Kefalonia Greece is the biggest of the Ionian islands, lush, green and mountainous with a laidback lifestyle. And the Kefalonia beaches are famous for their sandy shores and turquoise sea. We explored the best places to stay in Kefalonia and got expert tips on fun Kefalonia things to do.
I travelled to Kefalonia in October with Ionian Villas. It was a great opportunity to see the island at a quiet time after the bustle of high season. I also got the chance to chat to some real Kefalonia experts who’ve spent years on the island. So I’ve some great insider tips and recommendations for things to do in Kefalonia in this post.
Kefalonia is the biggest of the Ionian islands that lie off the west coast of Greece. You’ll find mountain ranges, picturesque villages and beaches on Kefalonia to suit all tastes: from hidden coves to busy bays. We discovered some lovely places to stay in Kefalonia in both the north and south of the island. In fact it’s big enough to plan a 2-centre stay for an unforgettable Kefalonia holiday.
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How to get to Kefalonia
One of the bonuses of a holiday in Kefalonia, unlike many Greek islands, is that you can fly direct from London. From May to mid-October regular flights leave Gatwick and Stansted in London. Whilst several low-cost carriers also offer direct flights from regional airports like Bristol and Manchester too. My friend Fiona and I left our families at home and flew from London Gatwick. In less than three and a half hours we’d landed at Kefalonia’s international airport, just outside the capital of Argostoli.
After the hangar-like spaces of Gatwick, Kefalonia airport is delightfully compact. Off the plane, into the luggage hall and out into the bright blue sky, it’s as simple as that. Our car hire office was a quick suitcase-trundle around the corner. And they let us change into our shorts behind a cupboard too! Then we were off, with the nose of our Fiat Panda pointing north towards the mountains.
Getting Around Kefalonia
Kefalonia, also known as Cephalonia, is a big island, smaller than Crete but larger than Corfu. You could cross the island and back in a day, but a two centre holiday will reduce the driving if you’re keen to see lots of sights.
The airport is near Argostoli, the capital of the island, on the south west coast. If you’ve decided to base your Kefalonia holidays in the south, you may only need to drive 15 or 20 minutes from the airport. Golden beaches await in Lassi just north of Argostoli whilst quieter coves lie along the coast to the east.
If you head north, the road to Fiscardo up on the north east is straight and easy to drive. That’s not to say it’s a motorway, or even an A road, and it still takes an hour and a half to cover 49km. But it swings easily through some stunning mountain scenery and every now and then you’ll want to pull over to jump out and gawp at a wonderful sea view.
Or stop and wait for a herd of goats to shuffle out of the middle of the road.
Things to do in Kefalonia
One of the most popular things to do in Kefalonia is explore the island! As we stayed in three different villas during our visit we had the chance to travel around. So we discovered places to go and things to do in Kefalonia both north and south.
North Kefalonia Holidays
Our first port of call was the harbourside village of Fiscardo on the northern most tip of the island.
Fiscardo in October is a quintessential sleepy Greek island harbour. Candy-coloured Venetian style houses cluster around the quayside. Painted wooden boats bob and jostle at their moorings. An old man and a young boy drop lines into the water and pull out little silver fish that flicker in the sunlight.
It’s a very different tempo in high summer when mega yachts moor up and a cosmopolitan crowd throngs the little port. But in autumn the pace is mellow and relaxing. We loved drinking coffees at the water’s edge, exploring little alleyways decked in bourgainvillea and browsing the boutiques.
Try supper at Roulas on the harbourside where we had the best saganaki of the week as well as delicious stuffed tomatoes and moussaka.
From the Middle Ages, Kefalonia was seen as a valuable strategic base in the Mediterranean. And over the years the island had many different rulers including Turkish, Spanish and French. But it was the Venetians who influenced the architecture of the Ionian islands and also planted all those olive trees!
Fiscardo is one of the few villages to retain its original Venetian style architecture after a devastating earthquake in 1953. Kefalonia does experience occasional tremors as do other parts of Greece, Italy and Turkey and these days buildings in Greece are designed to withstand earthquakes.
After strolling around the village our top priority was to explore the Fiscardo beaches. Just a minute or two’s walk from the harbour, we found a tiny cove with shingle and some shady trees.
