Introductions to Corfu

Set in Adriatic Sea, Corfu, or Kerkira as the Greeks call it, was picked by Homer to be Odysseus’s semi-final stop, before he managed to reach home after 20 years of wandering. Part of the Byzantine Empire, it later thrived under the rule of Venetians and French, while the rest of Greece was under Ottoman occupation. During that time Corfu became an important artistic and educational hub, inheriting numerous architectural gems, which still stand on the islands streets and squares.

Blessed with green hills and white-sand beaches, Corfu features a picturesque historic center and enchanted medieval fortresses. If you find yourself on the island during orthodox Easter, stroll around its kadounia (narrow streets) on Holy Saturday midnight; due to an old custom, Corfiots throw clay pitchers off their balconies, along with chocolate for visitors and children.

Corfu is thought by most tourists to be one of the most naturally beautiful islands in the Mediterranean. You can relax on this seaside island for days without missing out on anything. You can chill out on one of the many beaches or rest in the many Tavernas dotted around the island, enjoying fresh local food and cheap drinks. The atmosphere is filled with the wonderful scent of wild flowers and herbs during the summer. In Corfu you will discover marvelous vistas, breathtaking mountainous scenery and cool clear Mediterranean seawaters.

The north-eastern coast, where Mount Pantokrator disappears into the sea, you will find amazing and beautiful views of the coast and the surrounding mountains. You can easily find shelter here if you get caught out in the rain.

The North Eastern coast is made up of quaint little fishing villages and beaches with very clear waters, ideal for swimming, unlike other Greek beach resorts. The west coast is also covered with beaches, but also has a large mountain range that meets the sky almost at the center of the island.

Corfu has been under Greek, Roman, Venetian, French and British rule during its history, and Corfu has a sprinkling of all these cultures whilst still staying true to it’s Greek heritage. The interesting and very old Venetian town is a maze of difficult to navigate streets where English, French and Venetian architecture were erected side by side. The town is dominated by a 16th century fortress, with a surrounding area that offers high class restaurants as well as bars and Tavernas that are usually affordable for all tourists.

Further inland there are lots of rural villages that are not affected by the commercialization of Greek tourism locations. Take some time to go and meet some of the locals. These people are very welcoming and hospitable and will gladly share some of their knowledge of the island. Take a walk into some of the uninhabited villages such as Byzantine Perithia, which was built high in the foothills of Mount Pantokrator, although if you go alone, be prepared that the only available social company will come from goats and sheep.

You could stay by a swimming pool all day, or rent a boat and discover some of the secret coves that are only reachable by sea. These coves have such clear waters that you can watch the undersea wild life, or take an incredibly refreshing swim, the choice is yours.

Corfu’s many beaches, with rocky coves and secret caves etc, are almost completely un-touched by man. Corfu is definitely one of the more natural holiday destinations in Europe.

The culture and tourism is very different from town to town, meaning that there really is something for everyone. Some places have very busy nightlife hotspots, some fishing villages are quiet and ideal to eat out in and there are enough historical monuments and museums to keep even the most highly qualified of historians occupied.

The best way to get around any Greek island is by renting a car. Driving in Corfu, however, can be an adventure in itself. There are tight hairpin bends almost every fifty meters, and the roads are not very well looked after. There are potholes everywhere, traveling donkeys and olives constantly falling from the trees that line every road. Whilst the olive trees do add to the natural beauty of the island, the squashed olives can make the road incredibly slippery. If you thought black ice was dangerous, you obviously have never taken a drive around the country roads of Corfu! Drink driving laws are the same as in most other E.U. nations, but offenders are rarely prosecuted because the cliff edges and ravines claim the lives of hundreds of drivers each year. If you are very careful driving in Corfu, the scenery and wildlife will make your visit a far more enjoyable one.

Departing from Corfu Town, long-distance buses (known as KTEL) cover most of the islands corners. Keep in mind that most routes fall off to rare on Sundays and public holidays. For more flexibility, rent a car, or scooter, from either the airport or Corfu Town. Most streets are narrow, but safer than the ones on other islands.

Corfu Town

Located on the southern part of Corfu, Corfu Town is the island’s capital, featuring a population of 25,000 residents. Most points of interest are traced at the town’s old quarters. Exploring the town center begins at Spianada Square, part of which is used for cricket games.

At the square’s west end, stands Liston Building, the town’s main social core. Built by French architect Mattie de Leseps to resemble Paris’ Rue de Rivoli, Liston houses dozens of arcades, mostly occupied by busy cafes and charming restaurants; choose one and take a break from sight-seeing over a glass of the island’s famous “tsitsibira” (local ginger beer).

Moving to the northern side of Spianada, you will come across the Palace of St Michael and St George, which houses the Museum of Asian Art and the municipal library. The building dates back to the 19th century and once served as a summer house for the Greek royal family.

On the eastern side of the city, rises Fortrezza, also known as the Old Fort. Overlooking the old quarters, Fortezza was first built in Byzantine period and later expanded by the Venetians. Inside the fortress you will be able to see a Venetian prison, an old military hospital, which is now occupied by a music school, and some British barracks. An underground channel connects Fortezza with Fortezza Nueva, a 16th-century Venetian castle, which is now used as an exhibition center.

Around Corfu

At the outskirts of Corfu Town, lays Mon Repos, a large estate which is one of the island’s most popular attractions. Built in 1831 to be Frederick Adam’s summer residence, it hosted a series of royals, including Austria’s well-known Princess Sissy. Featuring a fusion of colonial and neo-classical architecture, it is also known as Achilleion Place, due to two huge statutes of Achilles, set in its splendid gardens.

Old Perithia is the island’s oldest village, featuring some of the finest samples of Corfu’s Venetian architecture. An old pirate hideout, today it is a Heritage Protected Site. For more excellent examples of local architecture, pay a visit to the village of Kynopiastes, where you can admire 17th-century villas and walk down scenic colourful alleys.

Natural beauty meets ancient mythology at Nymphes Village. Surrounded by lush greenery and charming waterfalls, the village is supposed to occupy the area where Nymphs bathed themselves in ancient times. Nymphes also houses an excellent agriculture co-operative, where visitors can taste and bye traditional kumquat liqueur and sweets.

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