Corfu Greece holiday guide

corfu greeceA holiday favourite since Victorian times Corfu is located in the Ionian chain of islands that lie off the north-west coast of mainland Greece.

Corfu’s popularity has exacted a high price over the years. This was one of the first of the Greek islands to be “discovered” by holiday firms and some say far too many of the island’s beach resorts have embraced the downmarket demands of package tour operators.

This is largely true for much of Corfu island where beautiful bays of golden sand and pretty fishing villages have been overrun with cheap hotels and happy-hour karaoke bars.

It must be admitted, Corfu was once an embarrassing byword for bar-crawling British lager-louts on bargain booze holidays.

Fortunately, large parts of Corfu escaped the worst of the Brit invasions and some of the loveliest beaches and most romantic villages in the Greek islands can still be found here.

The most popular holiday hotspots are concentrated in the resorts that surround Corfu Town and along the island’s north coast.

Visitors looking for more sedate resorts will find them all around the long coastline while many villages deep within the island’s lush, green interior, have escaped the holiday hotel boom altogether.

Whatever holiday you prefer there are plenty to be found online these days. Corfu is also a popular destination for independent travellers and cheap rooms are found everywhere.

Corfu has been a popular Greek Island holiday destination for many years. It lies off the north-west coast of Greece in the Ionian island group.

Corfu has the shortest flight time from Europe to any Greek island . There are domestic flights to Athens and Thessaloniki but the vast majority of traffic is in summer charter flights from Europe, most of which arrive on Monday and Friday.

Corfu is also a major port of call for ferries, notably from Italy, calling in on the way to the mainland port of Patras. Some independent holidaymakers opt for cut-price flights to Italy and a fast ferry to Corfu.

Roads are generally good, especially in the heavily populated north but lanes can be poorly maintiang in the hilly interior.

Corfu is a big island and journey times can be longer than visitors think, especially in the hilly north where steep, twisting roads can lead to slower speeds.

About Corfu

Holidaymakers have been coming to Corfu, or Kerkyra in Greek, since the 1940’s, and it is one of the most visited Greek islands. Some find the island too busy during the summer months, and it is a fact that the many years of tourism have taken its toll. The green nature and beautiful surroundings are exceptional, though, and the island is ideal for driving around and exploring it.

Many locals live of tourism, but the agriculture is also an important source of income. The soil is very rich and the climate humid, making crops plenty. Olives, fruit, spices and wine are produced, and many locals also support themselves by fishing or working on boats during winter.

That the island has extraordinary architecture and nature is not to be contradicted though. The island was lucky during the great earthquake that hit the Ionian islands in 1953: while many of the islands suffered great losses in both lives and buildings, Corfu was unharmed.

The island also is and has been a popular resort for royalty and celebrities. The Greek royal family used to spend their summers here, the Austrian empress Elizabeth had a palace here, the Achilleon, and later Emperor Wilhelm II bought it. Today the palace is a casino and hotel but the ex-king Constantine is trying to get it back, which of course is a subject of great controversy here in Greece. Many international stars and public figures spend their holidays here.

corfu-island

The islands saint, Spyridon, is kept in a silver casket in the sixteenth century church. He was a bishop who lived on Cyprus in the third century and is still believed to perform miracles. Reports of seaweed being found on the saints feet in the morning make many people believe he walks around at night, maybe visiting his fiend St. Gerasimos on Cephalonia.

The Easter celebration here is a little different, since it is a custom to break ceramic pots on Good Friday. You have to watch out – people are throwing the pots from their balconies everywhere.

History

The earliest mention of Corfu we meet already with Homer. Odysseus last stop was Corfu, or island of the Faiacs, where he was washed ashore after his ship had sunk. Later, in the 8th century BC the island was colonized by the Corinthians.
The Venetians ruled the island from 1386 to 1797, then fell into French hands and for a few years it was occupied by Russian-Turkish forces.
In 1815 the British were the regents of Corfu and they stayed for almost 50 years. The Italians occupied the island in 1923 and 1941.
Corfu was bombarded by the Germans and the Allies during World War IIThe island was never conquered by the Turks. In stead, the Venetians ruled here, which of course has influenced both the culture, architecture and language. The island became part of Greece in 1864 after being ruled by other nations as well: French, Russian and British.