The next Fiscardo beach we tried was Emblisi, pebbly again with warm, clear, calm waters perfect for swimming or snorkelling. Angled rocks around the cove seem specially designed to lie on when you want to dry in the sun! And we loved the little snack bar at the back of the beach who were happy to customise our hot chocolates with shots of Metaxa!
Another famous Fiscardo beach is Alaties which lies about 9 km away. It’s a little sheltered cove with fine shingle and rock pools where salt was once dried and collected. Dafnoudi, a 15 minute walk through olive groves from Antipata, is another secluded find.
Visit Assos Kefalonia
After our stay in Fiscardo we headed south, planning to stop and explore a village 20 km away on the west coast. We’d heard a lot about Assos Kefalonia and we weren’t disappointed. The little car park was full but the waterside village was quiet and serene.
We sat in the sunshine at the water’s edge looking out over the pretty, almost circular bay. Salad with a hunk of feta, olives, a beer, traditional music wafting out of a taverna kitchen: it was the perfect Greek island afternoon. Up on the hillside, thickly wooded with pine and cypress, are the remains of a 15th century Venetian castle. Friends tell me it’s a lovely walk up, with fabulous views.
See Myrtos Beach
The biggest name beach on Kefalonia is world-famous Myrtos. A silverly curve of sand and pebbles, it is lapped by the bluest of blue Ionian seas and sheltered by steep cliffs. It’s a long way down to the beach so best to make a day of it, though strong currents mean it’s not the best for families. Or simply pull over at the stopping place on the coast road and drink in that breathtaking view.
South of Myrtos lies Agia Kyriaki bay, another fabulous Kefalonia beach. This is a long shingly strand with umbrellas, sunbeds and a taverna with a good reputation. It’s one of the less well-known beaches on Kefalonia, accessible from both Argostoli and Lixouri. Good place to watch the sunset too.
Holidays in Kefalonia: east coast
On the east side of the island the town of Sami is the second largest port after Argostoli. But it is Antisamos bay nearby that’s the real star. You’ll spot this famous Kefalonia beach in the film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It has that signature eye-catching combo of lush green hillsides, pale pebbles and azure water.
Sami is also a good base from which to see the Melissani underground lake and the Drogarati caves. These are both very popular things to do on Kefalonia.
The middle of the day is a good time to visit Melissani. You can take a short boat ride onto the lake as sunlight streams in through an opening in the roof of the cavern.
Nearby, the Drogarati caves have stalagmites, stalactites and such good acoustics that concerts are held there.
Kefalonia holidays: south west coast
After Fiscardo we drove down to the twisty lanes and olive groves of the south west coast. You need a car if you’re staying around here as the villages are small and the roads can be steep. Road signs are charmingly rare too so find a good driving map rather than relying entirely on GPS.
Our local village in these parts was Spartia. It has two little supermarkets and the family run taverna Cavo Liakas. We had a couple of fun evenings here, especially when we discovered its links to our favourite shop in Argostoli. The menu offers traditional taverna food with some contemporary Mediterranean twists. We loved the homemade lemon geranium scented wine – a delicious end to a meal and you can buy a pretty bottle to take home too!
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THE IONIAN ISLANDS OF GREECE
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Shopping in Argostoli
Argostoli, the capital of Kefalonia, has an unexpectedly grand pedestrianised street of shops and bars called Lithostroto. It has stylish boutiques amongst the usual run of souvenir shops.
In one little gift shop, Alegria, on a side street leading down to the port we discovered the owners had also been in Cavo Liakas in Spartia the night before. In fact they are family. What are the chances? Well, given that Kefalonia is an island I suppose they are higher than average. But still, happy little connections like these are part of the fun of a Kefalonia holiday.
Alegria has a lovely mix of affordable gifts, souvenirs, holiday clothes and accessories whilst sourcing as many products as possible from Greece.
During the summer endangered loggerhead sea turtles nest on the narrow beaches south of Argostoli. They also gather in the warm waters of the Koutavos lagoon which adjoins Argostoli harbour.
They’re quite easy to spot here in the mornings when the local fishermen unload their catches and clean their nets. Volunteer patrol teams from Wildlife Sense monitor the nesting beaches and carry out research projects to help protect the turtles. You can find out more about their work here or even volunteer to work with them.
South Coast Beaches in Kefalonia
We spent a day exploring the winding lanes of the south west coast in search of pretty Kefalonia beaches. These are our top picks!
