In the heart of the Adriatic Sea lies Corfu, one of the Ionian islands. The Greek island Corfu, ‘Kerkyra’ in Greek, has been occupied by many different cultures and nations, giving it a fascinating history. Corfu Town is the biggest city on the island, but there are many other historical sights, fishing villages, religious buildings, and beaches that draw visitors to the island. Take a closer look at Corfu’s top attractions to understand what this Greek island has in store.
Perhaps the most popular landmark on the whole island is the Old Town, which is the centerpiece of the island and the place where visitors will find the greatest concentration of notable historical attractions. Of particular significance is the palace of St. Michael and St. George, also known as Palaia Anaktora, which was built in the 19th century and is now home to the extensive collections of the Museum of Asian Art. Also in the Old Town of Corfu is the Esplanade, a promenade and park built by the French when Napoleon was in power. Truly reminiscent of France, the Esplanade is a popular place for both locals and tourists to stroll and enjoy the beauty of the old town. St. Spiridon is the patron saint of the island and his church, the holiest one on the island, can be found in the city. For the Orthodox it is the most holy church there is and visitors come from all over the world for this church. (Especially for the Russians this is an important church).
Paleokastritsa, which translates to ‘the site of the old castle’, is a small village in the northwest of Corfu. Although there are several monasteries and churches of historical significance, the main attractions are the bays and beaches. A cobbled promenade runs along the coast and allows you to walk along the beach and enjoy the view of the sea. The small beaches are great places to swim, sail, or snorkel. The water is known as the coldest water of the island. Various restaurants are just steps away from the sea and serve coffee, drinks, or the many culinary specialties of Corfu. Many boats are rented out here as there are a lot of small, deserted beaches around which can only be reached by boat. If you have had a driving licence for at least three years, you can rent a boat and visit all those small beaches and caves along the shore.
One of the most beautiful sights of Corfu is the Achilleion Palace. As the name suggests, the palace was built in the theme of Achilles. The whole structure emphasises beauty, symmetry and sculpture. The lavish palace was built in 1890 by the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria (also known as Empress Sisi), a woman known to be obsessed with physical beauty. After the death of her son in 1889, she poured herself into the creation of the Achilleion Palace, which served as a summer palace for decades. A visit to the palace today offers the chance to see the renovated rooms inside and the sculpture garden, which includes the remarkable statue of the dying Achilles.
One of the most iconic sights and closely linked to the history of Corfu is the Vlacherna monastery. The women’s monastery is located on a tiny island off the coast. To access the island, which is almost completely taken up by the monastery itself, visitors stroll along the narrow quay that leads from the coast to Vlacherna. The bright white architecture of the Vlacherna monastery, built towards the end of the 17th century, stands out against the background of the clear blue water surrounding it, creating an iconic image that is even more beautiful in person than in the pictures.
On the north-west side of the island are several popular holiday resorts, most of which are crowded all year round due to international tourism. One of them, Sidari, is especially popular due to its proximity to a natural monument known as Canal d’Amour. Accessible on foot at one end of the beach, Canal d’Amour consists of a series of narrow coves created by sandstone cliffs. Each of the inlets offers something unique, ranging from a pristine stretch of white sand to trails that lead to beautiful stone arches or hidden caverns. The cliffs protect the coves from the wind, making this a great place to enjoy the sun on chilly days. One of the coves has natural mud that you can spread all over your skin and get soft like a baby again. There is a beautiful myth around Canal d’Amour. If you swim through it with your loved one you will stay together forever happily. If you’re single and swim through it you will find the love of your life within a year. (Always nice to try out)
The northeastern part of Corfu is home to Kassiopi, a quaint coastal town popular with travelers from all over the world. Brits in particular are drawn to the resort’s great beaches, delicious dining options, and relaxed atmosphere. Kassiopi is said to have been founded in the 3rd century BC, and a Byzantine fortress still stands on the hill overlooking the town and beaches. A variety of recreational activities are available on the pebble beach, allowing visitors to enjoy parasailing, horse riding, diving, and swimming.
Perched on the easternmost point of Corfu Town’s peninsula is the old fortress of Corfu. Known to the Greeks as Paleo Frourio, this incredible medieval structure was built in 1546 when the Venetians ruled the island. But the site’s history dates back even further, as a Byzantine castle stood where the fort is currently located. The old fortress is separated from the city by a moat and has two small peaks, or korypha, which are responsible for the island’s name. Within the fort, visitors will find various British buildings, such as the St. George Church, which were established in the place of the original Venetian buildings. This church is also truly worth a visit!
