Emily Peilan - Freedom Wanderers

Hi.

Welcome to my photography and travel blog. This is a space where I share my travel stories, thoughts and photographs of beautiful places around the world. Enjoy reading!

Em xx

Kefalonia

Kefalonia

 
Mrytos Sunset - Kefalonia - Greece

— a travel guide —

 
 

Getting to Kefalonia

The best and also probably the cheapest way is by flight through RyanAir, which only flies through London Stansted, Frankfurt International and Berlin Tegel in Germany, as well as Bergamo & Pisa in Italy. I have scored flights for as cheap as 9,99 Euros and the most I ever paid was 35 Euros for a one direction flight! However, Ryan Air’s cabin bag policy always changes so you might end up paying extra to carry a bit more stuff with you. Also, they don’t have electronic ticket scanners, so make sure you print out your ticket to avoid a fine!

You can of course, also get to Kefalonia from the Mainland - there are regular ferries running from Kyllini to Poros (Kefalonia), which I found out after being stranded on Zakynthos for an extra night.

Best Season to Visit:
Flights begin in March and end in late October.
Tourist Season is effectively May, June, July, August, September.
March, April and October are still considered “off season” for some businesses as there are not enough tourists to make it worth their expenditure. This is both a good and a bad. The bad part is that while the wether is mostly good (I got 22-27 degrees in late March and early October when I visited, but I also got thunderstorms and camped out in 7 degrees and rain… so it can be pretty unpredictable). Some shops, beach bars, restaurants and outside terraces of cafes might not yet be open, but there are also plenty of local places open all year round. The great part is, you don’t have crowds of tourists and you can find countless beautiful beaches all to yourself!! The chill vibes in the ‘off’ season was pleasantly tranquil, but I also really liked the buzzy atmosphere during peak season (June/July) when everything seemed to come alive :)
So… if you’re someone who wants the best of both worlds, I’d suggest going in May and September!

 
 
 

Transport on the island


**Probably the most important thing to know once you touch down, is that there are NO bus transfers from the Airport to anywhere. My naiive self made that mistake the first time… so I improvised and befriended a German Tourist who kindly allowed me to hitch a ride with them (10mins) to the capital of Argostoli :) There was a line of people waiting for their car rentals, so it seems the Germans have it all sorted - unlike me, who had literally nothing planned and did zero research…

Car Rentals:
Probably the most popular mode of transport for tourists, but there are a few pros and cons to know about. It’s efficient in a way and certainly a bonus when you come across gravel roads, but there are so many tricky narrow streets, especially in the city and in some countryside villages where only one car can pass through … so you have to be quite a confident driver. Parking in peak season can also be a struggle, while parking a scooter or a bike is the easiest thing ever. If you do hire a car, you can pick it up already at the airport and it might also be a good option if you’re wanting to skimp on accommodation but don’t want to camp.

Public Transport
There are buses that run between the major ports/villages and they are quite cheap too. I know people who have travelled with public transport but generally it’s more difficult to get around, especially to those smaller more hidden locations.

Scooter Rentals: (My Recommendation!)
If you are someone who loves that feeling of exhilaration and is somewhat recklessly wild … rent a scooter and I promise you will have the best adventure ever! With most driving licenses, you are allowed to ride a scooter up to 50cc (I have a normal NZ Full driver’s license but this also applies to all EU licenses). I only ever rode a scooter once in Italy and I can’t say I made my passenger feel very safe, so I was a little nervous to have rented out a scooter for a week. I’m telling you this, because you might have the false assumption that I’m an experienced rider or that I seem very confident, but truth is, I did doubt my abilities and my crazy ideas (so did everyone I told this to by the way) - but I refused to let my fears and doubts steal away my dream of riding away into island sunsets, singing out loud and feeling alive.

Things you should know about renting a scooter:
- they are heavy, so before you set off, make sure you can lift the scooter on and off the brakes without assistance
- when turning sharp corners, I always have one leg out to help balance and ready to catch myself if need be
- lots of cracked roads, gravel roads and occasional potholes … so just beware and ride safely!

