This green island with its breathtaking beaches and crystal clear waters of greenish-blue colours will take your breath away.
Kefalonia a gem in the Ionian Sea. It carries a rich history in cultural tradition. It’s the biggest Ionian Island and the green of its mountains blend with the blue of the water making it truly unique and a beloved destination.
Pine, cypress and olive trees cover Mt. Ainos’ peak, while at its foot you’ll come across vineyards where the popular Kefalonian Robola wine variety is produced.
If you happen to love snorkeling or diving then the seabed around the island will definitely satisfy you. You might even get the chance to encounter the rare, caretta caretta, sea turtle that take refuge here, as well as the monk seals monachus monachus. Kefalonia’s culinary tradition, history, traditional villages, upbeat nightlife and pristine beaches will make you fall in love with the island.
Kefalonia (Kefallinia) is the largest and most mountainous island of the Ionian Islands with an area of about 773 sq.km. and it has about 35,801 inhabitants. A large part of its area is occupied by the Ainos mountain range characterized as a National Park with the most important peaks being Megas Soros (1,628 m.), Agia Dynati (1,131 m.), Eumorfia (1,043 m.) And Kokkini Rachi (1,078 m.) Ainos is from the mountains with the most extraordinary weather conditions, accepting first in Greece the low barometers that come from Dysmas. It is famous for the unique in the world “Kefallinian Black Fir” and that is why it is called “Monte Nero” (Black Mountain) and for the herds of wild small horses of the breed “Equus caballus”. The most important plains are those of Kranae, the Paliki peninsula, Arakleio and Sami.
The coasts of Kefalonia form many bays and capes. The most important gulfs are Sami, Myrtos, Lourdas, Atheras, Fiskardos, Livadi, Argostoli also known as Koutavou. The main capes are (starting from the south and moving in an easterly direction) Poros, Mounta, Kapros, Sarakiniko, Mytikas, Kentri, northern Dafnoudi, in the northwest Atheras, in the west Ortholithia, Skiza Gerogompos and further south Akrotiri and Agia Pelagia, Liakas, Kastanas etc. The coasts are generally rocky and steep to the Ionian, while they have milder formations to the east.
Of particular interest are the caves of the island, such as the precipice Melissani, Agalaki, Agios Theodoros, Zervati, Droggarati Cave, Sakkou Cave etc.
Myrtos beach on the northwest side of the island has been voted 11 times as the best Greek sea according to and among the 5 best in the world.
There is evidence that Kefalonia has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The first known inhabitants were Leleges, who apparently inhabited the island during the 15th century. BC, bringing with them the cult of Poseidon. In the Bronze Age, another ancient Greek people, the Tombs or Televoes had settled in the surrounding sea, and lived on the island, or maintained a commercial base on the island and traded closely with the inhabitants of the island.
The correct name of the island is “Kefallinia” derived from its ancient mountain dwellers, the Homeric “Kefallinians” (Doristi “Kefalones”) and not “Kefalonia-Kefalonia” by the mythical hero of Attica occupied the island and gave it its name. The Athenian version of the name “Kefalonia” is related to the mythical hero Kefalos who helped Amphitryon from Mycenae in the war against the Televoid Islands and the Tombs. Amfitryonas gave him the gift of the island of Sami which became known as Kefalonia. According to the mountaineers, this proposal was skillfully spread by the colonial Athenians in order to acquire rights on the island. Badly today, due to lack of proper education, Kefalonia prevailed. In ancient times, four cities flourished, which were independent states: Krani, Pronni, Sami and Pali.
The mythology of Kefalonia starts from the Mesolithic period (10000 – 6000 BC), during which installations were found and continued in the Neolithic period as well as in the Early Helladic (2600 – 2000 BC) and Middle Helladic (2000 – 1600 BC). In the area of Skala and Sami have been found several stone tools from flint and obsidian. Few archaeological traces left by the first two periods of copper. Intense activity was observed in the Mycenaean period, which is testified to the island by a series of domed or chiseled tombs, which the greatest were found in Mazarakata, in Metaxata, in Lakithra, in Diakata of Kranias and in Kontogenada of Paliki. Kefalonia and the other islands in the region were combined with a great Mycenaean Kingdom – due to the presence of Mycenaean findings. The name of the Kingdom remains unknown. As the legend says, the Kings of Mycenaean Kefalonia claimed the kingdom of Mycenae and attempted expedition against the islands with Amfitryona, in which Cephalus from Thoriko of Attica and Elio from the Elos of Messinia took part. Target areas were Tafion and Tilevon. Amphitryon managed to win and donated the island to the two heroes who accompanied him. One of them was Cephalus, who it is said, he gave his name to the island (this is one version). Of course this is much disputed as the clay tablets of Pylos refers “Cephallenians people” or “Cephalanes”, who lived in western Greece. In Livatho, were found great findings of Mycenaean necropolises, where it is said that Cephalus is located. The island is also referred to as Tetrapolis, the names of the 4 sons of Cephalus.
