Corfu travel guide
The island of Corfu, best known of the seven Ionian islands that lie off the northwest coast of Greece, differs markedly from the other popular Greek islands because not only is it green and lush, but also very developed with tourist resorts and hotels. Summertime is hectic on Corfu, with charter flights arriving daily from European cities, ferries disgorging travellers from Italy, and cruise ships docking.
There is plenty to draw visitors to this magical island, also known as Kerkyra. Modern Corfu Town is upbeat and cosmopolitan, offering an exciting conglomeration of Greek, Italian, French and British influences. The old town was laid out by the Venetians in the 14th century and features narrow alleys lined with multi-storied, pastel-coloured buildings with red tiled roofs, creating a scene reminiscent of Italy. The hub of activity in the town centre is the Liston, an arcaded row of cafes and restaurants, copied from the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.
Those wishing to escape from the melee in the town can head for the interior to enjoy some spectacular scenery and greenery. Corfu has, for instance, 43 different kinds of orchids growing wild in the countryside, and there are countless olive groves. Finally there are, of course, the beautiful beaches washed by the sparkling Ionian Sea, and it is still possible to search out a secluded cove or two even in the busy season when the over-developed resorts on the east coast are awash with package tourists.
Corfu Archaeological Museum
Like all good Greek towns, Corfu Town has its own Archaeological Museum, on the boulevard along the waterfront. Although it is small and not very impressive from the outside, it is definitely worth visiting if you have any interest in archaeology or the ancient history of the area. The museum was built between 1962 and 1965 and was initially built primarily to house the important artefacts from the Temple of Artemis in Corfu. The temple dates to 590 BC and is south of Corfu Town and the museum's greatest treasure is the Gorgon pediment from this temple, which is the oldest stone pediment surviving in Greece and is regarded as a fine example of archaic sculpture. The museum has some other interesting sculptures too, like the Lion of Menecrates, carved by a famous Corinthian sculptor in the late 7th century BC, and the pediment of Dionysus, which dates to 500 BC. The museum collection also features some interesting coins, vases and armour.
Address: Vrela Armeni 1, Corfu, Greece
Museum of Asian Art
Although it may seem strange to visit a museum dedicated to Eastern art and antiquity while on holiday in Greece, this museum is very interesting and the only one of its kind in the country. Gregorios Manos, the founder of the museum, was a Greek ambassador to Austria who was passionate about the East and purchased at art auctions about 9,500 authentic Chinese, Korean and Japanese artefacts which formed the basis of the museum collection when it was opened in 1928. The permanent collection includes arms and armour, bronze, ceramics, paintings, sculptures and textiles from China, Japan, Korea, India and a few other Asian countries. The three-storey building housing this collection of art is a beautiful neoclassical structure built by the British in 1820 when the Ionian Islands were ruled by Britain. The building itself justifies visiting the museum for those with an interest in architecture. The museum is a peaceful oasis which immerses the visitor in another world and culture. It is situated at the north end of the Esplanade in Corfu Town.
Address: Palea Anactora, Spianada
The villa of Achilleion was built for Empress Elizabeth of Austria in 1890 as a memorial to her son, Rudolf, after his death. The villa, Neoclassical in style, takes as its central theme the mythical figure of Achilles and features numerous statues and motifs associated with Achilles and the Trojan wars. The gardens are also set with a number of statues commissioned by the Empress, including the famous 'Dying Achilles' by German sculptor Herter. After Elisabeth's assassination the German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleion in 1907 and used it as a summer residence. During his periods of residence the villa hosted many notable guests and became a hub of European diplomacy. The Kaiser also added some art work of his own. During World War One the palace was used as a military hospital and in World War Two it was used as a military headquarters. Briefly, the villa was privately owned and housed a casino in the upper storey but it has since been reclaimed as a venue for state events and a museum. There are many valuable works of art to take in and the Achilleion is well worth a visit. The sprawling gardens, with lovely views, are also a joy to explore.
Address: Six miles (10km) from Corfu Town, in Gastouri village.
