Kefalonia cave of brilliant blue
A shimmering blue lake of ethereal beauty.
Caves are mostly dark, dank and forbidding places — but not the Melissani Lake cave in Kefalonia. Here the light streams through an open roof to a shimmering blue lake of almost ethereal beauty. Best experienced at noon when the sun is directly overhead, Melissani Lake is an astonishing sight at any time of day and one of Kefalonia's most visited tourist haunts.
The Melissani Lake is located near the village of Karavomilos but it can be difficult to find. It is just a few hundred metres off the Sami to Agia Efimia main road.
A sure sign that you have found the cave entrance are the tour buses lined up outside. Fortunately there is a very large and well maintained car park so the car should not be a problem.
The underground lake is approached down a long and dark tunnel and, although it can be blazing hot outside, it is always cool and slightly damp in the cave.
At the end of the entrance tunnel are boats tied up to a jetty with boatmen ready to ferry visitors around the lake which can already be seen in the background with light shimmering down from above and a brilliant aquamarine glow from the water below, a truly eerie blue experience.
The cave is really quite small, only about 150 metres long and around a third of it taken up by the water which is said to be very deep, more than 100 feet in places.
Despite the cave being long known about locally it was not officially investigated until 1951 when traces of early occupation were found on a small islet on the eastern side of the cave.
This discovery encouraged further archaeological investigation in 1963 which uneartherd objects dating from the late 4th century BC that included a rectangular terracotta slab depicting Pan and three Nymphs as well as terracotta discs and a terracotta figurine of Pan.
Also found was a rectangular plaque with a female figure that was believed to depict the nymph Melissanthi (who gave her name to the lake).
Legend has it that Melissanthi fell in love with the god Pan but sadly she drowned in the lake after he rejected her advances. The finds are all now on display in the Archaeological Museum at Argostoli.
It was around this time that Melissani Cave was developed for tourism and a tunnel was opened leading down to the surface.
Today visitors travel around the lake in small boats and they circumvent the little island where figs and be seen growing wild. The walls of the cave are covered with stalactites and there are many springs beneath the surface of the water on the northwest side.
The boatmen are adept at pointing out the, sometimes imaginative, resemblance of some stalactites to various wild animals.
Lake Melissani is nearly a half a kilometre from the sea and the water is mixture of salt water and fresh. Another local cave system linked to Melissani continually adds fresh water to the sea water thus raising the surface to about a metre above sea level.
The water flows slowly from one end of the B shaped cave to the other, finaly entering another narrow cave system beore eventually emerging into the sea at Kalovethres.
How the water got out of the cave was once a great mystery that was solved in 1959 by tracking the slow current with special dye.