It’s no wonder this big Ionian island has an even bigger fan base. Take a holiday to Corfu and you’ll get sandy beaches, big-name sights and knockout scenery in one hit.
The Emerald Isle
People have been singing Corfu’s praises for centuries. The poet Homer, for instance, labelled it ‘a beautiful and rich land’. Almost 3,000 years on and his words still ring true – Corfu is one of the prettiest parts of Greece. And it certainly deserves its ‘Emerald Isle’ nickname, what with its green hills and an olive-tree quota topping the three million mark.
Peaceful resorts and party towns
Now a seasoned pro on the holiday front, Corfu is one of those places that, clichéd as it may sound, caters for all tastes. For a low-key escape, head to somewhere like Acharavi in the north, where it’s all about lazy days on the beach and quiet evenings in tavernas. At the other end of the scale you’ve got neon-lit Kavos, down on the south coast, which raises the roof most nights. For something in between, places like Sidari are a good bet.
When it comes to days out, there’s everything from palaces to waterparks. A good starting point is Corfu Town, with its old fortress and pretty Venetian houses. And on the nature front, you’ve got Mount Pantokrator and Lake Korission.
Things to See and Do in Corfu
The Emerald Isle
Sitting just to the west of mainland Greece, Corfu is a real favourite when it comes to the Greek Islands. And when you see its beaches, you’ll understand why. Pebbled bays, hideaway coves, long stretches of sand – they’re all on offer here.
The big beach
The top spot goes to Glyfada Beach on the west coast. It’s got a Blue Flag to its name and is dead easy to get to – you’re looking at just a 10-minute drive from Corfu Town. The sands are lined with plenty of loungers and parasols, and there are loads of bars and tavernas nearby – some places will even bring your drinks direct to your lounger. Watersport fans will be in their element, too – there’s everything from sea biking to jet-skiing here.
The secret beach
If you’d rather skip the hordes, check out Rovinia Beach. It’s a mix of sand and white pebbles, and is surrounded by cliffs cloaked in greenery. There are no cafés or restaurants, but a ‘canteen boat’ makes regular appearances, hawking cold drinks, sandwiches and ice-creams. As most people head for nearby Liapades Beach, it’s likely that the only people you’ll be sharing this secluded spot with are a handful of locals, a couple of clued-up holidaymakers and perhaps a few mythology buffs – legend has it Odysseus was shipwrecked here during his epic journey back to Ithaca.
If you’re a bit of a magpie when it comes to jewellery, make a beeline for Corfu Town’s Liston area. Jewellers there will tempt you with things like Ancient Greek-style 18-karat gold bracelets and armbands, and more minimalist, modern designs. In San Stefanos, try the town centre for top-of-the-range leather bags – the main crossroads are a good place to start.
Corfu’s olive trees aren’t just about the fruit. Local craftsmen carve up the wood to make things like salad bowls, chopping boards and chess sets. You’ll find an olive wood store in Sidari Shopping Centre, and there’s another popular one on St Spyridon Street in Corfu Town. Over in Acharavi, meanwhile, there are shops selling things like soaps and sea sponges – just turn down any of the lanes off the main street.
Handmade olive oil soaps are big news in Corfu, and there are plenty of places to pick up creams and oils, too. The big one, though, is Patouni. This family-run business has been around for more than 150 years and you can visit their official shop in Sanrocco Square in Corfu Town. In Kavos, the strip is the place to head for cheap bikinis, sunnies and imitation designer handbags.
Head to any of the restaurants at Corfu Town’s port and you’ll get views stretching out to Vidos Island. Or hop on the ferry over to the island itself and pull up a chair in one of the harbourside cafés – the views of the coastline are something else. In San Stefanos, you’ll find everything from traditional tavernas to Italian bistros lining the seafront. And in Acharavi, nights revolve around the beach – that’s where you’ll find all the seafood tavernas.
If your idea of an early night is rolling in when the sun comes up, Kavos will be right up your street. The town has one main drag and you really can’t miss it – it’s crammed with neon-lit bars and clubs where you can knock back fishbowl cocktails. Sidari’s got a bar and club-filled strip, too. Take a look at the entertainment boards outside each place every morning to find out what’s going on that night.
This classic dish is unique to Corfu and it proves that the simplest food is often the tastiest. We’re talking juicy veal steak simmered gently in garlic, parsley and white wine, served up with a generous helping of potatoes or rice. Swing by virtually any taverna and you’ll find it on the menu.
Pastitsada is one of those dishes that’s handed down through the generations, and every local reckons theirs is the best. Broadly speaking, beef or chicken bubbles away in a tomato, onion and clove sauce to make a comforting casserole, which is poured over pasta. Great with a glass of Greek red.
These almond and tangerine-flavoured bites should come with a warning. Once you’ve tasted one you’ll definitely be back for more. They’re made with crushed almonds, tangerines and sugar, and dusted with even more of the sweet stuff. You can get them dipped in chocolate, too. Not one for calorie counters…
This is nothing like the stuff you get in a can. It’s made using traditional ingredients like grated ginger, lemon juice, water and sugar, and is brewed in huge cauldrons. It’s best drunk fresh, and the cafés around Liston Square in Corfu Town are said to serve up some of the best. It’ll be on the menu as ‘tsin tsin birra’.
This tiny little orange fruit was brought over to Corfu from South East Asia in the 1860s. And while it’s often candied and turned into jams, the locals also have a bit of a thing for kumquat liquor, drunk straight or in cocktails. You’ll find both bright-orange and clear versions – the latter packs the biggest punch.