Rent a Bike Kefalonia <— link to website
I would highly, highly recommend “Rent a bike Kefalonia” as your go to for scooter rentals, bikes or e-bikes, they also have motorcycles and quad bikes - all at very good prices and the service is amazing! They give you a really comprehensive briefing about the scooter, road safety etc. If you ever run into trouble on the island, they are always quick to respond and came all the way out to help me when my bike refused to start. Best part is, they also do free airport pick ups and drop offs!! They very kindly picked up me, helped me drop some stuff off at my airbnb before driving into town and picking up my scooter! On top of that, they can deliver bikes, scooters, quads to anywhere in Kefalonia with free delivery from Argostoli (Capital) to 8km. Prices for further distances can be found on their website:
www.rentabikekefalonia.gr

Bikes/e-Bikes
My brother put in the hard yards and literally rode (with a normal push bike) all over the island, through various mountain valleys and up some pretty steep hills. Amazing perseverance and endurance! It’s not easy when you are struggling uphill on a sunny 27 plus degree day in peak summer season! We would recommend this if you are a good cycler. Otherwise, an e-bike might be a good alternative.

 
 
 

Accommodation

When I came to Kefalonia the first time, I was prepared to freedom camp the entire week in my tent as I liked the idea of not being tied down to any one place and just having the freedom of pitching up my tent where I wanted, when I wanted and falling asleep to the sound of nature. However, I was fortunate enough to have met some of the loveliest, kindest locals, who offered me a bed to sleep in, warm showers to wash off the sea salt and electricity to recharge my camera… I am so grateful for their generosity and their good company. It was through these locals that I found so many beautiful places to explore. On my second trip, my brother and I spent a night at a camping ground near Sami, then on my third and most recent trip, I indulged myself in a few Airbnb nights. Of course there are a variety of other accommodations so I’ll try shine some light on these too.

1. Camping/Freedom Camping
Let’s start with Freedom Camping. As with most countries, it’s not exactly ‘legal’ to freedom camp and I think the main problem is people leaving rubbish behind them and not respecting the area. For me, I always make sure to leave no trace, pack all my rubbish, pick up extra rubbish if I can fit it in my scooter and to always camp somewhere hidden away, even if it means a wee trudge to get there. I usually pitch up after dark (just before midnight) and leave just before dawn, which is great because once you pack down and hit the road… it’s perfect timing for sunrise! On some occasions I have let myself indulge in later mornings, packed down my tent at 11am and no problem from anyone. In fact, I never had anyone come up to me or say anything whilst freedom camping. In my opinion, super safe, no dangerous animals - just lots of beautiful stray cats, and waking up by the seaside is just the best thing ever!

Camping Karavomilos Beach
This is an actual campsite and I find myself quite amazed at the camping facilities here. It’s not just a camping ground with showers and electricity, they are situated right next to Karavomilos Beach, which means a beach bar/cafe/restaurant with a beautiful outdoor terrace, is very appropriate. They even went one step further to include a fresh water pool and sunbathing seats, which, when I was there, was free entrance. This is one of the only two campsites I know of in Kefalonia, the other is in the capital of Argostoli. I will attach the link to both below:
Camping Karavomilos Beach
Camping Argostoli

2. Airbnb
On my most recent trip, I indulged myself with a few Airbnb nights. There was one in particular, situated in Kompothekrata near Argostoli, which I found to the best place and best value for money Airbnb I ever stayed at. The host was the loveliest lady and she lives just below the Airbnb, so she is always there to help or answer questions. It’s impeccably clean with lots of thoughtful decor, the bathroom is of very high standards and your bedroom opens out to a beautiful balcony where you can see the sunrise over the mountains. Only 5km from Argostoli, it is also easily reachable by foot.

