Sailing to bustling Argostóli (Αργοστόλι), Kefalonia’s main harbour and a port of entry to Greece, was a little intimidating to us newbie sailors. So we decided to share what we had learnt in the hopes of making someone elses journey a little easier!
Sadly much of Argostoli was destroyed by the 1953 earthquake and has since been re-built in a rather modern and characterless fashion. It is, however, smart looking and a tourist hot spot, with cafes and restaurants that open out onto the harbour. The main attraction remains the resident turtles! Walk along the town quay and you’re bound to spot them popping up for air.
Sailing into Argostoli
After a three day passage from Syracusa in Sicily we finally spotted the mountains of Kephalonia, hazy in the heat of the afternoon and a welcome sight after several very quiet days at sea. We approached Kephalonia from the South West. After navigating through the many crossing ferries and cargo ships (careful of the haze that limits visibility here) we started up the long entrance to the harbour.
Tip: Luckily the seas were calm when we approached as there were numerous fishing buoys laid out all over the entrance. Make sure to keep a careful eye out!
The channel is wide but seems somewhat smaller when faced with the gigantic cruise ships coming and going. The bigger ships will stick to the middle of the channel as the depths drop quickly to the sides.
Passing the fish farm to your port side (again, watch out for fishing buoys here) you will see the town approaching. There is a large concrete starboard buoy marking the entrance as you approach. We chose to moor in the abandoned marina opposite the town quay (on your port side as you enter) so that we didn’t have to attempt med mooring for the first time on little sleep, or pay the mooring fees (20 euros).
The abandoned marina in Argostoli
Desolate and forlorn, this marina screams horror movie rather than the sailing romance you’d dreamed of, but we found it a fascinating and uncomplicated place to spend a few nights. It has good shelter from the prevailing winds but can get a little choppy in the afternoon when the catabatic winds kick in. There was plenty of space here to come alongside, with only a few other cruisers around. We had 3 meter depths though have heard reports of silting in places so keep an eye on your depth.
The walk to town is interesting and pleasant. Follow the abandoned marina (make some time to check out the creepy, crumbling old boats) through to a very small woodland and then across the walkway to the main town. If you take the path to the left instead you will find a small ‘yacht club’ bar that serves well priced beer and soft drinks with a smile. Make sure you bring a torch if you plan to return after dark.
Note: There are a few people living on the abandoned boats on the hard. We have no idea if they were working on these boats or simply living there but they were friendly and we never once felt unsafe.
Other places to spend the night
The town quay was busy and loud when we were there in June. Mooring is stern to and it costs 20 euros, though over the weekend and bank holiday Monday there was no one collecting. There is free non drinking water but it is quite a way away so you may need to move to access it. It is also stiflingly hot here, being sheltered from the breeze and surrounded by concrete. It is, however, right next to all the amenities.
Anchoring out in the little bay between the town quay and the abandoned marina is another option. The holding here isn’t great (our friends dragged anchor here last summer when their anchor hit weeds, and again when they returned!) so make sure you lay plenty of chain and keep an eye out, especially in the afternoons when the winds kick up!
Checking in here was simple. The port police are almost directly opposite the abandoned marina. You will probably see their fancy looking patrol boat moored outside. Here they will check you have paid the TEPAI. We did ours online before we arrived, go here to find out how. Our friends hadn’t completed theirs online and it turned into a bit of a nightmare, so it might be worth putting in an hour or two of form filling in the comfort of your own boat before you head over to check in! If you haven’t already got your DEPKA you will be sent to the tax office. They will provide you with an accurate map and it’s about a 5 minute walk away, opposite the market along the main street. The office you need is on the first floor, number 13.
Tip: Take 50 euros cash as there were a lot of cards that they didn’t accept!
Once you have your form stamped here then head back to the port police. They will check your paperwork (SSR, passports and insurance which needs to be printed and in Greek-print a few copies as they will want to keep hold of one-not to worry if you don’t have a printer, after a bit of tutting they scanned ours) and send you to a small hut like building round the back to pay your 15 euros fee (again take cash). Then back to the port police to complete the check in process!
All in all it took us about an hour to complete and was generally a pleasant experience. See my guide to navigating the TEPAI tax, which was the most complicated part of the procedure!
There are three supermarkets along the harbour front. We found the cheapest and best stocked to be ΚΡΗΤΙΚΟΣ (check out the upstairs Aladdin’s cave!)
There is a chandlery/fishing shop along the harbour front which is small but better stocked than we expected. There is also a useful hardware shop on the road behind that sells all sorts. There are several car maintenance shops too which sell things like antifreeze and oil.
Just outside of town there are several other useful shops. One that sells quality hardwood for reasonable prices and a few shops that stock various types of metal. The guy who works in the hardware shop is the best person to ask for any advice on these various specialist shops and he will give you clear directions.
We couldn’t find anywhere that would refill gas bottles and even asked a friend that lives in the area who couldn’t locate somewhere. If anyone knows where this can be done feel free to comment below!
Note: We found it impossible to fill up our camping gaz canisters anywhere in Argostoli. If it isn’t camping gaz then the petrol station along the harbour front and opposite the bank will exchange your empty for a full. There are also numerous places that sell mini camping stoves.
Bars and restaurants
There is no shortage of bars and restaurants in Argostoli. The harbour front and the main shopping street behind are full of them, and you will be spoilt for choice. The restaurants near the market are all a little expensive compared to the ones further along the road past the port police. We had a lovely meal at a little Greek taverna and enjoyed some quiet from the loud bars near the quay side. If you head further back into the town and check out the little side streets you will also find some quieter restaurants.
Things to do in Argostoli
Focas-Cosmetatos Foundation Museum
This is one of the few historic buildings in Agostoli to survive the earthquake. In it you will find displays on Kefallonia’s cultural and political history, including lithographs by Edward Lear and other British artists.
The same family also runs the Cephalonia Botanica, a lovely botanical garden 2km south of the centre.
Korgialenio History & Folklore Museum
This museum focuses on Kefalonian art and culture, displaying icons, assorted furniture, clothes and artwork taken from the homes of gentry and farm workers.
This pretty little town is well worth a visit. Check out my post here for more details. If you fancy the hours sail across the harbour then there is mooring on the town quay for 8 euros, with water and electricity (though getting electricity may be a challenge when sharing two points with ten or so boats!) The end of the quay is shallow. We saw depths of 2 meters and ventured no further!
If you’re happy not to move then there are hourly ferries to and from Lixouri for 3 euros each way.
There are a few unimpressive beaches about an hours walk away, which are good for a dip in the sea to cool off, but perhaps not worth it if you have to work up a sweat again on the hours hike back!
There is a pretty big bus station in Argostoli. Walk along the harbour front in the opposite direction to the ferry port and you will find it past the bridge walkway. Here you will find many different timetables and destinations. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the airport and costs something like 1 euro!
You can also get reasonably priced taxis and ferries to various destinations.
Where to sail next?
If you’ve seen all there is to see in Argostoli and Lixouri then it’s time to move on! If you fancy a shorter sail then we highly recommend Spartia, about 3 hours sail East of Argostoli. The cliffs are incredible and the water is crystal clear. There is also a lovely little bar/restaurant a short walk up the hill that will give you the most fantastic views of the anchorage.
A full days sail away south is the island of Zante or if you head up the East coast of Kephalonia you will find the very sheltered bay of Antisamos which is surrounded by beautiful green mountains.