Last updated on February 19th, 2024 at 07:24 am

The allure of the Ionian Sea is indisputable and our comprehensive Kefalonia Travel Guide is all you need to plan the perfect vacation to the largest of the Ionian Islands, a treasure trove of stunning beaches, natural wonders, lush forests and picturesque towns and villages steeped in history.

Complete with all the practical information you need to plan your trip to Kefalonia, recommendations for the best places to stay in Kefalonia, historical facts about the island, and the best beaches and top things to do in Kefalonia, this guide has everything you need to know about Kefalonia in one place.

Not to mention that our knowledge of Kefalonia is an almost-local one. Blessed with dear friends and their open invitation to visit them in their summer home in Kefalonia, we know the island pretty well. Welcome to our ultimate Kefalonia travel guide!

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Panoramic view of Myrtos beach at sunset. At the end of the winding road that leads to the beach there are a lot of cars parked.
The iconic Myrtos Beach in Kefalonia, a site of outstanding natural beauty

The Ultimate Kefalonia Travel Guide: Travel Resources

Where Is Kefalonia Greece

Kefalonia or Cephalonia is one of the largest Greek islands and the biggest Ionian Island. It’s in the heart of the Ionian Sea, off the coast of the Peloponnese and Western Greece. Similar to the rest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is well-known for its gorgeous beaches with crystal clear water, lush vegetation and marvellous mountainous scenery.

Argostoli is Kefalonia’s capital and largest town. West of Argostoli, on the other side of the bay, is Lixouri, the main town on the Paliki Peninsula. Poros and Sami on the eastern side of the island are Kefalonia’s two main ports connecting Kefalonia to mainland Greece.

Panoramic view of Poros village. The buildings are rooftiled and there is a long square in front of the beach.
Poros is one of the most authentic towns in Kefalonia

Best Time To Visit Kefalonia

Like most places in Greece, Kefalonia enjoys good weather with warm temperatures throughout the year. However, despite its mild temperatures, the island of Kefalonia sees a lot of rainfall for the better part of the year.

The best time to visit Kefalonia to enjoy more sunshine and avoid rain is during the summer months when the maximum temperature is around 30°C. Although June to September is the high season in Greece, Kefalonia doesn’t feel crowded, thanks to its big size.

View of Skala beach from eye level. There are several colourful umbrellas near the sea on Skala beach.
in Kefalonia, you can have your very own spot under the sun even in the peak season

How Many Days in Kefalonia

Unlike the Cyclades Islands, which are all compact and fairly easy to explore in a handful of days, there are also several big islands in Greece. One of them is Kefalonia. So, if you have experience with the smaller Greek Islands you visited before, expect the exact opposite in Kefalonia.

Long distances leave you less time relaxing on the beach as the main Kefalonia attractions are scattered all over the island. Therefore, we recommend staying at least one week in Kefalonia to check out some of the best things to do in Kefalonia and have some free time, too. If you plan to stay for fewer days, it’s better to focus on one part of this beautiful island instead of trying to see everything.

Panoramic view of a coastal road in Eastern Kefalonia. Taken from a drone.
Long yet rewarding drives are common in Kefalonia

How To Get To Kefalonia

By Plane

The best way to get to Kefalonia is by plane. There are plenty of direct flights from major European cities in the summer. Kefalonia’s airport is a 15-minute drive from Argostoli, the island’s capital.

If you can’t find a direct flight to Kefalonia International Airport, the next best option is to book a flight to Athens and then continue to Kefalonia either by car or bus.

By Car & Ferry From Athens

If you fly to Athens, rent a car at the airport and drive directly to Kyllini Port in the Peloponnese, where the ferries to Kefalonia depart from. The drive from Athens Airport to Kyllini Port takes about three and a half hours via the E94 and A8 Motorways, while the ferry ride from Kyllini to Poros Port on Kefalonia Island lasts about one hour and a half.

By Bus & Ferry From Athens

Alternatively, from Athens Airport, take Bus X93 to the Athens KTEL Bus Station, where the long-distance bus to Kefalonia departs. The KTEL bus ticket includes the Kyllini to Poros ferry ride. Check out the Kefalonia KTEL Bus schedule here.

