Assos: Kefalonia’s most beautiful village
Many visitors to Kefalonia rush to Fiskardo, Kefalonia’s northern-most port encircling a picturesque harbour and the route onwards via ferry to Ithaca and Lefkada. In doing so, they miss one of the island’s real gems: the idyllic village of Assos. Cradled in a narrow isthmus that separates the mountainous mainland from an outcrop with a crumbling Venetian fort, Assos is a quaint collection of colourful houses and dusty alleyways, leading to the village’s sweep of pebble beach.
Its position just up the coast from the famous Myrtos Beach makes it an ideal addition to a day trip, and for anyone travelling from the south of the island, it’s far easier to reach than northerly Fiskardo. Despite this however, it still retains a decidedly untouched and untouristy feel, especially compared to the busier Fiskardo. Car hire on Kefalonia is plentiful, and if you can stomach glimpsing the occasional steep drop from the side of the road, and the twisting inclines up mountains, driving here is straightforward. For a long time the island boasted a grand total of one roundabout (and some odd rules apply – read up on these in advance!) and roads are generally quiet. We met far more goats and cows on the road than humans.
We set off for Assos on our first day exploring Kefalonia, and we were surprised to find nothing else matched it – even the mighty Myrtos. If you’re driving from the south or western side of the island, it’s likely you’ll spot a viewing point off to the side of the road to look down on Myrtos on your way. It’s well worth stopping to take in the vista, which on a sunny day is simply stunning. The vivid intensity of the blue is created by the light reflecting off the beach and shoreline’s white pebbles, and the colours genuinely are that striking.
Despite its beauty from above, we felt Myrtos lacked something once we were down on the beach itself. The white stones and cliffs all reflect the light and heat, and it can be swelteringly hot. There is little shade – other than that offered by parasols – the sea becomes rather deep rather quickly, and it is of course a stony beach, which isn’t for everyone.
Once you’ve stopped for the customary shot of Myrtos from above, it’s therefore well worth continuing straight on to Assos. It’s a fairly frightening drive down to the village, consisting of hair-pin turns and precarious edges, but the good news is that parking is easy and free once you get there. An early arrival is also advisable in the height of summer, as the small car park can fill up quickly. (More street parking is available if you continue on into the village). The southern side of the village is bordered by rocky cliffs, but there are two pretty coves on the northern side. The first is rather small and shaded, and closest to the car park; follow the main road into the village past this, and you’ll arrive at the much larger beach looking out into the bay.
The bay itself is delightfully undeveloped, and features a mixture of restaurants, cafes and houses in various sunny pastel shades. Loungers and parasols are available to hire, and the glass-like water is cool, calm and sheltered. We easily spent hours here, only leaving the beach to gorge ourselves on fresh Greek salad, and pistachio ice-cream with baklava.
If you do happen to tire of lounging in the sun, take a walk up to the crumbling Venetian fort overlooking the bay. An easy stroll from the beach – do-able in between 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending on fitness – the walk is a moderate incline up from the beach, zigzagging backwards and forwards, and providing better views each time. Built in the sixteenth century to protect the island from pirates, the remains are now designated a European Heritage Site and the main gate of the fortress and many of the original walls still stand.
A nice activity for later in the day as the heat starts to relent, the views from the fortress back towards the rest of Kefalonia are utterly sublime.
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