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Useful hints and travel information for a Corfu holiday
The Ionian Island of Corfu has a very long tradition when it comes to tourism. The Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as ‘Sisi’, came to stay on Corfu to recover from her severe lung disease during the 1860’s, and Sisi’s palace just outside the town of Corfu, the ‘Achilleion’, is open to tourists now. The surroundings are indeed enchanting, and the view across the bay of Corfu is exceptionally beautiful.
Corfu is a lush and wonderfully green island in the Ionian Sea and is covered in olive groves; there are supposed to be up to 4 million olive trees growing on Corfu, occupying 55% of the island’s area. The landscape is hilly and full of variety. The beauty of Corfu can be best admired from the sea, and along the east coast there are numerous boat hire places for tourists who want to do just that. You don’t need a license to hire a 34cc motor boat, but due to the island’s popularity this can be quite expensive and you will be charged at least 100€ per day.
Corfu Town is marked by a strong Venetian influence and those who like to explore will find some exceptionally beautiful spots. The airport and the ferry port are both right next to the town. Besides the capital there are other attractive towns on the Greek island. Travelling north-eastwards along the coastal road you will first of all pass Gouvia, Dassia and Ipsos, all three of them equally ugly and best avoided. As the coastal road turns towards the hills after Ipsos, the towns/villages along the road are smaller and much more attractive.
Places worth visiting on the east coast of Corfu are Barbati and Nissaki, as well as the small and romantic village of Agios Stefanos. Further towards the north you arrive at Kassiopi, which conveys a good impression at first sight, but on closer inspection has a slight flavour of package tourism. This feature continues as you go along the northern coastline of Corfu where places like Sidari, Acharavi and Roda seem to have lost their authentic character altogether. Sidari in particular might be famous for its beautiful bays, but precisely for that reason attracts cheap mass tourism of the worst kind. There are some very attractive places along the west coast of Corfu, at the top of the list Paleokastritsa with its impressive coastline, and Agios Gordos that nestles prettily into a large bay and offers a sensational beach. Other popular places such as Messonghi and Moraitika are situated in the southern part of the island, together with Lefkimmi, a favourite with British tourists.
If you plan a holiday on Corfu, you will have to make up your mind what you expect from your holiday. Corfu has something to offer for any taste and you can have the holiday of a lifetime; choosing the wrong resort, however, can result in bitter disappointment.
Pictures from Corfu
Villages of Corfu
Situated in the north of Corfu, the tourist resort of Acharvari offers a 5-mile-stretch of sandy beach, wide and shallow and simply perfect for families with small children. Acharvari also provides entertainment, shopping possibilities and a wide range of accommodation including apartment complexes and some big hotels. Nevertheless, Acharvari is a quiet holiday destination, partly because of the fact that it has practically no interesting sights where coach-loads of tourists would flock. Corfu Town is only a half-hour car journey away and there is a regular bus service as well. An attraction for children in particular is the big water park “Hydropolis” just outside Acharvari and the water sport options on the beach itself, of course. For a stunning view of the island it is worth the effort to visit “Mount Pantocrator”, the most famous mountain on Corfu.
The bay of Agios Georgios on the island of Corfu offers 3 kilometres of sandy beach with crystal clear turquoise water. Year after year this beach is awarded the blue flag for its exceptional quality. Not surprisingly, it is a magnet for people who like scuba-diving and snorkelling and want to explore the underwater world around the rocks. The surrounding countryside is lush and green. The resort of Agios Georgios is ideal for people who want a quiet holiday, as there are hardly any big hotels there; instead, there are apartment complexes, guesthouses and holiday villas. Agios Georgios also has an adequate number of taverns, bars and shops where self-catering tourists can get the essentials. Worthwhile excursions around Agios Georgios include trips to the famous ‘honey valley’, or further afield the mountain villages of Makrades and Krini or the medieval fortress of Angelokastro. A little further up the mountain from Agios Georgios, the reputedly most beautiful village of Corfu can be found: Afionas has many white houses, a maze of narrow lanes and flowers everywhere.
