Gorgeous countryside, Hollywood-endorsed beaches and traditional towns are all up for grabs on holidays to Kefalonia.
The isle of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Kefalonia’s claim to fame came back in 2000, when it played a starring role alongside Nicholas Cage in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It’s not hard to see why the island won Hollywood over – the scenery here ticks off pine-coated hills, stripy vineyards and straight-off-a-postcard beaches.
Set on a peninsula on the eastern side of the island is Lixouri. It’s the island’s second-biggest town, but the tempo here is still set to slow. The main square is the hub of the town, with the full line-up of cafés, shops and bars, and the beach just outside of town one of the best on the island. It’s just across the water from Argostoli, too, so daytrips to the capital are nice and easy.
Daytrips to Myrtos Bay
Kefalonia might be the biggest of the Ionian Islands, but it’s still relatively easy to explore. Put Myrtos Bay on your to-see list – this chalk-white beach springs up on dozens of Greece holiday brochure covers. And set aside an afternoon to explore the ancient chambers at Drogorati Caves, or take a boat trip across electric-blue Melissani Lake.
Things to See and Do in Kefalonia
The beaches in Kefalonia are seriously photogenic, ticking off everything from golden sands and smooth white pebbles to backdrops of bottle-green pines. Beaches near resorts tend to come with all the trimmings, but hop in a hire car and head out on your own and it won’t be long until you uncover a near-deserted cove.
The big beach
Just outside the town of Lixouri you’ll find Xi Beach. This swathe of reddish-orange sand is a popular pick with locals and holidaymakers, thanks to its calm, shallow waters and long list of watersports.
The secret beach
Most holidaymakers make a beeline for Xi and Lepeda beaches, but for fewer crowds and a cracking lunch, locals head to Vatsa Beach. This sand-and-shingle stretch is often pin-drop peaceful, and features a thatched-roof taverna with a menu of fresh seafood and Kefalonian home-cooking favourites.
Lixouri has a handful of shops hawking souvenirs and beach buys, but for more authentic gifts, head for Skala. The hole-in-the-wall shops around the village square have shelves stacked with locally made pottery, lace and ceramics, as well as foodie treats like honey and spicy soutzoukakia sausages.
For high-street buys, Argostoli’s your best bet. On Lithostrato Street, you’ll find clothes, make-up and a handful of Greek department stores. There are a few recognisable names, too, like The Body Shop.
Fiskardo, on the north-west coast, is a bit of a magnet for the jet-set crowd – the boutiques here sell everything from designer sunnies to flashy jewellery, and include big-name brands like Gucci and D&G.
For a low-key evening, make for Lixouri’s main square. It’s where you’ll find a cluster of traditional tavernas and bars playing bouzouki music. There are a few more options along the prom, too.
For a full-on night out, make a beeline for Argostoli. Branching out from the main square – Platia Vallianou – you’ll find tons of late-night bars, plus a couple of clubs that pull in celebrity DJs in the summer months. Locals in Lixouri, meanwhile, tend to head to one of two discos just outside of town.
Kefalonia meat pie
Meat pies are a Kefalonian staple. They’re pretty similar to the pies we get back in Britain. Thick-crust pastry cases are packed full of meat – usually pork, lamb or beef – and veg, but instead of gravy, they top them up with rice. It means they’re ridiculously filling, so unless you’re a Man vs Food type, you won’t be needing a side dish to go with it.
Kefalonia’s wine of choice is Robola – its grapes are grown all over the island. It’s a dry white with a slightly lemony flavour, so it’s an ideal pairing with a plate of net-fresh seafood.
This egg and tomato scramble makes a quick and easy snack or light lunch. The tomatoes are chopped or pureed, then thickened with olive oil in a frying pan. The beaten eggs are tipped in, and the whole thing is cooked through. Toppings come in the form of crumbled feta and sprinklings of thyme and oregano.
The Greek version of bruschetta is a great starter or afternoon snack. The bread is rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a few glugs of olive oil, then spread with chopped tomatoes and a pinch of oregano. Depending where you go, you might get a few extra bits, like black olives or chunks of salty feta cheese.
This thick, filling soup is a real winter warmer, made with locally grown beans, corn and grain. In restaurants, it’s usually served with doorstep slices of bread for dunking.
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