Aqualand Water Park
A fun day out for the whole family, Aqualand Water Park is one of the best ways to cool off for kids and the young at heart on holiday in Corfu. With a wide variety of slides, rides and pools to enjoy, such as the Black Hole, Four Twisters and the Crazy River, Aqualand is one of Corfu's most popular attractions for kids and adults alike. There is a special kiddies area for children aged four to eight which includes water games, slides and out-of-water fun like jumping castles, playgrounds and an arcade. For those who enjoy thrilling rides there are some scary, steep slides to attempt, and for those who want a lazy, relaxing day there are things like jacuzzis, gentle pools, the Lazy River and sun loungers. Parking is free and so are sunbeds, umbrellas and shower and changing facilities. There is a bar, a restaurant and various fast food kiosks to provide sustenance. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen as the park is mostly exposed to the glorious Greek sun.
Address: Aqualand Village, 49100 Agios Ioannis
Star Beach Water Park
Not your average waterpark, Star Beach Water Park features all the expected things, like various nice pools and four big water slides ranging from the relaxing to the thrilling, but it also offers traditional beach watersports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, waterskiing and banana boat rides, and a kind of bungee jumping, to name a few. There are sun beds and umbrellas in relaxation areas by the pools and tubing rivers for lazy sun worshippers and parents to float along while the kids let off some steam. There is also a spa which offers various beauty treatments. For the really little kids there is Baby Star Beach, a children's water playground with shallow pools. Star Beach has an amazing variety of amenities and activities including free wifi and free foam parties on a daily basis. There are lifeguards permanently on duty so the park is very safe. Needless to say there are also restaurants and a bar to replenish energy for more fun activities. This is a great trip for the whole family and a good combination of wholesome beach fun and poolside relaxation.
Nymphes is a big village with a unique and colourful history. Legend has it that the mythical nymphs would come to bathe in the village's waterfalls, giving lucky humans a chance to catch a glimpse. Nymphs were nature spirits in Greek mythology and were usually portrayed as beautiful, female guardians of nature. There were different kinds and the ones at Nymphes would have been Naiads, guardians of springs and rivers. Nowadays you can still walk to and enjoy the scenic waterfalls and wells in this lush setting; it is easy to imagine the nymphs in this magical landscape. Other attractions in Nymphes include the nearby monastery of Askitario, where, according to local tradition, the monk Artemios Paissios lived in the 5th century and worked many miracles. The Agriculture Co-operative is also interesting and it produces fruit, and liqueurs and sweets made mostly from the kum-kuat fruit. They will allow you to sample their wares free of charge and if you find something you like you can buy it; these local treats make for good souvenirs. Other lovely villages to visit on Corfu include Kynopiastes, Lakones and Roda.
Paleokastritsa is one of the most beautiful villages on the
beautiful Corfu and it is frequently included in tours of the
island. This resort area is on the west coast of Corfu island about
16 miles (26km) from Corfu Town and consists of six lovely coves
with sandy beaches, surrounded by green forests and olive trees.
There is a variety of accommodation here for those who choose to
stay. The local tavernas, clustered around the waterfront, are
renowned for serving up the town's delicious lobster catches, and
there are a few bars and clubs that provide after hours
There is a monastery, dating from 1228, on the promontory about a mile from the beach with a surprisingly nice selection of gifts and handcrafted souvenirs. In one of the cells of the monastery a small museum has been founded which exhibits the holy relics of the monastery. Magnificent views are obtained from the monastery complex and the hills above, particularly from the village of Lakones. A medieval castle, Angelokastro, overlooks the area, sitting on a hilltop which can be reached by a very scenic drive via the village of Lakones, or on foot, though the walk is arduous. There are several nearby villages worth visiting, and Paleokastritsa is a good base from which to explore Corfu.
There's more to Corfu than its party and clubbing scene, and with plenty of sun, sand and surf, children on holiday in Corfu can have a great time. In fact, its a wonderful destination for a family holiday as there is so much to interest people of all ages.
Water sports such as jet skis, pedalos, banana rides and parasailing can be enjoyed, while on dry land the little ones can build sand castles on the beach. Choose your beach carefully as many are pebbled, which can frustrate very young children, and don't forget the sunscreen. For a great day in the outdoors, take a walk on Mount Pantokrator, the highest mountain on Corfu, located in the north, or enjoy a pony, donkey or horse ride on the shoreline in Avlaki, Kassiopi. Kids will love Aqualand Park, one of the best water parks in Europe, while a trip to the viewpoint of Kanoni, near the eastern port of Corcyra, will reward with breathtaking views over the island.
