, with the same crystal clear waters, some hidden away beneath big hotels, some requiring you to walk through lush cypress forests. Dafnoudi, Foki, Kimilia; look them up and you won't be disappointed.
You don't need to be a beach bum to really get into the spirit of Kefalonia, though. These waters and the island itself lend themselves to a number of other activities for those who want to combine a trip with some outdoor pursuits. There are a number of hiking paths of various lengths and levels of difficulty which will take you away from the crowds. There are also organised bike tours but not for the faint-hearted, as this is not a flat island by any stretch of the imagination.
If you're staying in Fiskardo there are diving lessons you can enjoy too, from just €50 for your initial three hours. Or if you're more like us, you can leave the work-out lovelies to their game and head uphill to the village of Vassilikades for some time out and even a cod pie and tsigaridia (local greens). Talking about all this exercise really takes it out of one, does it not? You'll be needing your strength for all that swimming, after all.
* Alex Papasimakopoulou is the owner and director of the travel service Everymatic. For more information, visit www.everymatic.com
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