Kefalonia boasts many attractions, ranging from the natural landscape and leading to great creations of those who have passed from the island throughout the centuries and the positive residues they left behind. Here are some of the major attractions, while certainly there are many more that would be added continuously.
Drogarati cave is one of the largest and most attractive geological formations in the region around Sami as well Kefalonia as a whole. It lies a short distance from the cave lake of Melissani and belongs to the same geological region. It was discovered about 300 years ago after a major earthquake caused a section of the cave roof to collapse, revealing what is now the main entrance. The cave descends to a depth of about 60 metres and has an average temperature of 18ο C and the high humidity (90%) common to all caves.
According to archaeologists, Drogarati cave is over 100 million years old. The section currently open to the public is only part of the cave complex, which is believed to connect to other caves or cave formations in the region. The roof and floor of the cave are graced with countless stalagmites and stalactites, created by lime deposits in the water that filters through the bedrock above. They grow at an estimated rate of 1 cm over 100 years, and although many have now been broken by earthquakes and human activity they still offer an enchanting sight as one descends into the cave.
Drogarati is open to the public throughout the year and due to its exceptional acoustics has even hosted a number of concerts in its 900 sq. metre entrance chamber. It is also one of the few caves where relatively bright electric lighting has been permitted, enabling the visitor to fully admire this marvel of nature’s creation.
The cave lake of Melissani
The cave lake of Melissani is one of the most enchanting and well known attractions of Kefalonia as well as being a site of great historical interest. Located at Karavomilo, very near Sami, it was rediscovered in 1951 by famed Greek speleologist G. Petrocheilos and opened to the public following extensive access works. A large section of the cave roof has collapsed, allowing sunlight to filter through the overhead vegetation and giving the water a brilliant turquoise colour.
In antiquity the lake was a place of worship for the god Pan and the nymph Melissanthi. According to the myth, Melissanthi drowned herself in the lake over her unrequited love of Pan. Another version tells of a shepherdess called Melissanthi who accidentally fell into the lake and drowned while searching for a lost sheep. In the lake lies a small isle on which the archaeologist S. Marinatos discovered a shrine dedicated to Pan. The finds, which are now displayed at the Argostoli Archaeological Museum, include a clay figurine of Pan, a plate depicting dancing nymphs, a clay tablet depicting a procession of nymphs and a small tablet with a relief carving of a female figure.
The cave lake is the result of geological process called karstification, in which the limestone bedrock is dissolved by groundwater creating subterranean caverns. The existence of a karstic network across the island was proven in a 1963 experiment, in which green dye dumped into sinkholes on the other side of the island (Katavothres) resurfaced 14 days later in Melissani lake.
Today, visitors can take a guided tour of Melissani cave lake in small rowing boats and enjoy the magical spectacle of its stalactites and sunlit turquoise waters.
Napier Gardens is named after Sir Charles Napier, a 19th century British governor of the island, and is one of the prettiest spots in the town of Argostoli. Located on a rise above the main square, this densely wooded park provides a shady retreat from the bustling town in the heat of summer.
A tall iron gateway marks the main entrance to the gardens, which are enclosed by stone walls constructed in a traditional Kefalonian style. Wide cobblestone paths wind upwards past a war memorial and a beautiful iron bandstand at the top end of the gardens. Following extensive renovation, the park is now well lit and dotted with benches and picnic tables, making it a popular venue for outdoor events in the summer.
The castle of St George
The castle of St George is one of the most well known and historic sites in the region of Livatho. The fortification of the hilltop was begun by the Byzantines but it was the Venetians who gave the castle its final form in the 16th century. The castle served as the island’s capital until 1757 when it was damaged in a major earthquake.
Recent renovations have restored some of the castle’s former glory, while the views from this strategic vantage point are magnificent and encompass a large part of the island, including Argostoli and Karavado. Within its wall are the remains of various churches and dwellings, while beneath the castle gates lies the ‘Kastro’ quarter with the metropolitan church of Evangelistria, a typical example of Ionian baroque, in which notable post-Byzantine icons from the ruined churches of the Castle have been preserved.
South of Kastro lies the historic convent of Saint Andreas Milapidias, whose old church has been converted into an ecclesiastical museum with notable post-Byzantine icons.
One of the most important preservation works on the castle was the restoration of the main gate. However, other than regular maintenance, cleaning and restoration no excavations have been carried out to date. It is well known that a tunnel connecting the castle with Argostoli once existed but it has yet to be discovered or explored and has most likely collapsed in subsequent earthquakes.
The bay of Argostoli provides the town with one of the few natural harbours in the entire Mediterranean. At the head of the bay is Koutavos Lagoon, which was formed by the De Bosset Bridge, a historic monument to the town’s past. The shallow waters of the lagoon are not suitable for large boats but one can take the wide footpath around the shores of the lagoon to visit the beautiful forest of Koutavos.
Most of Argostoli harbour front is lined with palm trees and laid with an attractive design of black and white pebbles. In the mornings it is bustling with life as much of the town’s commercial activity is centred around the harbour, including picturesque fishing boats displaying their catch of the day. On warm summer nights it is a popular place for a romantic stroll or a rest on one the benches to gaze at the moored yachts from all over the world and twinkling lights of mountain villages across the still waters of the bay. The more energetic can continue their walk or cycle past the marina at the edge of town and take the wooded coastal road to Katavothres or the municipal beach of Fanari, named after the famous nearby lighthouse.