The biggest Greek island in the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia (sometimes spelled Cephalonia) is a paradise filled with stunning Mediterranean beaches, ancient sites, and seaside villages. Though Kefalonia has plenty to do, this island tends to be less popular than its more famous counterparts.
Since most travelers are booking tickets to Santorini or Mykonos, or similarly iconic destinations on the Aegean Sea side of Greece, you won’t face nearly as many crowds in Kefalonia, which lies on the west of the mainland, in the Ionian Sea.
Make no mistake: you’ll still be blessed with mesmerizing ocean views, crumbling ruins, and local hospitality that the Greek islands are famous for, but you can expect a little more space and fewer tourist traps to leave your pockets hurting.
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Best Things to Do in Kefalonia, Greece
1. Tour the island
Kefalonia is significantly bigger than other Greek islands, so one of the best ways to see the majority of its wonders is with an organized tour. There are several boat and bus tours in operation that take guests to various points of the island.
This Kefalonia: Island Bus Tour With Wine Tasting travels to the Melissani and Drogarati Caves, Fiscardo Village, Robola Winery, and Myrtos Beach, however, you can also find other tours that visit other hotspots. Similarly, this Island Highlights bus tour visits multiple top destinations on the island within the space of a day.
2. Take a photo at the Lighthouse of St. Theodoroi
Let’s face it: Most of us can’t visit a new destination without snapping a photo for social media. Kefalonia offers some of the best Instagram-worthy spots, one of the greatest being the Lighthouse of St. Theodoroi.
The historical landmark is located in the village of Argostoli, towards the west of the island. The circular white structure is nearly 200 years old, but the white columns are reminiscent of the ancient architecture for which Greece is known.
3. Visit Castles
The history of Kefalonia dates back to antiquity, with some historians positing that the island may actually be the true location of Ithaca, the famous home of Homer’s hero Odysseus. After playing a prominent role in Greek mythology, Kefalonia was part of the late Roman Empire in the Middle Ages before going on to be ruled by the Ottomans, the Venetians, the French, and the British. So naturally, it’s a history lover’s dream, and if you’re interested in getting to know the island’s history, a visit to the castles is a must.
Assos Castle, which once served as a Venetian fortification, is the island’s most prominent castle, overlooking the bay of Agia Kyriaki. It’s open every day for free, so it’s also a great attraction to visit if you’re traveling on a budget.
The Castle of St. George in Peratata village is also well worth a visit. Archeologists have traced its origins back to the 12th century when it was constructed during the Byzantine rule before serving the Venetians.
4. Stroll down Lithostroto Street
Shopping is another great activity to do in Kefalonia, and one of the best and most scenic places to do it is Lithostroto Street in Argostoli. Forming the central area of the town, the street is home to an array of restaurants and shops, offering the perfect opportunity to pick up a souvenir or two and grab a bite of authentic local fare.
At the end of the street, you’ll find Kampanas Square, home to the island’s most iconic bell tower. The square marks the site where the course of history was changed in Kefalonia; it was here that democratic French troops marched onto the island and took the island from the Venetians, propelling society from aristocratic to democratic.
5. Discover the caves
Kefalonia is also well-known for its geographical wonders. The most circulated photos of the island show the sublime Melissani and Drogarati Caves, which should definitely be on your bucket list. There are several tours operating on the island which include visits to one or both of the caves, but you can also visit on your own.
Melissani is located to the northwest of Sami village, and is easily recognizable for its turquoise lake and lush greenery (which exist inside the cave), while the Drogarati Cave nearby features other-worldly stalactites and stalagmites. You can visit both for 10 EUR.
6. Explore Mount Ainos National Park
National parks might not be what you’re imagining when you think of the Greek islands, but this one is definitely worth allocating some time to. The park features the highest point on the island, plus three other mountains, and is home to fascinating local flora and fauna.
Look out for the semi-wild Ainos ponies, which roam the park amongst foxes, hedgehogs, weasels, badgers, and bats. There are also several species of picturesque wildflowers, including rare orchid species that are native to the Ionian islands.
7. Enjoy the Beaches
It’s easy to see why Greece is famous for its beaches. The Kefalonia coastline is characterized by clear blue water, white rocky sand, and sunsets to die for. There are over 40 beaches on the island in total, but one of the best ones to visit is Myrtos in the island’s north, which is nestled in a bay below soaring cliffs.
Other beaches to consider visiting include Foki and Emblisi, which are located close to the fishing village of Fiscardo.
