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Travel

My Great Greek Adventure: Lixouri, Kefalonia’s Almost Capital

November 27, 2021

Kefalonia is among the top ten largest islands in Greece and the biggest in its own Ionian island chain. It is so big that its different regions feel autonomous rather than part of a whole. Kefalonia’s unique shape, which consists of several long peninsulas, is connected by narrow and winding mountain roads. The journey from one end of Kefalonia to the other is like a road trip as you climb and cascade the tallest mountain in the Ionian, Mount Ainos. On the farthest west coast of Kefalonia is the Paliki Peninsula which houses the city of Lixouri.

The peninsula creates a narrow and long bay which also includes the smaller and opposite-facing peninsula with the capital city Argostoli. Lixouri and Argostoli are separated by the narrow bay, but since the city centers are both built on the east side of their respective peninsulas, they remain slightly hidden from each other. A small car-carrying ferry boat makes the trip back and forth between the cities about every half hour at a cheap price.

Lixouri – Petani. (Photo by Stamatina Mylonas)

Otherwise, the cliffside road exiting Argostoli and looping around the long bay will also take you to Lixouri, for a bit longer but more scenic trip than the ferry boat ride. Once you enter the Paliki Peninsula at the base of the bay, it becomes visibly evident that you have stepped onto a different land. Although attached to the rest of the island, Lixouri feels like its own piece of the Ionian. The road passes by the edge of the bay where the land is flat and in some places a lush marshland. Many local people enjoy swimming in these calm and shallow waters, and they have said they do not mind the little shrimp and other sea creatures that swim with them. The peninsula is flatter than the rest of Kefalonia, although not lacking its fair share of tall cliffs. This side of the island is a hot spot for exotic cliffside, crystal clear beaches. At the base of the peninsula on the outer border are a couple of memorable beaches that have no direct road connection and are only accessible by boat. Their exclusive and difficult to reach nature only intensifies their beauty and charm. Fteri Beach is of the most popular and widely known in the area. Similar to its neighbor, Myrtos beach a couple of kilometers down the coast, Fteri beach has turquoise waters with white pebbles and sand, and a lush green mountainside stretched around it. Another popular beach is Petani, located on the west coast of the Paliki peninsula, reachable by a sharply winding road down the mountainside. Petani is more widely known and attracts visitors from all over the world. It has the characteristic Ionian vibes with the colors of the water and the forest all complementing and enriching each other.

The fact that some of these beaches are very difficult to access does not deter adventurous visitors from the steep hikes required to reach them. Just a few kilometers south of Petani beach along the west coast is Platia Ammos beach. Not organized or set up for beachgoers, this wild beach has been cut off from cars for a while because of a damaged and perhaps non-existent road. But that is why it is so appealing – there is no crowd or chatter, just a forgotten paradise all to yourself. And as you make your way to the most southern point of the peninsula, a completely different beach experience awaits. Xi beach does not resemble its other Lixouri shores. It is a complete contrast, with its reddish sand that stretches along the relatively straight and flat coast.

Lixouri city is the main hub on this section of Kefalonia. There is a notorious rivalry about which is better, between this city and the capital Argostoli. At one point, Lixouri lost the fight to become the capital of the island, which may be the cause of hard feelings between the two.

Lixouri and the Paliki Peninsula in general have been inhabited since ancient times and were home to powerful and prosperous civilizations. The landscape was ideal for growing crops and establishing highly functioning and connected towns. Today the existing architecture is not very old due to strong earthquakes that shook the island, most recently in the 1950s. But Lixouri town has adapted and it has been built up again while paying homage to its classic architecture and incorporating new businesses for welcoming tourists. As it is the second biggest city on Kefalonia, Lixouri is a good place to find accommodation or plan a night out to a restaurant or café. The main square in the center of town Platia Ethnikis Antistaseos, has many shops with cozy outdoor seating perfect for a summer night. The town square is right next to the dock, where you can catch the boat to Argostoli and admire the Aenos mountains across the way.

Lixouri – Xi Beach. (Photo by Stamatina Mylonas)

Lixouri also has cultural treasures and landmarks that preserve the history of the city. The Iakovatios Library is located at the western edge of town next to sprawling green fields and farms. The hybrid library and museum used to be the home of the Iakovatios family, and luckily its classic structure survived the devastating earthquakes of the 20th century. The collection housed in the library contains around 20,000 books, many of which many date back to the 16th century. The property has also been used to host local cultural events and serves as a gathering place to discuss ideas and culture. Lixouri is not a large city but it has modern necessities and characteristic quirks all around. Quirks like the shallow stream that passes down the center of town and empties into the sea by the dock. It resembles a canal but the incredible Mediterranean heat keeps it from fully filling up. And there are small bridges that get you across town, the classic architecture, and the seaside gathering spots give Lixouri its personality. The city and the peninsula where it is located, are a vital part of Kefalonia’s history. The area remains mostly undeveloped, with widespread hills and some mountains, and plenty of wild untouched beaches around the coast. Lixouri is a getaway within a getaway and shows how different Kefalonia can be at each far reaching corner.

 

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