Exploring Old Farsa: One of Kefalonia’s Ghost Towns

I stood gazing up at the towering wall of stone in front of me. Spindly trees, their branches void of leaves, grew out of the rockery at obscure angles, dangling over the broken road below where I was awkwardly stood.

I shifted my clammy feet which slipped in the pools of sweat that had formed in my flipflops, the worst possible footwear I could have worn for this trek.

From atop the wall of boulders I could make out the curious head of a sheep, its black eyes staring down at us disapprovingly. It snorted a warning.

“I’ll make a head-start and see what we’re dealing with.” Lewis began as I unpacked my drone for a birds-eye view.

Just like that the crunching of stones grew quieter as Lewis wandered off into the unknown.

The sun beat relentlessly on my back as I fumbled around with my camera-gear. The only sound I could hear other than the screaming of insects was the thumping of my heart against my ribcage. I had never done anything like this before and I was filled with nervous excitement.

After turning into a feast for mosquitos whilst exploring the ruins of a row of grand houses in Assos town, Lewis and I had been keen to continue our Indiana Jones-like adventures and explore more derelict areas in Kefalonia. The island was rife with them after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the island in 1953 and flattened nearly all buildings.

The forums online spoke about several ‘Ghost towns’ in Kefalonia – towns filled with the shells of former homes that had been left entirely untouched since the earthquake. A town that was mentioned a couple of times was ‘Old Farsa’.

Old Farsa is a village situated on the west coast of the main peninsular in Kefalonia. It was conveniently located only a short five minute drive from our cottage, along the main coastal road. There are in fact two Farsa towns, Old Farsa and New Farsa. As the name suggests, Old Farsa was the original town. However, after the town was destroyed by the 1953 earthquake, instead of rebuilding the town, a new town was erected, a few hundred yards down the coastline. The decision to relocate the town means that the old, abandoned town is still here today.

The old town sits at a higher altitude than the new one. The reason for such a high vantage point was so that the town could easily spot pirates. The threat from pirates is a thing of the past these days, hence why the new town didn’t need to have such a view of the ocean.

To reach Old Farsa, we had driven through the new town before taking to the backroads which drove sharply upwards. Our 4×4 had certainly come in handy as we tackled the steep gradients before finally deciding to park up where the tarred road came to an end. To our right was a gorgeous view of New Farsa town with the ocean glittering in the background. In stark contrast on our left was the ghostly frames of a town of derelict buildings.

New Farsa town
Abandoned Old Farsa town

Suddenly, I heard a horrific crash, like a body slamming into metal. I looked around nervously but all was quiet and still. Was Lewis okay? I hoped he hadn’t fallen or ran into any other trouble.

I packed the drone up quickly before preparing to search for Lewis. That was when a flash of white caught my eye and I turned to see Lewis stumbling down from the old town.

“Are you okay?” I asked, concerned.

“Yeah,” He responded breezily before taking a sip of his water.

“I heard a bang.”

“Oh, yeah.” He smiled. “The sheep was not happy I was there.”

I was surprised by how little Lewis was giving away of his experience but then again, maybe he was in shock. After all, a sheep charging at you in the middle of an abandoned town is bound to make you feel on edge.

“Are you ready to explore?” He pressed.

“But she sheep?”

“He’s gone now. He couldn’t reach me through the fence but couldn’t and then he turned and left.”

So that explains what the crash against metal was. The sheep had obviously tried to ram-raid a metal gate to try and get to Lewis. Creepy.

If you look in the back garden of the house on the right, you can see the scary sheep

I swallowed hard. I was practically shaking with apprehension but at the same time a deep longing stirred inside me. I was excited. For the longest time I had wanted to explore a ghost town and now that dream was coming true.

I had been left disappointed last year when our road-trip round Namibia had cut-out Kolmanskop ghost town. That abandoned mining town was one of the key motivators that helped me book my road-trip and due to my disorganisation, I was forced to skip it out. That had left me feeling hollow. But now as I stood preparing myself to enter a different ghost town, I couldn’t help but feel that everything had worked out for the best.

Kolmanskop is a popular tourist destination. To get in you have to pay an entry fee and for a photography permit. It is advisable that you arrive early in order to miss the crowds. However, even then, it is unlikely you get the ghost town to yourself.

In contrast, here I was in Old Farsa, a place known by only a handful of people. The internet is void of information on the town and it has been left completely untouched by both locals and tourists alike. We were the only ones there. It felt like we were the only ones to ever be there. This was going to be a raw and authentic experience. Who knew what we would find? Lewis had already been chased by a wild sheep.

We began trudging up the road to the path that lead to Old Farsa. Well, it was hardly a path. After many years of disuse, it was now a steep climb dotted with sharp stones. My feet were already not faring well. They were slipping this way and that, frequently finding themselves on the dusty ground as the flip-flop skidded out from beneath them. Oh how stupid I had been to visit in flip-flops!

On our right, we past the first house. The rusty metal gate glared at us, a criss-cross of wood butted against it to prevent any entry.

“That’s the sheep’s house.” Lewis pointed out.

“Maybe let’s avoid that one then.” I mumbled nervously.

The house hidden behind the gate was scarily intact. Apart from a few lose roof tiles, peeling paint and broken windows, the house almost looked like a home. Almost.

“I find it strange.” Lewis began thoughtfully. “We are so used to seeing houses with people in. It’s so weird to see them empty.”

I murmured agreement, suddenly unable to get any words out.

The track ahead of us grew steeper still and I found myself floundering around, several times nearly face-planting the hard floor. I kept cursing my stupidity under my breath.