Agios Georgios Argirades
Located in the south of Corfu, between Lakki Beach and the long stretch of beach in the direction of Lake Korisson, Agios Georgios Argirades is paradise on earth for beach lovers. Lakki Beach is nick-named Malibu, a good indication of the beauty of this bay. Water sport activities on offer include jet-skiing, paragliding and surfing and there are motorboats for hire as well. For those who like their peace and quiet, there are deserted little patches along the beach towards Lake Korisson, where nude bathing is allowed. Agios Georgios Argirades (or South, as it is sometimes called) has all the necessary facilities for tourists and is a perfect starting point for excursions. You can go to the east coast of Corfu and visit Petriti that is famous for its fishing harbour. Equally interesting is a trip to the mountain village of Agios Nikolaos.
On the west coast of Corfu, surrounded by rocks and green hills, lies the small village of Agios Gordios. It has idyllic olive groves and about 1 mile of beach with sand and gravel. The southern boundary of the bay is guarded by a rock called Ortholitos that juts out of the water like a sentinel. The water is crystal clear and the bay offers many secluded areas, ideal for naturists who have turned them into private little beaches. The public part of the beach offers water sports galore for active beach users who can rent canoes and pedal boats or take up scuba diving at the diving school. The village offers plenty of entertainment and shops for tourists, and there is no lack of accommodation either. Taverns and bars line the beach promenade, and “Mike’s Dancing Pub” is definitely worth a try.
Agios Stefanos is a delightful village on the north coast of the Ionian Island of Corfu. The village nestles into a natural harbour and has some exceptionally beautiful taverns and bars. Most types of accommodation are on the outskirts of Agios Stefanos, as there are many solitary villas for rent in this region. They appear to be randomly scattered in the surroundings of Agios Stefanos and tend to have quite a bit of land as well. Those who seek total seclusion and privacy can rent such a villa and drive to Agios Stefanos for evening entertainment. Apart from the taverns, there is a small supermarket as well as a boat hire place with numerous motorboats that tourists are allowed to drive without a licence. “Whatever you do, keep away from Albania, or they’ll nick the engine!” These are the words of warning to tourists who are about to set off and they never fail to deter the newly appointed hobby skippers from going astray. Completely unfounded as this might be, who wants to row their boat all the way back from Albania?
Situated on the southern slope of Mount Pankrator and surrounded by olive groves is the small holiday resort of Barbati, a water sports and snorkelling paradise. The clean pebble beach has transparent water and there are plenty of trees to provide shade from the boiling sun. One drawback is the fact that a lot of hotels are situated along the very busy coastal road and those whose bedroom window is on the road side will know about it. Barbati has no sights of any cultural interest, but is a good starting point for excursions – to the beach of Agios Stefanos, to the mountains or the island’s capital.
The serene little fishing village of Benitses south of Corfu Town has developed into a busy tourist centre in recent years. It has been a positive transformation, as holiday-makers enjoy a variety of shopping and entertainment possibilities, but those who want peace and quiet can find it here as well. In many ways, Benitses resembles a garden, and indeed, the whole area used to be part of the garden of the palace of Achilleion. Other fragments reminiscent of the Austrian Queen’s palace can be found north of Benitses. Dating back to Roman times are the ruins of a bath next to a spring in the vicinity of Benitses’ old town. It is fair to say that Benitses is one of the few villages on Corfu that has kept its Greek character. There are many traditional buildings in the town centre and fishermen mend their nets at the harbour and go about their business as they have always done. Benitses’ pebble beach is narrow and shallow, but there are other beaches in the vicinity, both with sand and with pebbles that offer more space and a variety of water sports, as well as some small idyllic ones for people who want to be alone. At the harbour, tourist boats offer trips to other islands, excursions to Ithaca are very popular. Corfu also has a Shell Museum where visitors can admire a wide variety of shells and other sea-creatures. Night-life in Benitses is limited to taverns with live entertainment, those in search of clubbing, discos and all-night-parties have to go to Corfu Town.