The name of Elio maintained until today in southern Kefalonia, where the area is called Elios. In Mavrata was found a vaulted tomb along with other antiquities of that period. The shape of the chamber tomb is similar to other tombs discovered in the region of Messinia, which proves that Mycenaean civilization entered in Kefalonia, Zante and Ithaca. There are numerous testimonies of that period for the island, in contrast to Ithaca, which has led too many experts to equate the Homeric Ithaca with Kefalonia. It is said that king Odysseus and his wife Penelope are old deities of Arcadia. So, it is probable that Achaeans from Arcadia went to Kefalonia, where they moved their gods and their heroes. Moreover the people of Ulysses called “Cephallenians” and hold Ithaca, Zante and the coast of Akarnia and Sami. The name “Kefallinia” is reported by ancient authors (Herodotus) only in 450 BC. The Cephallenians gave their name to the island (second version for the name of the island).
The first reports exist from the Persian Wars, where Kephalinians participate in the battle of Plataea. In 434 BC Kephalinian ships took part in the battle of Corinth against Kerkyra, repulsing successfully Corinthians. In the Peloponnesian War the four cities of Kefalonia took the side of Athenians. When the war ended, Kefalonia left the defeated Athens in 372 BC, but was still at her side in the Athenian battle against Philip. In 218 BC Philip sailed with his fleet against Kefalonia and although they debarked in Prunous, difficulties of the terrain, forced him to withdraw and move to the Pali, which failed to conquer.
Unfortunately the island did not remained independent and autonomous for long time, as the Roman consul Marcus Foulvios Nonbilior, having conquered Aetolia, proceeded against Kefalonia and finally conquered “her” in 187 BC. Sami soon revolted, and Roman consul besieging the city for 4 months, when finally conquered it, bringing siege engines for help from mainland Greece. The Romans destroyed the city, soldresidents as slaves and gained rich spoils, which shows the rise and prosperity of Sami. The principle of Roman rule in Kefalonia just begun.
In 495 BC, after the division of the Roman Empire into eastern and western, Kefalonia belongs to the Byzantine Empire. Successfully Kefalonia tackled many pirate attacks from the coast Africa, playing an important role in the defense of Byzantium. The Norman’s descent in Mediterranean marked the beginning of many adventures on the island. In 1084 Robert Guiscard, defeated between Kefalonia and Corfu the united fleets of the Venetians and Byzantines, attempting to conquer Kefalonia but without success. He died on the ship on 17 June, 1085 when it was moored in the port of Panormos, where he left his name as memorial in the small town, which since then is called Fiscardo.
During the period of the Frankish and Venetian domination important events on the island occurred : in 1103, Kefalonia was plundered by the Crusader fleet, led by bishop of Piza, in 1125 Genoese and Venetians landed on the island and in 1147 the island was occupied by Roger II, King of Normandy. In 1185, the King of Sicily William II took the islands of Kefalonia, Zante and Ithaca by the Byzantines, bestowing them to his admiral Margaritonis, creating the so-called county, Kefalonia – Zante, Ithaca. In 1194 Matthew or Mayo Orsini replaced Margaritonis and recognized as supreme authority the King of Sicily. In 1236 Mathew became a vassal of Geoffrey II Villehardouinou, prince of Achaia. After the death of Matthew(1248), successor of the county took over his son, who became independent from the prince of Achaia (1288), giving an oath of vassalage to Charles of Napples, thus presaging the presence of the dynasty of the Angevins in Kefalonia. In 1303, John I took over the county after his father’s death, and after his marriage with the daughter of the despot Nikephoros, Maria, got as dowry Lefkada and yet the title of Count of Kefalinias, Zante and Lefkada. In 1316, the county came under the control of John’s son, Nickolas, who gave an oath of vassalage to the Emperor Andronicus II Palaelogus, then he was anointed as despot and baptized Christian to mitigate the hatred that had been created from the crimes he had committed. In 1323, he was succeeded by his brother, John, who acknowledged the sovereignty of the Byzantine emperor, he married Anna Paliologina, also embraced the Orthodox faith and took the surname of Angels Comnenian, leaving of course the surname Orsini. His wife Anna, succeeded him after his death (1335), and the period of Orsini’s dynast in Kefalonia stopped.
Andeganoi and Tocchi occupied Kefalonia successively. With an interval of Turkish rule (1479 -1481) & (1485 – 1500), the Venetian domination follows for almost 3 centuries (1500 – 1797). Furthermore, in 1537, the Turkish pirate Barbarosa, plundered the island, taking with him thousands of captives.
The Turkish danger finally ceased to exist after the battle of Nafpaktos, in which participated and Ionian ships. It is said that in 1548, when Kefalonia was occupied by the Venetians, it was a desert island with just 1,400 inhabitants. The Venetians supported their power exclusively to the noble whose families were recorded in “Golden Bible” (Libro d ‘Oro). Later, during the Venetian domination, the Venetian officers installed the General Administration in the castle of St George and they define it as capital of the island. But a bit later,because of the location of Argostoli (and the importance of the port), the capital was transferred there (1757).
