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Kefalonia

Kefalonia

Kefalonia (also spelt Cephalonia), named after a Greek hero from around the 5th century BC, lies in the centre of the Ionian Sea, 53 nautical miles from Patras. This is one of the most enchanting of the Greek islands, which accounts for its having become one of the most sought after by holidaymakers. Hundreds of visitors descend on the island year round, avid for the quiet, windless beaches, many at the base of steep cliffs that plunge into the sea, or to explore the verdant mountainsides clad in shadowy forests.

The island resort has an excellent tourist infrastructure, is connected to Athens by air (the airport is situated just south of the ancient capital of Argostoli) and to Patras and surrounding islands by ferry. In addition to some spectacular golden beaches, Kefalonia boasts numerous historic and natural attractions. Best known of these are the caves at Melissani where a subterranean lake reflects a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colours; there are also the 'swallow holes' where visitors marvel at the phenomenon of seawater literally disappearing through the rock.

The beautiful city of Argostoli, the island's capital since ancient times, was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, but among the remains are the fascinating archaeological and folk art museums. The island's main town, Lixouri, is peaceful and picturesque, situated close to the south coast where the best beaches are to be found. Visitors to Kefalonia are never at a loss for an entertaining way to spend their time. There are quaint villages, traditional fishing harbours, Roman ruins, architecturally marvellous churches and castles and magnificent views to discover.

Kefalonia is one of the most expensive Greek resort islands, particularly when it comes to food and drink, which means it attracts more affluent and more mature holidaymakers. During August the island is extremely crowded, mainly with Italian holidaymakers who have a direct ferry connection to Kefalonia from Bari on mainland Italy. Taxi drivers on the island are known to be unscrupulous, charging varying rates for the same trip as the mood takes them. Local buses do not run on Sundays. Tap water in Argostoli is unpalatable. Lastly, the island is prone to earthquakes, with mild to moderate tremors occurring frequently.

Do not expect to 'shop until you drop' in Kefalonia. The island is far from a shopping Mecca, but if you are self-catering you will find adequate supermarkets in the main towns. The main shopping street in Argostoli is called Lithostratos, and here you will find some souvenir shops and jewellery stores along with a post office and banks. Fiscardo also sports some souvenir and gift shops. Local things to buy to take home are the island wines, Robola or Calliga, and Cephalonian 'Golden Honey'.

Like most of the Greek islands Kefalonia sports hundreds of tavernas serving westernised versions of Greek specialities, along with a few fast food outlets where you can get the familiar foods from home. Those who prefer less a less touristic dining experience are well advised to scout around and bear in mind that for good authentic food, eat where the Greeks eat. A good choice for traditional Greek food in Argostoli is Patsouris Taverna on the seafront.

For an unusual and delicious meal try Tassia in Fiscardo for lobster spaghetti, perhaps washed down with the island's own wine, Robola. Kefalonia has some local specialities like 'aliada', boiled fish and vegetables covered in garlic sauce, and 'tsigaridia', a herbed vegetable stew, but these are hard to find in restaurants. If you are staying in a guesthouse persuade your hosts to prepare them for you, or buy the book of 'Traditional Kefalonian Recipes' to take home and try for yourself.

Kefalonia is not a wild party island, but it does have a vibrant nightlife that should satisfy most night owls. Most of the popular clubs and bars are in and around Argostoli, but Sami, Lixouri, Skala, Poros and Fiscardo have some nightclubs too, not as crowded as the capital. Beach parties are often organised by local resorts or establishments, and there is an open-air cinema.

Days can be wiled away very pleasantly in Kefallonia with sightseeing, sunbathing, indulging in a wide variety of watersports, exploring the island by bicycle or moped, or rambling along the coastline or through the cypress groves of the mountains.