On the east coast of Corfu lies the lively tourist resort of Dassia, with a picturesque background of wooded green hills, and only about 14 kilometres from the island’s capital. The most famous view from Dassia is the one where you can see both the Greek mainland and Albania on a clear day. The resort itself is built along the main road and is relatively busy. In Dassia the days are active and the nights are long – not the kind of rhythm people want if they have come for a relaxing holiday. Neither is the resort the ideal place for people who want to go sight-seeing – as there is neither a traditional harbour nor typical Greek village life to be studied. Dassia is ideal for package holidays, with extensive water sport possibilities on a long pebble beach with everything from banana boat rides to jet-skiing or para-gliding. The big hotels are built directly on the beach, apartment complexes a little bit further up. For those in search of a beach and party holiday Dassia is the ideal holiday resort.
Similar to Dassia, Gouvia is a package holiday resort on Corfu, not far from the capital. Positive points are the wide choice of hotels, guesthouses and apartment complexes – any taste is catered for. As the resort tends to be quite busy, there is a large number of tourist shops, taverns, bars and restaurants. The marina is always busy with lots of yachts that anchor there while the owners visit Corfu, and many use Gouvia as a winter harbour. As Gouvia is so close to the capital, it is easy to catch a bus when you want to go somewhere, and there is a regular bus service to any part of the island. Just outside Gouvia there is a historic dockyard dating back to Venetian times. On the negative side, Gouvia’s bars and taverns are all situated along the main road, none of them is anywhere near the sea which results in Gouvia lacking this “seaside feel”.
Situated in the north-east of Corfu, the large holiday centre of Ipsos is very popular with young people and families. With hotel prices from £7 or £8 a room, Ipsos is quite an affordable holiday resort. Ipsos has a long pebble beach offering a variety of water sports, and taverns, bars and clubs take care of the evening entertainment. Ipsos is not for holiday-makers who like it quiet, but for those who want to make the most of their holiday and sleep on the flight back home.
An enchanting harbour, ruins of a Venetian Fortress and peace and quiet – these are the attrctions of Kassiopi, a small coastal town about 35 kilometres from the capital of Corfu Town. The little town in the foothills of Mount Pantokrator owes its peace and quiet to the fact that it is situated away from the coastal road. The view Kassiopi affords of the mountains of Albania and Greece is absolutely stunning. People arriving by hire car are well-advised to park on the outskirts of the town as there are hardly any parking spaces in the centre. Kassiopi has numerous shops, taverns, small guesthouses and rooms for hire, but there are no big hotels at all. The harbour is idyllic and quiet, with a lot of beautiful yachts and sailing boats. The beach of Kassiopi is nothing special, but the Greek atmosphere of the lovely little town more than compensates for this.
The capital of Corfu has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful towns on the Ionian Islands. The Venetian influence is very noticeable in many impressive buildings in the old town. Corfu has been under Byzantine, Venetian, French and British rule, each of them leaving behind some of their distinctive heritage. At the far end of the old town lies the “Palaio Frourio” (Old Fortress), an impressive 6thcentury castle. Further to the north there is the old harbour of Corfu, with yachts, tourist boats and boat-taxis to Paxos as well as a shuttle boat to the small island of Vido. Vido is car-free and has some exceptionally beautiful beaches away from it all.
Lefkimmi is not a touristy place at all, it is just an ordinary Greek town where ordinary Greek people go about their business and the buildings are in both past and present Corfu style. With approximately 2900 inhabitants, Lefkimmi is the second largest town on Corfu and is situated in the south of the island. Just outside Lefkimmi is a little ferry port where you can catch a boat to Igoumenitsa, Paxi and Antipaxi. The largely British tourist resort of Kavros is in the vicinity of Lefkimmi as well. The two nearest beaches – one in Molou, the other in Alikes, are within walking distance, 2 kilometres down the road from Lefkimmi. There is also a regular bus service to Corfu town and some evening entertainment in Lefkimmi.