I have attached some photos below and also the Airbnb link to her place:
Sea View Apartment in Kompothekrata

 
 

3. Others
I had the privilege of meeting the lovely Anna Votsi on my first visit to Kefalonia. She has her own amazing blog about Kefalonia, where she also manages and advertises a range of accommodation from Houses to Hotels and Villas.
Check out her blog here —> Kefalonia By Anna

If you are thinking about staying in Sami, I can recommend to you this lovely Blue House, beautifully done up by a friend of mine and right in front of the beach!
You can check out the photos and details here —> Sami - 1 Bedroom Blue House

In terms of Hostels/Backpackers, I cannot say I have seen many around and that camping/Airbnb would be your best bet as the prices are very comparable to that of hostels.

Resorts are plentiful, especially in Lassi (near the airport) and Skala. I stayed in Lassi for a couple of nights (not in a resort of course) and can say that this places is buzzing with beach bars, cafes, tavernas and sun beds. It’s a great location and the beaches here are really nice and sandy.

 
 
 

Argostoli (Capital)

Argostoli is the capital of Kefalonia and here you will find some cool street markets, hipster cafes, as well as beautiful beaches and look out points! Something very special that occurs during sunsets is the presence of the Caretta Caretta (Loggerhead Sea Turtles). They tend to follow the fishermen back to the port of Argostoli (where the main streets are) hoping to catch some few stray fishes. Sometimes they’ll come up to say hi and wave with their fins :)

You can also take the ferry (along with your scooter and car) from Argostoli to Lixouri and save yourself the long drive over. Very cheap fares (something like 3-4 Euros for me and a scooter) and only takes about 20 mins.

There is a beautiful look out point labelled ‘Telegraphos’ on Googlemaps, it is up the hill just behind Argostoli and also reachable from the Lighthouse. You end up down a long gravel road, a little sketchy for scooter riders, but manageable.

 
 

Restaurant Recommendation:
El Greco in Argostoli - very local restaurant with excellent traditional Greek dishes!

Cafe Recommendation: (Pictured Below)
Libretto in Argostoli - they do amazing Freddo Cappuccino and Waffles!!

 
 


SURROUNDING BEACHES:
The lighthouse is also worth checking out for the views as are the many beautiful beaches scattered along the coastline near Argostoli. So many hidden sea caves and underwater tunnels with lots of interesting sea critters! There is actually a track near the lighthouse that continues down the left coastline to some wonderful beaches.

 
 
 

Antisamos

If you ever watched Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, then you will recognise this beach. It’s famous primarily for its film location but it’s a very pristine beach, surrounded by green trees and aquamarine blue waters. In peak season, this place can be really crowded, especially as it’s so close to the port of Sami.

 
 
 

Melissani Caves

An amazing cave, unique because of the massive hole in the middle that was a beautiful disaster created by an earthquake. Just a short drive from Sami, this place is also very very crowded in summer, with the waiting line estimated to be 30mins-1hr. In the off season months, you just buy your ticket and go on through. Unfortunately, you have to pay an entrance fee of 7 Euros per person to see the cave… there’s no going around it. But the nice thing is that you get a beautiful old fashioned boat tour lasting 10-15 mins and the rower will tell some facts and history about the cave. Some seriously cool rock formations here as you go deeper into the cave.

Best time to go: around noon when the sun is at its highest. It shines through the giant hole and creates this amazing sparkling blue colour! In summer you have a bit more time, they are open from 10am-2pm. In off season, you have to plan it well as the sun only reaches the hole around 11:30am.

 
 
 

Agia Efimia

Situated about 15-20mins drive/ride from Sami, there are numerous little beaches and secret coves along the way. I personally really liked the chill, ambient vibes of Agia Efimia and found it to be one of my favourite villages. The beaches here are not sandy, but clear and lined with small pebbles and rocks, making the water very clear for swimming/snorkelling. My favourite cafe here is: Fiore Di Amore.