By Ferry

Like all the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is no longer connected to Piraeus, the largest port in Greece. By ferry, you can reach Kefalonia from the Greek mainland ports of Kyllini and Patras in Western Peloponnese or other Ionian Islands, like Zante (or Zakynthos).

Ferries from Kyllini Port go to Poros Port in Kefalonia all year round while ferries from Patras Port go to Sami Port in Kefalonia in the summer months. From Patras, you can continue your trip to Italy, with daily ferries to Bari or Ancona.

Sami Port in Kefalonia is well-connected to Ithaca Island in the summer, too. In the peak season, you can also reach Kefalonia from Lefkada Island after a short ferry ride to the village of Fiskardo in the northern part of Kefalonia.

PRO TIP: Ferry schedules are subject to change, so make sure you double-check before booking your ferry tickets to Kefalonia.

The ferry coming from Kyllini arrives at Poros port. The yellow-white ferry has Levante Ferries written on it in black letters.
The ferry from Kyllini arrives at Poros Port in Kefalonia

How To Get Around Kefalonia

Public Transport

Public transport in Kefalonia is run by the KTEL bus company. Buses are frequent and connect the island’s main towns and villages. During the peak season, expect to find more itineraries on the timetable. Although not the best way to get around the island, if renting a car is not an option for you, public buses will take you to most of the island’s highlights.

Check out the KTEL Bus timetable for local routes here.

Local Ferry

A local ferry connects Kefalonia’s two main towns, Argostoli and Lixouri, throughout the year. This is the best way to commute between the two towns, especially if you’re not driving. Check out the local ferry itineraries here.

A local ferry on its way to Argostoli. Our Kefalonia travel guide has all the details for the local ferry that connects Argostoli to Lixouri.
The local ferry that connects Argostoli to Lixouri

Rental Car

From fantastic exotic beaches with crystal clear waters to hidden lakes in the forest and abandoned villages in the mountains, Kefalonia boasts unique scenery. The most hassle-free way to appreciate the island’s beauty is by car.

Kefalonia’s main road network is in very good condition. There aren’t any highways, only local roads that make distances look longer when driving from one side of the island to the other. Be careful of the steep narrow roads that lead to the beaches. Also, you may come across the occasional dirt road but nothing too strenuous.

If you don’t drive to Kefalonia in your car, make sure to book a rental car in advance as they quickly disappear in the high season.

Where To Stay in Kefalonia

Argostoli For First-Timers

With plenty of fantastic things to do in and around Argostoli, the island’s capital city is the best place to stay for your first time in Kefalonia.

Featuring an excellent location on Argostoli’s seafront, the 4-star Kefalonia Grand Hotel offers sparklingly clean modern rooms with sea views. Situated right on Argostoli’s central square, Aenos Hotel features gorgeous comfortable rooms in a prime location in the heart of Kefalonia’s capital.

Panoramic view of the De Bosset Bridge and Argostoli in the background.
The nostalgic charm of Argostoli, the ideal place to stay for your first visit to Kefalonia

Fiskardo For Couples

Located in the north of Kefalonia, this renowned quaint village is home to some of the best hotels for a romantic getaway. Nestled in the heart of Fiskardo, both Faros Suites and Balhambra Suites are ideal for a romantic laid-back stay in one of the most beautiful villages in Kefalonia.

A restaurant with blue tables and chairs at Fiskardo's harbour.
The quintessentially Greek vibes of Fiskardo

Sami For Exploration

For those who want to explore Kefalonia by car, there is no better place to use as a base than Sami. Thanks to its central location, Sami is easily accessible from the rest of the island.

Some of the best places to visit in Kefalonia, such as the beaches of Myrtos and Antisamos, the villages of Assos and Fiskardo and Melissani Cave, are within easy driving distance from Sami, while Argostoli is a mere 35-minute drive from there. On top of that, ferries to Ithaca (or Ithaki) run daily from Sami Port in the summer, making it easy to plan a day trip to the neighbouring island.

Situated in a convenient location with easy parking, Mary’s Studios and Apartment offers fully equipped studios with spacious terraces, ideal for a perfect stay in Kefalonia.

