The island of Kefalonia is the largest in the chain of Ionian islands, and its capital is Argostoli. Situated at the edge of a peninsula-shaped piece of land jutting out from the edge of the island, the city is the most populated and bustling spot on Kefalonia. The majority of development is found on the inner portion of the peninsula at the narrow horseshoe shaped Koutavos lagoon, while some homes and beachfront properties are found on the opposite side that touches the sea.
Along with other towns such as Assos, Argostoli was originally founded and developed by the Venetians. Its secure location tucked away safely in the narrow lagoon made it an ideal place to establish a capital on Kefalonia. It became a prosperous and busy port and continues to be so to this day.
The island’s history and origins are storied and it is said to have been prosperous and majestic as well. Myths tell the tale that the first king of Kefalonia was Thapius, a son of the god of the sea Poseidon. Besides the grandeur of myth, evidence of prehistoric life has been found on the island. Dating of excavated tools suggest this may have been one of the first locations to be inhabited by ancient humans in Greece. Its vast and lush forests provided all the resources necessary and its unique wood has even been discovered in Cretan ruins, suggesting successful trade and collaboration.
Through the ages the island fought and struggled, but survived through wars, sieges, and liberations. When the Venetians retained control, driving out the Ottomans, Kefalonia was a rather peaceful and free place compared to the rest of conquered Greece. As various powers took hold of Europe, Kefalonia was immersed with new developments in arts, education, and culture. Argostoli was filled with libraries and centers of education that would then go on to influence the way social classes related to or challenged each other. The city became more developed in infrastructure and society, laying the foundations for what we see today.
As with the majority of Kefalonia, Argostoli’s grand architecture and infrastructure was destroyed by the powerful earthquake of 1953. Despite difficulties, the city was rebuilt and remained as the most popular hub on the island. Today, some historic structures remain, like the Saint Theodore Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula the city is situated on. Unlike most lighthouses that we see and think of, this one is only one story high and resembles more of a pergola. It was built by the British during their time of occupation of Kefalonia during the 19th century. From this point in Argostoli you can see the city of Lixouri across the inlet to the west, reachable by boat or by a longer drive around the deep oval-shaped bay that separates the two cities. The non-stop ferries that traverse the two cities depart from the docks located near Argostoli’s city center. As is customary on the islands, a seaside promenade was also constructed to take full advantage of the sea and sun. Along the Koutavos lagoon there is the stone De Bosset Bridge that connects Argostoli to the main landmass of Kefalonia across the water to the east. Many locals and visitors enjoy leisurely walks across the bridge which gifts a full view of Argostoli and makes use of and connects the uniquely shaped land formations.
A common resident of these waters are sea turtles, and you can get close to them by renting small bicycle paddle boats to cruise around the lagoon.
At the heart of the city is Plateia Vallianou, a town square with a name that is common around Kefalonia. Surrounding the square are an abundance of restaurants, cafes, and shops to choose from. It is ideal for gathering with friends and family or just going for a stroll. A large hill separates the city from what is happening on the seaside part of the peninsula. This is where you will find the popular beach bars and lux hotels. The most popular beach here is Makris Gialos with the always-happening Costa Costa beach bar. Its popularity draws a crowd, but if that is not really your thing, there are other smaller and more relaxed beaches scattered along this coast.
Argostoli is the prime location to stay if you are seeking to be near to the hustle and bustle of shops, attractions, and restaurants. It is located only about ten minutes away from the island’s only airport, making it convenient and easy for travelers. But while being close to the city is appealing, Argostoli is also close to the countryside for those seeking a change of scenery each day. One of the most important sites in Kefalonia is the Holy Monastery of Agios Gerasimos near the town Valsamata, only fifteen minutes away from Argostoli. The incredible story of Agios Gerasimos begins in the 16th century when the saint renounced all of his fortune and worldly possessions to live under the earth in a cave he dug by hand. Today a church has been built over this exact cave and visitors are able to descend into the place where Agios Gerasimos lived.
Once you are in the cave there is a small hole that leads to a second chamber. Legend has it that anyone can fit through the hole and will miraculously not be dirtied by crawling past it. It is a surreal experience that will move you deeply. Within this same church is the mummified body of Agios Gerasimos, which every year on the 16th of August after the celebration of the Dormition of the Holy Mother Panagia, is brought outside and carried over worshipers who lay in formation in a line on the ground to be blessed. Next to this sacred church is a larger church that has been painted almost entirely within with gold-accented iconography. It took the same man almost twenty years to complete these paintings by himself, until he passed from this life. Agios Gerasimos is of great significance to Kafalonians and many bear his name and believe in his power to heal them. All of this and more is within easy distance from the capital city of Argostoli. Are you ready to come to Kefalonia and feel the healing?