I wanted to climb Mount Ainos, Kefalonia’s highest mountain at 1,628m (Ben Nevis is 1,345m) from the first time I saw it. But it took me until my third trip to the island to actually do it. This is because you need to hire a car to get to the trailhead which is located in a quarry just outside of Digaleto.
We set off early from Lixouri, getting the first ferry of the day and taking the road that winds up into the hills from Argostoli. The drive alone was worth doing, watching the sun rise above Sami as we wound our way up into the hills. When we reached Digaleto we found the quarry easily but it didn’t look particularly promising as the start of the trail. However, we soon found a signboard that marks the start of the trail and parked up under a nearby tree.
The climb is mostly a steep walk through the forest along a switchback path. Mount Ainos is known as the black mountain due to the growth of the native Kefalonia fir tree on its slopes. This provides much needed shade but somewhat limits the views, but when the forest opens up you are rewarded with fantastic views of the bay of Sami and Ithaki.
Eventually you reach a rocky plain before having to clamber up a rocky outcrop to reach the actual peak. The views from here are incredible – not only is the whole of Kefalonia stretched out below but you can see across to Zakynthos and Ithaki as well. Remember to leave a message in the visitors book when you reach the summit.
The walk is reasonably challenging, not least because of the heat. If you are planning to attempt it you will need proper footwear and plenty of water. It’s also worth bearing in mind that in the afternoon cloud tend to gather over the summit so it is best to set off early or you may need wet weather gear. The trail itself is well marked and easy to follow but there are numerous fallen trees that you need to step over or duck under on the way. The walk took us around 5 hours and we hardly saw any other walkers during that time.
For those who don’t fancy the hike you can always take the road up to near the very top and walk to last part of the way to Megas Soros, but where would the fun be in that?