A Review Of Kefalonia, Exploring What The Magical Holiday Resort Has To Offer
Jennifer Atkinson, who has just returned from her holiday in Kefalonia sat down with In2town Travel Magazine to talk about her fun in the sun and to give us a review of Kefalonia.
Kefalonia is a picture-book island paradise with its lush vineyards, golden beaches, lakes and caves. The holiday resort has become a favourite with UK holidaymakers who are getting fed up with the same old holiday in Spain. With its crystal clear waters and amazing beaches, not to mention the wonderful activities available, it makes a perfect holiday for honeymoons, couples, and families.
The popular holiday resort was made famous by the Hollywood blockbuster Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and although Kefalonia has always been popular, the film helped to boost tourism.
Jennifer Atkinson talks about the fun she had in Kefalonia, including how she went horse trekking, and how she decided to hire a car to explore the island. Read the interview with Jennifer and learn more about Keflonia and get some great ideas on what to do for a fun holiday in the sun.
Here is what Jennifer had to say about Kefalonia.
Jen, you have just returned from a holiday in Kefalonia which is an island in the Ionian Sea, west of mainland Greece, what made you choose this destination for your holiday?
We chose Kefalonia as it was one of the Greek islands we had not been to before (previously I have visited Rhodes and Corfu). The island itself is famed for its weather and beautifully clear, turquoise waters.
What makes the island so special?
The island felt very special because there is a strong sense of it being untouched by the tourism industry. Although foreign visitors are welcomed to Kefalonia with open arms, there is also a strong element of rustic charm where the island hasn’t been commercialised like other tourist hotspots.
Did you have a beach holiday or did you explore the Island?
I can’t sit still for more than a couple of days, so we made sure we had plenty to do during our week away. Kefalonia – whilst the biggest of all the Ionian Islands – is still extremely accessible if you are prepared to rent a car. We only needed the car for a couple of days, but managed to pack in two road trips to different locations around the island. We explored old fishing ports, remote beaches, and the island’s mountains.
You went horse trekking, can you tell me more about that and have you ever been on a horse before?
I actually own a horse, Josie, who I have had for eighteen years, but my boyfriend has only ever ridden three times, and each time has been abroad. We tried trekking together for the first time in Corfu last year, and as soon as our holiday was booked this year, I got on and researched local stables. We visited the Bavarian Stables, a wonderfully run set-up with the most beautiful Haflinger horses. The horses were actually imported and bred by the stables’ owner Connie – which for any enthusiasts out there, can appreciate is a massive bonus.
We were equipped with riding gear (I knew in advance to make sure we had both packed jeans, suitable for riding in), and matched to our steeds by size and ability. The trek itself was only a couple of hours long, but we were taken into the Kefalonian hills and treated to the most spectacular views over the sea and of the islands Ithaka and Lefkas. I had chosen an evening ride as I knew it would be cooler for the horses, and fewer flying insects!
Was the horse trekking expensive and what age groups is it suitable for?
The horse trekking was very reasonable at €35 per person for a 90 minute ride. Horse trekking abroad can be a problem with insurance companies who mostly avoid insuring riders in the same way they do adventure training or water sports. So I would always recommend checking with your insurance provider before saddling up.
In terms of age groups, you need to be able to sit un-aided in a saddle, so I would avoid seeking out horse trekking for young children or elderly relatives and friends.
Horses are very intuitive when it comes to nervous riders, so a sturdy set of flat-heeled shoes/boots, jeans, and confidence should be worn as a bare minimum.
You hired a car to explore the Kefalonia, what tips would you give people who are considering hiring a car in Kefalonia?
There have been plenty of horror stories when it comes to unsuspecting tourists being ripped off by greedy car hire firms. My first tip would be to try and hire a car from a reputable firm such as Avis or Europcar. If you are choosing a local hire firm, always check the excess amount, and what damage you could be liable for. It may sound obvious, but make a note (or take photos) of any existing damage to ensure you’re not held accountable for any pre-existing scratches when you return the car.
You went on a day-long boat cruise, is that something you would do again and did you find it was value for money?
