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Kefalonia Jewel of the Ionian

Such a seductive combination of weather, friendly locals, stunning scenery and tranquility as is found in Kefalonia is difficult to find anywhere else in Greece.

The Ionian Islands, of which Kefalonia is the largest, are the wettest in Greece, producing a strikingly beautiful, green landscape. Outside the capital, Argostoli, life is quiet. The town of Skala, although a tourist destination, is a pleasant place to stay. What it lacks in authenticity it makes up for with a charm of its own. It has a large, clean, sandy beach and one main street making it virtually impossible to get lost. There is a pool bar which wasn’t too busy even in peak season, some good tavernas particularly on the side streets and an excellent seafood restaurant on the seafront. Y

ou can even get Italian or Chinese if you wish. However, having gone to Greece, try some traditional Greek flavors. For example a menu may include Stifado (casserole with meat, onions, garlic and tomato), Moussaka (minced lamb), and the famous Kefalonian Pie (traditionally rice and three meats). Don’t be fooled by your diving experiences though fresh fish is not plentiful in Kefalonia so what there is, is expensive.

Sight-seeing is much easier by hire car. Argostoli is worth visiting, go early evening as it is a treat to sit in the main square and watch the world go by. Although largely destroyed in the 1952 earthquake, leaving much of its history in museums, there are other attractions in this very Greek capital. Bars and restaurants with good food abound and there are several designer boutiques. Tourism has not taken over as this is a working town. For a glimpse of how Kefalonia really used to look though, visit Fiskardo where beautiful Venetian buildings still stand and grab a Greek salad by the harbor. Other villages worth stopping at include Assos and Ayia Efimia.

Robola winery does a tour and a rather generous wine tasting, along with an amusingly persistent sales pitch. Other tourist sights of interest include the impressive Drogorati Caves which lie at the bottom of some steep and slippery steps and the Melissani Lakes are which are seen by rowing boat. Both are interesting, but busy in peak season and probably not worth a long detour. Mount Aenos, on the other hand, offers a peaceful trek through a National Park forest of black pines. You also can get some way up in a car, to where there are some picnic tables (however to reach the summit requires an off-road vehicle).

Myrtos Beach, the most photographed in Greece, offers stunning views from the cliffs above but watch out for strong undercurrents in the sea which increase in the afternoon. Perhaps make this a photo stop en route instead, instead visit Skala beach for sand, size and facilities, the beaches near Lassi for water sports and beaches accessible only by boat, for seclusion.