Skala For Families

Away from the hustle and bustle of the island’s more popular locations, Skala remains a small touristic seaside town ideal for families and relaxing holidays. Skala is home to many hotels, restaurants, cafés and beach bars, usually frequented by a lot of people. However, you can always find a great spot on the beach to enjoy the sun and the sea away from the crowds, even in August.

Situated in the heart of the town, Skala Hotel is a family-run hotel with modern refurbished rooms with sea views. The comfortable suites are ideal for families while the sandy beach – a true paradise for the little ones – is only a few steps from the hotel.

Panoramic view of Skala beach and village from a drone. There are several sets of umbrellas and sunbeds on the beach. The main coastal road is between the beach and the village.
The long sandy beach in Skala

5 Things To Know Before Visiting Kefalonia

1. The 1953 Great Kefalonia Earthquake

This Kefalonia travel guide wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t mention an event that marked the island’s rich history. On the 12th of August, 1953, Kefalonia was hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in the history of modern Greece. It was the third big earthquake in four consecutive days that flattened Zakynthos, Ithaki and Kefalonia, claiming between 445 and 800 lives.

Fiskardo was the only village in Kefalonia that wasn’t razed to the ground. The catastrophic quake of 7.2 magnitude on the Richter scale resulted in a big migration flow to Athens and abroad. An inevitable economic decline ensued. It took a long time for Kefalonia to stand back on its feet. It wasn’t before the late 1980s that Kefalonia started emerging as one of the main touristic destinations in Greece.

Nowadays, Kefalonia is still hit by earthquakes. Yet, there is nothing to be afraid of anymore as structural engineering has evolved since and because of the 1953 earthquake. Most of the buildings are now protected according to modern anti-seismic regulations.

A severely damaged building in Assos. It has a collapsed roof and several cracks on the facade.
Remnants of the earthquake throughout Kefalonia keep the memory of those dark moments alive

2. The Island’s Mysterious Underground Waters

A short drive from Argostoli, a 19th-century water mill rolls the waters that vanish in the depths of the earth through one of the island’s sinkholes.

In 1963, scientists managed to prove that underground waters traverse Kefalonia from west to east. They did so by pouring red paint into the Argostoli Sinkholes. After two weeks, the water in Melissani Cave and Sami turned red, explaining a unique geological phenomenon that used to be a mystery in the past.

View of the sinkhole and watermill in Argostoli.
The Sinkholes near Argostoli

3. The Magic of Ainos Mountain

Considering that Kefalonia is popular for its fantastic beaches, the island’s splendid mountainous landscape comes as a pleasant surprise. With its highest peak at 1628 metres, Mount Ainos is the tallest mountain in Kefalonia and the Ionian Islands. The most exciting part is that Ainos Mountain is home to a black-pine forest, the natural habitat of wild horses.

In the summer, Mount Ainos National Park is ideal for outdoor activities, especially hiking. You can drive through Mount Ainos and leave your car at the parking next to the Transmitter Station. From there, follow the trails to explore the island’s national park. If you are lucky, you might catch glimpses of the forest’s beautiful inhabitants.

4. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Was Filmed in Kefalonia

Starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is one of the most popular films set in Greece. The film, based on a novel by Louis de Bernières, is the love story of a music-lover Italian army captain and a local Greek woman who fell in love in Kefalonia when the island was under Italian and German occupation.

For more inspiration before visiting Greece, you can check out our list of 20 novels set in Greece.

Panoramic view of Antisamos bay. The beach is surrounded by lush green vegetation. A big luxury boat is moored away from the beach.
Antisamos Beach was one of the filming locations

5. Kefalonia Has Its Local Dialect

Similar to the other Ionian Islands, Kefalonia’s dialect is influenced by the Italian language. Occupied by the Venetians for several centuries, the locals use alternated Italian words until today. It’s hard to notice the difference if you don’t speak Greek. That said, you may pick up some words if you speak Italian.

3 Best Places To Visit in Kefalonia

1. Assos

Situated in the northern part of Kefalonia, about an hour’s drive from Argostoli, Assos (or Asos) is the indisputable gem of the island. This small seaside village is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Greece and for good reason

Three people are strolling along Assos' harbour.
The timeless charm of Assos is present at every turn

For a perfect day in Assos, leave your car at the small public parking space in the narrowest part of the peninsula. Spend a relaxing day by the turquoise waters of the village’s beach, have lunch at one of the seafront restaurants and take a stroll along the quaint harbour.