 
 

RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATION:

Sea Rock WS Restaurant
Probably my favourite restaurant on this island with the beach views, beautifully curated outdoor terrace and garden, amazing food selection at a very high standard and the owner Nikos is just the nicest. I could spend an entire day here, reading, writing, playing with kittens and sipping on coffee :)

 
 
 

Sami - Port

Sami is the main port for many of the interisland ferries. It is abundant with cafes and restaurants along the water front. The best Souvlaki can be found right next to the port at one of my favourite eateries —> Mangiare. (Tip: Get the mini souvlaki! ). It’s a family owned restaurant, some of the meat comes directly from the family farm as well, everything is so fresh and so good, plus the service is excellent! In summer, their outdoor terrace is open all the way to the water front.

From here, you can travel to Ithaca by Ionion Pelagos. It only costs 4 Euros per person and another 4 Euros if you’re bringing a scooter. Journey takes about 45 mins and you can buy the tickets (last minute) from their office on the main street - just look for Ionion Pelagos. It’s usually late, often by half an hour or more, so don’t fret if you don’t see it. You’re most likely in the right place and have yet to adapt to Greek punctuality … there’s no way you can miss a giant ferry in the port of Sami :)

Check out the timetables and routes here —> Ionion Pelagos

 
 

Boat Rentals
More than half the beaches in Kefalonia can only be reached by boat so if you have the time and money, I would highly recommend renting out a boat for a day or more. My brother and I rented a boat for half a day from Sami and we managed to go around the coast and found some secluded beaches. Next time, I think we would rent out for the full day because there is just so much to see! Luckily, you don’t need a boat license to operate these smaller boats. Everything is automatic and straight forward to run, plus they give you a very extensive briefing and test run. I did have some experience operating a safety boat in Norway, but you can pick it up really quickly and you certainly don’t have to have operated a boat before!
Here is the link to —> Pirates Rent a Boat

 
 
 

Assos

One of my favourite places on this island, you feel like you are in a scene from Game of Thrones, especially when atop the ruins of this old Venetian castle. Assos is actually a very small, quiet village with beautiful scenery and stunning blue waters. Many nice cafes and restaurants here. The walk up to the castle ruins is about 15-20mins and you can walk further to the end of the islet. This was also one of my favourite places to freedom camp, watching the sunset as I ride over from Myrtos and waking up to the sunrise from behind the mountains :)
(NB. There is no admission fee for the castle)

 
 
 

Myrtos

The most popular beach on the island and for good reason. Its stunning turquoise blue colour never fails to amaze me, I have not edited the blues at all in these photos, they really are that saturated! It’s also one of the best places to watch sunset during the summer months as it sets just across the horizon. If you are up for a little exploring, there is an awesome sea cave at the end of the beach and further out some great rocks to jump off! If you’re after something to eat, there is a variety of cafes/tavernas in Divarata, just before Myrtos.

 
 
 

Beaches Between Myrtos and Assos

There are some beautiful beaches to photograph between Myrtos and Assos, many of them are unfortunately only accessible by boat.

 
 
 

Beaches on the west coast

PETANI BEACH
In the off season months, the sun will generally set more over here and you can find a few accommodation offers near the beach, but it’s much quieter than Myrtos and very beautiful. In the peak summer months, they also have a beach cafe/bar.

PLATIA AMMOS BEACH
I didn’t manage to get all the way down to the beach for sunset in March. But it’s coastline reminds me a little of New Zealand. But apparently you can hike up to a view point via a long staircase and reach the top of a cliff like rock, which overlooks the entire beach!! Next time, I will be sure to visit and share some photos :)

 
 
 

Zola and Vouti Beach

Zola is a little village high up in the hills overlooking a beautiful stretch of coastline. From there, you can easily make your way down to Vouti Beach, which is not so well known, so it was not hard to find a section of the beach all to myself :)
If you are going on further to Myrtos and Assos, I would recommend sticking along the coastline all the way. You will get such impressive views!

