Have you heard of Kefalonia? We hadn’t either. When people talk about Greece, places like Athens, Santorini and Mykonos come to mind. But soon as we started researching we realised the options were endless when it came to islands to visit. Attracted as I am to the aesthetics of the beautiful whitewash buildings and houses of many of the islands, we knew we wanted to visit somewhere less touristy and more off the beaten track. The Ionian islands caught our eye as we preferred the lush green mountains and crystal bays over the more rocky and barren landscapes of the Cyclades. Kefalonia is the largest of the seven islands in the Ionian Seas and has over a hundred beaches, both pebble and sand. Only a 50 minute flight from Athens and 1 hour 10 minutes from Rome, we decided Kefalonia is where we would call home for three weeks. We booked three different accomodations in different parts of the island, hired a car and had a list of places we were looking forward to visiting. The island completely blew us away with its beauty, perfect weather, amazing cuisine and gorgeous hospitality. With our main intent for the holiday to be ‘relaxing as much as possible’, Kefalonia beat any and all expectations we had and will forever be etched in our memories as the most beautiful Greek Island experience.
Some Things to Remember:
- Because of the sewerage system in Kefalonia you cannot flush toilet paper down the loo. A bin is always provided for your paper. This took a little getting used to but much less weird after a few days.
- You can basically park anywhere on the island so long as you don’t block any driveways and don’t park on a yellow line.
- Reef shoes are a necessity on the island but don’t stress about buying them before you go. All the mini markets stock them and you will find all sorts of sizes, including tiny baby sizes.
- Restaurants will give bread as starters. We thought this was free but it is not. It can be a charge of anywhere between 0.80 euro to 2.50 euro per person depending where you eat. Most places will bring out complimentary dessert without asking. This is part of their culture.
Car hire: Just Rent It
We actually found this rental company recommended on a blog post when we first began researching the trip but it somehow got lost along the way up until we were about to book our hire car. We looked at the big companies like Avis, Hertz etc and the prices were insane. Thankfully, we remembered Just Rent It, just in time and we saved over $1000 in costs. Not only do they charge low and reasonable prices, Spyros who runs the company is a total legend. He organized cars for us as well as my parents and the care he took in arranging the pick up/ drop off and even delivery of cars when we needed was out of this world. There is no extra damage waiver costs like the big companies charge as everything is covered by his own insurance. We actually had an accident and scratched up the front bumper and Spyros made a report of the incident and that was that! Do yourselves a favour and don’t book through the big companies on Kefalonia. Find local, family owned companies who genuinely care about their customers’ needs. We just wish there had been a Just Rent It in Italy! http://www.justrentit-kefalonia.com
We hired car seats from Just Rent It and managed to fit a child’s seat plus two booster seats in a Skoda Octavia 5 seater. The child seat for Olive was good quality but the two booster seats were really uncomfortable for the kids and constantly shifted from under their bums when the car swerved. If you plan on doing lots of driving then it may be worth brining your own booster seats from home. Also be aware that petrol is very expensive on Kefalonia (1.62 Euro per litre, so roughly $2.64 AUD) so hiring a fuel efficient car is a must.
WEEK ONE: LASSI
Where we stayed: Oskars Studios and Apartments. 4 nights at $770 for one room.
We weren’t intending on staying in Lassi as we didn’t know much about this particular spot but weren’t able to get accommodation where we wanted for the first four nights of our holiday so we decided to book here and I’m so glad we did. Lassi is about ten minutes from the airport and five minutes from Argostoli, the capital of Kefalonia. It is more of a tourist zone, with lots of beaches lined with sunbeds and tavernas. The main strip in Lassi reminds me a little of Bali, Indonesia with its mini-markets and café shopfronts up to the road. The traffic is a little hectic and there are people walking everywhere with their beach floaties and towels. We found getting to the beach at 8am and eating dinner around 5pm meant we avoided the mad rush of people and we overall really enjoyed this little town.
Kalamia Beach – We noticed this beach as we were driving in as it has a beautiful limestone wall with caves and turquoise blue water. It has a small taverna bar and sunbeds. I recommend getting here early because it gets busy by midday.