Agios Thomas a tiny cove near Karavados, it has soft sand and an easy entry to the water. Two tavernas overlook the sea so it may well get busy with families in summer.
Trapezaki nearby has a chic white painted taverna and little stone harbour. We didn’t see it at its best because storms had taken away much of the sand. But it’ll be back by Spring the taverna manager reassured us.
Lourdas, a little further east is more developed with a long strip of beach alongside a road lined with restaurants. Importantly it’s a good place to hire boats to explore the coastline and find secluded coves for picnics and swims.
Kanali beach is another quiet stretch of sand at the bottom of a steep but walkable track. It has gorgeous views over the sea and towards Mount Ainos. Soft sand gently slopes into the water which was crystal clear and warm. We found it after a tip-off from the owner of Olivestone villa. Come prepared, with your own snacks and beach umbrellas, as this is a natural beach without facilities.
In calm summer weather you can walk from Kanali to Lithero next door and then on to Trapezaki and even Lourdas.
Skala is a resort town on the south east tip of the island. It has a long stretch of beach with boats to hire to find more secluded coves away from the main tourist zones.
Xi beach which lies south of Lixouri was a top tip from the Kefalonia experts we talked to. It lies on the Paliki peninsula, the little crooked finger of land which juts out from Kefalonia’s west coast. Xi is famous for its reddish brown sand which contains clay. Lots of people use it for DIY face and body masks on the beach as it’s said to have cleansing properties!
Lassi lies between the airport and Argostoli . It’s a little tourist resort with golden sand beaches. We had a last swim at Makris Gialos in Lassi on our way to the airport. A popular hotel overlooks the beach but it wasn’t particularly crowded in October and the sea was warm and clear. In 2019 this beach gained coveted Blue Flag status.
Catch the ferry to Lixouri
Although we didn’t get as far as Xi beach we did take the car ferry to Lixouri from Argostoli. It’s a really simple, cheap and scenic trip. The ferry leaves Argostoli port every half an hour during the season. We didn’t need to book in October and just joined a queue, drove on, then went up on deck to catch the views. The journey takes about 20 minutes.
Where to stay in Kefalonia
When it comes to choosing the best place to stay in Kefalonia, first decide on your priorities. If you’re prepared to go on some day trips you can see quite a lot of Kefalonia in one holiday. Although it is time consuming to drive from one end of the island to another.
Alternatively you could plan to split your time between the north and the south or east coast.
As a rule of thumb, beaches in the north are more pebbly whilst those in the south are sandier. In the north you’ll find pretty Venetian architecture and lively restaurants in Fiscardo, whilst the neighbouring villages are altogether quieter.
To the south of the island are the bigger tourist areas like Lassi and Skala, where you’ll discover more nightlife.
So now all you have to do is choose where to stay: maybe a boutique villa in a fishing village? A spacious hideout away from the crowds? Or a luxury catered stay amongst ancient olive groves? We got the chance to try all three!
Our stay on Kefalonia was hosted by Ionian Villas. This is a two-generation family-run villa company with years of experience on the Ionian Islands. David and Alex Watrous really know their stuff, as do their island representives. Karron Remountos, their Kefalonia manager, even rescued us when we got unfathomably lost in the dark (thanks to Google maps) in the tiny lanes of Klismata. Ionian Villas has a broad portfolio of properties with something for everyone. Here’s an introduction to the three villas we stayed in on Kefalonia.
Villas in Fiscardo
The three Fiscardo Bay Villas sit discreetly on the hillside, in richly planted gardens, overlooking the comings and goings of the village harbour in Fiscardo. It’s a fabulous view to enjoy with your breakfast and is handy for the village but peaceful too. The villas conjure a perfect contemporary Greek island luxury. They’re stylish and understated, with generous sofas to sink into, chic marble bathrooms and immaculate bedrooms. Terraces and plunge pools complete the picture with a friendly attention to detail too. We could have happily pottered from beach to village to villa and back all week. Fiscardo Bay Villas each have 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and sleep 4. Read more about our stay in a luxury Greek villa in Fiscardo.
Villas in southern Kefalonia
Villa Cara, once two separate apartments, is a huge space for family get togethers. A car is essential here as this countryside villa with views of the south coast is very secluded. But hop into the hanging rattan chair on the balcony and gaze across the glimmering Ionian sea to Zakynthos. You’ll hear nothing but birds and the distant dings and dongs of goat bells. Of course, if you forgot to shut the gates the night before, the goats may have joined you in the garden.
