My most recent adventure was spent on the Greek island of Corfu, Kerkyra as the Greeks say it! I was there from April to October, a total of 8 months. During my time on the island I was lucky enough to see a lot of the different and individually beautiful places, this really is somewhere to get around and explore as much as you can as there is so much to see on the island! Here’s a few of my favourite locations and why…
Central on the Island and not far at all from the airport, I loved Corfu town because living in the mountains as stunning as it was… it didn’t show me those traditional towering buildings with endless balcony’s stacking up the sides, vibrant flower baskets swinging from the edges, washing lines connecting across the narrow cobbled streets and the small archways that were once built as a shelter to protect themselves from the rain. Corfu town is rich in history and really gives you a taste of the real Greece. Besides the maze of markets stalls with plenty of quaint handmade gifts and souvenirs, there’s plenty to spend your money on! and not only is there ‘Old town’ but there is also ‘New town’ which is were you can find shops such as your familiar Marks & Sparks, Pandora, Nike and many more. So besides all the shopping there is also plenty to see…
The Old fortress of Corfu which is a Venetian fortress built to protect the city many years a go, the fort successfully repulsed all three major Ottoman sieges. There is also the royal palace and the famous Liston, what is the famous about Liston? well, The term Liston refers to the long marble slabs used for paving the streets and the locals still use the word to indicate the main promenade, many years ago only people of wealth were allowed to walk the Liston. There is also the Cricket pitch where you might like to sit and relax for a bit on the greenery, the Cricket pitch was used for its first game by the Royal British Navy back in 1823. You may also come across the Saint Spyridon Church which is a Greek Orthodox church. It was built in the 1580s. It houses the relics of Saint Spyridon and it is located in the old town of Corfu. It is a single-nave basilica and its bell tower is the highest in the Ionian Islands. It is the most famous church in Corfu. Saint Spyridon was the old Patron of Corfu and his body lies in the jeweled casket inside the church.
There is also the harbor where you can sometimes see the cruise ships docked which is very impressive usually on a Monday or Friday, there is plenty of fishing boats and also tour boats, some of the near by islands such as Vidos Island were delightful for a sunset dinner and if you were lucky you might even see the dolphins crossing between Corfu town and Vidos… We did! You can also pass by Pontikonisi Island which is more famously known as Mouse Island as there is a stair case in the center of the Island which spirals and represents a mouse’s tail! Here you are not far from the airport and are able to watch the planes fly over and onto or off the runway.
If boats aren’t for you then there is also a local tour bus service that starts from near the harbor and takes you around Corfu town in around an hour and you can listen to the Audio headphones too which gives you a spoken tour in your chosen language.
Fun fact: For all you Bond fans out there, you might recognize some of the sights here as parts of the palace and gardens were used for some of the scenes in the ‘For your eyes only’ film. I think growing up one of the only subjects I really enjoyed at school was learning about Greek mythology, I think we all loved the stories and the idea that the gods could control different aspects of the world, It all seemed quite magical. Visiting the palace which lives in a place called Gastouri, there is plenty to be learnt about Greek mythology and also lots of history about the Empress Princess Sissi, Medusa and of course the very famous Achilles. The palace itself has a stunning entry with a temple like structure and statue of Elizabeth on the door step. The palace contains endless fine details, preserves, identical replicates and brilliant architecture! But the gardens were my favourite, so peaceful and impressive. In the flourished gardens stood the meters high statue of Achilles standing tall and strong with his sphere, helmet and shield looking out over a beautiful viewpoint from the gardens. Just around the corner you will find the monument of Achilles heel and the story that made the famous Greek hero history.
MY FAVOURITE! Paleo lies on the west coast of the island and its contrast of colors and scenic bays with staggering mountains makes its a combination of natural beauty and once again there is so much you can do here! If you are visiting before 1pm you are able to explore the grounds of the Monastery which is found at the top of a mountain surrounded by beautiful view points. On entry to the Monastery you may be asked to wear overalls given out freely as it is respectful to cover your shoulders and knees when entering for religious purposes. In the monastery you can chuck a coin in the magic wishing well, visit one of the original giant olive presses and also the museum, which is home to what was believed to be a washed up sea monster for many years but more recent research has proved it was actually just a washed up whales corps…! You can see the priests in their long velvet robes and you may even hear them ring the bells to inform people it was lunch time. You could also find the church where you are able to light a candle for your loved ones.
Not far from the monastery is a lovely little bay where there is a restaurant and beach but also you can take a boat trip with a guide to see some of the near by caves, each one has their own story to tell and if your lucky you might even catch the famous ‘Blue eye’. Opposite from there is a small aquarium where I saw a lobster the size of a big dog!!! and just before leaving you pass through the reptile house where you can hold the snakes and stroke the iguanas… If you dare?!
A place I visited a few times in Paleokastritsa was little treasure called La Grotta, this was a small cove that you walked down loads of steep concrete steps through some woodlands to get too, but when you do… wow! With decking built across the rocks with seating areas, sun beds a bar and some chilled background music playing this was the perfect relaxed and fun day out! It is a great place to go snorkeling and they also hire speed boats out for yourselves to drive and visit some of the other near by beaches. Up on the rocks there’s is a diving board for people to make use of and the coolest thing was the cliff jumping! with a rope specially nailed into the cliff edge helping you reach the rocky platform you could jump from around 6 meters, for anybody that says that’s not too high, your right its not… until your standing up there, knees clanking together!
