Why Corfu? You will discover that it is an island with a long history and a thousand different faces.
In the north-east, below Mount Pantokrator, is a string of pure white beaches lapped by translucent waters. Here in the morning, you can amble down to a harbourside café and while away an hour over Greek coffee, yoghurt and scented honey, soaking in the peace and heat of the Mediterranean summer. Later, stretch out on a lilo in the warm turquoise waters, with children splashing contentedly nearby, and, behind you, the heat-blurred outline of the mountains on the mainland. Or hire a little motor boat and potter off around a headland or two to find another uncrowded beach with its own taverna and a sprinkling of sunbeds.
Tomorrow you might take a trip to Corfu Town, mingle with the crowds, pick up fresh fruit, fish and local herbs at the market, stop at the Liston Arcade, designed by the French when Corfu was under Napoleon, or visit the museum which was once the British governor's headquarters. And catch a local game of cricket in progress, beside the old Venetian fortress which resisted all attempts at conquest by the Turks.
On another day, strike out for the west coast, with its fabulous sandy beaches, and visit the beauty spot of Paleokastritsa with its famous monastery. Then, for the more adventurous, there are climbs around the foothills of Mount Pantokrator, following old Venetian stone-flagged paths through the olive groves to the abandoned villages of Sinies and Perithea.
Yes, Corfu today has shaken off its few years of tourist saturation to emerge fresh and rejuvenated, its people once again displaying their legendary hospitality to visitors.
A popular sandy-beach resort on the west coast of the island. With a car it is possible to use this as a good base from which to tour the island and visit historic Corfu Town.
In a beautiful natural setting on the island's northeast coast, Aghios Stephanos is a former fishing village which remains "a corner of Corfu as it used to be", as a recent visitor described it. Still unspoilt, the village successfully blends its summer visitors with local Greek life, ensuring an atmosphere of relaxation and quiet conviviality.
The blue flag beach of Kerasia, thirty minutes' walk from the village, provides another gentle (pebble) beach for sunbathing and safe swimming.
Much of Corfu's charm lies in her landscape. This is beautiful and hospitable; the island has around 200 villages scattered over it, most of them unchanged for several hundred years. The ground rises towards the westcoast and the north, where the high peaks of Mt. Pantocrator are visible from many other parts of the island. The interior of the island conceals several fertile valleys and plains and the whole island is covered with over two and a half million olive trees, a heritage from the 400 years of Venetian rule. These together with the unusually luxuriant vegetation from the winter rain provide the Corfiot countryside with a green that is hardly found elsewhere in Greece.
All roads converge on the island's capital, Corfu Town, which, if anything, adds to the beauty of the whole. It is the only town on the island, lies on the east coast and gives incomparable views over the sea towards the Greek mainland and the mountains of Epirus and Albania. Its appeal lies in the variety of Venetian, French, British and Greek architectural styles which have miraculously combined to produce a charming period piece. The town has developed continuously from its beginnings a thousand years ago to the present day, and luckily still has relatively few 20th century buildings. The historic heart of Corfu Town underwent a major refurbishment for the European Summit in June 1994.
The past is not perhaps so obvious in Corfu as it is in other parts of Greece but the island has a history which is just as rich and fascinating.
Due to its geographical position Corfu's adherence to Greece has never been secure. Over the centuries the island was part of the Roman, Byzantine and Venetian empires. At the end of the 18th century it was successively part of Napoleon's French Republic, then a Russian protectorate, then captured again by Napoleon and finally, from 1815, an independent state under the protection of Great Britain. In 1864 the island became part of Greece.
Traces of these occupying powers are still visible and for those who find the beach too much of a good thing fourteen days running many are worth a visit. The cannon which gives Kanoni its name was left behind by the Russians in 1803 and on the Garitsa road out to Kanoni is the pretty Byzantine church of SS Jason and Sospiter, rebuilt in the 12th century.
A more remote Byzantine relic is the fortress at Gardiki south of Aghios Mattheos. The old and new forts in Corfu Town are both Venetian and the latter is certainly worth the climb to the top for the view of the town and the island. Less well known is the Venetian arsenal which you can find on the right off the road between Kondokali and Gouvia. The Liston, inspired by the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, was built by a French engineer. The British built Mon Repos, formerly the Greek king's summer villa, the Palace of St Michael and St George, taught the Corfiots to play cricket (which they still do) and introduced ginger beer to the island (now rather hard to find). There is also a British cemetery containing the graves of soldiers killed in the Ionian islands during the British protectorate; it is in a delightful setting and the 19th century inscriptions conjure up visions of the life of the ordinary British soldiers in the heyday of the British Empire. The cemetery is also famous as a habitat for wild flowers, especially wild orchids.
