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The underground caves and lakes of Kefalonia

Drogorati caved bathed in yellow light

The spectacular underground caves and lakes of Kefalonia island

Waterwheel near Katavrothes
Sunlight streams into Melissani cave

One of the sightseeing highlights of a holiday on Kefalonia has to be a trip down one of the island's spectacular underground caves.

Two caves, in particular, stand out on the tourist trail and fortunately they are quite close to one another, near the east coast port of Sami, so they can make a good double-feature day trip while on a Kefalonia island holiday.

Drogorati Cave

The cave at Drogorati came to light some 300 years ago when an earthquake opened up an entrance. First opened to the public in 1963, it is now one of the most popular visitor attractions on the island.

Only part of the cave is open to visitors and it is a steep 120 or so steps down into the ancient caverns which lie some 40 – 60 metres below ground.

Innumerable pale white limestone stalactites hang from the roof of the huge underground chamber many streaked with red iron oxide and impressive translucent stalagmites rise up from the floor.

Visitors only get to see part of the extensive cave system but what is on show is impressive enough with sodium lights adding an eerie orange and yellow atmosphere.

A natural balcony overlooks a massive chamber, big enough to hold an orchestra and indeed orchestral concerts are sometimes performed here taking advantage of the impressive acoustics before an audience of 500 or more.

A narrow pathway leads to a small lake and although many of the limestone stalagmites and stalactites have been broken or damaged, there are still to some impressive examples to wonder at.

Melissani Cave and Lake

Famed for its ethereal blue light, the cave lake of Melissani is enjoyed through a boat ride from the mooring platform that lies at the end of a long tunnel.

Sunlight floods into the B-shaped caverns from a hole in the roof to create some spectacular light effects so midday is often the best time to visit although the sun's rays create exquisite colour displays in the clear ultramarine waters of the lake most times of the day.

Visitors are piled into small boats and ferried around the cave by boatmen who like to point out the less than obvious resemblance of some of the stalactites to various zoo animals.

The caves are small and the collapsed roof has created a 'hill' in the centre of the cavern so the holiday visitor boat rides tend to be rather short.

At one end of the cavern is the Cave of Nymphs, so called because some ancient pottery was found there decorated with images of the god Pan and several nymphs. The lake was named after one of the nymphs, Melissanthi.

Another nearby cave system adds fresh water to the lake's sea water which flows gently through to more caves until it emerges on the coast five kilometres away at Karavomilos where it powers a water wheel.

Where the water in Melssani cave came from and where it went was once a great mystery until some dye was used to trace the source from Katavrothes, near Fanari, on the other side of Kefalonia island.

The caves at Drogorati and Melissani are usually open from April until the end of October. Both caves have good parking and a small cafe and gift shop. Tickets can be bought at the gates but many local tour agents offer day trips to both attractions.