Corfu (Kerkyra) is one of the most popular Greek islands, especially with British, and certainly one of the prettiest. Corfu is the most northern of the group of islands known as the Ionian Islands and sits off the coast of Albania. Corfu is famous for its green landscape, which is so different from the Aegean islands, and its many popular tourist towns like Sidari and Kavos.
Corfu has a very Italian like feel to it especially in the main town (Corfu Town), where you could easily believe you are in Venice with its narrow streets and balconied houses. The Italian feel is because of the many years of Venetian rule, Corfu is the only part of modern Greece that never came under Turkish control. The Italian influence doesn't just stop at the architecture but also in Corfiot foods like Sofrito, even the accent in Corfu has an Italian ring to it as well as some words.
Corfu is in the very North-West of Greece and so is fairly easy to get to from Italy by ship, it is also an hour less flight time from the United Kingdom than say to Athens or the Aegean islands which makes it very popular with the British.
Corfu is believed to the island of Scheria in Homers Odyssey, it was also used in the myth about Jason and the Arganaounts. Corfu is so rich in history we can only scratch the surface on this web page and give you an idea of who has ruled the island. The first Greeks to colonise Corfu was Corinth in about 700 BC, the island was also used as a staging post by Athens when they invaded Sicilly during the Peloponnesian war. Since then it has been occupied by Macedonia, Epirus, Rome and was even occupied by Normans twice. Like the rest of Greece Corfu was part of the Byzantine Empire for many years.
The biggest and longest influence and occupation of Corfu was the Venetians, who defended Corfu successfully from many Turkish invasions over the centuries and added to the culture of the island. Corfu was in Venetian hands from 1386 until Venice fell to Napoleon and Corfu became a French possession in 1797.
After the defeat of Napoleon, Corfu became a British protectorate up until 1864 when it was united with the rest of Greece. During the Second World War Corfu was occupied by first the Italians and then the Germans. Many of Corfu town's large Jewish community were transported to Auschwitz, the town still has a Jewish community but never recovered after the war. Corfu town was bombed during the war, a lot of the town and important buildings were destroyed.
Corfu town is the capital of the island and is quite different from most other towns in Greece in both atmosphere and architecture. The town is very cosmopolitan not just because of the amount of tourists that come every year but also for its rich history, the Venetians leaving their mark on Corfu, especially Corfu town, more so than anywhere else in Greece. Corfu town has two Venetian fortresses and the old town feels more like an Italian town than a Greek one. The French and British have also left their mark on the town, Corfu town is home to Greece's one and only Cricket field and the famous Liston area was designed and built during the French occupation to look like the Rue de Rivoli.
Corfu Town has a population of 30,000 and is the largest in the Ionian islands, the town sits on a promontory on the East of the island facing the mainland. The port in Corfu town is one of the busiest in Greece with regular ferries from Italy and from other parts of Greece, especially Igoumenitsa in Epirus.
The old town of Corfu is a labyrinth of small narrow streets and two storey houses with balconies, tiny old churches, many of the alleys end up at small squares, many with fountains, the hundreds of arches; you can almost believe you are in a backstreet off San Marco in Venice. It is in the old town that you sense the Italian influence more than any other part of Corfu. Corfu's old town is very popular with tourists and you will find lots of tourist shops, bars and restaurants. The old town is basically between the two fortresses and esplanade square.
The old fortress is on a small island in the east of Corfu town, the main entrance to the fortress is just in front the Esplanade over a concrete bridge. The fortress had a moat using sea water but that is now used as a mariner for small boats. The fortress was originally started by the Byzantines but completed by the Venietians, it was joined to the new fortress by walls which incorporated the old town.
The fortress is in excellent condition and is worth a visit, it is sometimes used as a function hall and for music concerts.
The New fortress is the most dominating structure in Corfu as it is so large, its huge walls seem to engulf a large area of in the North-West of the town. The fortress was built between 1576 and 1645 by the Venetians and in combination with the old Fortress with held off many Turkish sieges, in fact the only part of Greece to do so. There are also many tunnels from the New fortress that are connected to the Old fortress to keep them connected during sieges. One the most famous sights of the fortress is the emblem of Saint Marks on the main gate (Lions of Venice).
The Liston is a long beautiful street in the old town of Corfu, it was built by the French and to the same design as the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. At one point the area was occupied by aristocrats and nobles and there was a list of people who were allowed to walk in the area, hence the name Liston.
In front of the Liston is the Esplande, a large green area in Corfu town. It was once just a bit of waste ground but under French occupation it was turned into a public space with many trees being planted. During British occupation it was used as Cricket field and is the only one of its kind in Greece.
Saint Spyridon Church was built in 1596 to hold the body of Saint Spyridon who was brought to the island from Constantinople over a century before, after the fall of the city to the Turks in 1453. The church is the main one in Corfu town and has the highest tower in the town. Saint Spyridon is the patron saint of Corfu and if you ever visit the island you will notice most of the male population are named Spyros, well at least half.
Pontikonisi Island and Vlaheraina are one of Corfu's most famous landmarks, on nearly every postcard from Corfu. One of the tiny islands has a Byzantine Church (Vlaheraina )on it and is connected to the mainland by a long thin causeway. The other island has a 12th century Byzantine monastery on it (Pantokratoras), the island takes its name because of the white staircase from the monastery looks like a mouse's tail from a distance. Pontikonisi is just south of Corfu town next to the airport in Halkiopoulos lagoon.