On days when outdoor activities are not an option, many of the larger hotels provide kids clubs where children can interact, play and make new friends. Fun activities and games will be organised for all ages. In many villages throughout Corfu, puppet shows, called Karagiozis, are organized, giving children the opportunity to breach the langu
age barrier and embrace the local culture.
Known for its wild nightlife and its reputation as a bit of a party island, Corfu has enough late night entertainment to keep anyone going from dusk until dawn. From pumping clubs to laid back bars and lounges, Corfu is one destination where the nightlife cannot be avoided.
Corfu Town offers wonderful tavernas and restaurants along the waterfront, a great start to a big night out. Most of the popular clubs worth visiting are located on Ethnikis Antistasseos, the main road heading north from the town, and party people should be willing to drop a bit of cash at these places.
Those more into music bars will find there are more than enough options to keep themselves busy, with everything from rock, soul, trance, ethnic, underground and even traditional Greek music bars, the choice is endless. Holiday resorts such as Kavos and Sidari are synonymous with nightlife and are particularly popular with British tourists.
There are, of course, other more chilled out options for those not interested in trying to have a conversation over a thumping bass line and blaring house music. Head to Kalami where laid-back bars abound, or for a tavern. There are orchestra and band concerts in the Old Fort in the summertime, and September brings the Corfu Festival and a number of ballet, opera, theatre and musical performances.
The larger resorts in Corfu all have supermarkets and touristy shops to provide for their guests and visitors. Popular souvenirs include hand-made jewellery, lace, ceramics, pottery and olive wood sculptures. The best choice can be found in Corfu Town, the main commercial centre, where there are many shops. There is a market here every morning, except Sunday. Shopping in the town is generally more exciting than using the resort stores which can be rather soulless - you are also more likely to find good bargains and authentic treasures if you shop where the locals do. In more rural areas you'll find vendors selling home-made olive oil, honey, and wine from street stalls. Haggling is expected. One of the best souvenirs is the kumquat liqueur, which makes a wonderful gift. Most shops close over lunch time, but are open late, particularly during peak season. Those visiting Corfu in the winter months may find that some of the shops and restaurants are closed or have greatly reduced hours; on the plus side, however, things do tend to be cheaper out of season.
Corfu International Airport
Location: 3km south of Corfu
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 between last Sunday in April and last Sunday in October).
Parking: The small parking lot at Corfu International Airport offers free parking for passengers.
Getting around Corfu is fairly easy. There is an inexpensive and highly efficient bus service, KTEL Green Buses, servicing most destinations on the island and connections between Kerkyra and Ag, Benitses, Kavos, Sidari, Stefanos and Ipsos on a daily basis. Taxis can be easily hailed in the street or booked in advance. Taxi stands are located in Corfu Town and taxis can be ordered by phone. Hiring a car is a good option for those wanting to properly explore Corfu. There are plenty of car hire agencies dotted throughout the island. It is possible to walk around many areas of the island and horse, pony and donkey rides are also a fun way to get around and see the more rural areas.
Getting to Corfu is easy as it is such a popular island. Boat trips link many of the Greek islands and there are numerous charter flights landing in Cofu in the summer months. If you cannot find a cheap, direct flight then it is easy to get to Corfu from Athens, which is where the international flights tend to land.
The climate in Corfu features hot, dry summers and mild winter weather. Temperatures in July and August, the peak summer months, range from 90ºF (32ºC) during the day to 64ºF (18ºC) at night. Rainfall is unlikely during the peak summer season, but heavy showers can be expected between September and April. Generally, the west coast of the island experiences a more moderate climate than the east coast. Winters are relatively mild and a good time to visit for those who want to avoid the crowds and travel on a budget; winter temperatures range between 41°F and 57°F (5°C and 14°C) and there are still plenty of sunny days. Spring is possibly the best time to visit as the weather is warm but not uncomfortably so and the landscape is coming alive with wild flowers and new greenery. Some rainfall can be expected in spring and autumn but the brief showers are usually welcome and refreshing and shouldn't interfere with your plans too much. Along with spring autumn is a lovely time to visit Corfu, as the fruit is ready for harvest, the days are still balmy, and the sea still fairly warm. There is also a chance of spectacular thunderstorms in autumn.
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