What to see

Corfu Town

corfu-spianadaKerkyra, or Corfu Town, is as pleasant a provincial town as you will find anywhere in Greece. Venetians, French and British have all had a hand in developing Corfu Town and the results are both impressive and attractive, especially since public buildings were given a major clean-up for a EU summit in 1994.

This is a large town of 40,000 dominated by double forts. The 13th century Neo Frourio (New Fort), with its dungeons and impressive turret battlements, is far more interesting than the older 6th century Paleo Frourio (Old Fort).

The focal point of Corfu Town is the Spianada, a public square and park – one of the biggest in Europe – where evening crowds can take a stroll as children play. Bizarrely, there is an English cricket field where matches are still played.

corfu kanoniThe citadel in the harbour was made by the Venetians. The Regency palace in the town was built by the British, and the French made a copy of Paris’s Rue de Rivoli. This gives the island its typical European style.
To really see the beauty of the island you should rent a car and go to some of the pretty villages and deserted beaches.

For example, you should visit Sidari, Aharavi, Dasia, Ypsos, the channel of love, the fishing villages Benitses, Moraitika etc.. From Kassiopi you can see Albania if the weather is clear enough.

If you want a taste of the cosmopolitan side of Corfu, you can visit the most popular square Spianada in the town for a coffee or a drink.

corfuJust outside town is an area called Pontikonisi, which not only is beautiful, but also has a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary from the 13th century. This is probably the most photographed spot in Corfu.
On a cliff just by the most popular beach, Paleocastritsa, there is a 13th century monastery, which holds the huge bones of a whale. At Kalami you can see the house of Lawrence Durell.

As well as beach activities such as jet-skis, water-skiing, windsurfing and scuba-diving there is golf, horse-riding, mountain biking inland with particularly fine walking on the recently restored Corfu Trail.

Agios Spiridon

agios-spyridon-corfuSited in the centre of Corfu old town the church was built in 1589 in typical Venetian style and boasts the tallest bell-tower on Corfu.

It has several good frescos and some ancient icons.

Saint Spiridon is the island saint and his coffin is paraded through the town four times a year.

Aqualand

aqualand-in-corfuThis is one of Europe’s largest water parks with giant water slides, river rapids, mega jacuzzis, wave pools and plenty more.

It’s located at Agios Ioannis, to the west of Corfu Town in a beautiful forest setting.

The waterpark opens May to October and there are free sun beds and umbrellas, free changing rooms and showers and good parking.

Theotokou Monastery

The monastery of Moni Theotokou is on Corfu’s west coast near the popular beach resort of Paleokastritsa. Set high on the hillside the 18th century stone-built monastery is one of the most visited tourist attractions on Corfu and a major target of tour buses. The monastery museum is open to the public and has a small tourist shop.

Corfu Walking Trail

Corfu’s long-distance footpath is is about 220 km long and runs the length of Corfu north — south. The trail is clearly way-marked with yellow signs with 11 sections that each take about a day to walk. The best months to follow the trail are early and late in the year and teh terrain varies from mountain mule trails to cliffside paths.

Achillion Palace

This is one of the most impressive buildings on Corfu with exquisite gardens and picturesque views over the Ionian. Located in Gastouri, about 12 km south of Corfu Town, the palace was built in 1890 with the theme of the mythical Greek hero Achilles. It can get very busy in the summer so it’s best visited early in the day.

corfu-palaceThe palace Achilleon where the empress Sissy lived is quite splendid.
The old and new Castro are worth visiting, as well as St. Spyridon, with the tallest bell tower of the island.

The palace of Ag Michael and Georgiou and the church of Vlahernas are other places of interest.
There is an archaeological museum you definitely should go to if you are interested in ancient history.

