My husband and I had always said we would never re-visit the same place more than once. There is a whole big world out there after all just waiting to be experienced. We stuck by this mantra until we happened quite by accident on the wonderful family run Sami Beach Hotel in Karavomylos, Kefalonia, Greece. This American was looking for a weekend getaway to Krakow (that will be another blog) and scrolling through the `K’s’ asked my other half, where is Kefalonia? It looked nice and inexpensive sun holiday, so I temporarily shelved plans for Krakow & booked Kefalonia!
On arrival the first impression of the hotel is that it’s nothing glamorous, and certainly it’s a 3 star at best but where this hotel is a 5 star+ is in the fantastic levels of customer service and the warmth of the welcome. On that first visit the owners greeted us like we were beloved members of the family or visiting best friends. Karavomylos is a small village with a couple of hotels and a few tavernas within easy walking distance of the Mellisani sea cave. Eating out here is somewhat limited, however the larger town of Sami is just a fifteen-minute walk along a pleasant coastal path.
Sami town is situated centrally on the east coast of Kefalonia, Sami is a little port town full of restaurants and tavernas, most famous for being the film location for `Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. By day it is an unremarkable town with a fairly busy ferry terminal. However, it is a regular stop off point for tourists sailing round the Greek Islands and the marina is always bustling with yachts. My favourite time of day in Sami is evening as the sun sets across the Bay of Sami the lights of the town reflect on the still Ionian Sea, and in the near distance lights begin to twinkle along the coast of Ithaka.
To get the best out of Kefalonia, you really need a car. All the major car hire companies are available at the airport, although, if you don’t fancy driving tired or want to get used to the pace of the island there is car hire available in Sami and at Sami Beach Hotel.
My husband says that driving on the island is easy, although I find the sheer drops along some of the coast roads a bit scary. It has to be said too that Kafalonian goats are no respecters of the highway code and if they want to have a kip in the middle of narrow windy mountain road they will! We play a little game of seeing how many times we say `WAAAH!!’ on any drive across the mountains.
Seriously though, the roads are fine, the longest drive on the island from Sami is no more than an hour, and the most impressive thing is how patient and courteous the locals are when they encounter tourist traffic. None of that impatient honking or tailgating so common elsewhere.
Kefalonia is full of little inlets that whilst driving to and from, you can literally just pull over, and swim. The Ionian Sea is crystal clear and warm and so full of fish it is breath taking and there are the most beautiful beaches to visit. We have been able to see the entire island in all our visits and have a few favourites.
Our favourite beach is called Antisamos Beach just a ten-minute drive from Sami, which has 3 great areas with sunbeds, 3 restaurants and at the end of the sun bedded area there are water sports. You are in an bay surrounded by mountain views. It is breath-taking as are the views on the drive over. The food in the restaurant for lunch is delicious. I love the Caesar Salad and chips. They also have a fab bar with all sorts of fresh fruit drinks amongst cocktails and the best part, they do not charge for sunbeds! (well they do want you to buy a drink). The beaches on the East of the Island are pebbly and you will need beach shoes.
The beaches along the south coast are sandy. Skala on the southern tip of the island has a sandy beach, with views across to Zante. Here the sea floor has a gentle slope water does not get very deep until you are about 100ms out, making them more child friendly than the shingle beaches in the east. On the southern tip of the Paliki peninisular, Xi beach is famous for its red sand, this is also a lovely beach with a great restaurant attached.
In the far north of the island the picturesque fishing village of Fiscardo, now caters for the `upmarket’ tourist trade and is known as the "Hollywood" of Kefalonia. It does have some nice shops and taverna's but expect prices here to be higher than elsewhere on the Island. Personally, I prefer the smaller villages you drive through seem to be more authentically Kefalonian.
Agia Efemia, about 5 miles from Sami is also well worth a visit, with many tavernas by the harbour. It is also a good place to pick up pleasure boat trips.
I feel like Kefalonia has become my home away from home and if you would like to hear more about it please don’t hesitate to contact me.