Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, and one of the most dramatically beautiful of all the Greek Isles. It boasts amazing sandy white beaches and dazzlingly clear water, as well as lush mountains and rocky cliff-faces. If you love nature and the outdoors, you’re sure to be enchanted by the beauty of Kefalonia.
The island is also extremely historic, having withstood many invasions and battles over the years. From well-preserved villages to ancient ruins, there are many significant historical sites to discover as well.
Things to do in Kefalonia – towns and villages
Kefalonia is home to a number of very picturesque greek villages and lovely towns. The capital, Argostoli, was almost completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1953 as was the town of Sami so sadly these towns lack the charm and authenticity of others. Several places however were unaffected and are worth considering when you are trying to work out where to stay on Kefalonia or at least ensure you at some stage.
Things to do in Kefalonia – beaches
Kefalonia boasts some of the Greek Islands’ most spectacular and dramatic beaches. Whether you want to relax under an umbrella on a bustling beach or discover a hidden paradise, there’s sure to be the perfect option.
One look at the Cerulean water and soft white sand, and you’re sure to agree. It is a stunning horseshoe shaped bay at the foot of two mountains.
Located in the south of Kefalonia, it is affected by strong winds at times, however the incredible beauty of this place more than makes up for it. About 30 kilometres from Argostoli, it is easy to reach and popular with visitors – so expect it to be bustling in the high season!
If you are travelling with children or looking for a unique beach on Kefalonia, then check out Xi (or Ksi) beach. This beach is not surrounded by mountains, but as a result it is a lot easier to access than some of the other beaches. In addition, it is more sheltered from the wind, which makes the water calmer.
If you’re not a strong swimmer or you have little ones in tow, you’re sure to appreciate the calm ocean at Xi Beach.
Finally, this is one of the most unique and colourful beaches of Kefalonia – thanks to the high clay content under the sand, it is a striking red-orange colour.
Located just a few kilometres away from the town of Samos, Antisamos Beach is another exceptionally beautiful beach on Kefalonia.
It is a semi-circle shape, with dazzlingly white sand flanked by azure water on one side and lush mountains on the other. It’s no wonder that this dramatic landscape has intrigued filmmakers – it was the setting for the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
The water is a kaleidoscope of green, cyan and dark blue, and the beach has been awarded the Blue Flag due to its cleanliness and water quality.
Makris Gialis Beach
If you are looking for a bustling beach or hoping to try out some water activities, then Makris Gialis near Argostoli is ideal.
Like most of Kefalonia’s beaches, it boasts crystal-clear water and soft sand dotted with colourful beach umbrellas. There are also a number of bars, restaurants and cafes nearby, while you can also rent a snorkel, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards.
As it’s one of the most popular beaches in Kefalonia, it’s also a good place to organise other activities and excursions.
The beaches in the north of Kefalonia tend to be a little bit quieter however they are just as beautiful as their southern counterparts. One such beach is Kimilia on the north coast.
Although it lacks the powder-soft sand of some of the island’s beaches (instead, it’s made up of tiny pebbles), the water is incredibly clear and a beautiful shade of light blue. If you want to rest on the “sand” then it’s best to arrive during low tide, because at high tide it’s nearly entirely covered.
The locals don’t let that stop them, however – you’ll find plenty of people sunbaking on the surrounding rocks!
Fair warning – this beach is not easy to reach, however you will be very well rewarded for your efforts. Were it not for the 1 – 1.5 hour hike required to get to the beach (or boat ride from Zola port), it would probably be one of the island’s most crowded.
However, the difficulty getting there means it is one of the most unspoiled natural beaches on Kefalonia.
One look at the almost impossibly blue ocean and any regrets are sure to melt away – it is just incredibly beautiful. Plus, you’re likely to have it almost all to yourself, which only adds to its unique charm.
more outdoor things to do on Kefalonia
If you love the outdoors and are looking for things to do in Kefalonia, you will be spoiled for choice. The island is particularly famous for its caves and mountains, which are great to explore.
One of the most famous things to do on Kefalonia is to explore the island’s caves. Amongst the lush and dense forest, you’ll come to a huge cavern that’s filled with bright blue water. This is Melissani Cave.