Platos Gialos – The ‘little sister’ to Makris Gialos and a really nice place for a swim with warm and clear water and a (small) café nearby. Sunbeds and umbrellas are free until 10am when they then cost 7 euro for a set. Small black fish do nibble you here FYI
Cute unnamed cove on Fanari Road – There are plenty of coves and small beaches scattered all around the Island but we walked down to this little bay on the first night and came back a few times as it was always empty and so pretty at sundown.
Other well-known beaches in the area are White Rocks which you can access via boat and Costa Costa which is a huge tourist zone with water sports and a beach lined with sunbeds. (Would recommend getting there really early as the carpark was always overflowing by midday.)
Favourite Places to Eat:
Oskars Creative Cuisine – A fine dining restaurant located at our accomodation, a little pricey but definitely worth visiting. Authentic Greek food, a little on the small side but really, really yummy!
Tzogias Taverna –Low key dining in a cute setting with checked tablecloths and a little area out the back for kids with a trampoline and some toys. The food is cheap and delicious. –We ate here more than once. Complimentary dessert was a slice of the smoothest, most amazing cheesecake any of us had ever eaten and they gave the kids a scoop of icecream with a sparkler on top. Definitely a spot to visit.
Things To Do:
I would recommend one or two day trips to Argostoli (the Capital) for some of the best and cheapest shopping – think cowrie shells, ceramics and leather sandals. There are also some really great food options here such as ‘Premier’ for the best homemade gelato and ‘Old Plaka’ for authentic Greek cuisine. In the morning you can also see turtles down by the fishing boats in the harbour if you’re lucky and see some of the huge cruise ships come into dock.
WEEK TWO: AGIA EFFIMIA
We were really looking forward to our time here as this quaint harbour town is situated in the middle of the island with easy access to lots of points of interest. The drive from LASSI to AGIA EFFIMIA is 50 minutes and it’s a very picturesque drive through the mountains. We spent 10 days here and it was easily enough time to explore the area with a few lazy, relaxing days inbetween. Agia Effimia has some of the most beautiful bays we have seen and was a favourite of our whole trip.
Where we stayed: Faos Luxury Apartments – 10 nights at $3270 AUD for a 3 bedroom apartment. Our host Apostolos was incredible and definitely made our stay as memorable as it was. Whenever we ask Archer where his favourite place was on the holiday, he says “with Apostolos.” http://www.faosluxuryapartments.com
Nici Beach – A short drive up the coast between Agia Effimia and Sami you will find both Ellinika Beach and Nici Beach (find on google maps). Both these spots are accessible from the road but get there early to get a spot to park on the side of the road. They are only small bays with white pebbles but absolutely stunning and the perfect spot to float. Drive even further up the road to find Agia Paraskevi Beach where you can hire sunbeds on the grass under the trees and enjoy clear turquoise water to swim in.
Antisamos – Take a 25 minute drive through the town of SAMI and through the greenest part of the island with towering pine trees to the beautiful bay of Antisamos. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Kefalonia, with smooth, white pebbles that look like they’ve been placed there and cypress trees almost reaching the ocean. The water is crystal clear and it’s a great place to snorkel with lots of fish to be seen. We got there early to find our perfect spot on the rocks but most of the beach is lined with sunbeds for hire. It also has a taverna.
Fteri Beach – A little more difficult to get to but worth it without a doubt. You can reach Fteri by water taxi but first it’s a 30 minute drive through winding roads to Agia Kiriaki. On this route you can also pass Myrtos Beach, the most famous beach on the island. The view from above is quite amazing but it’s a little drive to get to the beach itself on the bottom. Agia Kiriaki is home to a few other beautiful beaches such as Vouti. The water taxi to Fteri can be found at Agia Kiriaki harbour and is 15 euro return for adults. Kids are free. They run from 9.30am every day and every half hour or so. You just let them know what time you wish to be picked up. We stayed for a few hours. The taxi driver showed us a few little secret (not so) spots on the way to Fteri too and the kids loved the boat. Fteri Beach is surrounded by white cliffs and (again) gorgeous turquoise water and white pebbles. We found the pebbles were a bit harder on the toes here so wore our reef shoes.
Favourite Places To Eat:
B & B Cafe– I was recommended this café by an IG follower and am so glad they did. Although they were recommending the cafe’s homemade gelato, we discovered they also make the most delicious pizza, pasta and salads. One of the few Italian cafes in the area, the food here is so good we dined in and got take out two more times ha!
