Discover Kefalonia, Greece

On Kefalonia, Cathy Howes discovers the rugged, beautiful landscape that lies behind the island’s modern gloss.

If Captain Corellis Kefalonia captured your imagination, the island’s beauty up close will not disappoint. What you won’t find, however, is much old-world architecture from WW2 and before – in 1953, most of the island was destroyed by earthquake.

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Happily, the island rebuilt itself, and the cosmopolitan capital of Argostoli now features pedestrianised shopping and a waterfront promenade of cafes overlooking a bay of bobbing yachts. Yet up on the windswept mountains, where the goats have grazed for hundreds of years, you wouldn’t know what century it was. Which is why, for all its contemporary charm, Kefalonia is an island that begs to be explored.

Climb every mountain

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Outdoor Kefalonia’s hilarious and indefatigable Giorgos is our guide for our hike from the top of Atheras Bay. Watched languidly by the mountain goats, the former firefighter and one-time Special Forces medic promises us the marvel of Fteri Beach as he leads us down the hillside. It’s steep and challenging in places, not my idea of ‘easy-to-moderate’, but the payoff is magical; a completely isolated, white sand beach. The only other way to reach it is by boat, and there’s not a sail or motor in sight.

Later that evening, we bundle into Giorgos’ jeep and climb for over an hour through the earthquake-emptied villages via perilous mountain turns to the peak. The views are astonishing, and we catch the sunset before the plummeting temperatures chill us to the bone.

Time to unwind

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There are no such worries about the temperature at our hotel in Lourdas, which is part-hidden from the road behind wooden doors. From a daybed on the side of one of the two pools at adults-only F Zeen Retreat, you can catch the rays from dawn till dusk.

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There’s a full gym overlooking the bay, and a spa where the Ireni Special is the must-have treatment. Trained in Canada where massage is more therapy than treat, Ireni begins with reflexology, followed by a robust loosening of hips and shoulders right up to the jaw. ‘You may ache tomorrow, but the next day you’ll feel amazing,’ she promises. She is right – on both counts.

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With just 28 suites dotted up the hillside, F Zeen never feels busy. The philosophy here is relax, reflect, and enjoy delicious food from a terrace with spectacular views. Menus are simple and wholesome without being Spartan.

It’s the kind of food you could eat every day without getting bored – think home-made preserves, whole baked fish and vibrant salads such as halloumi with beetroot, orange, rocket and pine nuts.

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We’re up with the lark the following day for a yoga session in a pavilion overlooking the sea. Teacher Tasia awakens our senses as we breathe and stretch to the sound of the cicadas. And up there on the terrace, in the peaceful, early-morning sunshine, it’s easy to feel at one with those goats.

Make it happen
Stay here
Classic Retreats at F Zeen Retreat start from €160 per night b&b.

Get some action
For information on kayaking, jeep safaris and hiking, click here.

Do
For information on what to see and do, click here.

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