ROAD-TRIPPING IN KEFALONIA
When I first set eyes on Kefalonia, I was so caught up in the excitement of spending days seeking quaint colorful houses, clear blue waters and picturesque landscapes that I forgot exactly why I’d needed this holiday in the first place. My usual meditation and yoga practice, healthy eating and sleep routine had all been disrupted recently as I’d began stretching myself a little too thin. Spending all my hours either working, volunteering or wedding planning had quickly led to my anxiety taking control and as a result my relationships with friends, family and Mr T was beginning to suffer. These days, I’m usually much better at noticing the signs of anxiety and depression, but on this occasion it was Mr T that suggested perhaps I take some time for myself. I needed a holiday.
It’s no secret that getting away from it all, even for just a few days can do wonders for your mental health. I needed time to relax, spend quality time with Mr T and do things that would take my mind of it all. We wanted to avoid anywhere too busy to prevent sensory overload and somewhere with a chilled atmosphere so we could do things at our own pace – Kefalonia was exactly that. We stayed at the Marietta Hotel Apart’s in Skala, a typical Greek style apartment building in pastel shades of pink, yellow and orange, with bright yellow sun loungers surrounding the pool. The town of Skala was only a 5-10 minute walk away and had a fabulous selection of tavernas, restaurants and bars to choose from, our favourites included The Old Village, Socrates Taverna and Old Times.
It was tempting to stay put in Skala for the whole week, soaking up the rays on my yellow sun lounger listening to podcasts and sipping cocktails but it was also the perfect base for getting out and seeing the island. Kefalonia is a particularly good place drive, it’s easy to get around and once away from the capital city of Argostoli, there’s little traffic by UK standards. The roads are narrow and there are some precarious corners on the cliffs but if you drive safely, driving is a good way of exploring the whole island. As soon as I realised this, I knew this was going to be my challenge. We hired a car with CBR Car Rental which was a straight forward process, all they just needed was my driving license, passport and details about where we were staying etc. We decided to hire the car for two days as we were fairly confident we could get around the whole island in that time.
We split the journey into two separate road trips, our first would take us to the most Northern point on the map of Kefalonia to a fishing village called Fiskardo. My first drive was to Agia Efimia, a picturesque village with a bustling harbour and array of tavernas. The drive there was nothing short of beautiful either, it took us about an hour to drive 20 minutes up the road, as we couldn’t resist pulling over and taking pictures of the blue water and pebble beaches. After stopping at Agia Efimia we drove further up into the mountains and stopped on the roadside to admire the famous Mirtos beach. Up here the views really were breathtaking, but there wasn’t long to stop as we were heading to Assos, the charming harbour village that had been the source of my excitement when we first decided to holiday in Kefalonia. As we descended the hills down into Assos we were struck by how different it looked to other villages we’d seen in Kefalonia. Assos is built around the peninsular and is surrounded by pine trees. As soon as we got down to the harbour we decided to explore on foot, it was the only way to get those pin-worthy shots I’d been dreaming about, it’s definitely very Insta-grammable – pastel pink buildings with bright blue doors and abandoned ruins reclaimed by nature, Assos is a an insta-lovers dream. We stopped for lunch at Nefeli-Anait and secretly fed the cats, that had gathered around us.
That afternoon, we got back in the car and begin the journey to our final destination. Fiskardo is a boaters paradise, the harbour was packed so densley with boats we could barely see the water. It’s a lot larger than the other fishing villages we’d visited. The restaurants are a little more pricey and the crowds were a lot larger. The village itself is beautiful and we couldn’t visit without seeing the Pinterest-famous pink fish restaurant, with it’s candy coloured walls and blue tables, although we didn’t eat there as the vegan options were limited. On the way back to the car we stopped for sorbet at Theodora’s cafe bar which I would highly recommend, it was the perfect spot to relax and watch the boats out in the harbour.
After a busy first day roadtrippin’ around the island it was time to head home. We stopped for dinner at the Vegera, which did the best vegan courgette Mousakka. The views overlooking Fiscardo from the balcony were astounding, we’d read that it was a wonderful place to sit and watch the sunset but as we didn’t have time to stick around I can only imagine how terrific it would be. On the way home, we stopped to take more photos of the rugged coast, if you’r not a fan of heights than this trip might not be all that enjoyable, but if you like goats you’ll love it.
Whilst researching things to do in Kefalonia, we’d stumbled across a review on Tripadvisor that advised people to go to the fishing harbour in Argostoli, early in the morning, as turtles were often seen being fed by fisherman at the harbour. As Mr T loves turtles and I’m a fan of pretty much an animal, we knew Argostoli had to be the first stop on day two of our island adventure. This was my first time driving to the capital and I was a little apprehensive, but really it was fine. It’s a lot busier than anywhere else we had been but the traffic is mostly one way, so it makes driving alot easier as you can just follow everyone else. We got to Argostoli for 9am and the turtles were fed around 11am so we had time to get breakfast. We walked across the harbour front and found the Farmout Vitamin Bar where we had homemade smoothies and stocked up on healthy, organic snacks for the the rest of our roadtrip.
Around 10am we walked back up the harbour and found a group of people stood around the fishing boats, the turtles were already being fed and we stopped for about half an hour as they swam around, hoovering up the scraps. It was a great chance to watch them interact with other turtles too. Until now we’d only ever seen solitary turtles but it was so interesting to watch them fighting over bits of fish and manouvering around the boats so gracefully. A great experience that I would highly recommend if your a wildlife lover and its FREE too!
We didn’t want to stay long in Argostoli as we would be returning that evening for dinner, so we headed back up into the hills and began the drive to our next stop, Melissani Lake. Otherwise known as the ‘Cave of the Nymphs’, it really is every bit as magical as it sounds, the lake was named after archaeologists found several figures of the God Pan and several nymphs. Myth has it that a nymph names Mellisanthi drowned herself in the lake when Panas rejected her love. It’s definitely otherworldly – a lake of bright blue water, it almost feels like your floating when the sun cascades down into the cave at midday and hits just right, making the water as clear like glass. If you don’t like big crowds there really is no need to go at midday, we decided to go later as two bus loads of tourists had just arrived when we got there, so we returned around 3pm and the experience was just as mesmerizing, in fact probably better without a load of people pushing and shoving to get on a tiny boat.
Whilst we waited for the crowds to go down at the lake, we decided to explore the Drogarti caves which were close by. This was discovered 300 years ago when a big earthquake caused the entrance to collapse and revealed an impressive cave with wondrous formations of stalactites and stalagmites. It was like being on another planet – the bright orange lights lit up the spectacular formations cascading above us. There’s nothing quite like a cave to make you realize how small you are in the worlds long rich tapestry to put your own problems in perspective. As we made the journey back to the hotel to get ready for dinner in the capital, we stopped by Agia Paraskevi beach. It was quiet, just Mr T and I. We watched boats float by and listened to the sound of the palm trees rustling in the sea breeze. It was calming and for the first time in a while I felt my heart beat begin to slow, my breath begin to soften and my mind empty, I was well and truely zen.
Whether or not you can afford a holiday, if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression a lot can be said for getting away. It doesn’t matter if its a million miles or few yards down, the real secret to making yourself feel better is in immersing yourself in the world around you. Go and do something you’ve never done before, visit a local attraction, go for a walk in the woods, whatever it is, just get a way, even for a couple of hours will do you the world of good.
P.S. If your looking for amazing beaches, go to Antisamos! The guy at the car rental place recommended it and we made a quick stop on our journey home it was amazing and if we’d had more time we definitely would have hired a car for a third day and spent the day there.