Touring in the Ionian islands: Cephalonia

Lake Melissani on Kefalonia island4th stop: Cephalonia island

The island of Cephalonia, also known as Kefalonia, is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece. The capital of Cephalonia is Argostoli.

Map of Cephalonia, click to enlargeThe size of the island is around 780 kmwith 55 people per km2. The town of Argostoli has one-third of the island’s inhabitants. Lixouri is the second largest town, and the two together account for almost two-thirds of the population.

Cephalonia is right in the middle of an earthquake zone, and dozens of minor or unrecorded tremors occur each year. In 1953, a massive earthquake almost destroyed all settlement on the island, leaving only Fiscardo in the north untouched.
Among important natural features are the Melissani and the Drogarati caves.

Assos peninsula, CephaloniaArgostoli and Lixouri from the mountains of KefaloniaKefalonia, view from AssosIonian Sea view from the Monastery of Kipoureon

Mountains

The island is quite mountainous with no less than four great mountains of which the highest is Mount Ainos, with an elevation of 1628m; to the west-northwest are the Paliki mountains, where Lixouri is to be found, with other mountains including Gerania and Agia Dynati. The top of Mount Ainos is covered with Abies cephalonica trees and is a natural park.

Agia Dynati, the second highest mountain on KefaloniaA view from the village of Assos in KefaloniaPaliki peninsula near Lixouri, CephaloniaPhoto left: Mount Agia Dynati, the second highest mountain on Cephalonia Photo middle: A view from the village on Assos peninsula – Photo by Chloë Chapman, London  Photo right: Aerial view of Paliki peninsula  Photo below: Mount Ainos, the highest mountain on Cephalonia
 
Mount Ainos, the higest mountain in Cephalonia

Transportation

There are five harbours and ports in the prefecture of Cephalonia: four main harbours on the island, Same (the third largest town) is a major port with links to Patras and Ithaca. Poros, in the south, has ferry routes to Kyllini; Argostoli, in the west, is the largest port, for local boats and ferries to Zante and regularly to Lixouri; Fiscardo, in the north, has links to Lefkas and Ithaca. There is room for about 100 small boats in Argostoli, where the port stretches 1 kilometre around the bay, while Lixouri is situated 4 km across the bay from Argostoli, on the Lixouri peninsula. There is a road connection to the rest of the island, but driving from Lixouri to Argostoli involves a 30 km detour.

Kefalonia airport

Kefalonia Island International Airport, with a runway around 2.4 km. in length, is located about 10 km south of Argostoli. Almost every scheduled flight is flying mainly to and from Athens, although there is an Ionian Island Hopper www.airsealines.com service 3 times a week calling at Cephalonia, Zante and Lefkas. In summer the airport handles a number of charter flights from all of Europe as well.

View of Argostoli, the capital of CephaloniaLixouri, port and square, KefaloniaView of Fiskardo habour, CephaloniaFiskardo, Kefalonia

Wildlife

Cephalonia is well known for its endangered loggerhead turtle population which nest at Kaminia beach under the watchful protection of the Sea Turtle Protection society.

Kefalonia horsesPoppy field on KefaloniaLoggerhead sea turtle, KefaloniaA view down to Myrtos beach, Kefalonia

Beaches

The island is covered by dense vegetation and offers a great range of natural beauty, including beaches—many of them inaccessible from land—and spectacular caves. Myrtos, the most famous of these beaches, is a major attraction, and has been ranked fifth worldwide for its beauty. Fishing is very common throughout the waters within and around the island, and the harbours of Argostoli and Lixouri are the main fishing centres. Overfishing is a problem not only in Cephalonia, but in the Ionian Sea generally, because of industrial fishing.

a beach on CephaloniaView from a taverna at Myrtos beach, KefaloniaPetani Beach, KefaloniaMyrtos Beach, Kefalonia

Cephalonia is a popular vacation destination for tourists from all of the world, but especially the Italians honour the island, due to its close proximity to Italy. As one of the largest islands in Greece, it is well-equipped to handle the influx of tourists during the summertime. Cephalonia has something to offer everyone. Two natural attractions, Melissani’s underground lake and Myrtos beach, have helped making Cephalonia a popular vacation destination. The film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, shot on the island in 2001, made Cephalonia more widely known.

Sights on Cephalonia

Argostoli Pharos, CephaloniaDrogarati cave with stalactite on KefaloniaBell tower of the Monastery of Agios GerassimosVenetian castle of Agios GeorgiosExcavations from Melissani. Today in the Archaeological Museum of ArgostoliLake Melissani, KefaloniaChamber tomb in Lakithra

Museums in Cephalonia

  • Korgialeneios Museum (under the Korgialeneios Library) in Argostoli
  • Kosmetatos Foundation in Argostoli
  • Archaeological Museum in Argostoli
  • Iakovatios-Library in Lixouri
  • Museum in Fiscardo


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