With its windless beaches, verdant mountainsides and shadowy forests, Cephalonia is easily one of Greece's most enchanting islands. Nature and history lovers will not be disappointed.
Assos, Cephalonia © Ulrike Wegner
Melissani caves are Cephalonia's best-known natural attraction, where a subterranean lake reflects a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colours. Other favourites are the enormous caverns of Dragostoli, and the 'swallow holes'. At the latter, visitors can marvel at the phenomenon of seawater literally disappearing through the rock.
The beautiful city of Argostoli has been the island's capital since ancient times. Though largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, it has some fascinating archaeological remains and folk art museums. The island's main town, Lixouri, is peaceful and picturesque. It's situated close to the south coast, where visitors will find the best beaches.
Cephalonia's quaint villages, traditional fishing harbours, Roman ruins, architecturally marvellous churches and castles, and magnificent views are also part of the experience.
Ithaca © legge_e_mare
IthacaThe tiny island of Ithaca has a rich history, acting as the scenic backdrop for mythological epics like Homer's Odyssey. Ithaca has been inhabited since the second millennium BC and has been occupied or ruled by the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Normans, the Turks, the Venetians and the French, as well as briefly being a British protectorate, so the island has a rich and rather tumultuous history. But you would not think so when exploring the lovely countryside: the mountainous interior hides pockets of cypresses, pines, and olive trees and some of these are ancient; one of the olive trees is thought to be at least 1,500 years old. There are also some Neolithic and Early Hellenic ruins on the island. Nowadays, Ithaca is home to a number of traditional villages, with a few museums and beaches. The best beach is arguably Filiatro, which has olive trees growing all the way down to the shoreline and a peaceful bay which is lovely for swimming. Vathy, also known as Ithaki Town, is the largest town, where many of the island's roughly 3,000 inhabitants live. The town is a popular port for yachts and other small pleasure cruises in the Ionian Islands, and has some good restaurants and shops. In fact, Vathy has one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Ithaca is near enough to Cephalonia to make for a fun and interesting excursion or weekend away.
Melissani Cave © Matt Sims
Melissani and Drogarati CavesCephalonia's caves are popular attractions, each offering a unique experience. In Melissani, visitors are taken in boats through a small channel into a brilliant turquoise subterranean lake. In Greek mythology caves have always been associated with the divine and many religious ceremonies were held in caves. It is therefore not surprising that several ancient artefacts have been found in the Melissani cave. Melissani is said to be the place where the nymph of the same name committed suicide because the god Pan would not reciprocate her love. The stalactites within the cave that look like dolphins are said to be her frozen messengers. It is a beautiful and mysterious place to visit. Drogarati Cave is much larger and has tours 200 feet (60m) below the ground, with lights highlighting spectacular displays of limestone stalagmites and stalactites. The Drogarati Cave is thought to be about 150 million years old and was traditionally said to be the home of a dragon. Drogarati is known for its good acoustics, and has hosted many concerts from international artists including Maria Callas. The caves are usually both open between Easter and the end of October, although Drogarati may be open during the winter months as well. Both are very well known and easy to find.
Myrtos Beach © Rob Bendall
Myrtos BeachVoted one of Europe's most beautiful beaches, and voted 12 times as the most beautiful beach in Greece, Myrtos is one of Cephalonia's most popular attractions. The pebble beach is set a full kilometre below the road, in a dramatic vista of white limestone, turquoise sea, and green trees. The beach was used as the setting for scenes out of the movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Just north of Argostoli, the beach is well-maintained and offers a snack bar and sunbed and umbrella rentals. A steep, winding road - with stunning lookout spots and views along the way - leads down to the beach from the village of Divarata and during peak season there is a public bus service which runs to the beach from the Agia Efimia harbour. Because of the pebbles, visitors are advised to wear some kind of beach shoes. It's best to get to the beach early if you are driving yourself as it is very popular and parking can become scarce later in the day. Thankfully, the beach itself seldom feels too crowded because of its length. It is not the best beach for young children because the waves can get rather rough and little ones are sometimes frustrated by the pebbles.