Sea Rock Cafe – A MUST! This restaurant is a little further up from the main strip but it was well worth the light stroll to get there. We only had the appertizers as the mains were a tad expensive (we went for lunch) but gosh they were good! The best honey and sesame Saganaki we tasted as well as a variety of creative dishes. Our only regret was not going back for dinner to try the mains.
Pergola – Loved this authentic dining experience just a few minutes from our accomodation. The service and food was impeccable and the views from upstairs are breathtaking.
Along the harbour you will find restaurant after restaurant and they all serve reasonably priced Greek cuisine. We tried a few different places and were always pretty satisfied with the food. Think Greek salads, Moussaka, fried cheese, olives etc.
Things To Do:
DAY TRIP TO ITHACA/ITHAKI
Neighbouring island Ithaca, known as the home of Odysseus in Greek mythology, is only a short ferry ride away and you can take the car too so we decided to do a day trip over. For two cars and 7 people the ferry cost just under $100 Australian. When we first got to the island we had no clue which way to go so we followed the cars infront ha! We ended up driving to the area of Stavros first then out to Polis Bay which was really beautiful and looked quite popular with boats. Then we headed to up to Frikes which is a small harbour town and quite idyllic with some beautiful old buildings and souvenir shops. Next up was Vathy, the main attraction in Ithaca, a stunning harbour town with restaurants along the waterfront and plenty of unique shops full of treasures. Parking wasn’t the best in Vathy so I would recommend going in the morning to find a spot. We got there around lunch time and parked in a pretty terrible parking area but it was right in town. We had lunch at one of the many restaurants along the water and then did some shopping. ‘Nostalgia’ was a gem of a store where I found some gorgeous ceramic treasures to bring home.
We then headed to another popular beach on the island called Filliatro Beach. Sunbeds and umbrellas were a little more expensive here, 15 euro a set. We found a little spot away from the crowds on the pebbles and the kids had a little swim and run around. The beach also has its own cafe, some lawn games, Olive trees up to the water and swings hanging from the tree branches. Back to the ferry at 4pm and after a full day in Ithaca, it felt like we only just touched the sides. You could easily spend a night or two exploring this quaint Island.
One of my favourite activities we did was hiring a little boat from Yellow Boats Kefalonia and taking it for a spin for the day. None of us had ever driven a boat before but after a quick 45 minute lesson, Tye was named captain and we were safe to steer away from the harbour and into the open ocean. With a map, an esky and some beach towels we were on our way up the coast towards Fiskardo and stopping at bays along the way. The clear turquoise water of these bays has to be seen to be believed and we enjoyed every moment swimming in that beautiful blue. We saw plenty of fishies as we stopped at multiple little bays long the coast and the views of Ithaca from the boat were remarkable. It cost 130 euro for the day to hire a 7 seater boat plus fuel which ended up being 25 euro at the end of the day. If there’s one thing you should do, its definitely this!
ROAD-TRIP TO LIXOURI
We wanted to see a little more of the Island and as Agia Effimia is basically in the middle we decided to set off one day to see as much as we could. We decided to head down the West part of the island and see some of the popular sites. Starting with Myrtos Beach which we only viewed from the top and a pit stop at Myrtillo Cafe for the best coffee on the island – you can’t miss this cute yellow building on the way to Myrtos. We then headed to Agia Kiriaki to suss out the water taxi situation for Fteri Beach (which we ended up coming back for a few days later) and spent an hour or so at nearby Vouti Beach.
After lunch at the Fishermans Hut in Kiriaki, we then drove further down the island to Petani Beach. Similar to Myrtos Beach, its viewable from up high and then a long winding road will take you to the car park at the beach. It’s beautiful; lush, turquoise and quite reminiscent of beaches we have seen in Bali, Indonesia.