Lastly without giving everything away I really must point out a breath taking destination in Paleo which is ‘Bella Vista’- beautiful view this is the view point from one of the highest mountains on the whole island and it really is a postcard perfect view! Driving up the mountain can seem crazy at first as the roads are only a little bigger than the widths of your car and passing through the teeny towns it all seems a bit unreal but when you reach the top where you can find cafes selling the best iced coffees and cake the moment does grab you. Paleo with its blue, blue waters and Green, green forestry and heart shaped bays its not hard to see why this place kept a small piece of my heart.
The distillery of the small yellow and orange fruit originally imported from Japan and China is famous for its liquors and selection of preservatives. At the distillery you are able to watch a short video clip on how the fruit is farmed and sold on as these products. After that you can enter the gift shop and try a taster of either the orange or yellow part extracted from Kuom Quat before possibly choosing a little something to take home.
Logas beach (sunset beach)
Located on the very north coast of the island just outside of Sidari, there is a querky beach side restaurant and bar area all based outside on the cliff edge. With swinging rope chairs facing out over the sea and a glass bottom stand out view point this was the best place to watch the sunsets! There is background music and sometimes even special events and parties held here in the evenings including a fire show every Sunday and the food is also delicious, though a little expensive being its location.
Kassiopi & Kalami
Along the North-East coastline there is a lovely little harbor town called Kassiopi which is well known for its seafood restaurants and characteristic feel about the place. The harbor really is a lovely sight and the quaint shops sell some great souvenirs! Not far from Kassiopi you can follow the coastline to the East where you will come across a small road sign written ‘Kalami’ and a sharp turning to your left… down here is the peaceful resort of Kalami. With a shingle beach and great snorkeling its a nice place to spend the day, there is also the famous white Durrell house that people may know about following the recent series ‘The Durrells’. Legend has it Tom Hanks is quite fond of this place too as once every summer he docks his Yacht here for vacation!
Old Perithia & Mount Pantokrator
This historic ‘Heritage Protected’ village is in a designated area of natural beauty, situated on the attractive north east corner of the island, and just below Mount Pantokrator. It is the oldest example of the original mountain villages of Corfu. Records date back to the mid 14th century, although it is considered to have been inhabited many centuries before. Around 130 houses were built, entirely by hand, some of which have now fallen into ruins, many of which are now under restoration. To many, the ancient village of Old Perithia remains something of an enigma. Walking around the ancient grounds you may also come across a bee farm where you can buy some local sweet honey! there is also a couple of lovely quaint and peaceful cafes where you can have a great Greek salad. Mount Pantokrator is a mountain standing at 906 meters, it is the highest mountain on the island. At the summit, the whole of Corfu can be seen, as well as Albania which lies a short distance from the island, you can only imagine the postcard perfect views from here!
Only 0.9 nautical miles from Kassiopi on the North-East coast, Corfu is only an hours ferry ride away from Albania and it is likely if you were interested you would be able to take a trip over from your resort. Arriving at the port of Albania’s capital city Saranda there is plenty of shopping that can be done and all for cheap cheap cheap! Make sure to also grab an ice cream and sit along the lovely promenade. The Natural park of Butrint holds much history from the Romans and Ottomans, with ancient ruins such as an old amphitheater, gymnasium and much more the view points are also very delightful as you walk through the woodlands. You make your way to the top of the hill to find a Venetian castle with its own museum holding original mosaic preserves. Albania is also known for its eel farming which you can see the fishing devices in the water as you make your way back from the national park… So if you fancy a bite to eat why not give to local eel a try!
Who doesn’t love a day out at the water park?! Aqualand In Agios Ioannis has everything from baby and toddler areas to the lazy river, giant wave pool to those vertical drops and sickening half pipe winders. Make sure to go down the Darkness slide, your in a black tube with bright lights giving you a hypnosis experience on your way down, trippy… but fun! there are lockers, toilets and changing rooms and also food banks where you can grab some food and drinks through out the day. Also plenty of sunbeds if you feel like taking a break from all the excitement and catching up on that holiday tan!
Here are some other resorts to look into:
Sidari (North) – night life, sandy beach, water sport activities, Canal D’Armour. This was my home for my 8 months in Corfu and you can find a more detailed description about the resort in my previous post ‘The Jewel of the Ionian Islands, Corfu’.
Acharavi (North) – one of the last remaining Greek villages open through out the winter.
Agios georges (North-West) – Beautiful Sandy beaches, clean and friendly resort, good seafood restaurants.
Ermones (West) – Great for scuba diving!
Kavos (South) – Night life, beach, entertainment, party events, bars, boat parties.
San Steffanos (North) – sandy beaches, steep inclines, beautiful scenery and a monastery where you can take a rock and write something to leave around the outside of the church as a sentimental touch.
Dassia ( East-Central) – Malibu beach bar, toucans beach bar.
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