You probably did not know that Greece is home to thousands of caves, (think over 8,500 according tovisitgreece.gr)! Some are known for their display of magnificent stalactites and stalagmites, others as historical refuges for early humans, and places of worship for Christians. When it comes to exploring the depths of nature, Greece is a great host that offers a variety of mystical caves to be explored.
The Cave of Melissani, also known as the Cave of the Nymphs (and rightfully so) is located on the island of Kefalonia some 500 meters from the sea. Its waters are a mix of fresh and salty. Surrounded by green, this lake and cave formation has an opening to the sky, a cavern that caved in thousands of years ago, according to experts. Enclosed by rock, the glistening waters below are open for visits.
So what should you expect when you get there? Descending through a tunnel, you will reach a small pier. When you enter the cave, you will immediately experience its characteristic smell in the air. It is of little doubt that the scenery here will amaze you. Small boats manned by paddle will take you around on a short tour of the place where you can get a snapshot of this remarkable natural occurrence. The boatmen here will tell you the story of Melissani Cave, and if you land a good one, they’ll be more than happy to take your photo! (Do tip them at the end if they are nice.)
After spending some time in the first section of the lake, you will pass through a narrow channel that leads to a second part. Here, you will see an arched roof and a number of stalactites sprinkled with moss. The lake also includes an islet where Greek archeologist Spyridon Marinatos located a temple dedicated to Pan and Melissanthi, the nymph the cave and lake are named after. It is that in mythology that Melissanthi ended her life by jumping into the lake in response to Pan’s indifference for her love for him. A couple ancient artifacts found in the area, including a clay disc depicting dancing nymphs, as well as a clay figure of Pan, can today be found at the Archeological Museum of Argostoli.
Melissani cave’s quiet and serene scenery makes for a relaxing tour that will take you light years away from the typical busy city life. It’s not everyday you get to float inside such a marvelous piece of nature. While photographs can capture the colors and allure of this place, only a visit will give you the experience. And don’t be afraid to dip your hands in the crystal clear (and chilled) waters, whose bright turquoise and dark blue color mix beckon you to just jump right in!