Corfu Holiday Planning Guide
Designated as a World Heritage Site, Corfu retains many reminders of the island's Venetian, British, and French heritage. The northernmost of the Ionian Islands, the mild-weathered city made it into mythology as the idyllic place where Poseidon enjoyed marital bliss with the nymph Korkyra. Allegedly named after this mythical beauty, the island offers a blend of well-developed seaside areas and pristine mountain ranges, popular with both package tourists and casual backpackers. The island's top attraction remains the pleasant city of Corfu, an architectural gem made for sightseeing on foot. The island also serves as a convenient jumping-off point for tours of the Albanian and Italian coastlines.
Places to Visit on CorfuSidari
: Renowned for its lively atmosphere, Sidari is one of Corfu’s prime resort towns where you can spend time lounging on the beach, trying out various water sports, shopping, dining or enjoying the nightlife.Paleokastritsa
: Located on the western coast of Corfu among lush olive groves, this is one of the island’s most peaceful resort towns with plenty of natural beauty and several historical sites nearby.Corfu Town
: With its picturesque architecture and cosmopolitan atmosphere, this town in the heart of the island offers some of the best opportunities for sightseeing in Corfu.Gastouri
: This scenic village just south of Corfu Town is a favorite getaway spot for European nobility and contains some of the island’s most famous architectural gems.Kavos
: This bustling resort town is the place to visit in Corfu if you’re looking for a party. From a wide selection of beach activities to a number of nightclubs, the activity here never stops.Gouvia
: Built around an old Venetian harbor, Gouvia represents one of Corfu’s more peaceful resort towns, featuring several beaches and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. The town’s location is ideal for day trips to all parts of the island.Dassia
: Surrounded by hills and thick pine forest, Dassia offers charming scenery and a perfect combination of tranquil atmosphere and nightlife to make your evenings memorable.
Things to Do on Corfu
Popular Corfu Tourist AttractionsPaleokastritsa Beach
: With its splendid views, crystal-clear water, and plenty of caves and lagoons, the beach is definitely a place to add to your Corfu itinerary. According to legend, this is the spot where Odysseus met the beautiful princess Nausicaa.Canal D'Amour
: One of the island’s most romantic spots, this picturesque lagoon is definitely one of the main things to see in Corfu.Sidari Beach
: Whether you prefer to relax at one of the bars, or discover some of the area’s water activities, this sandy beach provides a great place to spend a day by the sea.Kassiopi
: Lying in the shadow of Mount Pantokrator, this small town is steeped in history and crowned by a Byzantine fortress on the hill above town that offers great views of the sea and the Albanian coast.Achilleion Museum
: Experience true royal splendor at the palace that was built by the Austrian Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria and used as a summer residence by Kaiser Wilhelm II.Aqualand
: Located right in the center of Corfu, this water park offers rides, slides, and attractions for both kids and adults.Old Fortress Corfu
: Originally dating to the 6th century CE, and significantly reinforced by the Venetians, this impressive fortification is one of the main sights in Corfu Town.Paleokastritsa Monastery
: Soak in the breathtaking views and admire the collection of religious art at this hilltop medieval monastery.Mount Pantokrator
: Climb to the roof of Corfu and enjoy views that stretch as far as Italy on a clear day.Ermones Beach
: Renowned for its azure water and plenty of small bays, this beach is known as one of the best diving destinations in Corfu.
Planning a Corfu Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Corfu with Kids
Fully dedicated to accommodating all types of visitors, Corfu welcomes visitors destined for a family vacation. If you’re traveling with kids and looking for a bit of peace and quiet, you may want to steer clear of party-oriented resorts like Kavos
. But don’t be discouraged, as there is an abundance of tranquil places to stay--those near Corfu Town offer a combination of quieter atmosphere and accessibility to all of the island’s major sights.
Things to Do on Corfu with Kids
Whether you’re travelling with smaller children or teenagers, you won’t have a problem finding activities for them to enjoy. Beaches and water sports are an obvious choice for active young visitors. Active families may want to try a mountain biking tour along the hill and beach paths, touted as prime things to do in Corfu. If you’re near Gouvia, you can take your kids on horseback with Trailriders Horse Trekking
, or visit some of the island’s amusement parks, such as Pyramid Adventure Park
. Younger visitors might especially enjoy exploring the streets of Corfu Town, visiting the museums and the fortress, and tasting the local sweets.
Tips for a Family Vacation on Corfu
Corfu is a relatively small island and it’s well-covered with different sorts of public transportation, so renting a car to get around is more a matter of preference than necessity. With many resort towns featuring an abundance of modern facilities, a Corfu vacation with kids is sure to be a hassle-free experience. Many destinations around the island offer attractions that appeal both to kids and adults, so you won’t have to make many detours to find activities and sights that the whole family will enjoy.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Corfu
Cuisine of Corfu
Various cultures have influenced Corfu throughout history and left their unmistakable mark on the island’s cuisine. Next to the obvious Greek influence--reflected in various salads, meat dishes such as gyros and souvlaki, moussaka, feta cheese, and olives--you’ll easily notice a variety of Venetian-inspired dishes. Some of the best pasta dishes in Greece are made in Corfu. The most famous is the islanders’ favorite pastitsada. This finely spiced specialty made with veal, tomatoes, garlic, and local cheese is the traditional Corfiot version of Sunday roast. Seafood is also an important part of local cuisine, and even though fresh fish is available throughout the island, head to the small fishing villages for the most genuine experience and to enjoy the seafood recipes such as bourtheto, at one of the cozy tavernas. You can choose from among several varieties of local wines to go with your meal. Continue your gastronomic tour of Corfu with some mandolato, the traditional Greek sweet that’s been made on the island since Byzantine times. Today Corfu has the reputation for the best mandolato in all of Greece. Follow your dessert with a cup of Greek coffee, and for those looking to try the local spirits, consider the kumquat liqueur that was introduced to the island by the British. For a great way to cool off on a scorching summer day, try a bottle of tsitsibira, the famous Corfiot ginger beer.
