Kefalonia, Greece

Without checking the blog archives, I couldn’t remember when just the four of us last went on holiday outside England.

This holiday came at just the right time for us, and was perfect. Due to our schedule limitations, we decided to limit this trip to the Island of Kefalonia. We had been tempted to rush around trying to ‘tick boxes’ all over the country, but this was the wiser choice.

Early August is peak season, and we were lucky to get a reservation at Avithos Beach Resort. Furthermore, in order to explore the island much beyond your resort, renting a car is essential. This too was a bit of a struggle last minute. Via the hotel, we probably paid more for the vehicle, than we would have with a little more preplanning. But with such a variety of interesting and beautiful places to see it still felt like money well spent.

We hired the car for two days, giving us time to also relax and enjoy our resort. One day definitely isn’t enough to see all that we wanted to see. Even more days are required if you want to visit the neighbouring island of Ithaca, or hike up Mount Ainos.

Hamel and I are both confident and experienced drivers, but it’s been a while since either of us have driven a manual left hand drive car, and that too on small, poorly marked, winding hilly roads. So when Google Maps said it would take ten minutes to get to see the purple sunset at Spasmata Beach, we should have allowed 20. That way, we wouldn’t have ended up missing it by two minutes.

We learnt from this quickly, and added a buffer to every journey thereafter. On our first day excursion, we covered the West of the island. From Avithos in the South, to the Venetian influenced village of Fiskardo in North is a 56km drive. We stopped along the way at the stunning viewpoints for the famous Myrtos Beach, and Asos Castle. At the picturesque Fiskardo, we paused for a well deserved Pornstar Martini at Panormos. Here, we watched the well off play on their catamarans against the ‘old world’ backdrop.

On our journey back down South West, we stopped for lunch at the nearby Alati All Day Bar & Restaurant. This top rated restaurant, is situated right next to the magical little white pebble beach in Alaties Bay. We could’ve happily spent the day here, but we had a different agenda.

The highlight of the day was our next stop. The red sand, Xi Beach on the South coast of the Western peninsula. The children and I enjoyed playing with the sand, and with the ball in the sea. Hamel however, never one to miss on an opportunity for a natural spa, chose to walk to the cave at the end of the beach, and caked himself in mud. Then, after diving into the water to wash himself off, managed to lose his RayBan sunglasses in the process . But his skin was nice.

We were a little behind schedule, but were determined not to miss out on our sunset again. So, with still more to see, we took a short-cut by riding the €12 ferry from Lixouri to Argostoli. We skipped the Saint Theodore Lighthouse and De Bosset Bridge, having seen both from afar. We did however, make a stop at Sinkholes of Argostoli. These are located on the Agioi Theodoroi Cape by the Katavothres Club Restaurant. The water from the sea mysteriously disappears into the ground here, and apparently reemerges on the other side of the island, in the lake cave of Melissani. We really just wanted to show the children this interesting geological feature, but actually this would also be a great spot to watch the sunset.

But we had other unfinished business, so we moved on. The town of Argostoli is the island’s capital, and was quite lively around the pedestrianised centre. There are a lot of bars and restaurants to choose from. We went with a recommendation from a locals, and tried some of the vegan selection at Baroque le Bistrot.

With dinner taken care of quickly, we made sure we got to Spasmata Beach with plenty of time to spare. Having learnt from the experience of the previous day, we parked in the carpark on the airport perimeter road. (Google Maps suggests a small residential road further up the beach). There, as the sky refracted the last light of the sun into a series of deep pinks and purples, we had a drink at the beach bar, and reflected on the great day we’d just had.

The next day we made an early start, conscious we only had the car until 6pm, and yet another long drive back up north. We made the decision to foresake Drogarati Cave, and visit only Melissani Lake Cave. The cave itself was as beautiful as the grottos we’ve seen on Capri, and boat ride just as short. So, picking a day when there weren’t cruise ships on the islands, and getting there just before the day-trippers started amassing at 10.30am, meant we were in and out within 15 minutes. Not having to queue for an hour in the blazing sun, made us feel very smug.

The reason for all this hustle, was that we wanted to maximise our time on Antisamos Beach. This has become famous for its scenes in the film, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. It turned out to be a pebble beach, but we still had a lot of fun. We played in the sea, relaxed on the Mojito Beach Bar sun loungers, and hired a water slide peddle boat.

Before and after our road trips, we were in and around our hotel. On one of the days we walked down to the nearby Sarris Winery, and tried five of the local wines, including an unusual orange wine. After wine tasting, we spent the rest of the day on Avithos Beach. Avithos doesn’t make any of the lists online, but is actually a clean, soft sandy beach, with a nice little beach bar, and shallow aqua marine waters that stretch out a fair distance.

We ate in a number of small restaurants close to our hotel over the course of the week, and they each deserve a mention, as we can’t really say we had bad food anywhere. These were: Meraki Restaurant, Esperides, Gyro House. They served simple food, but you could taste the freshness of the ingredients in even the smallest establishments. This sometimes meant that the sharpness in the cheese and yoghurt took a little getting used to for our urbanised palates. It did add a sense of authenticity, though.

All in all, this was a really lovely family holiday. There was plenty to do to keep all of us entertained, and there was still enough time to feel rested. This was now my third time to Greece, and once again, I left feeling a strong desire to come back and see another part.

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