Captain Makis’ Glass Bottom Boat Trip was one of my holiday highlights. The cruise started from the port in the island’s capital, Argostoli, and set sail to a number of different locations. We visited a fish farm which was (*donning my farmer’s daughter’s hat here*) very interesting, and then a number of fairly secluded snorkelling spots, where the boat’s glass bottom made spotting fishes fun! At lunch time we anchored on a deserted beach where the Captain and his shipmates set up a beach volley ball game and cooked us a fantastic BBQ feast.
Over all the trip was about eight hours long – from 9am until 5pm – and cost €65 per person including transfers from our hotel, food, and snorkelling equipment. Well worth every cent!
The romantic film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed in Kefalonia, Greece, did you visit any of the film locations?
We visited the fabulous beach of Antisamos, next to the village of Sami, which was partly reconstructed to look like before the severe earthquake that hit the Ionian Islands in 1953. The beach was the most beautiful I had ever seen; turquoise waters and the most gentle waves lapping at the white shingle.
One of the biggest complaints we receive from our readers is how expensive excursions are through a travel agent, what is the main tip you would offer someone who is thinking a booking an excursion when visiting Kefalonia?
Excursions are expensive if booked through a travel agent because the agent takes a cut. My advice to anyone travelling to Kefalonia (or similarly, Corfu) would be to be brave and book the excursion directly through the local contact. You will usually find the excursion operator has an office on the island, so track them down and book them directly. You are more likely to be able to negotiate a better price without having to pay a travel agent.
In your opinion, what are the five places a tourist on holiday in Kefalonia should go and visit?
- Antisamos beach, Sami – the most beautiful, crystal-clear water
- Myrtos beach, Pylaros – famed for its turquoise colour water and a swim-through cave at one end
- Melissani Cave, Sami – a natural phenomenon where a water-filled cave 500m from the sea is fed by water from the other side of the island which has travelled through the rock and underground
- Captain Makis Glass Bottom Boat Trip – setting sail from Argostoli (the island’s capital), the day-long cruise takes you to parts of the island you wouldn’t otherwise visit, and includes a fantastic BBQ lunch on the beach and the chance to cover yourself in medicinal mud!
Where did you stay when you went on holiday to Kefalonia?
We stayed at Dionysos Village Resort, a lovely family-run hotel with the most spectacular sunset views over the sea.
Would you stay at this hotel again?
I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Kefalonia. The pool is of a good size and very clean, the staff are wonderfully polite and helpful, the views are fantastic, and there is a traditional Greek night on a Tuesday with delicious local food and dancing!
There is a bit of a steep climb from the beach to the hotel (about 15-20 minutes uphill) which, in the heat was hard work. A positive spin would be to say we built up our appetite every day, but I did hear other hotel guests had preferred to pay a €5 taxi fare instead.
Would you say the holiday in Kefalonia offered you value for money?
We chose to go to Kefalonia in June – slightly earlier in the British summer season, outside of school holidays – so paid less than we would’ve done had we gone in August. The ‘cooler’ temperature (it was still hitting 30 degrees on a daily basis) and cheaper costs meant we were able to definitely get value for our money.
I would always suggest holidaying outside of peak-times if possible.
Is Kefalonia a place you would recommend to friends?
I would strongly recommend Kefalonia to my friends and family. The weather was perfect, not one cloud in the sky, and the food everywhere on the island was very tasty. Eating fresh fish on a daily basis, and not to mention Greek cheese, is my idea of heaven!
What are the best money saving tips you would offer to someone thinking of taking a holiday in Kefalonia?
- We chose a self-catering option with our hotel because we enjoy the challenge of buying local food and trying a different eatery every day. By sorting out breakfast (pastries, eggs, or fruit) for ourselves, we were able to save money on the overall hotel costs.
Similarly, food on board a plane can cost more than anywhere else, so bring food with you such as a round of sandwiches. You won’t be able to bring drinks through security, but empty bottles can be filled up with water the other side.
- Avoid withdrawing money abroad at all costs. Not only will you be charged an inflated exchange rate, but your bank or lender may also add on an extra withdrawal fee. Check MoneySavingExpert for more tips.
- Nowadays, some flight providers offer a fair amount of cabin luggage but charge for bags over 20kg to be placed in the hold. If you are able to pack light (and that includes restricting the amount of lotions and potions you take), you may be able to save money on your flight costs. Do check your airline’s baggage guides for what can and can’t be brought aboard the plane with you before you travel though!
By Timothy Ellis