Mon Repo

On a property in nature, in Paleopolis, the English commissioner Sir Frederick Adam chose to build his summer residence. The palace that has hosted many blue bloods enjoys a wonderful view of the sea and today hosts the Museum of Paleopolis, while in the wider area there are important archaeological finds.

Monastery of Panagia Paleokastritsa

This historic monastery is located on the northernmost peninsula of Paleokastritsa. As it is built on a cliff, you will enjoy the wonderful sea view.

Angelokastro

As if a divine hand touched it to the top of the rock, Angelokastro is located in one of the most beautiful locations of the island and was built when Corfu belonged to the Despotate of Epirus (1214-1267).

Lake Korissia

In the southwestern part of the island, Lake Korission – characterized as a Natura area – is an important wetland and an attraction for many species of birds. It is offered for hiking from the beach of Halikouna passing between dunes and crossing a cedar forest.

Corfu Museum of Asian Art

In the city, it is the only one in Greece exclusively dedicated to the art and antiquities of Asia. The building where it is housed, the Palace of Saints Michael and George, north of Spianada Square, is an attraction in itself.

Gallery of the Municipality of Corfu

In the east wing of the Palace of Saints Michael and George. Through the collections of painting and engraving, visitors follow the evolution of the arts in Corfu (16th-20th century), while here are also periodic exhibitions of sculpture, art photography and constructions by contemporary artists.

Antivouniotissa Museum

It is housed in an important ecclesiastical monument (from the end of the 15th century), in the church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos Kyra Antivouniotissa. The one-room wooden-roofed basilica with a narthex is in itself a reason to visit – especially today it has an important collection of icons and relics by renowned and anonymous artists (15th-20th century), emphasizing the role of Corfu in the development of Greek ecclesiastical painting.

Liston

One of the most cosmopolitan parts of the island, is the building on the west side of Spianada Square. Its name is due to the fact that only the nobles whose names were on the “Libro d’oro” list enjoyed their walk here. Today in its large arched galleries you will find many cafes and restaurants.

Kambielo

The old quarter is considered by many to be the most beautiful in Corfu. Definitely offers the perfect setting for romantic walks on cobbled streets, small picturesque squares with Venetian wells, important churches, mansions and fragrant laundry to complete the setting.

Olive Museum

In the village of Kynopiastes, its purpose is the preservation and promotion of culture through information about the olive and its production. Visitors can see a rich collection of tools and tools as well as photos from the rural life of the last century.

 

Beaches of Corfu

One of the most popular beach holiday islands in Greece, Corfu is pretty much awash with good beaches. Strangely, some of the most popular are not the best. Dassia and Ypsos, for example, are major holiday favourites despite having relatively poor beaches, although they do benefit from being near Corfu Town. Big sand beaches make their mark on the north coast, notably at popular package resorts of Roda and Sidari. West coast beaches are quieter but further apart and the further south you go, the wilder they get. The east coast has a clutch of resorts with Kavos a favourite with clubbers. Read more

What to do

Water sports are available at many beaches, as well as diving and biking. You can also go horse riding in Ermone and Sidari. In Sidari there are also some really nice tracks for walking.There is an 18 hole golf course. Watch cricket matches in Corfu’s capital or go to the casino. Around the island, especially by the bigger hotels there are tennis courts. A must for the young is the Waterland in Gouvia.

With a Venetian aura, nature-loving, historical and archeological interest, tourist infrastructure, a historic city-jewel but also dozens of traditional villages and the famous Ionian landscape, beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters on a green background, is a separate chapter of Greek and international tourism and attracts a wide range of travelers.

The Old Town with its old and new fortress, a World Heritage Site, is in the center of interest, buildings of rare beauty and architectural value, Spianada Square with Liston, the large arched gallery, the endless walks in the cantons of Kampiello district, in Mon Repo and Achillion.

With interesting museums and churches as well as a special cultural tradition, with its philharmonic orchestras. And when it gets dark, the pulse of fun beats in its bars and in the neighborhood in the new fortress.

