Our first view of Kefalonia was from the deck of a cruise ship sailing through the channel between Ithaca and Kefalonia. We were overwhelmed by the lush hilly landscape fringed with tiny pebbled beaches and the crystal-clear waters. It was a love at first sight moment. Soon afterwards we were headed to Kefalonia to experience the island from ashore.
With over 250 km of coastline, Kefalonia is the largest of Ionian islands. Its landscape varies from the rocky inlets of the north to the swathes of golden sand in the south with Mount Ainos and the hills to the north forming its backbone.
Sunset House located near Fiskardo in the north, appealed to us. We felt confident booking our holiday with GIC The Villa Collection, knowing that they are a member of the Sunvil family – a leading specialist operator to Greece. Our confidence in GIC proved right as they were quick to respond when our return flights were affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook. We were presented with a choice for alternative flights home.
At check in at Gatwick for our departure we were greeted by a GIC/Sunvil representative and the chartered flight with Enter Air was smooth. Less than 3 hours later we arrived in sunny Kefalonia greeted by one of the Kefalonia-based GIC team. We collected our hired car and soon were on our way towards Fiskardo. The drive from the airport to Fiskardo is spectacular and takes about 90 minutes.
Fiscardo is an incredibly pretty Venetian harbour, and one of the few places on the island to have survived the 1953 earthquake which devasted much of the island’s Venetian architecture and which the locals still talk about. From the sea Fiscardo is hidden, the harbour entrance marked only by the ‘new’ lighthouse, the ‘old’ one being the remains of its Venetian predecessor. The harbour is lined with pastel coloured houses with red tiled roofs the majority of which are tavernas or cafes with the odd smattering of chic shops. But there is also a bakery, pharmacy and two small but well stocked supermarkets.
Above the harbour are pine and cypress tree clad hills from where you can see the islands of Ithaca, Arkoudi, Lefkas, Meganissi, the Greek mainland. And on a clear day you will also see further to Paxos. It is the most stunning setting.
Our home for a week was about 15 minutes’ drive from Fiscardo. How we loved the drive! The road hugs the coast and then climbs through the tiny hamlets of Tselendata and Katsarata to Manganos village. At Manganos, we take a narrow turning between two tavernas. The road leads down towards Agia Jerusalem on the west of the promontory. Just before the beach and the end of the road is the turning for Sunset House.
Wow what a setting. Access to the house is surprisingly easy given its privacy and seclusion and those 180-degree views. There’s no steep track to contend with! Sunset House is a charming old stone house – well two, one being a self-contained annexe – set on a hillside surrounded by olive trees. You’ll also find aloe vera, Kefalonian pine, lemon, pomegranate and quince trees in the expanse of garden. Ten steps down from the house and there is a beautifully located pool with spots to sit in the sun and the shade throughout the day. Elsewhere there are terraces and a choice of spots to sit depending on your preference of view – to the south along the rugged coast to Assos and the Lixouri peninsula beyond, west to the infinite Ionian Sea or to the east and lush green hills. We did a lot of sitting and soaking up the view as well as some chilled Kefalonian wine (courtesy of the welcome pack from GIC). In the evening is the main show, the sun gently slipping into the Ionian, the sky turning red and the stars appearing. In the morning, wake to the birds, bees and the sound of the waves.
As there were just the two of us, we used the main house only. It has a rustic charm with open-plan sitting room, kitchen and dining area, a double bedroom and a bathroom. And lots of storage space. The self-contained annexe, ideal for families, is just across a courtyard. It has two rooms which can work as a space and bedroom or two bedrooms, plus a kitchen and bathroom.
From Sunset House, Manganos the nearest village is 6 minutes’ drive. Manganos has everything you need including a good greengrocer and minimarket, and one of those shops that sells everything. There are also several tavernas. It is a charming little place and a change from Firscardo’s harbour front to sit and watch the world go by. Ten minutes’ walk from the house is Ag. Jerusalem beach with a few sun loungers and beautifully clear sea to swim and snorkel in. Nestled at the back of the beach under vines, is a small family run taverna, where you are invited into the kitchen to pick your food. For something a little livelier there is Aqua, or what we called the Sunset Bar – in the next bay, about 5 minutes’ drive from the House. But why go there when you have the best seats in the house for the ‘show of the day’ at home at Sunset House!
Finally, and sadly we came to the end of our stay. Instead of flying from Kefalonia with Thomas Cook, we were flying from Preveza on the mainland. The journey home was expertly arranged and communicated to us by Anna and the local GIC team. We left Sunset House early morning in darkness, with the moon setting over the sea. We met Anna in Fiscardo and with a small group of other GIC guests boarded a specially chartered boat to neighbouring Lefkas. From there we were to pick up a coach to Preveza airport for the plane home.
As we sailed to Lefkas and Fiscardo’s lighthouse disappeared in the distance, the sun rose above Ithaka to illuminate the northern tip of Kefalonia and the love affair continues!