Kefalonia & Ithaca Overview
- Unspoilt Ionian twins
- Coast life
- Sails, snorkels and sunsets
Impossibly ultramarine waters, plunging volcanic mountains and hidden pebble beaches: the Ionian pairing of Kefalonia and Ithaca is a haven for seafaring romantics.
There’s blue and then there’s blue: the crystalline waters of the Ionian as it melts into the cove-riddled coasts of Kefalonia and Ithaca would turn Yves Klein green with envy. Kefalonia’s rocky coast is an ocean-lapped Gorgonzola of coves and caves, some of which run deep into the island’s heart. The pastel-painted port villages, such as Fiskardo, come alive in the summer months, as pleasure vessels jostle for harbour space and honeymooners swoon over seafood in lively, family-run tavernas. Ithaca, Kefalonia’s smaller, wilder and more windswept neighbour wears its mythological mystique on its cypress-lined sleeve – the island is the reputed home of Homeric hero Odysseus, and the supposed site of his palace is there to see in Stavros. Both islands are breath-thievingly beautiful, and despite the interested influx brought by Louis de Berniéres’ homage to Kefalonia, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, it’s still easy to find pristine pockets of seclusion.
Keenly Kefalonia & Ithaca
In Kefalonia, 15 August commemorates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary when, among the more everyday celebratory events, a group of snakes marked with crosses spontaneously gathers in the village of Markopoulo to pay their serpentine respects in the church. The snakes are reportedly docile, and happy to be draped across various relics. When the service ends, they become feisty and depart, not to be seen until the following year. Local lore has it that should the snakes fail to show, disaster is imminent, as was the case before the ruinous earthquake of 1953.
- Flaggable cabs aren’t a common sight on either island, so book ahead whenever possible. Taxi-sharing is common – but bear in mind all parties will be expected to pay the full fare.
- Tipping culture
- No tipping is required for taxis, but 10 per cent in a restaurant is standard.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Greeks generally lunch between 1pm and 3pm and have dinner around 9pm; Fiskardo is more geared up for non-Greek eating habits, so restaurants serve from about 8pm. Bars and clubs cater to the after-dinner crowd, but don’t expect wild nightlife until the early hours. Do your shopping early – many stores will shut for the afternoon at 2.30pm or so, and reopen to catch the evening crowd between 6pm and 9pm. Please note that on Ithaca, these times may not be accurate; locals joke that the island operates on GMT – ‘Greek Maybe Time’.
- Packing tips
- Beaches tend towards the pebbly, so bring something more substantial than a towel to bask on.
- Recommended reads
- Louis de Bernières’ picaresque wartime romance Captain Corelli’s Mandolin did wonders for Kefalonian tourism, capturing the island’s natural assets and laid-back lifestyle. Ithaca is the mythical homeland of wily seafarer Odysseus, so brush up on your classics with Homer’s Odyssey.
- Look out for aliada, a tasty concoction of octopus, garlic and mash; pasetli, honey and sesame confections, and strapatsada: eggs fried with tomato and olive oil. Filled with rice, pork, lamb and beef, Kefalonian pies are another staple. The islands are known for their honey, feta and olive oil, and the white wines made from the native robola grape turn up on restaurant wine lists throughout Greece.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +2.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Greece: +30. Central and western Kefalonia: 2671; eastern Kefalonia and Ithaca: 2674.
- Do go/don't go
- May and June are ideal, as the weather’s warm and the hills are painter-perfect with flowers. July and August are hottest and busiest, so head over in September or October for late sun and a still-warm sea. The islands empty in winter, and getting there and away can become trickier.
Don't go home without...
…having discovered, claimed and named your own private cove.