 
 
 

Mount Ainos

This mountain is also commonly referred to as - Mt Enos - by the locals. At 1628m altitude, it is the highest point in Kefalonia. During the winter, it gets a good dusting of snow. In the summer, some people prefer to hike up this mountain along various trails, but you can actually reach the summit by vehicle! Takes about an hour from Argostoli or Sami, but don’t just rush up to the summit. There are some beautiful look-out points along the way but you might have to hike up rocky slopes to reach some nicer view points. The photos I took below were actually taken 3/4 of the way up. I just found a clearing amongst the trees, parked my scooter and hiked up a mountain rubble of little rocks.

 
 
 

Fiskardo

The northern most tip of Kefalonia. This region is the favourite amongst many locals, perhaps it’s because the northern region suffered the least amount of damage during the big earthquake in 1953, thus kept many of its original architecture. In the peak months, it’s bustling with tourists and yachts parked in the harbour. Numerous restaurants and cafes as well as many secluded beaches can be found in this region. Overall, a very nice atmosphere… but not so much going on in the off season months.

 
 
 

Mouda Beach

If you are coming in the off season months, there is a high chance that the sun will set over here. These were taken at Mouda Beach in mid October. There is a beautiful cave structure at the end of the beach, it’s quite a long walk but very much worth the effort and also a very magical place to swim at sunset!

 
 
 

Extra Practical Information


I have just a few more practical matters that might be handy for your visit to Kefalonia.

CASH OR CARD?
I wasn’t quite sure at the beginning but the Greek locals tend to pay in cash more often, while the tourists (due to foreign currency exchange) seem to prefer card. They use Euros in Greece, which is not a problem for the majority of EU visitors. I personally like to pay by cash, especially at cafes and restaurants so that I can tip the waiters. Sometimes I run out of cash (too quickly for my liking) and I feel bad when I can’t tip. There is however, no rule to tipping, it’s not required but I think it’s a nice gesture, especially when I know the waiters don’t earn very high wages. From my experience, you can pay by card almost anywhere, but it’s always good to have some cash on hand, as you might come across some local produce in the countryside that only except cash and ATMs are not so plentiful once you get out of the capital.

DATA & WIFI
If you have a European number, then most likely your data will work fine in most places on the island. Occasionally I do run into a “no reception” zone, but generally speaking it’s pretty good.
Wifi on the other hand can be a hit and miss. Many cafes and restaurants seem to offer free wifi, some are really fast whilst others tend to lag and you are willing to sacrifice your own data just for efficiency. Also beware, when you book a place to stay (and if having adequate wifi is important to you), just ask and double check they have a strong connection. I ended up booking an Airbnb, falsely assuming every place must have wifi, only to find out I had to use my own data or sit for hours at a cafe/restaurant like an anti-social loner while uploading/downloading photos and researching for upcoming trips.

TOILET RULES
Greeks have toilet rules?? Yes and it’s quite an important one you should follow:
>> DON’T FLUSH TOILET PAPER!! CHUCK IT IN THE BIN!! <<
Why? Because in Kefalonia, they have very very small pipes and often toilet paper causes drain blockage and that can put it out of use for a cafe or restaurant, which can be really frustrating for everyone. I was quite baffled at the start and I’ll be honest, it took some getting used to as it’s so natural to flush paper down the toilet when you’re done! Most places have a sign, trying to remind tourists, but I think a lot of people ignore it. So please try to be a good, respectful traveller :)

NIGHT LIFE
If you are looking for a party island, go to Zakynthos. Kefalonia is not big on parties at all, more the chill wine and beer over sunset sort of island. If you really want to go clubbing or partying, Argostoli on a Saturday night is probably your best bet!

SUPERMARKETS
They don’t have massive supermarkets like I’m used to in Northern Europe or New Zealand. If you want to cook your own food, then there are a few mini markets in the cities, lots of fruit stalls in various places, especially in summer and most of the produce is local, which is really nice!

 

Overall, this island has been a dream to explore! Ithaca is another fantastic island on the Ionian Sea, which deserves its own separate post - so keep watch, there will be more to come! :)

If you have any more questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments below!! :)

 
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