Cephalonia – Greece

kefalonia-map
Map of Cephalonia

Cephalonia is the largest of the Ionian Greek islands to the left of the mainland and is steeped in history. Most famous for its exotic beaches and sapphire waters this island is a step back in time with picturesque villages and medieval castles. Most famous for being chosen as the filming location of the Hollywood movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin this island is a popular holiday destination for the people of Greece and rightly so, its a great getaway island and less than an hours flight from Athens.

Villa Ippocampos

After picking up the hire car from the airport we drove down to the villa which took around 20 minutes, it wasn’t far but driving on the right and giving way from the middle of roundabouts took some getting used to. The main roads in Cephalonia are pretty good so getting about the place is easy. Arriving at the villa we were greeted with a note welcoming us to Cephalonia and some local honey, locally made liquor, locally grown oregano and a jar of Cephalonian salt, which was nice.
The villa was let to us by a company called Ideales resorts which we found initially through Air BnB.

The villa was spotlessly clean bright and rustic looking with natural stone on the walls and tiles throughout. Upstairs was a twin room with a bathroom next door and the main bedroom with a double bed and an en suite bathroom. The bathrooms were modern and the bedrooms themselves very minimalistic. The main bedroom had sliding doors which led to a balcony which overlooked to pool and had views of the sea to the south of the island.

Downstairs was an open plan living area with open plan kitchen dining room. The downstairs area felt very spacious and had two sets of sliding doors which opened up to a patioed area out the back, surrounding an adequately sized eco-pool. The pool looked very inviting in the day and was illuminated at night. A ‘pool guy’ would visit the pool each morning to clean it ready for us to use. All villas have their own parking space if you choose to hire a car, as we did.

The villa had everything cups, plates, mugs, cutlery, fridge, dishwasher, satellite TV, washing machine, and of course, no food. The nearest supermarket was about 10 miles away so without the car it would have been a chore getting there and back in a taxi. The villa does offer a shopping service for €19 per trip but this can add up over the week and the freedom the you get with a car allowed us to visit some places during our weeks stay on the island. At the end of the week you have to refill the hire car which cost us just over €30 which felt very reasonable considering the amount of driving we did.

Skala

The nearest place of interest to our villa so it was the first place we visited. Driving down the coast you are greeted with some great scenery along the way, with Mount Ainos to your left watching your every turn. We entered Scala through the collection of shops bars and restaurants and was able to park on the road nearby as it was fairly quiet. We wanted to grab something to eat for dinner so we did a quick search on trip advisor which suggested  a good place for fish so we set about trying to find it. The sea font was only a 5 minute walk from where we were parked so we took a stroll guided by Google maps. Because of the time of year some of the restaurants had already closed. We managed to find the restaurant and was given a table close to the beachfront, the main selling point of the restaurant was the bbq fish platter so we opted for this and some bread to nibble on and very nice it was too.

 

Argostoli

The capital city of Cephalonia. The time we chose to come to Cephalonia was no accident and we like it because it not so busy, the downside of this is that some places are shutting their doors for winter and this was the case here. Whilst there was plenty to do with many of the restaurants still open we did find that some of the shops and eateries were shut during the day. Great place for buying souvenirs and grabbing a bite to eat and a coffee if you are passing through but also has shops and restaurants to keep you busy for longer if you prefer. We visited Argostoli once in the day and walked around the shops and had lunch and returned a second time to go out for dinner. We picked this very old looking restaurant (looked like a house converted into a restaurant) where there were a local family having a meal, so we decided to give it a go. The food was nothing to look at but tasted great and was very authentic. Homemade cheese pie, butterbean stew, aubergine and onion side with a roasted chicken leg. Fantastic!

 

Sami

A town over the east side of the island with a harbour and where the Melassini cave can be found has plenty of fish restaurants, cafes and shops to keep you amused for an afternoon. Having a harbour, it is also a point at which you can grab a ferry to Ithica island, Cephalonias little sister. We never visited the island but have heard first hand that it is a place to visit if you like your holidays to be really laid back.

 

Melissani Cave

North west of Sami this cave is one of the attractions of the area. Paying €7 euros gets you on to a guided row boat tour around the cave with some interesting facts about how it was formed. It’s beautiful and eery at the same time. We visited at around 2:30pm in September and by this time the sun had almost passed over the top of the cave so the water was not as illuminated as it appears in some of the pictures we’ve seen, but was still worth the money. All in the trip around the cave takes about 25 minutes.

 

Mount Ainos

We were in the shadow of this mountain everywhere we went. This misty topped mountain is the main feature of the island and has roads that lead right to the top. After someone deciding that it would be a good idea to drive up the mountain the next decision was which way. There are two ways you can take; the southern route or the northern. The limited information available on the Internet only told us that there was fairly new, tarmac road that was nice to drive which sounded great but didn’t tell you which side. Google maps offered both routes so someone decided on the south side, as it was the shortest.

Setting off in the hire car we quickly found out, after getting half way up the mountain and nearly getting stuck and nearly wrecking the underside of the car that the southern route was not the lovely, easily accessible route we had read about. The roads on the southern route started off well but we soon found ourselves driving up some steep old roads and then onto rough, loose rock roads, so it was probably a good decision to turn back. As we had been on the road for a couple of hours we didn’t have enough time to drive all the way around the mountain so headed back to the safety of the villa.
We actually found the nice tarmac entrance to the Mount Ainos national park on our way to Sami and headed up there to watch the sunset on our way back. It was beautifully peaceful up there and one of the best places to watch the setting sun if you ever find yourself in Cephalonia.

Overall our week long break to this island was a very relaxing affair, which was just what we were looking for. If you are looking for a place to relax, go walking and take in some scenery, its perfect. If you are looking for bit of razzamatazz, you might want to look elsewhere. Below are some pictures taken that didn’t really fit into any of the paragraphs above.

From here it was off to Athens to meet up with a couple of friends we hadn’t seen for a while.