Emerald mountains? Lush vineyards? Golden beaches? Kefalonia is Greece at its most glorious. But beyond its postcard good looks, there’s a bounty of historical hotspots which build up a rich tapestry of the island’s past. Ready to uncover its cultural side? Let’s dive in…
For a taste of the traditional, make a beeline for the alluring villages tucked in the creases and crags of the island’s coast and countryside. Assos is as quaint as they come, nestled in a horseshoe-shaped harbour overlooked by a Venetian fortress. Time rolls by at a tranquil pace here, so it’s the perfect spot if you’re looking for somewhere to switch off for an afternoon. Lying on the south-western coast, Svoronata’s another picturesque pick. Swing by the local monastery or settle down in a taverna for a dish of something delightful.
A fan of a tipple? Immerse yourself in viniculture at one of the local wineries. Robola is the most well-known variety. This white wine with citrus notes pairs perfectly with seafood. The Robola Cooperative is the largest producer and offers daily tastings. If you’re visiting in August, you might even catch the Robola Wine Festival. Yamas!
Among the slideshow of sights, you’ll discover Roman ruins, Venetian castles and medieval monasteries. Make a start at St George’s Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. Although it stands mostly in ruins, you can still admire some of the original Byzantine and Venetian features. You can travel even further back in time at the ancient town of Sami, which has existed since the Palaeolithic period. The Acropolis, a citadel situated in the centre of the town, is a reminder of the town's history. Kipoueron Monastery should be on your sightseeing agenda too. Built on top of a rock 90 metres above sea level, it’s worth the visit for the views alone, especially at sunset! But step inside and you’ll be further amazed by the elaborate décor.
In the capital, Argostoli, you’ll find a handful of museums to keep you occupied. The island’s deep-rooted traditions are brought to life through photos and costumes at the History and Folklore Museum, while the Archaeological Museum of Kefalonia holds artefacts from every era. Big on your boats? Steer yourself in the direction of The Nautical Museum of Sami, where you’ll clock a collection of handmade wooden vessels spanning 3,500 years of shipbuilding history.
Festivals are a key part of Kefalonia’s cultural calendar. The Barcarolle Festival, held in Assos in August, is a real highlight. The day starts with a religious procession, then when evening falls, the fun begins! Down at the port, singers set sail in decorated fishing boats and serenade the crowd with local songs called kantades. The International Music Festival in Argostoli is another popular event, attracting musicians from all over the world. Enjoy performances of everything from classical to contemporary music or take part in the hands-on workshops.
Food is at the heart of this island’s culture, and cheese, honey and extra-virgin olive oil are just a few of the culinary staples. Kreatopita, a rich three-meat filled filo pastry pie is a firm favourite among locals and tourists alike. If you prefer sweet to savoury, give mandoles a try. These almonds are roasted to perfection in copper cauldrons and wrapped in a crispy caramel coating. Seaweed is then added to give them a striking, claret colour. Karydopita, a walnut cake covered in sweet syrup, is equally as moreish! It’s time to undo a belt loop or two…
Posted: 7th Aug 2023. Updated: 4th Aug 2023.