Island in the Sun – A Brief Guide to Corfu
Inland, a warm, gentle breeze stirs the heady aroma of dense olive and cypress groves kissed by Mediterranean sunshine, whilst at the edges of this island, pristine white sands are lapped by the azure Ionian Sea. This is Corfu, an enchanting island just beyond the western coast of Greece and renowned for its natural beauty, history and culture. With a flight time of just three hours from the UK, Corfu’s charms are easily accessible. And whilst Corfu is undoubtedly a beach-lover’s paradise, the island amply rewards those who choose to explore a little beyond the beach or poolside.
Sitting midway along Corfu’s eastern coast Corfu Town, the capital city, is a fascinating melting pot of cultural influences; remnants of successive occupying nations throughout the island’s history. Whilst the Venetians, who occupied Corfu for centuries, may have left the greatest architectural legacy, visitors to Corfu Town have the opportunity to admire handsome buildings of French, British and Roman origin, including two impressive forts. It’s not all history in Corfu Town though – the place has a thoroughly modern and cosmopolitan vibe as demonstrated by an eclectic mix of traditional tavernas, cafes, pan-European restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Bargain hunters will delight in the array of locally produced goods on offer among street stalls which include, lace, figs, olive oil and honey, whilst in side streets local craftsmen create unique jewelry and leather goods. Naturally, there are plenty of conventional shops in which to flex the credit card too.
Thanks to Corfu’s popularity as a holiday destination, many options for accommodation have arisen between the airport and Corfu Town. Covering every taste and budget from camp sites, through guest houses and to five-star luxury hotels, finding a suitable base close to the beach or from which to explore the island won’t be a problem.
Development for tourism has remained limited and, inevitably, around the most popular coastal resorts. Inland, Corfu has lost none of its traditional rural charm. Hot summers and wet winters combine to make Corfu the greenest and most lush of the Ionian islands, creating a landscape dominated by olive groves, orange and lemon trees and wildflower meadows. Unspoilt and welcoming villages and farming communities punctuate the countryside, where carts drawn by donkeys are the preferred mode of transport. To the north of the island, Old Perithia is a fascinating destination. High up amid the region’s scenic hills, this enigmatic abandoned fourteenth-century village is Corfu’s oldest and wandering among its well-preserved but deserted streets and houses provides a tantalizingsense of Corfu’s past history. It may be off the beaten track, but one or two tavernas remain in Old Perithia to cater for inquisitive visitors, providing the perfect opportunity to sit back in the sunshine and soak up the village’s atmosphere.
Northern Corfu also boasts the island’s highest peak, Mount Pantokrator. For those not quite up to the walk, a road leads all the way to the summit, 906 meters above sea level and the journey is well worth making. From the top, Mount Pantokrator affords spectacular panoramic views which not only take in all of Corfu, but also nearby Albania and on a particularly clear day the distant shores of Italy are visible. The summit also hosts a café and a monastery with a seventeenth-century church.
With more than 130 miles of coastline on offer, Corfu spoils beach lovers. From quiet rocky coves with calm blue-green waters to long sandy stretches popular with locals and visitors alike, finding your perfect spot in the sun couldn’t be easier on Corfu. Beautiful Paleokastritsa beach is sheltered by high green cliffs beneath which enchanting sea caves can be explored by boat. The beach at Agios Gordios to the south of Corfu Town has something for everyone. Backed by wooded hills, this expanse of fine sand features intriguing rock formations and is highly rated by Corfu’s holidaymakers for both its beauty and its facilities.
Just like the island itself, Corfu’s many beaches offer a wealth of variety, whether you’re looking for something romantic, family-orientated, sporty or simply relaxing. Whether it’s the warmth of the sun or the welcome, the fragrance of the citrus groves or the fine Mediterranean cuisine, the magic of Corfu’s history and culture or the beauty of its landscapes, there’s sure to be something about Corfu that will leave you longing to return.