Get the best of CF straight to your inbox.

Subscribe, sit back, and let your mind travel.

Where To Next?

Discovering Sun, Sea And Stories In Kefalonia

On the Greek island of Kefalonia, Zana Wilberforce checks into Eliamos – and checks out some of the locations featured in Louis de Bernières novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

Thirty years ago, in 1994, British writer Louis de Bernières published his forth – and perhaps most well-known – novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Set on the Greek Island of Kefalonia, and with a subsequent film starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz released in 2001, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Kefalonia go together like Mamma Mia and Skopelos. 

The novel recounts the island’s occupation during WWII, and its ensuing Hollywood-produced movie spurred a bout of tourism to Kefalonia, triggering a flurry of set-jetters to flock to the island’s untouched beaches. Still, Kefalonia has remained surprisingly low-key compared to other Greek islands, mainly luring lovers of literature (cc Byron fans – the philhellene lived in Kefalonia for a number of months, in 1823), wine buffs, and sun-seekers who’d prefer to avoid flashy beach clubs. 

Opening to visitors last year, Eliamos is a spectacular cast of just 12 symmetrical villas, huddled in a village-like setting in southern Kefalonia. It’s a fifteen-minute drive from the airport, the first of many conveniences that make this paradisiacal property a game-changer. Community, sustainability, and the preservation of nature all play a part in the design of this idyllic island retreat, inspired by village life and familial reunion. The result? A swish hideaway that slots into its natural surroundings – each olive tree left intact.

The Vibe

Contemporary and laidback, Eliamos offers the villa experience with hotel perks. There’s an element of privacy that sets the tone, though the thinking behind Eliamos rests on community spirit inspired by small village life. Once you’ve had a swim in your private pool, there are boundless activities beyond the four walls of your villa, within the grounds, and in the local area. For one, there’s a restaurant that allows guests to mingle with one another at breakfast, lunch or dinner. In case you’ve had enough of your private pool, there’s a communal alternative for swimming laps by the open-air gym and spa. The villas are vast; big enough for a family of four or more, yet there’s a layer of sophistication that feels appropriate for couples travelling together in pairs of twos or threes – a bit like The White Lotus (hopefully minus the drama).

The Villas

There’s a chance you’ll gasp at the sheer size and scale of your villa on arrival (guilty). All 12 of them are impressively spacious, even the “smaller” ones. They each have a private saltwater pool, most overlooking the Ionian Sea that appears as still as a lake, if it weren’t for the occasional boat passing by. Various sofas and comfy sun beds of different shapes and sizes surround the pools, placed in unexpected nooks, while a family-sized wooden dining table is placed nearby for private, al fresco dining. 

Inside, the open-plan lounge and communal areas are bathed in natural light and take centre stage, while the ensuite bedrooms shoot off to the sides – away from the hubbub of the communal areas – each with direct access to the terrace and pool.

The Food + Drink

Eliamos has one main restaurant that serves up delectable Greek dishes in an airy indoor-outdoor setting. The space is both refined in design and boho-chic at the same time, with an earthy colour palette, wicker chairs, and beamed ceilings. You’re on island time now, which means breakfast is served during a relaxed time frame from 8am onwards. After a reformer Pilates session, meander over to the restaurant for coconut smoothies and your eggs of choice, slathered in olive oil. The Mediterranean omelette is a reminder of that tantalising omelette scene in The Bear – served with crumbled feta cheese rather than Boursin: a classic, and so delicious.

Lunch highlights include variations of the classic Greek salad topped with nectarine and watermelon, paired best with a serving of the local tuna. For dinner, Chef Sokratis has crafted a playful à la carte menu made up of crispy fritters, decorative tomato salads, and lobster for mains – but not as you know it.

This summer, Eliamos has launched a trio of culinary experiences under the watchful eye of Chef Sokratis. Travel across the Greek islands with the Chef’s Table experience, a sprawling feast for the senses that starts in Crete and ends in Macedonia, where the head chef is from. You’ll sample traditional plates from each of the islands, including Kakavia, an aromatic, yellow-tinted fisherman’s soup from the Peloponnese, followed by Ospriada, a puréed bean concoction from the Cyclades. Each dish is a triumph, paired with Greek wines, including from Santorini, Kefalonia and mainland Greece. The rosé from the Theopetra Estate was a highlight, a fragrant wine with floral aromas and a fluorescent peachy hue. Cooking classes have also been added to the agenda, allowing guests to learn how to make local recipes. 

The Little Extras

We recommend bringing the spa to your villa for the VIP experience. The in-villa massage takes place by your pool, soundtracked by chanting bees and birdsong. Don’t forget to ask for some reflexology, a technique that’s used to pinpoint any potential problem areas in your body by applying pressure on specific points along your feet. 

The To-Do List

A trip to the beach town of Sami is a must, it’s where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed. The drive from Eliamos follows a wild and rugged route through Argostoli, ticking off dramatic views of Mount Ainos and the forest of black trees along the way. You may even spot a mountain goat that’s ventured downhill for the day, obliviously shuffling through the shrubbery. A trip around this mythical town will lead to encounters with captivating coves, remote beaches, and local tavernas inviting you in for a glass of chilled San Gerasimos.

Thanks to its Robola vines and limestone soils, Kefalonia has no shortage of quaffable wine. The island comes alive in August with a wine festival where tastings and dancing go into the night. Orealios winery offers a thorough tasting experience, demonstrating a range of reds, whites and rosé, starting with San Gerasimo – the island’s signature white. Wherever you go in Kefalonia, San Gerasimo is likely to crop up in conversation. The locals love it – and for good reason; the floral notes make you think of summer – so crisp and easy to pair with food. For a light lunch, the winery provides a platter of local cheeses, pan con tomate, and charcuterie.

History and geography buffs should head straight to Argostoli, the island’s capital with a few historical landmarks and natural attractions. Here, you’ll stumble upon the Saint Theodore Lighthouse, a WWII memorial, and buildings with Baroque features that nod to the Venetian era before the 1953 earthquake.

A trip to Kefalonia is incomplete without an afternoon sprawled out on the beach. Hop on an e-bike for some local exploration, ticking off the gin-clear waters of Thermanti beach and Avithos on another day, where the sea is more milky. Craggy, rugged and rough around the edges, the beaches of Kefalonia still feel charmingly untouched; there’s no scrambling for an overpriced sun bed or other raucous beach woes. They feel perfectly remote, though it’s worth mentioning that Avithos does have a quaint beachside restaurant should the craving for a piña colada strike. Apart from that, you’d be wise to bring your own towel, some snacks for the road, and a copy of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to grapple with the island’s past – perhaps on Myrtos beach, the see-it-to-believe-it beach where Captain Corelli detonates a mine. 

We may earn a commission if you buy something from any affiliate links on our site.

What to Pack

You May Also Like

Any Questions or Tips to add?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What to Pack?