A cultural guide to Kefalonia
Greece is known worldwide for its welcoming, laidback and ‘no problems’ attitude towards life, and that’s just what you’ll find on the island of Kefalonia. Its family values and Mediterranean folk lifestyle will stick with you and define your visit.
Within this homely atmosphere lies a tremendous amount of history, which many Kefalonian generations have grown up around and will be proud to discuss, should you ask them for places to visit. In the meantime, here are just a few hot spots of authentic culture we’re keen to suggest you visit. Just don’t forget to pick up your car rental from Kefalonia Airport before you head off to explore!
Having been the capital of Kefalonia for hundreds of years, Argostoli is home to 14,000 people and sits on a natural bay, surrounded by lush forests and sweeping mountain landscapes. It is located only a 15 minute drive north from the island’s international airport. Following an earthquake in 1953, the town’s Venetian buildings were flattened and since have been built back up with broad boulevards, the most notable of which being Lithostroto Street (the main pedestrian shopping area).
While much of the traditional architecture hasn’t survived the local natural disasters, Argostoli still exhibits a traditional way of life. The evenings see crowds of locals, all warm and friendly, flocking to the centre to mingle and enjoy one another’s company. The stunning church of Saint Spyridon and the clock tower of Campana Square are well worth the quick diversion, before wandering through to the outskirts for a range of family restaurants which cover all budgets and preferences.
The Archaeological Museum of Kefalonia is home to a plethora of Mycenaean, Hellenistic and Roman findings. From Trojan swords and sculptures to ceramics and coins, you’ll be absorbing the true cultural depth of an island with an incredibly rich history. The Korgialenios History and Folklore Museum, situated below Korgialenian Library, can also be visited and offers a walk through a restored Kefalonian house from the 19th century, as well as a fascinating collection of photographs and over 50,000 books and manuscripts (some of which are single copies and are incredibly rare).
A statue in honour of Nikos Kavvadias, a famous poet and lover of the sea, stands along the main harbour of Argostoli. It was positioned to look out to sea due to a rivalry with the neighbouring town of Lixouri. The local joke remains that he has turned his back on Argostoli, but the locals will appreciate your knowledge of the statue’s presence regardless!
You can also cross the Drapano Bridge, stretching over 900 metres and connecting Argostoli to Drapano. Having been constructed in 1813, it enabled villagers to communicate easily with the island’s capital and has been fortified over time from its original wooden form with stone supports. The reason it remains important to Kefalonia is its nod to the island’s previous ruling by the British empire.
Located on the northern tip of Kefalonia, the harbour town of Fiskardo is one of the island’s most charming places to visit. As it survived the aforementioned earthquake, many of the 18th century Venetian style houses still remain along the pastel-painted streets, while the harbour is home to large yachts and bright fishing boats.
The Greek government generously declared the village to be one of eleven traditional settlements with ‘special creative characteristics’ in need of protection, while neighbouring Erisos was characterised as an area of ‘natural beauty’, again earning it protection from development.
In 2006, a grave complex was uncovered from the Roman era. It was full to the brim with gold, clay pots, bronze artifacts and jewellery, and was so well preserved that the door, dating back over 2,000 years, still swang open comfortably on its stone hinges!
Greek Mythology: Melissani Cave and Megalo Vouno
Greek mythology plays a tremendously important part of any trip to Greece, and Kefalonia is certainly not lacking in its fascinating stories. Melissani Cave, and the two lakes within it, were discovered in 1951 by Giannis Petrochilos. Greek mythology insists that the caves were named after the nymph Melissanthi, who took her own life when her love for the Greek god Pan was not returned. Excavations carried out in 1951 and 1962 revealed various artifacts from between 300BC and 400BC. Figures of nymphs have been unearthed along with stalactites that seem to resemble dolphins (creatures which were regarded by the ancient Greeks as the companions and messengers of nymphs). Considering its only a 45 minute drive from Kefalonia Airport in Karavomylos, this is certainly a place worth visiting.
Megalo Vouno (Big Mountain) is aptly named due to its connection to the ‘god of all gods’ in Greece: Zeus. The remains of Megas Soros temple, that he was said to have been worshipped from, can be found at the top of the mountain. Explore these caves and god-like highs with your car rental from Kefalonia.