Bicycling Kephalonia Island
Bicycling Kephalonia Island
Of the major Ionian Island group off west coast of mainland Greece, bicycling Kephalonia Island was definitely challenging, but it was our favorite.
Kephalonia is the largest island in the Ionian group and offers the most diversity scenically. It has survived the onslaught of foreign tourism in style; it still feels very Greek! Greek hospitality, and Greek cuisine top the list. Small villages, gorgeous beaches, steep mountains, and quiet paved roads all contribute to the cycling adventure. We spent 8 days on the island, bicycling 4 of them.
We landed in Athens May 1, 2014. We hopped on a bus and ferry with our bikes and luggage with the intention of going to Sami, Kephalonia. From there, we could make a logical loop around the entire island and catch the ferry north from Fiskardo. But the Sami ferry was not operating so early in the season, so we landed in Poros, Kephalonia and started our epic journey from there.
The bus/ferry did not get to Poros until 11:30 pm. By the time we got off the ferry, it was mid-night. All during the ferry ride, we inquired about hotels in Poros. Our Lonely Planet guide did not discuss Poros. Were there hotels near the ferry landing? How far? Would they be open after midnight! Replies varied, as all do when traveling! They ranged from, “right across from the landing” to “a five minute walk” to “many hotels very close” to “only one hotel”.
There were lighted buildings on our left, the sea to our right. We followed the course of infrequent lights to an open tavern. Our flashing lights must have warned the merrymakers of something strange on the horizon; framed by the lights of the open air bar, we could see their heavy concentration. “What on earth is that!” spelled out their thinking. Congenial, as all Greeks are, especially when drinking…they welcomed us into the family embrace.
“Yes, there is a very nice hotel just 2 kilometers from here”, the tavern owner replied to our query. Let me call them to make sure they are open.”
It was 2 am by the time we arrived at Pension Astir. Our room was ready, the owner was smiling.
Our Pension sat across the narrow street from the beach. We had a fine view of the Ionian Sea from our third story balcony. The hotel’s café was set up on the broad beachside stone patio. Comfortable chairs and tables attracted the morning coffee drinkers. Their chatter finally woke us out of our travel fatigue about noon.
A group of men and ladies, all local Kefalonians, took their late morning breakfast at the café each day. We decided to introduce ourselves thus beginning a practice we would use throughout the islands to meet the locals. Some of the group were Russians who now lived and worked in Greece. After some trading of “where are you from, what are you doing” talk, Anne brought her E2 Trike over and prompted a few of them to try it out. They took to it like ducks on water.
We spent the day wandering around Poros and taking photographs. Poros is the oldest town on Kephalonia. It is a very Greek town, as opposed to a tourist town where foreigners go for holidays. It spreads along the eastern shore of the island, squeezed between the Ionian Sea and some pretty straight up hills. The one main street along the beach is 1.5 cars wide and is lined with charming restaurants, taverns and pensions. A lovely town square attracts mostly Greek vacationers from Athens.
Bicycling Kephalonia-Day One
Poros to Skala
Distance: 11.8 km (7.3 mi)/Ascent: 180 m (590 ft)/Descent: 168 m (551 ft)/Highest Elevation:78 m (255 ft)
We were ready; the bikes were ready. We loaded up for our first day bicycling Kephalonia.
Not being in a hurry and not having a schedule to keep, we could cycle and stop early in the wonderful resort beach town of Skala which was only 7 miles distant. The old, narrow road had some hills, but it also had sea views all the way. Once we left Poros, not one car interrupted the tranquility of the ride.
Skala is a destination resort for foreign visitors as well as locals. The beach is wide, flat and gorgeous. The town, with a local population of about 550 folks, oozes with Greek hospitality and character.
Of course, there are plenty of high end hotels and rooms, but we found budget lodging right in the center of town. Our usual hunting process consists of a spin around town and talking to shop owners to find a place.
Bicycling Kephalonia Day Two
Skala to Argostoli
Distance: 38 km (23.6 mi)/Ascent: 494 m (1620 ft)/Descent: 490 m (1608 ft)Highest Elevation: 213 m (700 ft)
We have two very long hills for the first 8 miles. We discover right away that the Greek Islands have very steep gradients; 10% seems to creep onto the roadway signs more often than we liked. And they got much steeper than that!
At day’s end, we downloaded the GPS onto our maps and got the real facts of the day’s events while downing the delicious Greek beer. Some days, gradients topped 28%!
Remember, we were carrying 5 months of luggage, including camping equipment which we would use in other countries. We counted the hills we sumitted each day, not the miles.