Shopping on Corfu
While you won’t have problems finding souvenirs to take back from your holiday in Corfu, the best way to capture the spirit of the island is to shop for local products made in the traditional way. With its great collection of stores, Corfu Town
is the main place for shopping, but there are a fair amount of stores even in the smaller towns. Ceramics, jewelry, and leather products are popular with the island’s visitors, but there’s also a good selection of stores that sell the works of local glassmakers, painters, and other artists. A craft that’s particularly characteristic for Corfu is olive wood carving. If you’re looking for truly unique and somewhat unusual souvenirs, stop by Ionios Anemos Workshop
and check out their eclectic collection of goods. Local food products, drinks, and natural beauty products are also plentiful. A real treat for gourmand travelers is Paramythia Traditional Cheeses
, a little store that sells cheeses from a village on the nearby mainland that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Corfu
History of Corfu
Mentioned by Homer under the name Scheria, Corfu was inhabited by Greek colonists from Corinth in the 8th century BCE. Located on the important trading route that connected the cities on the Greek mainland with their colonies in Sicily and southern Italy, Corfu attained significant wealth and power. In the 5th century BCE Corfu’s alliance with Athens against Corinth and Sparta sparked the Peloponnesian War, one of the most important events in Greek history. In Roman times, Corfu was a major base for Octavian’s troops during his war against Mark Antony.
The early Middle Ages saw the importance of Corfu dwindle, but the Norman conquest of Sicily and the growing Venetian influence quickly brought the island back to the main historical scene. Castles like Angelokastro
serve as great monuments that represent Byzantine attempts to keep the island out of Norman, Venetian, and Genoese hands. These attempts however were futile, and in the 13th century and the island fell under Venetian control.
Protecting the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, Corfu was one of the most important Venetian possessions. After the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, the merchant republic invested huge funds into the island’s defenses, such as Old Fortress Corfu
. In Europe, Corfu was largely perceived as the bulwark of Christianity, and the failure of the Ottoman sieges of 1537 and 1716 was widely celebrated. It was also during this period that the island developed its distinctly Venetian character that’s still apparent in the cuisine, architecture, and local customs.
The 19th century saw the decline of the Venetian influence in Corfu. For 50 years before reuniting with Greece in 1864, Corfu was a part of the United States of Ionian Islands--a semi-independent state under British protectorate. Albeit short, this period left a significant mark on Corfu that you won’t fail to notice, especially with so many islanders regularly enjoying a game of cricket.
During World War I, a large number of Serbian soldiers retreated to Corfu in front of the invading German army, and sights like Serbian War Memorial
still hold an important place in many Serbian hearts. After the Italian and the German occupation in World War II, Corfu was once again reunited with Greece.
Although the arrival of tourism turned many of the Corfiot fishing villages into bustling resorts, places like Casa Parlante
and Old Perithia - Corfu's Oldest Village
provide a glimpse into what life in Corfu was like in years past.
Landscape of Corfu
One feature of Corfiot landscape that immediately catches the eye is that it’s far greener than most other Greek islands. This is a result of frequent precipitation in the winter months. Dominated by Mount Pantokrator, the northern part of Corfu is mountainous, while the landscape flattens out the further south you go. Corfu is surrounded by several smaller, scarcely populated islands such as Mathraki
. Day trips to this island are definitely something you should consider adding to your Corfu itinerary.
Holidays & Festivals on Corfu
As in other Greek Orthodox communities, Christmas, Easter and the Assumption are especially important religious holidays in Corfu. However, Easter in Corfu Town
is truly something special, with festivities that last for three days and culminate in a procession where the relics of St. Spyridon, the island’s protector saint, are carried through the town. St. Spyridon’s Day (December 12) represents another very important local holiday. The Venetian cultural influence is clearly felt during the colorful carnivals that are held throughout the island before the start of Easter Lent. Corfu shares the majority of national holidays, such as the Independence Day on March 25 and the No Day on October 28, with the rest of Greece. One important local secular holiday is the Day of Unification of the Ionian Islands, celebrated on May 21. All holiday festivities feature lots of singing and music.
Corfu Travel Tips
Climate of Corfu
One of great advantages of having your vacation in Corfu is the weather. The climate on the island is often warm enough that tourist season starts in May and lasts well into October. This provides a huge window for planning your trip according to your schedule and tastes. If you prefer a more peaceful experience, book a holiday in the late spring or early fall when the island is not packed with tourists. You’ll find the sea warm enough for swimming, especially in the fall after a hot summer, and beaches and tavernas will not be crowded. For those who enjoy the bustle of the peak season, July and August are the months to visit Corfu. These two months, however, tend to be pretty hot, so always make sure to have adequate protection from the sun. Between November and April, the island sees very few visitors. making the destination a good spot for a private getaway if you don’t mind the rain that’s common that time of year.
Transportation on Corfu
The transportation network in Corfu is well established, and getting to the island and around it is quite easy. There are two bus services operating in Corfu--the green line connects various towns and villages throughout the island, and the blue line operates in Corfu Town and its immediate surroundings. For those who prefer not to rely on bus schedules, there are plenty of agencies where you can rent cars, scooters, and buggies. Another convenient way of getting around the island is by taxi; rides between popular destinations are charged at fixed rates. The hilly terrain, with several flat areas, also makes Corfu a good cycling destination, and bikes are widely available for hire. Busses, ferries, and flights connect Corfu with the Greek mainland. The island’s airport is busiest in the summer when it serves numerous charter flights from all over Europe.