For those in the know, the Greek islands offer the perfect summer holiday: endless days of sunshine, crystal clear waters and friendly locals. For those really in the know, a select few places offer the ultimate holiday where days can be spent languishing on a motor boat moored in a deserted cove whilst evenings are enjoyed eating freshly grilled seafood in waterfront tavernas under the stars. Fiskardo, located on the northernmost tip of Kefalonia in the Ionian islands, is one such hidden gem. This small harbour village has a very limited amount of accommodation and so has remained small and intimate, with many visitors returning year after year.
Your impression of Fiskardo will be influenced by the time of year you choose to visit. In May a plethora of spring flowers carpet the hillsides: butterflies, bees and birds can all be seen making the most of the beautiful displays. The harbour is full of sailors on flotilla holidays, picking up suppliers from the chandler and discussing their mooring skills over glasses of beer in the cool evenings. As the mercury begins to rise in June and July motor yachts begin to appear and the restaurants start to fill up in the evenings. By August every table is full, with Greeks coming out to eat from 11pm onwards and the harbour packed with Italian families and superyachts. The harbour master spends his days throwing his hands in the air in exasperation as inexperienced captains get their anchors caught on other people’s ropes and yachts jostle for the best spots. The horsetrading for the coveted spots is now done discretely by mobile phone rather than by gesticulating and shouting, to the dismay of those of us who used to enjoy the spectacle. Evenings remain wonderfully warm, the stars twinkle overhead and the romance of this beautiful village is tangible. Large groups of Italians take over adjoining tables groaning under the weight of their food before retiring to their boats or villas. September and October are languid, calmer, perfect for walking and exploring due to the somewhat cooler temperatures.
Ferry boats of day trippers arrive during the warm summer days from other islands so many visitors hire their own private 30hp motor boat and set off to deserted coves with a picnic basket and bottles of local white wine left draped in the sea to stay cool. Swimming and snorkelling work up an appetite and where best to enjoy your picnic than moored in a secluded cove, away from prying eyes and in total seclusion. Boats have to be back in the harbour by 5pm which is the perfect time to have a coffee and catch up on the news in one of the many cafes and bars lining the waterfront.
When darkness falls and dinner calls, take your pick from a variety of restaurants and tavernas offering traditional Greek food. Tassia’s restaurant has been open since 1972 and serves excellent food; standards of service are high and the restaurant is family-run and overseen by the beady eyes of Tassia who doesn’t miss anything. Her octopus cooked in wine, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes is an experience in itself and not to be missed. At the other end of the harbour the Captain’s Cabin has been serving great food since 1978 including superb takeaway pizza, best eaten on the harbour walls overlooking Ithaca. The staff here are some of the friendliest you’ll find anywhere: on my last visit they presented me with a bottle of local white wine as a present for dining with them.
Fiskardo is safe, welcoming and friendly. Of course it’s the sort of place where everyone knows everyone and you can be sure of bumping into your hotel’s owner, your motor boat owner and your taxi driver wherever you are, and that’s the beauty of the village. Cars and homes are left unlocked, children are warmly welcomed and spoilt rotten, and belongings can be left on the beach when you decamp to a taverna for a three-hour lunch, although do put a rock on any loose items as the afternoon breeze can cause havoc…
Life here remains how many of us fondly remember it in the 80s. Yes, it’s slightly busier and ever so slightly better organised but the beating heart of Fiskardo is its charming residents. There’s nothing forced, fake or pretentious about staying in Fiskardo – you’ll be welcomed from the moment you arrive. And remembered each and every time you go back.
- messing around on boats
- romantic dinners on the waterfront
- three-hour lunches
- feeling instantly relaxed
- walking everywhere barefoot if you want to
- feta cheese pies straight out of the oven
- a warm and friendly atmosphere
- not having to dress up for dinner