Greetings Internet Stranger, and welcome to the best things to do on Kefalonia. Kefalonia is not quite as famous as some of the other islands in Greece, unless you are a super fan of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. But that just means that it’s not as swarmed with tourists, which is all to the good.
Whether you visit Kefalonia for a few days on your own, or on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship shore excursion like I did, I guarantee you’ll find something amazing to love on this island of mystical caves, beautiful beaches, and screaming Americans. (That would be me. But more of this anon.)
Best Things to Do on Kefalonia
What to Pack
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today on our 24 hours of the best things to do in Kefalonia. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Greece is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American or from the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
Best Things to Do on Kefalonia
Morning: Monastery of Agios Andreas
Greek Orthodox churches are some of the most spectacular buildings in the world. Even if you are not Greek Orthodox (I’m not), you can appreciate the majesty of the sacred icons and gorgeous metalwork. That’s why I suggest visiting the Monastery of Agios Andreas when you are looking for the best things to do on Kefalonia. If you are visiting on a cruise ship shore excursion, look for one that includes this monastery. If not, look for a tour guide who can take you here. You’ll learn much more than…
Three Fun Facts: Monastery of Agios Andreas
1) Why Should I Visit This Monastery?
Well, for one thing, it’s one of the only Greek Orthodox monasteries I have been to where you can actually photograph the interior. In many sacred places, photography is not allowed out of respect. But our guide encouraged us to take photos, so I assume there’s no problem! It’s always a good idea to follow rules about whether or not photography is allowed in a place. It’s respectful of other cultures, and it also stops angry ghosts from following you home and haunting you.
There is one thing you are not allowed to photograph, and that is the relic of a saint’s foot. But do you really need to see a picture of a severed foot on this blog to convince you to go to Kefalonia? I sincerely hope not.
2) Why is the monastery so full of treasures?
Like all good stories, this one revolves around a princess. In the 1630s, the Greek-Romanian princess Roxanne decided to renounce the Princess Life and become a nun. When she moved to the monastery, she brought a whole bunch of treasure with her, which enabled the monastery to obtain beauties like this stunning silver icon of the Virgin Mary you see above.
She also brought the foot of the St. Andrew, and I have so many questions about that. Why did she just have a saint’s foot lying around? Did she have any other feet hanging around her palace or just this one? And why hasn’t Disney made a princess movie about this? I can’t wait to hear Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion duet on the theme song to The Princess with the Severed Foot!
3) What is the Deal with These Frescoes?
So if you’ve ever visited an Orthodox church, you know that one of the most stunning features is the colorful frescoes that cover the walls. But something looks wonky with these frescoes, yes? Well, it’s not just because they are super old. This island was actually occupied by the British at the time. The British felt like the Greeks didn’t appreciate their benevolent overlordship enough…so they covered their frescoes with asbestos.
I genuinely can’t think of anything worse than simultaneously defacing a church and poisoning a whole bunch of nuns with asbestos, unless it’s that story I heard in Providence, Rhode Island about a cardinal being caught in a hotel room with a dead 11-year old prostitute. And between this and the British Museum stealing the Elgin Marbles from Greece, I feel the time has come to make a movie about the ancient enmity because Greece and the UK. Opa!
Best Things to Do in Kefalonia
Afternoon: Melissani Cave
Are you a fan of the dark and mysterious? Do you dream of sailing away upon a lake of secrets? Then come to Melissani Cave, one of the most popular attractions in Kefalonia. You’ll have to wait on a long line to explore the wonders of the underground lake, but I promise it’s worth it. I can’t spill all of the secrets of the lake, nor can I spill all the lake’s water, but I can spill…
Three Fun Facts: Melissani Cave
1) Where Should I Stop For Lunch?
The best place to stop for lunch in between the monastery and the cave is the adorable village Agia Effimia. This lovely spot is both a traditional fishing village and a gorgeous place for tourists to go boating and relax on the water. The novel/film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin takes place on Kefalonia–I imagine in a village just like this one, only with a lot fewer tourists and a lot more Nicholas Cage.
I’m loathe to recommend a specific lunch spot because they get full up quickly and you won’t want to spend 1000 years here waiting for a table. Just find a place that has an open seat outdoors, get a refreshing Greek salad with lots of feta and a glass of white wine, and enjoy watching the boats drift by. It’s the perfect little break before you descend into the depths of the cave!
2) How Do I Get to the Caves?
Again, if you’re seeing the best things to do in Kefalonia on a cruise ship, you can pick a shore excursion that includes the caves. If you’re staying longer in Kefalonia–lucky you–just find a tour that will take you here. I think driving here on your own would be tricky. You can also just take a taxi from Argostoli, the main city on Kefalonia, but that would cost 50 Euros one way. It’s cheaper to take a guided tour! And the entrance fee for the caves is cheap–about 7 Euros as of this writing.
Once you get there, you’ll wait on a lengthy line to enter, but there will be fascinating views as you wait! That’s because the Melissani Cave was created by water slowly eroding the rocks, creating gorgeous patterns in the walls as it formed a cave. No wonder the ancient Greeks believed that nymphs resided here. Maybe if you look closely, you will see one. (There are also public toilets, so one member of your group can hold your spot in the line while you use the facilities.
3) What is There to Do in the Cave?
Aside from the gift shop, really the only thing to do in the cave is ride a boat. That might not sound that impressive, especially as the boat ride is only about 15 minutes and you have to share the boat with strangers. But how many times do you get to ride a boat around an amazing secret underground lake? How about an underground lake that is filled with sleeping bats? Plus you get an experienced boat driver who is full of local knowledge about the cave.
Just be warned that the boats can be a little rickety. The boat conductor insisted that I stay on one side when we were loading the boat and put three very large people on the other side. (I am a fairly petite person.) Of course, this caused the boat to tip over, and I screamed as my tushy rose in the air. The boat pilot chastised me for screaming, and everyone asked me if I was scared of boats. I am not at all scared of boats, but I am scared of flipping over and showing a whole bunch of strangers my panties. I think all right-thinking peoples are scared of that.
Best Things to Do on Kefalonia
Evening: Relax on the Ship!
In just about any of my other 24 hour itineraries, I’d be telling you where to get the best ouzo at some late night bar in Argostoli or how to find the best jazz in the Ionian Islands. But since I visited Kefalonia as part of a cruise ship shore excursion, I can just suggest what to do on board a Royal Caribbean ship in the evening.
First you need to kick back with a cocktail and a mystery novel on the deck for at least an hour. This step is very important.
Next, since Kefalonia used to belong to Italy, why not get dinner at Royal Caribbean’s Italian restaurant, Giovanni’s Table? Start with the decadent baked mozzarella, then move on to the pasta with shrimp. Finish the whole meal off with a cannoli, which everyone knows is the best of all Italian desserts.
That’s 24 Hours of the Best Things to Do on Kefalonia!
What do you think are the best things to do on Kefalonia? Have you ever seen Captain Corelli’s Mandolin? And was I wrong to scream when I almost flipped over in the boat, or should I have waited to scream until the bats tried to eat my face? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours of the best things to do on Kefalonia.