Not only is it beautiful, but it’s the site of a fascinating legend. It’s known as “the Cave of the Nymph”, as it’s allegedly where the Nymph Melissani drowned after being rejected by the Greek God, Pan. Of course, we don’t know the truth or otherwise of that legend, but we do know that exploring the cave by boat is one of the most amazing things to do in Kefalonia.
7euro entry including a boat ride.
Open 9am to 7pm daily in summer and Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm in winter.)
You might think that if you’ve seen one cave, you’ve seen them all – but this is not the case in Kefalonia. The Drogarati Cave is perhaps equally beautiful to Melissani Cave, but in a totally different way.
Although the save is relatively modest in size, it offers amazing rock formations including hundreds of stalagmites. Despite its size, it offers amazing variety, so it’s a good idea to go with a guide who can tell you more about how it was formed.
If you prefer, you can do a self-guided tour which usually takes less than an hour.
€6 entry, 8am to 8pm in summer)
The scenery of Kefalonia is particularly spectacular thanks to the mountains and hills that dot the landscape.
Of all of them, Mount Ainos is the largest and the most impressive, standing at over 1,600 metres tall. The mountain itself and the area around it is a protected National Park, offering dozens of amazing walking and hiking trails through the lush landscape.
You can even hike to the peak of the mountain! If you’d prefer not to, or have any mobility concerns, you can also reach the peak by car. Either way, you’ll be rewarded by some utterly spectacular views of the island.
Kefalonia is one of the biggest diving hotspots in Greece, thanks to its relatively calm waters and undersea treasures.
Whether you learn to dive while staying on Kefalonia or are an experienced diver, you’re sure to enjoy discovering what lies within the island’s oceans.
As Kefalonia has many spectacular caves, it is particularly ideal for cave divers, or you may like to explore the shipwreck of the Ardena.
Things to do on Kefalonia (for history lovers)
Like many of the Greek Islands, Kefalonia has been the sight of many dramatic historic struggles. Over its lifetime it has been under the control of the Romans, Byzantines, Turks, Venetians, British and Ottomans, and each has left its mark on the island. Discovering this history is a true delight.
The Acropolis of Sami
One of the most impressive archaeological sites on Kefalonia is the Acropolis of Ancient Sami.
Although we are not sure exactly when it was built, we know some of the tombs are more than 2,300 years old and it existed when the Romans arrived in 188 BC. At this time, the town of Sami was an important metropolis, featuring in great works such as Homer’s Iliad.
Unfortunately, it eventually fell to the Romans, and never quite returned to its former glory.
Today, much of the former Acropolis lies in ruin, but it is still amazing to lay eyes on something with such a long history.
Argostoli Archeology Museum
Thanks to the long and dramatic history of Kefalonia, the island is a dream for archaeologists who have recovered many amazing artefacts. These date back to the many different groups that have left their mark on Kefalonia, from the Ancient Greeks to the Ottomans.
It can be overwhelming to keep track of all this history, but the Argostoli Archaeology Museum lays it all out and is a great introduction to the island’s history. It truly is incredible to see pottery and other fragments from life 2,000 years ago.
As the museum is located in Argostoli, it is easy to get to.
€3 entry, Tuesday to Sunday 8:30am to 3pm
Monastery of Agios Gerasimos
Compared to the Acropolis, the Monastery of Agios Gerasimos is practically brand new – but it’s still a great sight for history lovers looking for things to do in Kefalonia.
The monastery was first built in 1560, in honour of Saint Gerasimos, the patron saint of the island. In fact, Saint Gerasimos has been interred in the monastery since his death in 1579.
He was declared a Saint after his death, when he was exhumed on two occasions but his body showed no signs of decay. To this day he is revered and respected on Kefalonia.
The monastery itself is incredibly generous, with plentiful gold leaf and intricate paintings depicting biblical scenes.
Free entry, 4am to 1pm and 3:30pm to 9pm daily.
Day trips and Kefalonia excursions
If you somehow manage to see and do everything that Kefalonia has to offer or you would simply like to see some of the neighbourings islands it is possible to do a number of day trips.
Ithaca has some of the clearest waters and most beautiful beaches in Greece.
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