Cephalonia

How does one do justice to this island in just a few lines? Majestic, green, clean, fascinating and idyllic are only a few words that some to mind. This is an island you can return to again and again, and still discover something new.

It is an island of many miracles: on the day of the Virgin Mary, the 15th of August snakes come into the village Markopoulo, blessing the Church of Our Lady with their presence.There is a flower on the island that only blossoms on this day. The patron saint Gerasimos' well preserved body is sometimes said to have seaweed on his feet - local folklore has it that he visits his friends St. Spyridon and Nectarios on the neighbouring island Zakynthos (Zante) and Corfu. The sea water that disappears under the ground at Katavothres and pours out on the other side of the island.

A paradise for nature lovers, this lush island has a special kind of fir which grows only here and nowhere else in the world. There are wild horses on the mountainside, and goats and rabbits with golden teeth because of the minerals in the ground. In the sea swims the turtle Caretta Caretta, dolphins and the monk seal Monachus Monachus, and the waters of the island are considered amongst the cleanest in the world. 

Marvelous beaches, an underground cave and lake, the tomb of Odysseus, the fishing village Fiscardo, the Robola and Calliga wine, Lord Byron's view...Cephalonia is truly an island of much variety, and anyone who enjoyed Louis de Bernier's "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" and wants to see what the island is really like will not be disappointed.

There are many places to stay on Cephalonia. You stay in the commers-ialised area Lassi for close access to some of the best beaches and the capital Argostoli. 

In Argostoli you have most of the nightlife, cafes, the cinema, banks, bus station and harbour. Lixouri and Sami are quite large places, and here you will find many bars and taverns as well. Fiscardo offers the perfect idyll, it is small and very cozy, and so is Ag Efimia, Skala and Poros. There are many more places to stay but they won't all fit in here.

History

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Cephalonia is already mentioned in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. He called the island Deuchalion, and said it then belonged to the kingdom of Odysseus and that it sent warriors to fight in Troy. We do not know for sure why the island has its name. It is either because it is the largest island in the Ionian archipelago, Cephali means "head" in Greek, or it got its name after the first king, who according to mythology was called Cephalus.
There have been paleolithic findings around the island dating 50 000 years back in time. Cephalonia was united with Ithaca and the mainland at that time, and you can still see from the shape of the two islands that they once were one.
During Mycenaean time the island of Kefalonia seems to have been very rich . Later on the men of the island are mentioned in wars against the Persians (5th cent. BC) and there were alliances with several other city-states like Athens, Corinth and Sparta. In 188BC the Romans conquered Cephalonia and they sold its inhabitants as slaves and looted the island. The island also suffered pirate attacks many times through history.
At the end of the 12th century AD the Francs conquered the Ionian islands, and were to stay until the Turks defeated them in the 15th century. Then followed Venetian rule from AD 1500 to 1797. Cephalonia was to suffer several Turkish attacks, and in 1797 Napoleons army invaded the island. A year later the British help the Russian/Turkish army take over. In 1807 the French came back, and two years later the British seized power.

In 1864 the island was finally liberated, but was to be occupied by Italian and German military during the second world war.

In 1953 there was a terrible earthquake which destroyed most buildings on the island, and killed many. Only the northern village of Cephalonia ,Fiscardo ,was saved and is today the only village on the island with older architecture.

