Melissani – The Nymphs’ Cave

Melissani cave, the home of the Nymphs, welcomes thousands of people from all over the world each year. Well known for its unparalleled beauty, million of photos have been taken in this place. Melissani is a natural limestone karst cave, formed over millions of years ago. Evidence suggests that in ancient times the cave consisted of two chambers and was used as a place to worship Pan.

Discovered in 1951, it was first opened fpr the public in 1963. During the first exploration an ancient lamp, (now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli) was found there. The excavations of 1962 produced important relics of a former Minoan culture on Cephalonia. Oil lamps, plates and figures show the god Pan and several nymphs.

Melissani Lake View

Melissani Lake View

Once you enter this dreamy place, you cannot resist the picturesque scenery. The crystal blue water is irresistible and you imagine you are a part of Greek Mythology. Cheerful boatmen help you embark on the small boat, in order to take you the tour around the lake. They will also explain you this natural wonder and tell stories about that. You have the opportunity to see both chambers of the cavern, do a round trip in the first hall with the hole in the roof and see also the second chamber which has numerous big stalactites and stalagmites.

The lake water is brackish, a mixture of sea water and sweet water. The cave is about 500m from the sea and the water level is a meter higher than sea level. The brackish water rises from a 30m deep cave system on one side of the cave and flows to the other end of the cave. This was discovered by dye tracing experiments in 1959. Hydrogeologists Maurin and Zölt introduced around 140 kg of fluorescein into the sink holes at Katovothres. Fourteen days later, 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

Discovering the secrets of Melissani

Discovering the secrets of Melissani

Melissani | 4 + 1 THINGS YOU DID NOT KNOW

  • According the myth, nymph Melissanthi commit suicide in the cave by drowning, when Pan rejected her love for him; hence the name of the cave
  • Originally entrance to the cave was possible only via rope from the hole above the cave. In 1963 a tunnel was formed allowing visitor access to the cave
  • The underground lake in the cave is fed naturally with sea water originating from Katavothres, outside Argostoli
  • An artificial balcony offers an enchanting view from the top of the cave
  • The place was included in Huffington Post’s article “14 Breathtaking Places You Probably Didn’t Know Existed” in 2014
Melissani boat tour

Melissani boat tour

Melissani | DISCOVERY TIMELINE

1890 mentioned by Dr. Joseph Partsch in his monography “Kephallenia und Ithaka”

1951 first exploration by Ioannis Petrocheilos, discovery of an ancient lamp on the central hill

1959 dye tracing expirements by Petrocheilos, Mauinrina and Zölt revealed the connection to Katavothres

1962 excavations on the central hill. Many artifacts that were found dated to the 3rd and 4th century BC that were used during the post classical and early Hellenistic periods

1963 entrance tunnel built, cave opened to the public

Melissani Lake

Melissani Lake in early morning

Melissani | 4 + 1 THINGS YOU HAVE TO KNOW

  • Best time to visit is around 12.00. When the sun is directly overhead and the reflections on the water are amazing
  • Open in summer season from 09.00 – 19.00. For opening hours of winter season, phone 2674022997 to confirm it.
  • Adult ticket costs 7€ for entrance and boat tour
  • It is located 2km away from Sami, taking the road to Agia Effimia village
  • Ask the boatmen about the nymphs (fairies) who according to the myth used to live in the cave