The Achilleion is beautiful palace just south of Corfu town, Gastouri, it takes its name from the many statues and paintings of the Mythical Greek hero Achilles that are in the palace and gardens. The palace was buile by the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1890 as a summer palace. The Achilleion was later bought by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany who added a bridge to the palace as to reach the beach without crossing the road (Kaiser's bridge).
The Achilleion is now a museum and is a wonderful place to look around, it overlooks the Ionian sea with mountains in the background. The centre peice of The Achilleion is the huge marble statue of Achilles in the garden by the German sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter.
Paleokastritsa is probably the most scenic and beautiful part of Corfu; it also has some of the most exciting beaches in Corfu, perfect for snorkelling. Paleokastritsa is on the western side of Corfu about 25 km across and north from Corfu Town, it is made up of six rocky coves with the village above on the forested hillside. Paleokastritsa has all the amenities you expect from a resort in Corfu, Bars, restaurants, shops, but without over doing it like so many other towns on Corfu.
The beaches in Paleokastritsa are considered to be the best in Corfu, it is made up of six beautiful rocky coves with crystal clear water sheltered by the rocks. The beaches are excellent for snorkelling and swimming.
Paleokastritsa is also famous for its monastery that sits above the coves, it was originally built in the 13th century but much of what you see now is only 200 years old. The monastery is now a museum but the views from it are breathtaking, look out for the peacocks that live in the grounds.
Sidari is in the North-West of the island and is easily the most popular and busy on Corfu, especially with British. Sidari is a large resort and caters for every type of tourist from youngsters to families. The resort has everything you need and expect, and probably a lot more, from a large resort. There are all kinds of different bars in the resort from Irish to disco, there are Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Greek and British restaurants never mind the many take away shops including a Mac Donalds. Sidari also has a small waterpark but this is tiny compared to Aqua land,the large water park near Corfu town.
The main beach in Sidari is a huge sandy one that stretches the whole length of the town and more is just off the main street through the town. The water is very shallow even quite far from the shore, so it is very good for children. Along the beach are many different waters ports where you can do paragliding, banana boat, Jet Ski, water ski or just hire out a pedal boat or canoe.
In the western part of Sidari is the famous Canal d'Amore which is a group of sandstone coves, cliffs and islands, it is also probably the most famous beach on Corfu. The Canal d'Amore comes from a cave/tunnel which connects two of the coves that you can swim through. According to the locals you will find your true love immediately after you swim through the tunnel.
A few kilometres west of Sidari is the small village of Peroulades, a typical Corfiot village. Peroulades attracts many tourists from the neighbouring resorts for its famous beach, Sunset beach. The beach is a large sandy beach that sits below a high shear cliff. There is also a cafeteria on the edge of the cliff, from both the beach and the cliff you get amazing views of the sun setting.
Further West from Peroulades and Sidari on the western coast of Corfu are the three resorts of San Stefanos, Arilas and St George. All three resorts are a lot smaller and quieter than Sidari, the largest being San Stefanos. Both San Stefanos and Arillas have big sandy beaches, this and the quietness makes them perfect for families with young children.
These two resorts are East of Sidari along the North coast of Corfu. Roda is an old fishing village which has kept its charm despite having tourists. The beach in Roda is a lomg sandy one with the main street through Roda just off it.
Acharavi is further along the coast than Roda but is slightly larger and livelier than Roda it is also much more mixed tourist wise than Sidari and Roda which are mainly British. The beach in Acharavi is huge sandy one about 3 km long.
Kassiopi was a small traditional corfiot fishing village, but now the beautiful little harbour town has a thriving tourist industry. The town is 22 km north of Corfu town in the very North West of the island and is built around the main square and harbour, looking over the town is the Byzantine castle, or what's left of it as it was dismantled by the Venetians hundreds of years ago. The town is quite lively but not as rowdy as many others on Corfu and is suitable for families and couples.
There are a few beach in and around Kassiopi all can be reached on foot the towns main beach is pebbles but if you look around near the town you will find both sandy and rocky beaches.
Kavos is in the very south of Corfu about 30 km from Corfu Town and is the party capital of the island. It is famous for its 18 to 30 holidays mostly British. If you want to party until dawn then Kavos is perfect as it has a wide array of all different kinds of bars, clubs and beach parties. The beach in kavos is a huge sandy one that has water sports and many other activities during the day.
Corfu has been a popular holiday destination since the 19th century. The Italian influence on Corfu is very strong, walking around the main Town (Corfu Town) you could easily forget you are in Greece and believe you are wandering around Venice.
Corfu is also the birthpalce of the first Prime Minister of Greece, Ioanis Kapadistia, there is a statue of him in Corfu Town.
Location - Corfu is in the very North-West of Greece in the Ionian islands, opposite sourthern Italy.
Travelling to Corfu: Corfu has to be the most easily reached islands in Greece. There is an international airport on the island (Ioanis Kapadistria Airport) which has flights from all over Europe during the summer and some even through the winter including easyjet. There are also regular flights between Athens and Corfu.
Corfu is connected to mainland Greece by regular ferries to the port of Igumenitsa, Lefkimi in the south of Corfu also has regular ferries to the mainland. There are also regular ferries to many of the Italian Adriatic ports including Venice and Ancona.
Tips:Corfu has every type of holiday you could wish for and caters for everyone, so choose your resort wisely as many of the reorts are geared for a particular type of tourist e.g if you want a nice quiet break don't choose Kavos, if you want to party all day and night then don't go to San Stefanos.
Corfu is quite a large island and very beautiful, its known for its Greenery, there are plenty of things to see, so hire a scooter or a car and travel around the island.