Katelios is a stunning beach on our route today. As all beaches do, they recline at zero elevation. After climbing the first hill, we dropped steeply into Katelios Beach. Why do the downhills go so fast!
A stop at the local bakery in Katelios became a necessary refueling stop before the big climb out of Katelios.
Argostoli is the capital of Kephalonia Island. Argostoli is a big city as towns go for these islands. We have little information about lodging in Argostoli. Our Lonely Planet Southeastern Europe guide barely mentions Argostoli. No one could tell us where the information/visitors bureau was located. We found it by accident the next day. It’s at the cruise ship pier at the far north end of town. So we spend too much time looking for economical lodging.
We find a very charming 3 star hotel on the waterfront near the cruise ship docks.; Hotel Aggelos. We always seem to get the top floor room and haul all our baggage up. The rooms are very nice, although small for moving about with all of our things. The floors are all tile; the stairs are marble. The trim is elegant wood; the beds are hard as a rock like all the others we have slept in so far. This 3 star hotel in Argostoli is a definite step up from Poros accommodations. The room cost 30 Euros.
Bicycling Kephalonia Island-Day Three
Argostoli to Sami
Distance: 47.2 km (29.3 mi)/Ascent: 583 m (1913 ft)/Descent: 585 m (1919 ft)/Highest Elevation: 289 m (948 ft)
The first hill is 12 miles long! It is not killer steep…or we would be in heaven after 12 miles all uphill! It is the easiest route that crosses the island. The direct one across the island via Razata is Olympic stuff!
We wanted to go to Sami and stay in that seaside town a few days. We could have saved a lot of extra distance and climbing by starting our tour in Sami, but the Patras-Sami ferry was not running in early May.
All the necessary ingredients of a great ride shine on this route: gorgeous scenery with wonderful sea vistas, no traffic, smooth paving, not too steep but definitely challenging, and clusters of charming small mountain towns.
Sami is a beautiful town on the seaside. The main street is lined with shops on the mountain side and outdoor restaurants right on the seashore. We have been discovering that Greek restaurants, at least on this island, serve delicious meals. Italian dishes are a favored item, but its the tasty fresh vegetables that we can’t get enough of. We have never eaten more flavor in a tomato anywhere! We spend two days in Sami…eating and beaching!
One day, we rode to the edge of town to visit the excellent campground facility at Karavomilos Beach.
Bicycling Kephalonia Island-Day Four
Sami to Fiskardo
Distance: 41.0 km (25.5 mi)/Ascent: 756 m (2480 ft)/Descent: 748 m (2454 ft)/Highest Elevation: 617.7m (2027ft)
As you can see by the adjacent map, going to Sami created a route doubling back to where we were before. Of more important consequence, we had to climb back up part of the steep hill we soared down a couple days ago before reaching the junction to Fiskardo. After that, we continued climbing. It was a long, exhausting day.
From Agia Effimia to the top of the hill is 8.3 miles. It gains 2057 feet and has grades up to 17%.
There are villages higher up on the climb, but they are so far off the road with even more climbing that we did not go to them. We had a good supply of water and energy food with us.
It was late afternoon when we reached the top. What a surprise to find a wonderful cafe/restaurant. Rosie’s cafe had fresh salads and fresh pastries. She had homemade marmalade, homemade liqueurs, and delicious homemade sweets and treats. She had a full menu for lunch. She was in the middle of nowhere.
After we left Rosie’s it was downhill all the way holding onto the brakes. We did pass many more small shops with food and drink on this side of the mountain.
It was obvious when we rode into the town. Fiskardo is upscale in accommodation, restaurants and prices. Expensive sailboats and motor yachts harbored in the quiet bay. Restaurants were back to back on the harbor front. Expensive villas overlooked the sea.
We found the least expensive room that we could in Regina’s Studio Apartments which is just above the town of Fiskardo. She wanted €50 for a room which is exactly the same rooms we’ve been paying €30 for so Mike bargained her down to €40.
The rooms were tiny, with barely enough space to move around. The shower stall was just big enough to keep both feet in at the same time! But, we had a lovely balcony, cold beer and a great cycling accomplishment to celebrate in this absolutely lovely town.
The ferry to Lefkada Island on Sunday leaves at 6:15 pm. So we had the whole day in Fiskardo to wander around from restaurant to restaurant and enjoy a beautiful day.
It is a one hour ferry ride from Fiskardo to Vasiliki. There are only five passengers on this very big ferry. We think it must cost a lot of money to run. We paid only €16 for two tickets and that included the bicycles.
All rights reserved. No part of this page may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including downloading, print screen, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the prior written permission by the copyright owner.