|MELISSANI CAVE & LAKE
Melissani Cave (a.k.a. Melissanthi Cave) is a natural limestone karst cave located between Sami & Agia Efimia at Karavomylos, formed over millions of years by the action of carbon dioxide in rain and soil washing into cracks caused by earthquakes and dissolving away the limestone.
Evidence suggests that in ancient times the cave consisted of two chambers, subsequently enlarged by earthquakes into one comma- shaped cave, and was used as a place to worship Pan.
undoubtedly known to locals for centuries, in 1951 noted speleologist
Ioannis Petrocheilos officially rediscovered the cave and found an
ancient lamp. A
subsequent exploration, in 1962, led Petrocheilos and/or the famous
archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos to discover, on a rocky
mound inside the cave thought to have accommodated a sanctuary or
temple dedicated to Pan, various Minoan artefacts including a clay
figure of Pan and clay 'plates'
depicting nymphs. Myth has it the nymph Melissanthi commit suicide in
the cave, possibly by drowning, when Pan rejected her love for him:
hence the name of the cave. Objects found in the cave are now on
display in the Archaeological Museum in Argostoli.
The underground lake in the cave is fed naturally with sea water originating from Katovothres, outside Argostoli. Given dates vary but sometime between 1959 and 1963, and I'll go with 26/02/63, Petrocheilos and Austrian hydrogeologists Maurin and Zölt introduced around 140 kg of fluorescein (the dye first used, in 1962, to turn the Chicago River green in observance of St. Patrick's Day) into the sink holes at Katovothres. Fourteen days later, on 12/03/63, the water in Melissani and springs at Karavomilos appeared green. When the water re-appears it is less saline than when it entered the underground cave system.
One of some seventeen or so caves in the Sami area, Melissani is about 500 metres from the coast, has a maximum length of around 150 metres and a maximum width of about 60 metres. The water level in the cave is just about a metre above sea level and the maximum depth of the lake is around 30 metres.
Originally entrance to the cave was possible only via a rope from the hole above the cave, thought to have been created back in time during an earthquake. In 1963 a tunnel was cut allowing easy visitor access to the cave and, since then, Melissani Cave has been one of Kefalonia's top visitor attractions. Open in the summer season during the hours of 09:00 – 19:00 from 01 May – 30 October, winter season opening likely to be Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 – 16:00, 01 November - 03 April. 'Phone 26740 22997 to confirm winter hours.
Best time of day to visit Melissani is around 12:00 when the sun is directly overhead, however, many coach parties arrive around this time so, if visiting independently, maybe aim for 11:30 – 11:45, or visit on a Sunday or Tuesday as these are the main arrivals/departures days and the cave may be less busy.