Plan for the day
Our driving route would be from
- Poros to Sami to see the Melissani Cave
- Sami to Fiskardo for buy ferry tickets for the evening trip
- Fiskardo to Mytros Beach for the most popular beach in Greece
- Mytros Beach to Fiskardo for a ferry trip to the next island
We intended to spend the whole day until 5 pm on Kefalonia, during this time frame we had a few destinations to explore. There was only one “must visit” attraction and that would be the Melissani Cave, the “most beautiful blue cave” in Greece or maybe in the world.
We planned to board the ferry with our car and travel from Fiskardo port to Vasiliki, a southern port on the next island. The plan was to leave Vasiliki port by 6.30pm and drive for about one to one and a half hour northward. Our accommodation for the night would be in either Levkas Town on Lefkada island or Preveza City on the mainland.
By the end of the day we had visited Melissani Cave, Sami and Fiskardo town. Fiskardo was a pleasant surprise. As for Myrtos Beach the visit was cancelled at the last moment.
The ferry trip to Vasiliki went up in smoke and we ended up staying the night at Sami Port of Kefalonia some 100 km behind our planned end point of the day.
From the experience over the last two days, I could definitely confirmed that Greek Ferry Lines were not reliable during low tourists season especially on less popular ferry routes. I had gotten the dates and schedules of the trips from the Ferry lines official website which were not updated to reflect cancellation.
We checked out of our hotel, Dioni Apartment in Poros at about 9 am and it was when making our payment to the “workman” that we found out he was the owner of the hotel. October to the end of the year was a lull period for the hotel and it was a good time to carry out alternation, that was why the ground level of the hotel was in the midst of renovation.
We drove toward Poros in search of a place for breakfast. It was only 1 km from our hotel but when we reached Poros port we did not spot a cafe that was inviting enough to make us stop for breakfast so we continued to drive forward to the next town, Sami.
Sami Town was another port of Kefalonia island and it was rather quiet in mid October. It had a couple of streets and we drove a few rounds circulating the place looking for a good breakfast place. We parked the car by the roadside and came down for a walk, we walked past the town church, a bakery, a super market before we stopped at a second bakery.
The breads on the shelves looked so inviting and smell so aromatic that we went in to have our breakfast.
The owner was a very friendly middle age woman and she had an equally friendly big black dog.
We ordered bread, pies, pastries and cafe lattes and ate our breakfast at a small table that was placed just at side door of the store with the black dog practically lying at our feet.
The store was located at a huge intersection of five roads with the port just right in front. So sitting at our table we had a great time observing the town and the port.
It was great that we had internet access 24/7 so while eating we got to read news, message with our families and update our social network. It was wonderful how modern technology had made travelling afar closer to the love ones at home.
Melissani Cave (co-ordinates:38.257006, 20.623510) was about 3 km from Sami Port so in less than 10 minutes we reached the car park outside the cave.
Beside the car park was a cafe and a souvenir store. We looked around to see how we could go uphill and see the Melissani Lake from the opening of the caved in roof. There was a hill but it was fenced off. The fencing stretched a long way and we could not see any opening at all. It looked like there was no way up the hill. The only entrance to the cave was just next to the cafe, it led into a tunnel that went underground into the cave.
The entrance fee was €8 per person and it included a short boat ride on the lake. Though tunnel sloped downward, it was rather easy to walk as it was well lighted, its floor was “carpeted” and it had hand railings on both sides. The tunnel opened into a cave lake. We stepped out of the tunnel into the cave onto a small platform built just above the water level. Four of us went into a boat and the boatman rowed the boat toward the middle of the lake. The cave had a huge opening in its roof.
It was already 12 noon and the sun rays shone strongly through the opening right into the water. The water looked cool and blue and I could see all the way down to the base of the lake. It was very quiet, very surreal and very beautiful.
Melissani Cave or Melissani Lake as it was sometimes called was a lake inside a cave that had trees and forests surrounding it. The cave had two chambers with an island in the center. The roof of one of the chambers caved in centuries ago.
The boatman rowed the boat to just directly under the opening of the caved in roof. Looking up we could see that the opening were surrounded by green trees, there were creepers hanging down into the cave from the edge of the opening. On top of the cave was the forest.
We asked the boatman how we could get to the top of the cave. He told us that outside the cave there were paths that led uphill, unfortunately all these paths were now barricaded and nobody was allowed to go up anymore. Viewing from the top was disallowed because of past incidence when daredevil tourists leaped through the opening into the cave lake. After going one round of the lake the boatman rowed the boat into a second chamber. Between the two chambers there was a small piece of land and a narrow water path.
The further we entered into the second chamber the darker it got. This second chamber was smaller and not as interesting. So if there was no caved in of the roof in the first chamber it would be as dark and as uninteresting as the second chamber. This caved in transformed this Melissani cave into a famous tourist attraction.
On the way back to the first chamber the boatman sang us a local song, and his voice resonated loudly inside the chamber. His voice must have frightened some birds or bats because I heard a flutter of wings and saw some small creatures flying into the air as we approached that tiny piece of land separately the two chambers.
The boatman was a friendly man and insisted on helping us to take plenty of group photos. In just about 15 minutes our boat ride was over and the boat moved toward the platform. I tried my luck and requested the boatman to row another loop around the first chamber but lady luck was not with me.
The only way to enjoyed Melissani Lake was on a boat, because beside the small platform where the boats were berthed there was not much space to stand. There was no walking path in the cave or around the edge of the lake. Regretfully, for €8 per person we were allowed only one trip on the boat and when done we were left on the small platform. There was no place to linger, rest, sit, relax and to enjoy this uniquely beautiful blue cave but to walk back in the tunnel and leave.