Before leaving Assos, walk along the scenic path that leads to the 16th-century Venetian Castle for incredible views of the picturesque village.

Panoramic view of Assos village from a drone.
Assos Village in all its glory

2. Fiskardo

A 35-minute drive north of Assos, Fiskardo (or Fiscardo) is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kefalonia. As Fiskardo was the only village that survived the 1953 Great Kefalonia earthquake, this is the perfect place to have a look at the island’s pre-earthquake traditional architecture, as most buildings in Fiskardo still retain original elements.

A balcony of a neoclassical mansion. The small balcony has blue railings matched with the blue shutters. The walls are pink.
A beautiful balcony in Fiskardo

Start your walk marvelling at the ancient ruins of a Roman cemetery at the edge of the once sleepy fishing village.

The seaside path next to the Roman cemetery in Fiskardo.
Fiskardo’s Roman Cemetery

Walk along the promenade that passes through the charming harbour and leads to the trail for the Old Venetian Lighthouse of Fiskardo and the enchanting ruins of an early Christian Basilica.

Panoramic view of the Venetian lighthouse in Fiskardo from a drone. The lighthouse stands on the edge of the peninsula and behind there is Fiskardo village and several boats in the harbour.
The Venetian Lighthouse with the village in the background

Although the village has kept its traditional features, Fiskardo is renowned for its fine dining and cosmopolitan vibes. The former hidden gem is now a top destination for the rich and famous. Therefore, don’t be surprised if there are more luxury yachts than fishing boats at the harbour. Also, taxi boats never stop bringing VIP guests to Fiskardo for a luxury dinner.

Panoramic view of two yachts moored in Fiskardo bay with the village in the background.
A yacht – or two – with a view

3. Argostoli

With its beautiful architecture, elegant air and authentic vibes, Argostoli is one of the best places to visit in Kefalonia. The vibrant capital of the island boasts several squares and pedestrianised streets, ideal for people-watching. A great way to be immersed in the unique atmosphere of Argostoli is to grab an ice cream and mingle with the locals as you walk along the lively main street.

The indisputable highlight of Argostoli is the seemingly endless De Bosset Bridge while a special mention should be made to the adorable loggerhead turtles that inhabit the port.

Kampana Square in Argostoli. The square is home to several cafés and a clock tower.
Kampana Square is one of many picturesque squares in Argostoli

5 Best Beaches in Kefalonia

1. Myrtos Beach

Kefalonia is mostly known for its beaches. This is why we’re starting this section of our Kefalonia travel guide with one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and certainly the most famous beach in Kefalonia. Myrtos will dazzle you with its beauty. It’s one of those places that never fail to astonish, even if you’ve seen a zillion photos of the beach before you actually get there.

First, enjoy panoramic views of Myrtos from this viewpoint. Then drive the downhill road to the beach to swim in mind-blowingly turquoise waters and lie on otherworldily white pebbles.

Thanks to its western orientation, Myrtos is ideal for epic sunsets. Therefore, it’s worth sticking around until the golden hour. However, if you plan to spend the whole day there, bring a beach umbrella as those offered by beach bars are hard to come by.

Keep in mind that when the weather is windy, it’s best to refrain from getting into the water as the waves can get pretty high. Myrtos is also infamous for its strong currents. Therefore, it might be a good idea to check the weather forecast before going to Myrtos Beach to make sure you pick a windless day.

View of Myrtos beach from a drone. There are several sets of sunbeds and umbrellas in front of the beach. The water is deep blue. You can learn everything you need about Myrtos in our Kefalonia travel guide.
Yes, in Myrtos, that’s the real colour of the water

2. Petani Beach

Located on the other side of the island, on the Paliki Peninsula, the smaller Petani Beach has something of Myrtos’ splendour. The surrounding exotic landscape and the beach’s turquoise waters will take you aback before you even start descending the hill to the beach. Petani Beach is organised with beach bars and restaurants and it’s perfect for idyllic sunsets.