Places worth visiting
Here are some suggestions.....Kambiello, Corfu Town
Lying in a direct line between the Old Port and the Liston, this is the oldest part of the town and where the maze of narrow lanes best gives the flavour of life in the town in the past.The Liston, Corfu Town
Based on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, the Liston is a handsome row of houses with arcades below, looking out over the square, where the Corfiots are frequently to be seen beating visiting English sides at cricket. Under the arcades there is a series of cafes and restaurants.Achillion
Built in 1891 by Elizabeth of Austria this imposing building, incongruously sited in the charming little village of Gastouri, has a restaurant, museum and, in the evenings, a flourishing casino (for which you may need your passport).Pantocrator
Definitely worth a car trip to the top (2972 ft) on a clear day for the flowers, the view - you may see Paxos, Levkas, Othoni, Albania and even the toe of Italy - and the monastery. Allow a full day for the trip. Climbers may like to try a more direct route via the slabs you can see above Nissaki, but start early to avoid the heat.Vagelistra Island
Those staying on the west coast may like to try a boat trip to visit the Chapel of the Virgin Mary on this dramatic tiny island you can see from Aerostaton. There is a similar trip you can make to the island you can see from Sfragitha where there is also a simple chapel.Pondikonisi
The view from Kanoni of the two little islands below, Vlakherena and Pondikonisi, has inevitably become Corfu's most overworked asset. It is nevertheless definitely worth the short bus trip from the town, even if you choose to savour the view over an ouzo rather than actually going out to the islands.Archaeological Museum
This repays a visit if one is in any way interested in Corfu's past. Make a point of seeing the Lion of Menekrates, a beautiful limestone animal sculpture over 2500 years old which is unique. The museum is in Vraila Street.
Our representatives will give you details on all the above when you are on the island.Paxos
Excursions are also available to the tiny Ionian island of Paxos and to the mainland of Epirus.
A car can be a great asset when it comes to exploring Corfu.
The island is quite large and has a good network of roads, with a fair supply of petrol stations. Scooters, motorcycles and push bikes can also be hired but clients should be aware of the large number of accidents involving such vehicles, especially in high season.
Public transport is provided by a reasonable bus service along the main routes and the local timetable is available in each house. Some of our destinations (Aghios Stephanos for instance) are not on a bus route, however, and clients proposing to stay in such places should consider hiring a car for some or all of their stay. On the northeast coast a boat offers a delightful method of exploring the coastline.
The Rough Guide to the Ionian Islands (Rough Guide Travel Guides) (Paperback)
The Rough Guide to The Ionian Islands is the most comprehensive guidebook to this beautiful island group. From the Loggerhead turtles at Laganás Bay and windsurfing off Vassilikí to the churches in Lefkádha and sampling the local Rombola wine; twenty-four, full-colour pages highlights all the 'things-not-to-miss'. The guide includes listings of all the top hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants, to suit every budget, plus new 'authors' picks' to highlight the very best options. There is plenty of practical advice to help you make the most of the many activities available throughout the islands, plus comprehensive information on ferry and bus services, with features on mainland ports and day-trips. The guide comes complete with maps and plans covering the core islands and towns.
The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History (Landscapes of the Imagination) (Paperback)
Scattered off the west coast of mainland Greece are the seven Ionian Islands, celebrated for their spectacular landscapes, olive groves and classical associations. Together with the mountainous mainland region of Epirus, the combined populations of Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Kythira constitute less than a twentieth of the population of Greece, yet they have made a huge contribution to the culture of the country, before and since becoming part of the Greek state. The unsurpassed beauty of the islands and of the Pindus Mountains has stimulated the imagination of countless writers and artists from Homer to Byron, Edward Lear and the Durrells, Louis de Bèrnieres and Nicholas Gage, as well as scores of nineteenth-century travellers. Drawing a mosaic portrait of the Ionian Islands and special places of interest in Epirus, Corfu resident Jim Potts focuses on the landscapes, legends, traditions and historical events that have appealed most strongly to the imaginations of writers, residents and travellers. ODYSSEUS AND SAPPHO: the landscapes of the poets; Homer s Ithaca and Scheria; Sappho s leap; the identification of Dodona; classic ground; King Pyrrhus. THE SEVEN ISLANDS: Strategic issues; Corfu v. Kefalonia; Byron and Casanova; Empress Elizabeth of Austria; Greek writers, Solomos, Laskaratos, Theotokis and Valaoritis. TURKEY, VENICE, BRITAIN, GREECE: conflict and occupation; union and liberation; the Second World War and civil war; nationalism and identity; cultural differences.
The Greek Islands by Lawrence Durrell.
As every reader of Durrell knows, his writing is steeped in the living experience of the Mediterranean and especially the islands of Greece. This text weaves together evocative descriptions, history and myth (including flowers and festivals) with his personal reminiscences.
The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell
The Corfu Trilogy consists of the popular classic My Family and Other Animals and its delightful sequels, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods. All three books are set on the enchanted island of Corfu in the 1930s, and tell the story of the eccentic English family who moved there. For Gerald, the budding zoologist, Corfu was a natural paradise, teeming with strange birds and beasts that he could collect, watch and care for. But life was not without its problems - his family often objected to his animal-collecting activities, especially when the beasts wound up in the villa or - even worse - the fridge. With hilarious yet endearing portraits of his family and their many unusual hangers-on, The Corfu Trilogy also captures the beginnings of the author's lifelong love of animals. Recounted with immense humour and charm, this wonderful account of Corfu's natural history reveals a rare, magical childhood. For the passionate zoologist, Corfu was a natural paradise, teeming with strange birds and beasts that he could collect, watch and care for. But life was not without its problems - Gerald's family often objected to his animal-collecting activities, especially when the beasts wound up in the family's villa or - even worse - the fridge. Gerald Durrell evokes his island paradise with passion and wonder.
My Family And Other Animals [DVD]
The eccentric Durrell family leave the grey skies of England and move to Corfu, where a succession of colourful characters appear in their lives. Adapted from popular Gerald Durrell's autobiography and features all ten episodes of the BBC series.