Kefalonia is one of the few islands where the visitor can admire crystal clear waters not only in the amazing beaches but also in the land!
Here occurs a rare geological phenomenon where underground "rivers" cross the island from one side to the other*. From Katavothres in the gulf of Argostoli, in the west of the island, seawater enters underground where it follows passages/crevices, mixes with fresh water in the way and ends up brackish in the east of the island in the wider area of Sami. This continuous process created a huge system of underground caves where lakes of fresh and brackish water can be found.
In a couple of places the roofs of these caves/underwater lakes collapsed creating and amazing site. The most famous is Melisani lake or cavern of the Nymphs. Nowadays it is a trademark of the Kefalonia and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world that want to admire the splendor of nature. Here, during midday sunlight enters through the collapsed roof creating a unique turquoise blue color in the crystal clear waters of the lake. Impressive stalactites and stalagmites all around complement the breath taking site. In the center of the cavern a small island, probably formed by the collapsed roof, is found. Archaeological excavations there revealed that during ancient times the area was a worshiping ground dedicated to god Pan and Nymphs Naiads (nymphs of flowing waters). According to mythology Melisanis cave owes its name to nymph Melisanthi that took her own life because god Pan didn’t respond to her love.
Melisanis cave/lake is open to public from April to October and guided tours take place with small rowing boats. It is located in the end of Karavomilos village, just 2 km from Sami port.
Karavomylos, however, does not only host Melissani. At a distance of just a few meters, at the entrance this time of the village, there is another magical place, Zervati!
It may be a little difficult to locate (there is no signage), but if you manage to find it, the sight will compensate you. The entrance to the cavern is essentially the gate of a plot, opposite the homonymous tavern. After opening it you will see a small downhill path. Take care as it can be slippery after rainy days. At the fork of the path, looking left you will see the one end of the cavern with its small lake. If you continue the path to the right, among the dense vegetation, you will find yourself in front of the second end of the cavern. Essentially the collapsed roof of the cavern separated the cavern in two. Both lakes have crystal clear water and the light coming in from the open roof creates great colors. If you are patient and look carefully in the water you will see eels swimming! Particularly impressive are the fig trees that grow among the stalagmites that decorate the caves.
We have visited Zervati cavern many times. Of course there are no guided tours here and we are usually the only visitors as the place is not very well known. We love to enjoy our coffee, our beer or a picnic there, listening only to the birdsong (and our kids playing with their echoes…). With an almost constant temperature around 18oC, the place is an oasis of coolness on hot summer afternoons.
The place is kept clean, as not many people visit it. So if you visit it please do not leave there anything other than your footprints!
*This phenomenon was confirmed by an experiment conducted in 1963. Geologists Viktor Maurin and Josef Zetl from the Technical University of Graz in Austria, threw 160 kg of paint in one of the sinkholes. Two weeks later, traces of this paint was found in the waters of the other side of the island, in the gulf of Sami, in Karavomylos and in the lake cave of Melissani.