We wanted to go to see Sami and the Melissani Cave without taking a set walk from a guidebook and this turned out to be fun, interesting and surprising. It was possible because we had the hire car, and we followed the same initial route as we had used to get to Ag Gerasimos, which you can read about here, before carrying straight on along the signposted road. The route to Sami is very well signposted, to be fair. We drove to the far side of the port, parked the car by the side of the road (and there were many spaces available), and walked under the hot sun to the edge of the water. There is a wonderful view from the port out to sea, and it was so very clear this morning.
We walked into the town along the harbour-edge, soon came to the statue to seamen on the promenade, and carried on past it to the other side of the shops and taverna, then carried on walking by the sea. The main part of town had been lovely and very well presented, but suddenly there were some more weeds growing up through the track and there was a seeming lack of attention to how things looked, which was a pity. Sami is such a beautiful port town and we felt that with just a little more work and attention to detail it could be even better. Having said that, it did not detract from our enjoyment of our stroll along the coast.
We were following a map but suddenly realised that the Melissani marked on it was not the Cave, but a campsite with the same name. The Melissani Cave was not on the map so we decided we would have to go back to the car to drive to it. However, we wanted something to eat before we did that so we carried on, actually into Karavomilos as it turns out, past a wonderful pink church on our left, to a bar restaurant which looked like something of an oasis out here.
As we walked along the path to get to it we came to the lake, which was very popular with the local ducks, and the working waterwheel which was above a channel going out to the sea, before we came to fish-faces coming out of the trees, which was a little bizarre. The menu was extensive, although I would say it could be compared to standard pub-fare in this country, and our food was tasty enough for a lunchtime snack. The one problem we did encounter was the ferocious aggression of the local wasps as they would not leave us alone to eat.
It had been good to sit down to eat and we felt refreshed as we walked back to the car. We decided to take a quick detour before heading off the Melissani Cave and drove off to find the noticeboard at the beginning of the track to Dikalia showing pictures of the stage set from the film of Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. We drove out on the coast road and ended up above the beach at Antisamos without having seen a sign for Dikalia. It could only have been one turning on our way so I turned round and we went back to a track on our right and drove down there without managing to see any noticeboard. We can only presume it has gone, and it looks as though Dikalia might have gone too ! We drove back through Sami and followed the signs to the Melissani Cave, and as we drove along the main road towards the Cave I noticed a church on the right which was where we had stopped last time we were in Kefalonia and taking a boat tour out to the islands. We had wanted to come back to this place to have a better look around the lake which lay beyond the church, and it suddenly dawned on me that this was where we had eaten our lunch today, and that we could have actually walked from there to the Melissani Cave.
Anyway, we were here now, at the Melissani Cave, located at Karavomilos, which is just 2km from Sami. The cave is 160 metres long and 40 metres wide, and the lake inside it reaches a depth of 39 metres. Its stalactites date back 16,000 to 20,000 years and a number of finds during excavations have been from the 4th century BC.
There is a small island in the centre of the lake and a narrow waterway between the island and the walls of the lake lead to the other side of the cave. A walkway takes you down to the edge of the lake from the surface, and from there you can take a boat tour across the lake to the narrow waterway, then down that to the other side of the cave, before coming back to the start.
The guys operating the boats are very friendly, funny and enthusiastic, and very willing to take photos of the occupants of their boats, and overall it was a lovely little trip inside a fascinating natural attraction, which brought to an end a delightful day out.
You can see more photographs from our walk here.
You can see more photographs from the Melissani Cave here.