Like with Myrtos Beach, pick a windless day for your trip to Petani Beach for an unforgettable – and safe – experience.

Panoramic view of Petani beach from the top of the hill. The surrounding landscape is lush green and the water is turquoise.
Less known than Myrtos but equally impressive

3. Antisamos Beach

A 10-minute drive from Sami, Antisamos Beach is one of the best beaches in Kefalonia. Alongside Sami, Antisamos was one of Captain Corelli Mandolin’s filming locations that made the island known to the world. Antisamos stands out for its lush green scenery and somewhat eerily emerald waters.

The beach is fully organised with beach bars, restaurants, showers, sunbeds and umbrellas you can rent for the day. Parking is quite easy even in the peak season. For the more adventurous, there are also water sports to try. Antisamos isn’t the best for families as the beach has large pebbles and the waters are deep.

View of Antisamos Beach from eye level. The beach has white pebbles and deep green waters.
Antisamos is one of the best Kefalonia beaches

4. Xi Beach

Kefalonia has no shortage of unique landscapes and Xi Beach is one of them. With a red-sanded shoreline and crystal clear waters surrounded by clay rock formations, Xi Beach is out of this world.

A 13-minute drive from Lixouri, Xi Beach can be overly crowded, especially in the high season. The swallow waters and the amenities make Xi one of the most family-friendly beaches in Kefalonia.

View of Xi beach from eye level. The beach has red sand and swallow crystal clear waters. The surrounding cliffs are made of clay.
The beautiful yet often crowded Xi Beach

5. Skala Beach

If there’s a happy place for us in Kefalonia, it’s the long sandy Skala Beach. Maybe it’s because we have so many fond memories of having a great time with our dear friends there, but Skala Beach has won a very special place in our hearts.

Situated in eastern Kefalonia, just a 20-minute drive from Poros Port, laid-back Skala is ideal for everyone. Families with small kids who can make the most of the facilities offered by beach bars and restaurants, groups of friends eager to do water sports and sip cocktails, couples in love and loners who want to enjoy reading a book at one of many quiet spots on the sand.

A top-down view of Skala beach from a drone. Four rows of umbrellas and sunbeds on the beach.
Sunset on Skala Beach is pure magic

7 Best Things To Do in Kefalonia

No Kefalonia travel guide is complete without a mention of the top things to do in Kefalonia. However, in this article, we tried to keep this list short. For the full list of the best things to do in Kefalonia, watch our Kefalonia YouTube video:

1. Get Into The Depths of Melissani & Drogarati Caves

Situated near Sami and a 10-minute drive from Agia Efimia, Melissani Cave with its underground lake is the ultimate highlight of Kefalonia. The water of Melissani Lake comes from the Sinkholes in Argostoli as we mentioned above. As opposed to Diros Cave in Mani, the roof of Melissani Cave has collapsed, creating an impressive shaft over the lake.

The cave is accessible via an underground tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, you embark on small rowing boats to enjoy a memorable boat ride among stalagmites and stalactites. Try to visit the Cave of Melissani at noon on a bright sunny day when the sunlight hits the lake and the boats look as if they’re hovering over the deep blue waters.

View of Melissani lake from the rowing boat. There are several small blue boats in the lake. The daylight hits the water through the shaft.
Boat trips inside Melissani Cave are among the top things to do in Kefalonia

Often overlooked, the nearby Drogarati Cave is another cave worth visiting in Kefalonia. The 95-metre-deep Drogarati Cave is famous for its excellent acoustics. In the past, it even hosted live performances. The over 100-million-year cave boasts numerous impressive formations of stalagmites and stalactites. If you plan to visit both caves, you can buy a combined ticket, available at either site.

View of Drogarati Cave's interior. A few people are walking under the stalactites.
Inside Drogarati Cave

2. Step Inside Agios Gerasimos Monastery

Canonised in 1622, Saint Gerasimos is Kefalonia’s patron saint. Saint Gerasimos was renowned for the miracles he performed for people with mental issues. Situated in a gorgeous landscape, a 20-minute drive from Argostoli, the sacred Monastery of Saint Gerasimos is home to his relics, which have remained intact throughout the centuries. You can check them out yourselves if you want.

