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 off 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 Achilleo, 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.
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.
:The earliest mention of Corfu we meet already with Homer.
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
:The 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. The 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.
Just 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.
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.
:There are many beaches on the island, but they are all situated outside the town. The most famous one was the one Odysseus was allegedly washed ashore on, Paleocastritsa, but there are many more choices: Sidari, Ermones and Kavos are only a few of the nice beaches. Agios Georgios is very long (3km) and great for watersports and families with children.
: The busiest areas are Mandouki (also called the Disco Strip) and the capital Kerkyra. The Bond film 'For your eyes only' was shot here.
The local pie is worth a try, as well as and Sofrito which is cooked meat with carrots, garlic and onion. Kumquat is a special liqueur made from Japanese oranges grown on the island.
:The most typical local product is the ceramics. There are a lot of wooden things to buy - jewellery, toys, houseware etc. You can get a bottle of local wine, or why not a bottle of Kumquat. Leatherware, clothes, rugs, icons and embroidery are other nice souvenirs.
There are many good roads on Corfu as well as a local bus service It is also easy to rent cars and bikes. We have a nice map of Corfu to help you getting around the island of Corfu.
:Corfu has its own airport which is also connected to Athens. Ferryboats and hydrofoils go between Corfu and Igoumenitsa daily, and the trip with the ferry takes about 1and half hours. You can also get here by boat from Patra. Several times a day there are also ferries to Italy.
Facts about Corfu
Size: 640 sq. km
International code: 0030
Population: c. 140 000
Local code: 26610
Internet cafe: Yes
Highest Mountain: Pandokratoras 906m
Tourist Office: 37520
Tour Operators:Argo, JMC, Libra,Apollo, Ving
Coast guard: 32655