We drove about 38 km for about an hour from Melissani Cave to Fiskardo which was a port at the northern tip of Kefalonia and reached there by about 2 pm in the afternoon. We were at the port to get ferry tickets for four of us and our car to move on to the next Ioanian island, Lefkada. The plan was to board the 5.15 pm car ferry that would sail from Fiskardo to Vassiliki, a southern port of Lefkada.
Unfortunately for the second time in two days we were let down by another Greek Ferry Company. The shop, Nautilus Travel, that sold ferry tickets was closed and when I asked the neighbouring shop how could I get tickets on the car ferry to go from Fiskardo to Vassiliki, I was told that the ferry season had ended no more trips till next year.
This was very upsetting as on the West Ferry website (www.westferry.gr) the ferry would only stop running in November and December and there were still two more weeks to go before November started. So again I had to activate Plan B which was to sail from Sami to Vassiliki.
Apparently ferry cancellation especially by small ferry lines was a common occurrence during off peak tourist season. The advantages of touring Greece in mid October was that being on the fringe of peak tourist season it was much less crowded, prices were lower and weather was still not too cold. The disadvantages were some shops, hotels and shipping routes were closed and you might encounter ferry trip cancellation without notice.
Even when I stood outside the closed Nautilus Travel shop unable to purchase our ferry tickets, the West Ferry website (West Ferry Maritime Company F/B Captain Aritidis) still stated that its car ferry would run till end of October! Luckily this was just a small hiccup and could be easily rectified. We would head back to Sami in the late afternoon but in the meantime we continued with our sightseeing.
Fiskardo was different from our expectation. We thought that it was just a basic port like Agio Nikolaos in Zakynthos with nothing much to see. Fiskardo turned out to be a good surprise, it was a very scenic port town with an exceptionally beautiful harbour view.
This harbour was very different from all the other harbours that we had seen so far, it looked like a harbour where the “rich and famous” would sail in on their yachts. We chose a nice outdoor cafe with a good view and sat down for lunch. Lunch was delicious and the prices was reasonable.
After lunch we took a walk around the harbour. The buildings were mainly cafes, souvenir shops, bakeries, boat rental shops, travel shops, etc all catering to tourists. We passed many yachts and occasionally saw people living (reading, eating, sleeping) in the yachts. Sailing from island to island seemed to be a good form of touring Greece too.
Myrtos Beach was frequently voted as the most popular beach in Greece so it was on our destination list in Kefalonia. From my research we could view the beach from the top just like Shipwreck Cove in Zakynthos but besides that we could also drive down to the beach as there was a road that led down to the beach. I used google map on my handphone to plot the route to Myrtos beach. What I could not understand was it kept plotting a long round about route to Myrtos beach. But from my map I could see a shorter and direct road so we decided to ignore google map recommended route and took the shorter and direct road.
The entire journey was about 25 km and it was a long boring and sleepy drive. There was not much nice scenery to be seen on the road and we were all falling asleep because of our heavy lunch. We couldn’t wait to reach our destination and get out to stretch our legs. When we were just a mere 5 km from Myrtos beach our drive came to an abrupt end. There was a “No entry” sign in the middle of the road and more indication of road construction ahead. OMG, now I knew why google map kept plotting the long round about route. We were so disappointed and the idea of turning back to make the big loop to Myrtos Beach was just too difficult to accept. So we voted to skip Myrtos Beach totally and return to Sami port. It was a decision that I later regretted, we should have made a loop even though it would take 45 minutes more. Now I would never know why Myrtos Beach was frequently voted as the most popular beach in Greece!
On hindsight I vowed that I should never make hasty decision when I was sleepy and too full from heavy lunch.
Ferry tickets from Sami to Vasiliki
We were back to Sami at about 5pm and walked into one of the ferry lines shop to buy our tickets. We were told that there was only one ferry trip a day to Vasiliki and the next ride would be at 10 am the next day. We bought our tickets and the next thing would be to find an accommodation for the night on Kelafonia instead of Lekfada.
We found Dimitris Studios online and immediate made the booking online for two twin rooms. We chose Dimitris Studios because it was near Sami Port, price wise pretty good at €36 per room with ensuite toilet and no breakfast. Shortly I got a call from a London office to confirm my time of arrival.
From the port we needed only drove about 2.5km to Dimitris Studios. We found the place but it looked closed. For a while we thought we got the wrong Dimitris Studio. I called the local phone number of the hotel stated in the confirmation email and a man told me to wait and he would be arriving soon to meet us.
Dimitris, the owner came on a motorbike and opened the place for us. He brought us up to inspect two rooms on the second level, these rooms faced the sea. The rooms were clean, nice and comfortable. We did our usual checks to make sure that the attached toilets had hot water and once we confirmed that we were happy with the rooms, Dimitris brought us downstairs to pick up our supply of towels and toiletries from his storage cupboard.
Dimitris could hardly speak any English but we still got to understood each other with a few English words and lots of gesturing. I would describe Dimitris as a friendly host, a short and chubby man in his late sixties.
Dinner at Contessina
We drove back into Sami port in search for a restaurant for dinner. Dimitris had strongly recommended Contessina Restaurant, a place owned by his good friend that he said we must go. We parked our car and walked along the promenade moving from one restaurant to another reading the foods offering on their menu displayed outside the restaurants.
We did not even had a chance to decide which restaurant to go in when we saw Dimitris walking toward us in the opposite direction. He came to usher us into Contessina restaurant. So we ended up eating pizza at Contessina restaurant. We were not sure if Dimitris was being a considerate host helping us or a great friend helping the restaurant owner to bring in customers. To us it did not matter as there was only a 50% chance that the restaurant we picked may be nicer than Contessina.