What to see

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Most island tours include the cave Drogarati and the underground lake Melissani, the monastery of Ag (St.) Gerasimos, the picturesque Fiscardo and a view of the amazing Myrtos bay.
You should also try to visit the Venetian Castle of Kefalonia, nunnery of Ag (St.) Andreas, the Calliga and Robola wine factories, the plaque of Lord Byron with its wonderful view, as well as the perfectly built Kourkomelata which has been rebuilt almost as it was before the earthquake.
In Argostoli there is an archaeological museum as well as a folklore museum. Just outside Argostoli is Katavothres where the water disappears under the island, only to come out on the other side.
The tomb of Odysseus is still being excavated and is worth a visit. It is located outside Poros. Many locals firmly believe this Mycenaean tomb must have belonged to Odysseus, and that this great king impossibly could have ruled just the small Ithaca.
In the beautiful little village Assos you can visit a Venetian Citadel, and enjoy a nice meal in the tiny harbour. Assos is also called the Honeymoon village, since Charles and Diana made a stop here with their yacht when newly wed.
In Skala are the remains of a Roman villa with a beautiful mosaic floor.
From the island there are daytrips to the neighbouring islands Ithaka, Lefkas and Zakynthos (Zante), and to Ancient Olympia on the Peloponnese.

What to do

:You can enjoy water sports at many beaches, for example Makrys Gialos, Platys Gialos and in Skala. In Skala there is also horse riding. Just outside Argostoli there is a Go-cart place, and in town there is a square where children can drive mini cars and motorbikes. There is also an outdoor cinema just off the main square. In Ag Efimia there is a diving school.

Beaches

:Two of the best sand beaches are to be found in Lassi and are called Makrys Gialos and Platys Gialos. They are suitable for children, but can get quite busy during high season. Myrtos is probably the most photographed beach in Greece but the road down to it is so steep and winding that no bus can take you there, so you'll have to either walk all the way or rent your own vehicle. It is a pebble beach and the sea quickly gets deep, so it is not an ideal place for small children. In Skala there is another long sand beach. In Fiscardo you will have to get into the sea from rocks, but the water is crystal clear. Petanias is also a nice pebble beach. If you can, you should also try to get to the paradise beach Antisami, which is outside Sami, but has no bus connections. There are many more beaches and they are all special in one way or the other.

Nightlife

:Most of the clubs and bars of Cephalonia are in and around Argostoli. There are also places in Sami, Lixouri, Skala, Poros and Fiscardo, but they do not get as busy as in Argostoli. Cephalonia is not a party island, but the nightlife is quite good anyway, and during high season you will think you have ended up in somewhere in Italy because of the many Italian holidaymakers. There are usually really good beach parties organized as well.

Food

:There is a wide variety of both local and international restaurants. The rule "eat where the Greeks are" apply here just as on any other island.

Shopping

The shopping street in Argostoli is called Lithostratos and that's where you will find the post office, banks and a few cafes as well. Basically, the only really local things to buy here are either the wines Robola or Calliga or the Cephalonian honey called Golden Honey. Cephalonia is not a shopping paradise, but you can get your usual souvenirs and jewellery.
In Fiscardo you'll find small shops with a bit of everything and artists by the harbour.

Getting Around

: There are several places to rent cars and bikes, and it is definitely worth it if you really want to explore this big island. There are local buses connecting the main villages, but quite a few places are inaccessible without a vehicle of your own. A very good alternative to driving yourself is hiring a taxi for the day. You'll need to do a bit of bargaining, though. There is a ferry boat between Argostoli and Lixouri.

Getting there

The airport is situated a few km outside Argostoli. There are daily flights to Cephalonia except the charter flights. There are also ferry boat connections with the neighbouring islands as well as the mainland (Patras, Igoumenitsa and Kyllini) from Argostoli, Sami and Poros. During high season there are also Ferry connections to Italy.

Facts about Cephalonia

KefaloniaSize: 688 sq. km
International code: 0030
Population: about 33 000
Local code: 26710
Airport: Yes
Hospital: 22434
Cashmachine: Yes
Police: 22200 (Argostoli)
Internet cafe:Yes
Ferries Kefalonia to mainland: 25151
Price rate: Average
Tourist Information: 22248
Highest Mountain: Mt Aenos 1627m
Taxi: 28505, 24305, 22700 (Argostoli)
Tour Operators:Argo, JMC, Libra,Apollo, Ving
Airport: 41510
Coast guard: 22224

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