I knew early on that hiring a car for my holiday probably wouldn’t be feasible – I have an innate fear of heights, so driving along mountain roads is really not my idea of fun but I did want to see the island or at least some of it, so upon arrival, I booked an organised excursion. I selected the Discover Kefalonia tour (neither admissions nor food was included), through Thomson’s, my tour company, costing me around £33 – it was well worth the money for the coach driver’s skilful driving and the tour guide, Diamond’s, witty repartee! Plus, I had the added bonus of being on a small minibus, due to it still being early in the season and a great group of really friendly people accompanying me.
The day started at about 8.30am with a pickup and drive across the centre of the island – aka, scary mountain roads to the Drogarati Caves, near Sami, some 150 millions year old with some steep & slippery stairs down to the Chamber of Exaltation. Entry cost me the vast some of around €3 and, at that price, you really can’t knock it, although some did really struggle with the steps down, and more so back up.
From there it was a quick 10-minute drive to the Melissani Lake, a fully developed cave, which is 3.5 km long, 40m wide and 36m high, discovered in 1951 by speleontologist Giannis Petrochilos. During antiquity the lake was a place of worship dedicated to Pan and Nymph Melissani, myths mention that Melissani committed suicide and fell in the lake because Pan was not responding to her love for him. Nowadays you take a short gondola-type boat trip through the cave, whilst the crystal clear water beneath you changes colour between a glimmering turquoise to vibrant shades of purple. The trip only lasts around 20 minutes and costs €7 and again, well worth it!
After our little boat ride, it was time for a pitstop at the village of Agia Efimia in Olive Bay. Rather than stopping for a leisurely break, I had a quick bite of some French toast and took the opportunity to take some photos of this very beautiful little harbour. There’s little here other than a few eateries but the setting is incredibly pretty.
Back on and after around an hour on the minibus, we headed down into Fiskardo, situated at the north of the island. Fiskardo is marketed through Thomson’s as a ‘gourmet-foodie’ type of stop-off, which means overpriced restaurants, which I had no intention of trying out. Instead, I happened upon an amazing bakery, in which I bought a feta cheese pie, a spinach pie, several cakes and a jar of Greek mountain honey with thyme. Not all of which was for lunch I hasten to add, but seeing as I was self-catering, I got a few extra provisions in for later (- all of which were incredible!). I wandered to the far side of the harbour and found a little step, right on the water’s edge and began to eat. Just as I was getting stuck into my feta cheese pie, I noticed something out the corner of my eye moving about – a crab, or two in the little rock pool, so throwing in some filo pastry crumbs, I amused myself watching them fed themselves bits of flaky pastry until it was time to reboard our chariot.
After our late lunch stop, we headed to a viewpoint so we could take some photos of Myrtos Beach, famous for being the beach setting in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I’m not sure how a beach can take your breath away but this really does, it’s stunning beyond words and thankfully only accessible by 4×4’s, bikes or on foot, so hopefully, it will survive the ravages of tourism ever taking hold and spoiling its beauty.
A long’ish day completed, we headed back round the opposite way from which we had travelled out, giving us the chance to see Argostoli, the capital, and where I’d be heading the following day, courtesy of the local bus service.