It’s perfect peace and quiet in a big no-frills space that sleeps 8. You might not be able to walk to the beach or a bar, but the Visitors book attests to the fact that families love it. They enjoy the expansive garden, big pool and the ground floor living room where teens can play Xbox undisturbed.
Villa Cara is no longer available but Villa Paradiso is a similar size and also near the village of Spartia.
A catered villa in Kefalonia
Olivestone, true to its name, lies on an ancient olive estate. The house has the air of an old Tuscan villa with antique furniture and an Italianate garden around a pool.
What makes it different from pretty much every other villa on Kefalonia is the fact that it is fully catered. The lovely Yolanda and Effie keep the house running like clockwork. No fears of returning from a day’s exploring to heaps of wet towels and nothing in the fridge. Instead you’ll be chatting happily on the candlelit terrace, drink in hand, whilst Yolanda magics up an evening’s feast for the family. This could be just the ticket if you’re looking for a multi-generation stay or somewhere to mark a special birthday or reunion. Olivestone sleeps up to 10 with 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. It also has its own skippered yacht available for private charter. You can read more about our visit here.
Ionian Villas invited me to Kefalonia and hosted my stay on the understanding that I would write an honest and unbiased account of my trip. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
Driving in Kefalonia
I found driving in Kefalonia pretty straightforward, especially as the roads are very quiet in October. Here are a few tips we picked up on the way:
Perhaps it’s obvious but in Greece, unlike the UK, you drive on the right. Less obviously, the give way arrangements at roundabouts are also different to the UK. Drivers who are already on the roundabout give way to traffic entering from the right. Your car hire agent will point this out to you (hopefully) and our road map included a little illustrative diagram. Watch out for the one-way systems in Kefalonia too!
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Roads in Kefalonia are in a mix of conditions with few markings and edges which are often ill-defined. Even on a major road you may round a bend and meet a herd of goats or a small rock fall. The roads become very slippery if wet so be extra cautious and slow right down (though you won’t be going fast anyway). You may occasionally find yourself face to face with a slope more suited to a goat than a motor vehicle. Generally the steeper the hill, the lower the gear, so take it slowly and you should be fine.
Petrol stations all seem to be manned rather than self-service. We spotted one conveniently near the airport too.
Finally when you’re arranging your car hire, check the excess which may be high. I paid an additional sum of approx £25 for excess insurance before I left the UK. It’s cheaper that way than on the island. Ionian Villas can help you with this.
Kefalonia in October
We were a little bit unlucky, everyone said so! The Ionian islands are usually hot and dry from May to September. The weather in Kefalonia had been clear, blue and beautiful for months before we arrived at the beginning of October. And there was wall to wall sunshine on the day we left which stretched on for another couple of weeks. It must have been frustrating for the olive growers who needed some rain. Unfortunately for us the olives lucked out during the week we visited. We experienced some Biblical downpours along with a couple of spectacular thunderstorms. This led to temporary power cuts too.
But in and amongst this, as you’ll see from the photos, we had beautiful sunshine and warm swimming in October in Kefalonia.
And there are several advantages to visiting Kefalonia out of high season. The weather was exactly the temperature I like best. Not frazzlingly hot but warm enough to sit in the sun in a swimsuit. Everywhere was quiet and we could really enjoy picturesque Fiscardo and Assos without the crowds. Bars and restaurants were still open and serving great food. And we found some lovely end of season bargains in the boutiques!
So all in all I would visit Kefalonia in October again, only next time I’ll pack an umbrella!
With thanks for all your helpful advice to Freddy and Hiona Iossif, Lysander Migliaressis, Karen Remountos and David Watrous.
What to pack for Kefalonia
Guide book/ map
Waterproof bag for phone
Please note that all visitor information here is for guidance only. Please check the relevant websites for the most up to date information eg. accommodation details, tickets, entrance requirements, opening times etc.
About the author Nancy Roberts is a former women’s magazine editor and writer. She lives in London and is mum to two 20-something boys. In Map&Family she shares info and inspiration for curious travellers: singles and couples as well as families travelling with teens and young adults.
All photos are all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce these photos without prior written permission. With thanks to David Watrous for the photos of Myrtos in Spring and the Melissani lake.