The posh of Lixouri on the pristine Paliki peninsula in Kefalonia
Words from Adam Jacot de Boinod
Having previously recorded my experience of the northern alcoves of Kefalonia in Fiscardo and the southern shores in Lourdata, all I had to do was complete my exploration of the island and the western waves of Paliki. Sure enough, I was back a week later.
As a peninsula, Paliki is wonderful to drive around. I rented a car from Rentcarkefalonia which was run by the charming and undisturbed Apostolis. It was perfect for escaping all of the airport’s interiors and queues by walking down a tree-littered alley literally a minute away.
I invite you to imagine a landscape of white rocks and rich brown earth, of silver olive groves and pine trees, crowned by the bright green splendor of cypress trees under the bluest sky. Everything is strongly reminiscent of Andalusia in its speckled and meandering shape.
In this pastoral and idyllic setting, the animals roam free and often stray. Goats and sheep roam the streets and dogs guard the territory while cats gather to populate the village squares. Chickens proclaim what Homer called the dawn with the rosy fingers.
Elia Villa has an over-chic interior with a modern and neutral beauty
Newly completed and where I was lucky enough to stay is Elia Villa, the VIP villa of the Alekos Beach Houses group. It is just a few minutes’ walk from the town of Lixouri and has a great location under a rugged cliff lined with beautiful olive groves. A price position for such a zen gem.
The zen interior is overly chic and all rooms are on one level. Under a beamed roof reminiscent of beach huts, the villa has a calm, horizontal feel, as all three bedrooms face the sea. There is a modern and neutral beauty that graciously saves on excess jewelry and recognizes that there is more than enough fame and magic to be seen outside.
The cozy relaxation area connects comfortably with the kitchen (with all the comforts) and offers a stress-free feeling of living. It can accommodate six people; It’s perfect for a small family and wouldn’t feel overwhelming for a couple either.
I stepped out of the widened doors to the terrace, where inside and outside meet with seamless continuity. Everything is well thought out. Even the avocado-colored towels match the beautiful spongy grass of the landscaped lawn with a lavender border, while the paved forecourt and local stone blend harmoniously into the terrain.
The infinity pool actually ends in front of olive groves, from which crickets whistle like referees at night to connect in the Mediterranean way with a full galaxy of stars. I can pretty well understand why the architect Dionysis Avgoustinos has a reputation that precedes it as this place is truly a dream vacation.
Alexandros Beach House is located in front of the rippling shores of the golden Logos Beach
During my stay, I visited an alternative property within the Alekos Beach Houses group, which includes twenty villas under a consortium of owners, fifteen of which extend straight down to the beach. The Alexandros Beach House in front of the babbling shores of the golden Logos Beach and with the longer Lepada Beach nearby offers space for up to ten people and, with its restful and healing bedrooms, is perfect for a deeply relaxing time, including meditation – and yoga retreats are suitable.
Alekos Beach Houses all have a fast and professional concierge service run by the charming, conscientious and extremely helpful Kostas Voyatzis, always ready to share the passion for the island that began with his childhood vacations . He is very strongly advocating his own philosophy of living like a local and offers the opportunity to participate in activities such as harvesting the olives, picking the grapes, and baking fish in the sand.
For the more active, he researches and organizes bespoke boat trips, freediving and paragliding. He’ll even come and pick you up from the airport.
For both villas it is convenient to have the local tavern Apolafsi only a few hundred meters away and to eat wonderfully on its terrace under the vines while the moon is reflected over the water. Everything very romantic, everything very Mamma Mia.
Locally caught fish such as sea bass are a staple on the menus of restaurants in the region
Next to the harbor I came to the excellent Bella Mangia restaurant owned by Yiannis Kiriakopoulos, along with Kostas, the cook, and Zeta, the baker. It has a retro Italian flair with tasteful traditional music that carries over onto its spacious wooden floors and pebble walls. What a joy to discover that my sea bass, perfectly grilled, moist yet crispy, had come fresh from the neighboring fishery.
Akrogiali, which means coast, was also located at the port and, in keeping with its maritime character, there were old wooden beams over images of the port and ships from ancient times. This traditional and authentic restaurant offers an honest and hearty meal from its extensive menu and is open all year round for lunch and dinner. I could imagine sitting on the roof terrace in the middle of summer over the guests spilled onto the street and watching people get off the ferry and local children try out their push bikes.
Another evening I ate at V + S Corner, a ten-year family business run by Giorgos Solidaikis. Here he offers a range of traditional local dishes, including chicken with ouzo or mastika, pork gyros and beef in a clay pot with potatoes, fresh tomatoes, aubergines, feta and gouda, and fresh lean or sea bass fillet with a tangy fresh tomato sauce, aubergine and capers. The menu even has a full page of vegan options. I tried the local Sclavos Orgion, which complemented my steak au poivre perfectly with the freshest salads.
Take a bespoke boat ride through the turquoise waters of the Paliki Peninsula. Photo credit: Emma Ball
Kostas took me on one of his unforgettable bespoke boat trips to some breathtaking locations inaccessible from the shore. They are not in the guidebooks, how can they be when only Kostas, with the help of the skipper Demetris, can take you across the Myrtos Bay? We passed the village of Zola and the beach, Vouti in his boat to the one in Agia Kyriaki.
Chalk cliffs create the most breathtaking and bluest water; An extraordinary turquoise that is almost unbelievable in sunlight. Flocks of seagulls, too numerous to count, fled upstairs as if startled by human contact behind the beaches of Fteri and Amidi.
Demetris, available through Kostas’ concierge service, has another boat, the ‘Romantica’, which he uses to swim and have lunch at secluded beauty spots all day long. He took me to Assos, a breathtaking peninsula with the cutest villages.
There are traditional houses here with bold colors and bright bougainvilleas, framed by bright green pines and old shady plane trees. The ultimate picturesque harbor without any interference. What a treat next to take the boat to the famous Myrtos Beach where the bomb explodes in Captain Corelli’s mandolin.
Sunset over the golden sands of Xi Beach Photo credit: Emma Ball
Another day I went with Kefalonia Sailing Point, whose charming skipper Nikos Hionis was clearly one with his 44 foot yacht. It offers trips with up to six beds for seven to ten days on board from the Gulf to Zante, Lefkada, Paxos and all the way to Corfu in its season from May to October.
He took me from inland to the uninhabited ‘Rabbit Island’ and on to the golden and fabulously long beach of Xi. To top off such a special excursion, on my return through the gulf, I happened upon a school of dolphins who happily flew back from the food emerging from the Argostoli fish farms to dance majestically and magically before sunset.
Xi Beach (pronounced ‘Chsi’), named for the Greek letter whose shape resembles it, is the ideal length for a proper stroll under cliffs of white clay, a smear for spa types on their skin that contains its natural ingredients . The lovely red sand turns from ginger to cinnamon and cumin to a flavorful color at dusk, while the sunsets add extra magic over what Homer calls the claret sea, perhaps overlooking Kefalonia.
Adam reached Gatwick Airport on the Southern Railway and was supported by Holiday Extras. To book the Hilton at London Gatwick Airport, visit HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 316 5678.
The prices for Elia Villa for 2 people in the low season start at 180 € per night and in the high season from 392 € per night (20 € per additional person). The prices for the Alexandros Beach House for 2 people in the low season start at € 69 per night and in the high season from € 296 per night. (15 € per additional person). To book, visit alekos.reserve-online.net
Main picture: The village of Assos