If you happen to be in Kefalonia on the 16th of August, don’t miss the big feast of the Saint in the monastery. Saint Gerasimos is the locals’ beloved Saint. That explains why almost every male on the island is called Gerasimos or Makis (short for Gerasimos).

The big church in Saint Gerasimos Monastery, one of the best places to visit in Kefalonia.
Saint Gerasimos Church

3. Visit a Scenic Winery

Apart from its dazzling beaches, Kefalonia boasts a favourable morphology that endorses the production of high-quality local wine. The island’s most famous grape variety is Robola, which produces exquisite dry white wine. Situated near Saint Gerasimos Monastery, the Robola Wine Cooperative is a great place to indulge in a wine tasting of local wines, paired with delicious food.

Bottles of Robola wine on a shelf.
There’s no such thing as too many Robola wine tastings

4. Wander Around a Ghost Village

In 1953, the Great Kefalonia Earthquake levelled a big part of the island. Most villages were rebuilt but others were abandoned forever. Old Vlachata Village near the south coast of Kefalonia is one of the latter. Nowadays, you can still wander among the ruins of this ghost village, step inside roofless homes and try to imagine how the devastating earthquake changed the locals’ lives forever.

Yet, Old Vlachata is brought back to life for three days every August, thanks to the Saristra Festival, a Music and Art Festival that contributes to the village’s reconnection with the past through live performances and installations.

A cobblestone street lined with ruins and olive trees in Old Vlachata village.
The abandoned houses whisper tales in your ears as you walk around Old Vlachata

5. Take The Trip To Lixouri

One of our favourite things to do in Kefalonia is to take the local ferry from Argostoli to Lixouri, the second-largest city in Kefalonia.

View of Argostoli from the local ferry's deck. There are two men on the deck leaning on the railing and enjoying the view.
On board the local ferry to Lixouri

A popular tourist destination since the 19th century, Lixouri was one of the Greek Royal Family’s favourite summer resorts in the 1950s. However, the city decayed after the 1953 earthquake and never regained its former glory as a vacation spot. Nowadays, only a few original buildings are still standing. Yet, with its authentic vibes and laid-back ambience, the rebuilt Lixouri is worth a visit.

A small black dog is wandering around Lixouri's main square. There is a table with four chairs in the foreground.
The main square in Lixouri

If you’re driving, instead of getting back to Argostoli by ferry, drive along the seaside road that leads from Lixouri to Argostoli for outstanding panoramic views along the way. This drive is one of the most memorable things to do in Kefalonia in its own right.

Panoramic view of Argostoli bay from the seaside road coming from Lixouri. A winding road leads to a small beach.
A scenic road trip from Lixouri to Argostoli

6. Walk Along The De Bosset Bridge in Argostoli

Constructed in 1813 by the Swiss engineer and Kefalonia’s Governor Charles de Bosset, the De Bosset Bridge is the world’s longest stone bridge built over the sea. The bridge was partially damaged after the 1953 earthquake and closed to vehicles in 2009.

Since 2013, the renovated De Bosset Bridge has been pedestrian-only. It’s ideal for a relaxing long walk with superb views over Koutavos Lagoon and Argostoli Town.

View of the De Bosset Bridge at sunset. The bridge is lined with street lamps and leads to Argostoli.
Our favourite walk in Kefalonia

7. Head To an Iconic Lighthouse at Sunset

Built in 1828 on an artificial peninsula, the iconic Lighthouse of Agioi Theodoroi is one of the most famous landmarks in Kefalonia. The Doric-style lighthouse was completely destroyed after the 1953 earthquake and rebuilt according to its original plans. A short drive from Argostoli, it’s the ultimate romantic place in Kefalonia to enjoy a breathtaking sunset.

Close-up view of the lighthouse's upper part.
Probably the most romantic location in Kefalonia

Now that you reached the end of our ultimate travel guide for Kefalonia, we do hope it helps you plan your holidays to one of the most remarkable islands in Greece. We know we’ll never stop going back to Kefalonia and we get the feeling that you’ll want to visit Kefalonia more than once, too. So, make sure you keep this thorough Kefalonia travel guide handy!

WORDS & IMAGES: Katerina
EDITING: Maria

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