Finding Wild Horses on Mount Ainos, Kefalonia

One of the "sights" of Kefalonia that I had read about were the wild horses on Mount Ainos, the large nature reservoire on the island.

This is the view down from Mount Ainos.

Wild Horses?

The horses live high up on the mountain and are said to go back to a small group of tamed horses that were released into the wild.

Even though these horses are used to seeing humans, they are not tame anymore and will move away if you get too close.

I had read that they are not easy to find (Mount Ainos is pretty huge!), but that the biggest chance to see them would be nearby a monastery. Apparently, this monastery had a water reservoir where the horses would come to drink in the evening.

Even though I found the name of the monastery in multiple places on the Internet - Zoodohos Pigi Monastery - getting to know where to find it wasn't as easy as exptected. Apparently, there are two other monasteries with the same name in Greece, and that's the two Google shows you. Not the one on Mount Ainos on Kefalonia, though.

So one evening I ransacked the Internet, clicking on every link, hoping to find a hint about where to find the mysterious monastery. And I was lucky! Under a YouTube video I found some coordinates, where the producer of the video had met the horses.

Driving, Hiking - and Waiting

We decided to try our luck on a day, where we stayed at the villa during the day, and first headed out to the mountain late afternoon. The other days, we always left at about 11am / 12pm, and we guessed that the temperatures at thise time of day would kill us, if we wanted to hike around the mountain.

So we took our brave Fiat Panda at around 5pm and drove up the mountain. As Katelios lies just south of it, we pretty quickly reached a small road winding its way up the steep side, swtiching between dirt roads and asphalt, sometimes passing a really tiny village or a very protective dog at a little farm house. At some point, we decided to no longer push our car further and parked it at a place, where the dirt road was a little wider. From now on we were on foot.

We actually walked for some time, not knowing whether we would see horses and if we did, when and where. We both like animals a lot, and while Jonathan once got some insider knowledge into tracking wild animals from a hunter, I had read lots of western books. So even though we went without any sighting of horses for some time, it was pretty fun to analyze the hoove prints and horse poo (that was relatively fresh considering the hot temperatures).

We reached the coordinates that I had found on the Internet. It was the middle of nowhere. Luckily, we carried on, because of a short while we found this sign at a dirt-road-junction:

We almost tip-toed around every corner, only whispering and constantly stopping to scan the groups of trees around us. The view over the island was amazing, and we saw unknown birds, so even if we wouldn't find the horses, it would still have been a beautiful experience.

At some point, we found the monastery and a stony path down to what must be the water reservoir. We still saw a lot of horse poo and hoove prints in the dirt, it also smelled a little bit like horse, but there were none to be seen. However, there were a lot of trees around and the side of the mountain was steep, so we couldn't be sure that they weren't hiding somewhere.

So we sat down and waited. And listened. We heard the occasional goat or sheep bells, and a complaining meeeh of the animals. There were birds whose flapping wings sounded like a horse's snorting. After a while, I started to think about when we should give up and leave again. This apparently was a spot where you have the biggest chance to spot them, but that doesn't mean that it is guaranteed. Also, we had to remember to walk all the way back to the car and drive down all the tricky roads.

And then we heard it - a horse whinnied. Clear and loud. And invisible. After exchanging excited glances, we waited again. And after another 5 minutes we heard how stones started rolling down the path from the monastery, before a small herd of horses came into view.

They looked at us, but didn't seem to mind too much. They even gathered to drink at the reservoire with only occasionally one horse lifting its head to check, whether we still were in a safe distance. They even had a foal among them! After drinking, they climbed up the way they came from.

It was amazing and magical to see, how they found their way through the rough landscape, gathering around the water. They weren't tame, but they knew humans well enough to not be afraid of us.

On the way down, we drove through goats and sheep lying on the road, we also saw ravens and an owl, so this day will clearly be one of the highlights of our trip.

Where to Find The Wild Horses of Mount Ainos

These are the coordinates for the monastery and water reservoir, which is literally just beneath it:

If you are not an experienced or adventagoues driver, you really should consider getting a jeep for getting up those roads! If you and your car are up to it, you should be able to drive all the way to the monastery. Walking/hiking is, of course, also a possibility, but will take some time and effort.

On the different local websites, it is recommended to look for the horses during sunset. We were at the water reservoir at around 7 pm. They only drank for a few minutes and left again.

We also found a pretty large dead rat.

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Written by: Judith tagged with blog, travel