An introduction Kefalonia island
Kefalonia Island is the largest island in the chain of the Ionian Islands and is the island traditionally associated with the “seaferers.” Tourism as well as fishing and agriculture are the main industries based on the island and such, Kefalonia offers a great destination for Greek-island lovers.
Kefalonia Island is a stunning destination, a mountainous and dramatic island, what with its awesome Mount Ainos and its unique forest of fir trees. Kefalonia boasts a sublime natural landscape, lakes and rivers, forests and beaches, caves and golden sandy coastlines.
Kefalonia island takes its name from Cephalus, the mythological character, which literally means “head.”
From mythology to history, this island has it all. Its name comes from Kephalos or Cephalus, literally meaning “head.” Kephalos was the very first king to reign over the island way back during the Paleolithic Age.
The Turks invaded the island in 1480 and later the island came under the rule of the Venetians and the Spaniards, then the French in 1807 and the English in 1809. Long before that, Kefalonia fought in the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, fighting alternatively on the side of Athens and Sparta. King Philip of Macedonia failed to take over the island of Kefalonia in 218 BC, but Rome successfully attacked the island in 187 BC and having won the island turned it into a naval base. The Byzantines controlled the island from around the 4th century AD and the Franks took it in in the 11th century. The Venetians were next, then the French, then the Turks, then the British. Kefalonia was finally united with the rest of Greece in 1864, together with the other Ionian islands.
The modern island of Kefalonia has as its capital city, Argostoli. The island’s centre had long been Saint Georgios Fortress, but after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1757, the capital was moved to Argostoli.
Today, Argostoli is a cosmopolitan city with a great cultural and social life. There are museums and galleries, bars and tavernas and some of the best clubs in the Ionian, open until all hours of the day and night, or so it seems. The Kefalonia museums, Korgialeneios Museum, the Kosmetatos Foundation, the Archaeological Museum and the Iakovatios-Library, provide opportunities for cultural and historical excursions.
The island of Kefalonia has found new fame ever since the filming of the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and a romantic landmark is the jetty at Horgota beach, which is where the scene in which the character Mandras throws Pelagia into the sea was filmed.
The natural landscape of the island is completely interesting, and the Drogarati cave is probably the highlight of natural Kefalonia Island as is the mountain of Ainos with the unique-to-the-island forest of fir trees, known as Abies cephalonica. This is the Kefalonia natural park.
The Roman graves, uncovered by archaeologists in 2006, are one of the most important discoveries ever made in the Ionian islands. These graves have been dated to around the 2nd and 4th centuries BC and include vaulted burial grounds and stone coffins in which were found invaluable riches such as golden earrings and rings, as well bronze artefacts and other items such as pots and coins. Near the burial ground a well-preserved Roman theatre was also discovered.
There are a number of important monasteries on the island of Kefalonia, including the monastery of Agia Panagia and Agios Gerasimos. Excursions to the monasteries are a good opportunity to explore the history of the area in some of the most sublime natural landscapes.
Kefalonia is the island of the seafarers and as such it is a must when visiting the island to spend time on a boat and on the sea, instead of just lazing about on the sand. So, definitely take a boat excursion to the nearby islands or simply a cruise around the island or, for the ultimate experience, rent a boat and spend a day cruising at your own will.
On the land there are numerous other activities on offer, such as horse riding around some of the most sublime natural landscapes in the Ionian, over ancient villages and plains, by mountains and valleys.
Before you leave Kefalonia Island, be sure to explore the Drogarati caves, spend a lazy day on Sami beach, and taste and purchase the locally produced honey and wine.