"The half-forgotten island of Kefalonia rises improvidently and inadvisedly from the Ionian Sea; it is an island so immense in antiquity that the very rocks exhale nostalgia. The dark green of the pines is unfathomably and retreatingly deep, the ocean viewed from the top of a cliff presents azure and turquoise, emerald, viridian and lapis lazuli. Even the seawater is easier to see through than the air of any other place." So wrote Louis de Bernières in his captivating novel (and later film), Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
The island is no longer half-forgotten, thanks in part to this very work, but it remains as rugged, mystical and alluring as ever. Lofty Mt. Ainos, clothed in firs (and winter snow) dominates the island; around it, lining the deeply indented, three-fingered coastline, are some of Greece's most beautiful beaches. There are caves and castles, monasteries and Mycenean graves (some claim that Odysseus died here), and mile upon mile of inviting coastline. Most of the crowds head for the developed beaches of the southwest, between Lourdata (named after the English lords who patronised it in the 19th century) and Skala (site of a Roman villa whose mosaic floors are still visible).
This has left the north and east of the island wonderfully pristine, with cypress-shaded hillsides and fishing villages of implausible prettiness. British villa companies may be moving in, but their buildings remain low-key and tasteful. Idyllic Fiskardo and castle-crowned Assos are the two gems, filling with yachters and villa guests in summer, but otherwise retaining a lazy, lingering beauty.
If you really want to escape the crowds, jump on a caïque boat to the remote sands between Poros and Andisamos. But whatever you do, don’t miss the water cave of Melissani and the picture-perfect beach of Myrtos.
Photo credits (1-4, 8): Fae