Need help? Find out more about our Covid Cover, how to update your policy online & the latest travel updates in our Covid Help Centre

My first holiday abroad since lockdown – Kefalonia, Greece

Posted on December 23, 2021 by Alison Mason

There are so many beautiful Greek Islands to choose from, and having previously visited Zante and Corfu, we decided to visit Kefalonia this time round.

Located in the heart of the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia boasts breath-taking views, amazing beaches, crystal clear waters and picturesque fishing villages. It’s hardly surprising that it was chosen as the location of the famous movie “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz.

Travelling for the first time since lockdown

I was a bit apprehensive about travelling abroad for the first time since the pandemic began, but I needn’t have worried. But, for added security and extra peace of mind, I took out a travel insurance policy for Greece and booked through an ABTA and ATOL bonded tour operator.

Although additional paperwork and tests were required, everything went so much better than I had anticipated. The one thing I would suggest is that you also print off copies of the relevant forms as it will get you through check-in quicker. We found that a number of people were struggling to find their forms on their phones or their phone battery had died.

When travelling to Greece the following documents were required for fully vaccinated travellers – these had to be shown at check-in and then again on arrival in Greece as you go through customs:

  • Proof of COVID vaccinations – you can access your Covid Pass by downloading and registering on the NHS app
  • A Greek passenger locator form – this form needs completing within 48 hours of your departure from the UK
  • Passport

On my return to the UK – these had to be shown at check-in:

  • Proof of a negative COVIDtest 48 hours prior to departure (since 4 October this is no longer required for some countries) – I suggest before travelling to check the latest travel advice from the government. Our hotel helped us arrange this at a local medical centre and we received the results back within the hour.
  • Proof of UK COVID vaccinations
  • A UK passenger locator form – this needs to be completed within 48 hours of your departure back to the UK.
  • Passport

Travel rules can change at short notice, so make sure you check the latest updates on entry requirements on the FCDO’s website.

It’s worth noting that masks currently need to be worn at all times in the airport terminal buildings and during your flight.

How Greek holidays have changed

In Greece (as of October 2021) masks need to be worn on public transport and in shops. Some of the larger hotels also ask you to wear a mask while walking around the reception areas.

From the airport, we only had a 15-minute coach transfer to our hotel in the resort of Lassi, just south of Argostoli, the island’s capital. Lassi offers plenty of bars, restaurants, souvenir shops plus a number of beautiful beaches, within walking distance or a short taxi ride.

We visited two of the local beaches during our trip:

  • Kalamia Beach is a small pebble beach set in a wonderfully quiet cove. There’s a beach bar and sun loungers, but not much else. Perfect for a relaxing day at the beach with a good book.
  • Gradakia Beach is another small sandy beach but has a larger beach bar and plush sun loungers. You can also order drinks and snacks from your sun lounger – pure decadence!

En-route to Gradakia Beach

There are other beaches near Lassi, plus small coves which are easily accessible by foot.

As much as we loved relaxing on a beach, there is so much more to Kefalonia and exploring the island was so easy. Depending on how adventurous you feel there are the following options:

  • Organised excursions which can be booked either via your tour operator or a local travel agent (usually operated by coach)
  • Hiring a car and exploring at your own pace
  • Hiring a scooter or a quad bike – but, it is worth checking your travel insurance first to ensure you are covered or check the rental agreement carefully

We chose to spend three days exploring by car and the following are just some of my highlights.

Just one thing to note – the road signage was not brilliant so we got lost a few times and ended up using Google maps on my phone!

Melissani lake on Kefalonia island

Lake Melissani Caves

The lake, or at least part of it, is inside the cave. A section from the top of the cave has collapsed leaving an opening that bathes the inside with light. This is a particularly amazing sight at around midday when the sun is directly above and the reflections from the lake seem to fill the cave in a blue light.

The cave is split into two chambers. The first is the open-air cave that’s bathed in sunlight. A small channel leads us to the second cave. The guide has to pull our small wooden rowing boat through the narrow space using a rope that’s attached to the back of the cave wall. This chamber is a large cavern filled with big stalactites and stalagmites.

The entrance fee is €7 for adults and the tour lasts around 10-15 minutes.

Drogarati cave lit up by artificial light

Drogarati Caves

These caves are around 60 metres deep and are full of stalagmites and stalactites formed over millions of years in limestone.

Just as a warning – there are a lot of steps down, and back up! Also, as you’re underground it can get a little chilly so I’d recommend taking something warm during the cooler months. The entrance fee is just €5 for adults.

The old beacon in Argostoli

Ferry from Argostoli to Lixouri

On our arrival at Argostoli, we were lucky enough to spot the sea turtles. They follow the fishermen into the harbour and come to feed on the fish that are dropped.

Conservationists have managed to tag a large number of turtles so that they can keep track of them. Volunteers are on the quayside and are happy to chat to you about these historic creatures – some of which are over 150 years old!

From Argostoli, we took the short ferry ride across to Lixouri, which took just 30 minutes and cost €7 for a car and two passengers. Standing on deck is a lovely way to view the peninsula and the stunning Kefalonian coastline.

an image of a beach hut in Lixouri

From Lixouri, we took a drive along the beautiful coastal road and stopped at a couple of beaches including Megas Lakos Beach, a beautiful sandy beach with water sports and a choice of beach bars.

And, if you feel inclined you can cover yourself with soft mud taken from cliff sides. It’s supposed to have healing properties and is a great exfoliator for your skin – we did try it and I have to admit my skin did feel smoother!

Beach near Sami on the island Kefalonia

The coastal town of Sami

To reach Sami from Lassi we had to journey across the middle of the island, which was very windy and steep in places, but the views were incredible. The journey takes around 40 minutes.

Sami is a beautiful coastal town with lovely wide paved streets. It has plenty of cafes, shops and a variety of restaurants which line the harbour front. It’s the second-largest port on the island and is a great place to watch the world go by.

From here we took a boat trip across to the Island of Ithaca aboard the Sami Star II. At a cost of €35 per person, it includes two swim stops in coves plus another two stops on the actual island – the capital Vathi and the charming resort of Kioni.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch on the quayside of Kioni – we went along with the chef’s recommendations of fried squid followed by meatballs.

Our return trip to Sami was a little rough as the wind had changed direction but it all added to the experience!

an image of a boat called Queen Bee in Argostoli , Greece

After our three days of exploration, we relaxed on the beach for a couple of days before taking a final boat trip – this time from Argostoli aboard the Queen Bee.

This was more of a fun cruise run by two Greek brothers nicknamed the ‘Ant & Dec of Greece’! We had a great day – beautiful swim stops, lunch provided plus plenty of wine throughout the day. Activities included rides on the rib, paddle boarding and snorkelling.

Kefalonia is an incredibly beautiful island with so much to offer. Relax or explore, the choice is yours.

All details including prices correct at the time of writing – October 2021

Alison Mason

by Alison Mason

Alison Mason has worked in the travel industry for over 30 years. She has a love of Europe and some of her favourite destinations include Spain, Croatia, Italy and the Greek Islands.