We then drove on down to Lixouri which is quite a pretty little town with interesting coloured buildings and bunting hanging over the roads throughout the town. We headed to the very popular Xi Beach, renowned for its red sand. The closer we got to the beach we suddenly realised we were in a very different part of the island. Big modern hotels close to the ocean were full of tourists and there were people all over the roads. We could already tell it wasn’t the relaxed vibe we had experienced from other parts of the island and it was even more of a tourist zone than Lassi. We wandered down to the ocean and it was PACKED. Having got there late in the afternoon, all the sunbeds were full of holiday makers roasting like lobsters in the sun, the sand looked like a work site with huge holes kids had dug and the ocean was covered in inflatable slides, donuts and jet skis. This beach was definitely not our vibe but after a few hours of being in the car we decided to try to make the most of it anyway. Safe to say the kids loved the sand and Iggy is adamant Xi Beach was her favourite. This beach also has clay rock walls so you can give yourself a natural clay mask by rubbing it onto your skin and letting it dry, probably my favourite aspect about it. We stayed for a little while before setting off on the hour drive back home to our peaceful little home in Agia Effimia.
WEEK THREE: FISKARDO
Last of our places to stay in Kefalonia was Fiskardo, situated at the most northern point of the island. A well known hot spot for celebrities and the most expensive area on the island, Fiskardo is a town full of colourful buildings, a sailors’ paradise and the only town not destroyed by the 1953 earthquake. The drive from Agia Effimia was roughly 40 minutes and was a mix of incredible–mouth dropping–coastal views and then through the hills. We also got to drive past some really old towns (one of which ended up being our favourite). There is a large parking area at the start of the town for tourists which was always quite full so if you were to go in the peak period, it would be likely you would struggle for a spot and have to park much further away. The harbour is packed with sail boats that anchor right up to the restaurants on the waterfront, so while you are dining during the day/ at night, you are likely to be conversing with fellows on their yachts. The village is full of beautiful shops (far more dear than anywhere else on the island) but definitely a place you will find some treasures.
Halfway between Agia Effimia and Fiskardo sits the most beautiful village on the island ASOS and we stopped here on our way to the top of Kefalonia. It’s a long windy drive down to the town and the parking is limited but everywhere you look is like a postcard and very much worth the visit. The remains of a castle built by the Venetian army in the 15th century to protect the village from pirate raids is accessible to tourists if you’re keen for a steep walk.
Where we stayed: AIRBNB, Our Dream House, Fiskardo. 7 nights for $2700 for 3 bedroom house. We booked only 4 months in advance and were very lucky to find this house still available at the time as everything else was booked out. The house was in the most perfect location, a short 5 minute stroll to the town and a 1 minute walk across the road to a private concrete pad by the ocean. We often jumped into the sea here and then floated down to the beach further down the road. The house is old and has its quirks but we loved the patio with ocean views and the kids loved the friendly kittens that came every morning.
Favourite Places to Eat:
Picnic: Not in Fiskardo town but a short drive in Magganos, this place is an absolute gem. We saw it on our drive in and it was packed and for good reason. We stopped in after the beach one day and were lucky to squeeze in for brunch. We decided to come back another day for dinner and it was easily some of the best food we had on the island, a MUST!
Acqua Alaties Beach: A little cafe that sits next to our favourite beach near Fiskardo, serving delicious food and drink. Add this one to your list.
Roulas Grill: A nice place to sit on the waterfront, very busy, a little more pricey but worth the visit if you want delicious food.
Lagoudera: Cheap and tasty good Greek cuisine. We often ordered takeout from here, 2.50 euro gyros for the win!
Nicolas’ Taverna: This taverna sits on the opposite side of the harbour so has wonderful views of the village and boats. It also boasts the cutest vintage kids’ playground and offer reasonably priced authentic Greek cuisine.
Alaties beach : Easily one of our favourite beaches on the island and just a short drive from Fiskardo town. I’m so glad I stumbled across a photo of this beach on a youtube video of Kefalonia otherwise we definitely would’ve missed this gem. It reminds me a lot of the Aquarium in WA, a small inlet with clear turquoise water. I recommend getting there early as it’s only small and spots on the pebble beach fill up fast. Take some shoes and go walking up the rocks for some interesting moon-like formations and have breakfast/lunch at the cafe next door.
Foki Beach: Another beautiful beach in Fiskardo is Foki, with olive trees that lead down to the water and lush vegetation on either side of the bay. A beautiful spot to spend the day with plenty of shade under the trees and a cafe nearby for a bite to eat.