8. Partake in water sports
If you’re on the island to relax, just lying in the sun on the beach will be enough (the views are certainly satisfying all on their own!). But if you’re up for a bit of adventure, there are various water sports to enjoy in Kefalonia.
Take your pick from sea canoeing, sailing and boating, scuba diving, waterboarding, and jet skiing. The calm, clear waters also mean that Kefalonia is a great destination for snorkeling. Myrtos is a wonderful snorkeling beach, but you could also try Lagadakia in the Paliki region, which is known to be home to various species of marine life.
Why is Kefalonia so popular?
Kefalonia is steadily growing in popularity, in part, because travelers are becoming more conscious of the “second city travel” mindset and avoiding the tourist hotspots. More people are looking to discover far-flung destinations off the beaten track, and Kefalonia isn’t on the global stage the way that Santorini or Ios are. Travelers are realizing that they can soak up the same stunning views and enthralling island culture without having to contend with crowds and over-the-top prices.
How do you get to Kefalonia?
In true Greek island style, the most iconic way to get to Kefalonia is by ferry. Ferries depart for Kefalonia from the mainland Greek ports of Kyllini and Patras, in the country’s west. You can also catch a ferry from the Italian port of Bari in the Apulian region, as well as from other Greek islands, including Ithaka and Corfu.
You can also fly to Kefalonia, landing at Kefalonia International Airport, from Athens and a number of other European cities.
It is generally better to take a ferry if you have enough time, as you’ll get the true experience of Mediterranean sea travel. However, flying is quicker if you don’t have a lot of time.
Is Kefalonia friendly?
The Greeks are known for their hospitality, and Kefalonia is one of the best places to experience this. Mediterranean culture is warm, welcoming, and friendly by nature, but Kefalonia tends to be friendlier than other Greek destinations because locals aren’t completely overwhelmed by masses of tourists.
What is Kefalonia best known for?
Kefalonia is best known for the Melissani Cave, which features its own crystalline lake and even lets in sunlight through a hole in the natural roof. The cave is a must-visit while on the island! You can enter the cave via walking an underground path, and then hop in a boat to take a tour of the area.
How many days in Kefalonia is enough?
Because Kefalonia is one of the biggest Greek islands and is home to an abundance of things to see and do, three days is a good amount of time to stay. You can, of course, stay for longer and follow a more relaxed itinerary, particularly if you want to factor in a few days of lounging on the beach and splashing in the ocean.
What is the best time to go to Kefalonia?
The best time to go to Kefalonia is between April and June, preferably closer to June, and in September and October. These shoulder periods are typically less busy than the summer high season, but still generally offer pleasant and mild weather.
If you don’t mind traveling during peak season, then July and August are typically hot and ideal for beach days, but it might get a little too balmy for sightseeing and exploring the island.
What is there to do in Kefalonia at night?
Along with its cultural and natural attractions, Kefalonia is also home to a variety of bars and restaurants. Generally found in the villages and near the coastline, these typically come with spectacular views of the ocean.
The nightlife establishments are generally relaxed and laid-back, so you won’t find as much of a party vibe as you would in Corfu or Paros. Instead, there’s a mixture of beach clubs, cocktail bars, and restaurants with terraces where you can idle the night away sipping wine and basking in the sea breeze.
Is Kefalonia expensive to visit?
Kefalonia has both expensive and affordable options when it comes to accommodation and food, so it’s possible to visit the island on a budget. Generally, it is cheaper overall than the more popular Greek islands because there isn’t relentless demand pushing up the prices. However, it’s also not your typical “cheap” vacation destination.
Mid-range accommodation will set you back around $100 USD per night, but there are more lavish options available for those looking to splurge on resort-style establishments.
Is the Melissani Cave free?
Unfortunately, the Melissani Cave is not free to visit, as you will need to take a boat to fully access the cave. However, entrance to the cave only costs €7 euro (at the time of writing) and children can enter at a discounted price. The entry fee includes the boat ride, which lasts for around 15 minutes.
Kefalonia is a great alternative to more well-known Greek islands, offering all of the Mediterranean splendor and scenic beauty without the crowds and clichés. Be sure to add the above attractions and things to do to your Kefalonia bucket list!
Guest Author: Lewis Ogden is a UK-based entrepreneur, travel enthusiast, dad, husband, and the founder and owner of WayToStay.com. Lewis started WayToStay to share his own travel experiences and provide epic free travel guides. He caught the travel bug back in 2009 on a trip to Italy with his wife and has visited many different countries each year since.
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