On 11 July, 1797 the French troops, preachers of the principles of the French Revolution, disembarked in Kefalonia, where people welcomed them with enthusiasm and joy, but also with much concern – on the part of the nobles. They formed a provisional democratic government, and archbishop Ioannikios Anninos blessed “the tree of liberty” and threw “Golden Bible” , titles and privileges of noble Venetian into the flames. The French occupation lasted twenty months, because of the fact that fleets of Russia and Turkey arrived in Argostoli on October 29, 1798. The creation of the Ionian State under the suzerainty of the Sultan by the Treaty of Constantinople (21 March 1800) and the subsequent implementation of the ” Byzantine regime”, which gave privileges only to those enrolled in the Golden Bible, provoked rebellions in Kefalonia. Successive riots occurred in 1800, 1801 and 1802 with many pillages, fires while armed villagers occupied the capital. At that time two commas prevailed, that of Metaxa and that of Anninos, while at the same time for the primacy of the island, Argostoli and Lixouri started their own “race” (something that still holds true today). In 1806 a new constitution was drafted that eventually was not implementedbecause the Ionian Islands were ceded to France by the tsar. The second French occupation lasted 3 years, because in 1809 the English fleet occupied Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Kythira.
Important role in its subsequent growth and course of the island played England, because they dominated the island since 1809. Philip de Bosse, commander of the island, he built roads in Argostoli, Livatho and the famous known bridge of Drapanu. Also constructed the courthouse of Argostoli, the Customs and the lighthouse of Saint Theodore from the deputy Charles James Napier. Especially from 1848 onwards, we have Ionian struggles against British occupation with pioneers the Radicals of Kefalonia, Gerasimos Livadas, Elias Zervos-Iakovatos and Joseph Montferrat. In the elections of 1850 for the Ninth Parliament of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia elected the radicals Elias Zervos, Joseph Momferatos Gerasimos Libadas, John Typaldos – Kapeletos, Dotoratos, George Typaldos – Jacob and Stamatelos Pilarinos. In 1851, the British exiled again Montferrat and Zervos, imposing tougher measures and restriction of expression to the inhabitants of the island, but the Union of the Ionian Islands with the rest Greece in May 1864 became true, that means the end of British Protectorate – occupation.
The island has also many references to Greek history. From 1940 to 1943, the Italians, who were allies of the Germans were found to have conquered Kefalonia.
But in September 1943, one of the most exciting events of the Second World War occurred in Kefalonia: the massacre of thousands of Italian soldiers of the ‘Division Acqui’ by the Germans in the Italian-German conflict (the dead were more than 10,000). That period German planes bombed Argostoli and nearby villages, causing dozens of victims from the civilian population. Major disasters took place at many buildings and archaeological sites. The period of the German occupation, although it was smaller than the rest of Greece, was particularly painful for the inhabitants, where dozens of patriotic fighters were executed by the Nazi occupation forces.
The earthquakes of 1953 literally razed everything that had been left behind intact by the second World War and the Civil War. The events of that era have changed dramatically the history of the island. ¾ of Kefalonia were completely destroyed, as dead were dozens and wounded even more. Immigration and the escape to shipping as a way to unemployment in the years that followed the earthquake of 1953 brought not only the demographic collapse of Kefalonia, but also the economic decline, cultural and social inertia. The 80s is the reversal period in the wider area of the county. At the 1981 census the county of Kefalonia was first in population decline in Greece. Nevertheless, 20 years later – in the 2001 census the county of Kefalonia is one of the first population that grew in Greece. Until today it continues its dynamic growth path and is one of the most dynamic tourist areas of our country.
In the pictures here you see the main gate of the castle (top left) and the embrasures (pictured right). The castle was originally built by Leonardo Toko, rebuilt by the Ottomans and eventually strengthened by the Venetians. Thereby preserved from the 16th century. The Venetian officers install in St. George Castle the General Administration and define it as the first capital of the island. Note that during the Venetian domination lived there 15,000 people inside and in the surrounding villages. From the small church that is built on top of the hill and is dedicated to St. George , the village took his name. On November 24, 1750 delivered a memorandum which analyzed the necessity of abandoning the region there and carry all the forts near the sea and at the ports.
Kefalonia has been proposed as the most probable homeland of Homeric Odysseus instead of neighboring Ithaca. Robert Beatleston in his work “Odysseus the Redeemer” suggests that the peninsula of Kefalonia Paliki in the Bronze Age was an island and is probably Homeric Ithaca. A team started work in the summer of 2007 and worked for three years to consider the possibility. In the Homeric texts the name of the island does not appear in its current form but with other names such as Doulichion, Samos or Sami. In this form the name of one of the big cities of the island is preserved from antiquity until today. Homer clearly states that the people led by Odysseus were called Kefallines. . The two “λ” were used by Homer for the sake of euphony of the measure of fifteen syllables, where the consonant “λ” in “Kefallines” had a longer duration during its pronunciation, just as it happens with the word “Greeks”. Kefalonia is also associated with the Goddess Vritomartis as the place that “received divine honors from the inhabitants under the name Lafria”.