Get prepared for a lifetime experience in the island of Corfu!
Corfu, the northernmost of the Ionian Islands, is a feast for the eyes. This island of immense natural beauty features verdant green hills to the south, jagged sandstone rock formations to the north, lush Mediterranean flora in between, as well as heavenly beaches, azure blue lagoons, spectacular underwater caves and tunnels.
The vast history of the island with the former rulings of the Venetian, French and British has left a respectable legacy and influence, evidently noticeable in the island’s architecture, culture and gastronomy. Today Corfu is a popular tourist destination with a strong cosmopolitan appeal that blends in so wonderfully with its natural blessings, thus creating the most idyllic setting for a vacation. If this is your first time in Corfu, here are the top 5 places to visit.
Corfu Old Town
Explore the island`s lovely capital Corfu Old Town on foot. Walk through the labyrinth of cobbled stoned alleys and the graceful Venetian-era buildings painted pale yellow and orange to soak in those grand historic vibes. Have your break at one of the numerous seafood tavernas and souvenir shops until you reach the heart of the town, the expansive green Esplanade square. This UNESCO-listed old town was defended by two imposing 16th-century fortresses, the New Fortress to the west and Old Fortress to the east. Be sure to pay each a visit and be wowed by the breathtaking panoramic vistas of the city, coastline, and mainland Greece. Pay your respects to the sainted relics in the Church of St. Spyridon, with its characteristic red-domed bell tower, and chat to the friendly locals about your overall experience during lunch.
Witness up close the architectural jewel of the island, Achilleion Palace, just outside Gastouri Village, 10km southwest of Corfu Old Town. Named after the Greek hero Achilles, this exuberant and opulent white Neoclassical villa was the summer retreat home of Empress Sisi of Austria in the 19th century. The mild climate of the island was benevolent towards her health issues, that is why she immersed herself so deeply into the island’s lush nature. A lover of beauty and Greek mythology she adorned this grandiose villa with Neoclassical statues through towering palm tree gardens for the most idealized ambiance.
Now this dreamy location operates as a unique tourist attraction and a peaceful museum enriched with antique paintings, original furnishings and classical sculptures. Make your way through the private chambers of Empress Sisi and wander through the flourishing green gardens for statue spotting and mesmerizing sea views to feel like true royalty.
Nestled on the west coast, 25km northwest of Corfu Town, Paleokastritsa gloriously stretches out to an impressive coast of six deep, rugged bays with sheltered magical beaches, both of sand and pebble, and crystal-clear blue waters. The limestone coastline around them has so generously granted us wondrous sea caves, which makes this location a snorkeler's dream, a family’s favorite boat tour and a day tripper's delight. The primary attraction is the main beach, as it is an exquisite spot for swimming or sailing, with several restaurants and beach bars ready to serve you from your morning coffee till the island’s finest traditional delicacies.
Get your cameras ready, as in the surrounding hills above, you'll find a 13th-century Byzantine monastery boasting a courtyard garden, a church, a small museum, but mostly memorable views of the general area.
To continue on that note, on Corfu's northwestern side, at a 20’ walking distance from the equally charming and picturesque small village of Sidari, you will find another one of Corfu’s natural wonders, Canal d'Amour. This other-wordly long creek with layered, sandrock walls generates a natural passageway connecting its small and precious beach into the majestic Ionian Sea. Take a leap of faith and jump off the intimidating cliffs into the warm, distinctive blue waters to explore all the hidden tunnels and caves for the most awesome underwater experience. You can rent snorkeling gear at the beach, as well as sun-loungers and umbrellas, for the least active ones that just want to soak up the rays of sun.
This unique idyllic scenery is one of the most photographed places to visit in Corfu. It is also largely called the “Channel of Love”, as the local custom has it that any couple who swims through together will soon get married. It is surely not an attraction for the faint of heart on any level, so swim at your own risk.
In the north of Corfu, lies Mount Pantokrator, the most distinctive landmark of the island with its highest peak reaching up to 906m. You can drive your way up, but this mountain provides the perfect opportunity for hiking ventures preferred both by locals and visitors. Start your walking adventure from the village of Perithia for approximately a 2 hour hike to the top. The footpaths will walk you through fairytale pine forests, serene meadows, and quaint villages before reaching the summit. Your efforts will be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views over Corfu.
At the highest point you will also find the Pantokrator 14th century Monastery with breathtaking panoramic views of Albania to the east, the Diapontia islands to the north, the islands of Paxos and Anti Paxos to the south, and on a clear day, even see the southern side of Italy. A truly divine experience in every sense of the word.