To the north dominates the mountain of Pantokrator, while the landscape is completed by the villages of the hinterland, both living and abandoned and picturesque fishing villages that have developed into tourist resorts, as well as lagoons with important ecosystems.

Where to stay on Corfu

There is plenty of good accommodation in most of Corfu, except inland and in the less populated south. Rooms can be booked online at all the major resorts. Those escaping the crowds can head inland where villages are untouched by tourism.

Many hotels close down from November to March and it’s not wise to arrive in July or August without advanced reservations. Small hotel owners will still meet incoming ferries with offers of rooms and the Corfu Room Owners’ Association posts a list of hotels and phone numbers at the main esplanade in Corfu Town.

Eating out

During your holiday in Corfu, tasting the typical dishes of Greece and the traditional ones of the island, especially traditional peasant recipes, is a truly unmissable stop.

The cuisine of this island is absolutely delicious. Already starting in the late afternoon, the scent of Greek delicacies spreads in the air that will end up dragging you into one of the many typical taverns of the place.

Obviously it is a Mediterranean-type cuisine, so the main ingredients are fish, meat, oil and vegetables but in these areas there is no lack of goat yogurt, a real passion of the Corfiots!

Also very important for the local tradition are cheeses such as feta, which is used in salads, eaten together with meat or spread on bread and as the seasoned cheese, kefalotiri.

Among the dishes you can taste: the famous Moussaka, the Pasticciàda, a typical dish of Corfu, and the Horiatiki, known to us as the Greek salad.

How to get there

By Air

Corfu is one of the most popular beach holiday islands and charter flights are constant throughout the summer season. The airport also has domestic flights to Athens and Thessaloniki but the vast majority of traffic is from Europe.

By ferries

Corfu is also a major port of call for ferries, notably from Italy en route to mainland Patras. Some independent holidaymakers opt for cut-price flight to Italy and a fast ferry to Corfu. Ferries from mainland Igoumenitsa run hourly every day. Read more about Corfu Ferries

Corfu roads

Buses run from the main road in front of the airport to Corfu Town and the journey takes about 15 minutes. Taxis are also parked outside the terminal.

When to go to

Corfu holidays offer typical hot Mediterranean summers. The Corfu holiday season kicks off mid-April as spring temperatures hover around 20°C, with nine hours daily sunshine.

Thermometers rise to 24°C in June and 26°C in August with daily holiday sunshine at 13 hours. Corfu gets very heavy rainfall over the winter (even more than Britain), which helps keep the island green and lush all year roun

Getting around

Better to do it by car, motorbike or quad. The best way to get around Corfu is your own car or rental car. The island is large and the roads are full of often busy curves, especially if you head to the north, for example, to reach Dassia and Barbati.

During the very high season months, namely July and August, the crowding of Corfu translates into difficulty in moving around and availability of parking spaces. In any case, starting from the city center, you can reach all the surrounding towns in a maximum of one hour of travel.
Read more about getting around in Corfu

Climate and weather

Corfu has high winter rainfall but this keeps the island green for most of the year. Summers get very hot with occasional sub-tropical storms.

Early May has uncrowded beaches and wild flowers in abundance with sunny days and temperatures in the low 20s. By June beaches are busy, temperatures hit the high 20s and nights are warm. In July temperatures can hit the high 30s and afternoon breezes are welcome but nights can be stifling. August temperatures stay in the high 30s with high humidity too. By mid-September temperatures are back in the mid 20s but there are still warm October days, although they are much shorter.

Corfu is cold and wet over the winter. Winter rains are heavy and long-lasting. January days in Corfu are cool and wet while February is a little warmer and the trees come into blossom. Read more

Facts about Corfu
Size: 640 sq. km
Population: c. 140 000
Cashmachine: Yes
Internet cafe: Yes
Highest Mountain: Pandokratoras 906m
Airport: Yes
Tour Operators:
Hotel Association:

Phone numbers
International code: 0030
Local code: 26610
Hospital: 45811
Taxi: 33811
Police: 30265
Tourist Office: 37520