Melissani Cave is the landmark of Kefalonia and one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. The cave is 20 meters underground with stalactites as much as 20,000 years old. It has two main big chambers filled with brackish water which is formed from a mixture of seawater coming from the sea and natural freshwater from a natural spring. Stretching 40 meters wide, Melissani Lake is also around 40 meter deep in some places, and its water temperature is about 10 °C (50 °F).
The Melissani Cave was discovered in 1951 by the speleologist Giannis Petrochilos. The lake includes an islet on which archeologists discovered artefacts which date back to the 3rd and 4th century BCE, when it was thought to be a place of worship to the god Pan. The disastrous earthquake of 1953 saw the ceiling of the cave collapse, allowing sunlight to illuminate the lake below and create the fantastic playful light which now leaves visitors enchanted. With the light streaming in through the hole in the roof, trees growing around the edges as you look up to the sky and the lake sparkling blue below, it is a magical place.
For those who love Greek mythology, Melissani Cave has its own legends and gets its name from a nymph named Melissani, who committed suicide by falling into the waters of the lake due to the unrequited love of the God Pan. Important finds depicting the God Pan, testify to the fact that the cave was used by the nymphs as a sacred place dedicated to him. The findings are at present in the Archeological Museum of Argostoli.
The Melissani Cave is located about 2km from the Sami village on the island of Kefalonia. It is open from May to October, from around 09.00-17.00 (opening hours vary throughout the year) and is easily reachable by car from Sami. If you do not have a car, you can take a bus. The best time to visit, is around mid-day when the sun shines on the cave hitting the blue water. To reach the underground lake, you go down a long tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, you see the lake and have the opportunity to take a guided tour where you will learn aspects of Melissani Cave. It is a short tour around 15 minutes on a rowing boat and the boat men can take your photo and answer any questions you have.
There is no need to book in advance, and it is easy to visit independently. During the high touristic season, you may have to wait in a queue for your tickets, because the cave is very popular and many people visit it every day. There is an entry fee which is totally worthwhile since the cave constitutes a unique geological phenomenon and offers a breathtaking experience to visitor. Top tip is to combine Melissani with Drogarati Cave as you can buy a ticket covering both, and then you can do both in one day as they are at either side of Sami.