Messonghi is often described as a small part of “real” Greece. Situated on the east coast of Corfu, Messonghi is a former fishing village that has turned into a tourist resort. There is a huge variety of entertainment and shopping possibilities, as well as many places to go for evening entertainment. The centre of Messonghi has been lovingly restored and attracts many visitors. Similarly, the sand and pebble beach is outstanding and offers water sport options galore. Amongst other things, there is a scuba diving school and there are surfboards and pedal boats for hire. Not to be missed is a visit to the beautiful harbour, or excursions by hire boat to explore the surrounding coastline. Messonghi has kept its traditional appearance, but there are big hotels along the coastal road and other modern buildings have been added as well, creating quite a contrast to the traditional image of the town. Messonghi has nightlife options, but mainly in the shape of traditional entertainment in taverns. For bars and clubbing Corfu Town or Moraitika are more suitable for people who want to party all night.
The historic centre of Moraitika has been beautifully restored in the same way as Messonghi, and is definitely worth a visit. Located slightly uphill from the coastal road, Moraitika is a part of traditional Greece, with authentic Greek taverns and a beautiful view of the sea. The modern part of Moraitika south-east of Corfu, on the other hand, is any tourist’s dream come true, with numerous small hotels, larger apartment complexes and extensive entertainment and shopping possibilities. Moraitika and Messonghi are only separated by the Messonghi River and have more or less grown together through extensive building activities from either side. Moraitika has the better beach, though, wider and sandier and shallow enough to be safe for children. Both resorts are equally suitable for a family holiday.
Nissaki is situated on the coastal road between Barbati and the crossroads to Agni on the north coast of Corfu. There is hardly any accommodation for tourists within the village, but just outside Nissaki there is a big tourist complex called Magic Life Club and there is the Nissaki Beach Hotel by the beach running a free shuttle service to Corfu Town and back. Nissaki is the perfect starting-point for those who have the ambition of climbing Mount Pantokrator. Other worthwhile excursions lead to the traditional mountain villages of Sinies and Rou. Those who prefer to walk along the coast can go to Agni and have a meal at one of the popular fish-taverns there. A holiday in Nissaki is for people who like a peaceful holiday in idyllic surroundings, but aren’t too fussed about entertainment and fancy restaurants.
Paleokastritsa is certainly the perfect picture postcard village on the Greek Island of Corfu. Nowhere else are there more bays along the Ionian Island’s coast than here and even the sea looks bluer. All the bays are sheltered, which makes Paleokastritsa one of the favourite destinations for people who want to hire a boat. The village of Paleokastritsa is stretched out over quite a long distance, as most of the taverns and bars as well as the hotels line the road that slowly winds its way from the mountains down to the sea. Paleokastritsa is the perfect resort for holiday-makers who love beautiful scenery, peace and quiet and who don’t mind walking.
Situated in the north of Corfu, the small village of Roda is a favourite with British holiday-makers and extremely family friendly. Even the beach is shallow and safe for children. Located between Acharvari and Kassiopi, the village offers all the necessary tourist facilities, and everything is geared primarily towards British tourists, including English breakfast and pub menus or television channels. Roda has no interesting sights, but is a good base for excursions to other parts of the island. In terms of accommodation, Roda is perfect, as there is a large variety of hotels, guesthouses and apartment complexes. Staff are friendly and speak English.
Situated at the north coast of Corfu between Roda and Agios Stefanos, you’ll find this lively and dynamic holiday resort. As the majority of holiday-makers are British, taverns, bars and shops are all geared towards an English-speaking clientele. Sidari has a beautiful long sandy beach that is mainly shallow while the steep bits around the cliffs are great for surfing. Accommodation in Sidari is varied and offers something for any taste or budget. Sidari has three beaches: the above-mentioned sandy beach, another beach that is slightly quieter, and the so-called “Canal d’Amour”. Situated at the end of the sandy beach, it is an impressive 10 – 20 meter wide rock tunnel connecting two small bays with each other. Snorkelers love exploring the nooks and crannies of the canal, and there are numerous legends attached to it too: single women swimming the canal will be rewarded with a husband; lovers swimming the canal will stay together forever etc. True or untrue, at least none of the stories predict disaster if you swim the canal; and the photos are certainly something to show off with.
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