It seemed to take forever to search the second gate. Lewis stood beside it, carefully peering over into the grounds of the house that lay before him. Tentatively, he clasped the rusty gate with his hands and an ear-splitting screech of strained metal scraping against metal filled the air.

The second house looked very similar to the first. Its two storeys lay intact and concealed by orange roof tiles. Wooden boards covered the windows, coated in peeling turquoise paint. Decayed holes were dotted amongst the woodwork, revealing dark, jagged openings to the interior of the house. It was all too easy to imagine an eye peering out to us and I shuddered.

Lewis put pressure on the gate. There was a slow creaking sound as the metal swung open and Lewis stepped inside. I was quick behind him – well, as quick as I could travel in flip-flops. I grabbed hold of the door, feeling the rough rust beneath my fingertips and pushed myself inside the grounds of the house. Gently, I allowed the door to swing to, just enough so that it rested comfortably but without locking us inside. My mouth was dry at the idea of being stuck here.

In front of us lay a stretch of uneven ground. Sharp rocks jutted out precariously and thorn-trees snaked across our paths, their long tendrils acting as trip-wires.

I nearly fell over as a loud crash sounded from just behind me. Quick as a flash, I turned round to see that the gate had swung itself shut, the latch catching.

“Noo.” I yowled, terror gripping me for a heartbeat.

I clambered back over the rocks to open the door again, seeking comfort from the fact that the door wasn’t locked. I knew it was futile. The wind would likely just slam the door shut again but I felt compelled to open it by some unknown force within. Reluctantly, I left it, hearing the crunch of the latch being forced shut once again.

I caught up to Lewis who was standing beside the side-wall of the house. He ushered me over, his eyes intent on the back of the house. I knew he was looking for an entrance to the house and I felt a shiver. Were we really about to break into a derelict house?

Lewis rounded the corner to the back of the house before recoiling in horror, taking an abrupt step back. His neck stiff, he stared at the ground in front of him.

“There’s a dead thing.” He yelled.

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

“What is it?” I asked hesitantly.

“Some kind of animal… a goat.”

Stepping over uneven boulders, I made my way towards Lewis, laying eyes on the decaying carcass of a goat. Flies buzzed in our ears and I wrinkled my nose in disgust. The goat must have been lying here for days. It certainly wasn’t fresh.

The dead goat

I looked beyond the body to the door at the rear of the house. “I don’t fancy going round it. Not in flip-flops.” I remarked, visualising the maggots crawling across the jagged ground.

“You’re right.” Lewis responded. I was certain I could sense relief in his voice.

He didn’t need me to say anymore as he rapidly spun around and began darting towards the gate, shock and fear in his wake. I followed him as fast as I could, leaping through the gate and allowing it to slam violently shut behind us.

“That’s shaken me.” He admitted.

I looked at him sympathetically. “It’s bound to. We’re in a ghost town but I didn’t actually think we’d find any dead things.”

Despite the grisly surprise, Lewis and I were still keen to explore and so continued up the path which snaked into the heart of Old Farsa ghost town. Here marked the end of the buildings that were relatively unharmed and instead we were met with crumbling ruins. I found it bizarre how the first two houses looked so normal and then every other building in Old Farsa was in complete disarray. How had that come to be?

The doorway into the next house’s grounds was inaccessible. Large strips of bark barricaded the entrance. I wasn’t prepared to clamber over them so we moved on to the next opening which was a gap in a wall where a door had once stood. The house in this plot was in a hollow and we had to clamber down steep terrain to reach it. Like most of the buildings in Old Farsa, this house was missing its roof.

The building had a unique layout, spanning over a couple of floors. A smooth walkway lead to what must have been a back entrance. The walkway acted as a bridge, a great drop on either sides of it. There was then a layer of house underneath which must have been the ground floor. I suppose because the house was built in a sloping plot it was almost built-in to the mountainside.

We were currently exploring the house on the top left of this image

I was keen to see the house close-up so shook off any apprehension that I had and began to walk across the heavy concrete bridge up to the house. I surveyed the thick cracks in the concrete and took a peek at the towering drops on either side of me filled with thorn bushes and piles of rubble. I was foolish. Who knew how sound the ancient ruins would be?

As I arrived at the doorway to the house, I risked a look inside. From my vantage point I could see where the struts that used to hold the floor up would have been. Holes that once held the beams stood at even distances apart. The wooden beams that they once held were now long gone and all that remained within this empty shell of a building was a carpet of stubbly grass and a goat’s graveyard. The floor was littered with bones. I counted at least three jawbones, all of which looked like they belonged to either a sheep or a goat. I shuddered. Some unfortunate sheep must have fallen here and got trapped before finally coming to a grim end.

After our explorations of this house, we decided to call it a day and reluctantly waved goodbye to Old Farsa ghost town. I only wished that I’d worn appropriate footwear as, admittedly, I was the one who had to call it quits as my feet were sore, filthy and a tad bruised. I was also aware of the golden hour mosquitos which were coming out to play.

Leaning on Lewis as to not fall, we made our way back to the car.

It had been an unbelievable day of exploring. I still couldn’t quite believe the experience which we had just had. Although at times I was scared to death, ultimately I left high on adrenaline and keen to return. It was just a shame that tomorrow was our last day in Kefalonia, meaning it was unlikely that we would get to continue our explorations of Old Farsa on this trip.

Either way, today had been the perfect day and I was turning away from Farsa with some fond memories.

As we drove down the steep paved roads into New Farsa, my thoughts were consumed with the dinner we were about to prepare for ourselves.