For anyone interested in history, or simply fascinated by the island’s traditional culture, Old Perithia is one of the top attractions of Corfu. It is the oldest village on the island. Strategically built at the foot of the Pantokrator mountain, the town was founded as a safe location with views out to sea, but is not visible from the coast. Old Perithia is far from the sea and up in the hills so it couldn’t be attacked. It is pleasantly cool here in the summer. The last residents deserted the village in 1955. Perithia still holds eight churches and more than 100 traditional Corfiot houses. It is now deemed world heritage and is protected by Unesco.
Visitors can walk through Old Perithia, meet some of the few locals who still call the village home, dine one of the few taverns of the village, and watch the sheep wandering amongst the fig and cherry trees.
The highest peak of the whole island is the mountain Pantokrator at 900m high, making it an easily recognizable point for both locals and visitors. From the top you can see the whole island in one panoramic view, and even Albania in the distance. Hiking to the top of the Pantokrator takes an average of two hours for a reasonably fit adult, but it is also possible to drive. Near the peak is a 17th century church that reminds visitors of the strong bonds between mountains and gods in the Greek culture.
Considered to be the best beach on the island by many, Glyfada is located on the west coast of Corfu. A blissful, long stretch of fine, golden sand is lined with sun beds and umbrellas and backed by hills of pine forests and olive groves. There are a couple large hotels and apartments in the area and visitors will also find tavernas, cafes, and water sport facilities, including jet skis, paddle boats, and banana boat rides. Facing west, it has beautiful sunsets, but also gets very busy in the summer, especially in August.
La Grotta Beach in Paleokastritsa is located on the west coast of Corfu and is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The beach itself is small and rocky, but head to the clear blue water and encounter an underwater world full of colourful fish. The beach also has a diving board and a cliff from which you can jump into the sea. The beach gets busy in the summer, but there are some rocks nearby that you can lounge on. I say beach, but it’s not really a beach to lie on all day. It’s a cove between rocks with a nice bar where you can reserve a table and drink cocktails while watching all the daredevils throw themselves off the cliff and dive into the water. Night swimming is also very popular here, but cold!
The Corfu Donkey Rescue in Paleokastritsa is well worth a visit for animal lovers. One of the most important things to do on this part of the island; it shelters homeless donkeys who have been abandoned or need a safe place to spend their retirement years (donkeys used to be an integral tool for transportation and work on Corfu). The sanctuary is located on a beautiful piece of land full of olive trees and a mountainous backdrop. Visitors can hang out with the donkeys daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. There is no entrance fee, but a donation is greatly appreciated as it is a charity organisation.
This beautifully landscaped 18-hole golf course was designed by Swiss architect Donald Harradine in the Ropa Valley. It contains natural elements such as the Nafsika River, as well as several lakes and meandering streams, and is popular with both novice and advanced players. It enjoys warm sunshine, blue skies, and a cool sea breeze from March to November. It is open daily and has golf clubs for rent.
Built in 1826 in neoclassical style, the Mon Repos Castle is a special landmark of Corfu. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and husband of the British Queen, was born here in 1921. For this reason alone the excursion is worth a trip, especially for Brits and fans of the European monarchy. Today, you will find an interesting museum in the small castle. One part showcases the history of the noble inhabitants and some paintings and furniture. The other part exhibits archaeological finds and recounts information about ancient Corfu. On the other side of this beautiful park are two magnificent beaches. One can be found by walking through the park and descending towards a long jetty. Thie is the quiet Mon Repos beach as there is nothing else. The other beach is on the left; a beautiful beach with sun beds and a very good restaurant. This beach is especially popular with the city residents of Corfu Town as it is in the middle of the city. Many residents come here to cool down during their siesta.
The Venetians are not alone in leaving their mark on Corfu. Their predecessors, the Byzantines, have also been immortalized in many places on the island. One of their structures is the Angelokastro monument of Corfu. It is an old fort from the 13th century and is strategically located on a western tip of the island on a steep coast. This location also earned it the nickname Castel Sant’Angelo. Looking over the walls you have a beautiful view of the sea and the surrounding coastal landscape. Take a few hours and explore the countryside around Angelokastro. In the fort you can visit a church and a small chapel.
The Korission Lake in the southwest of the island is a shallow freshwater lake that was laid out under the Venetian rule of Corfu. It is over five kilometers long and up to one kilometer wide. Because it is classified as a nature reserve, you will find nothing except absolute peace. So if you need a break from other tourists and crowded beaches, this is the place for you. Other than a dune landscape, you will find reeds, white lilies and no less than 14 different varieties of orchids. You can also find many species of birds and butterflies at Lake Korission. The Venetians constructed the lagoon to protect the area from increasing swamps and simultaneously make room for fish farming. Unique is also that at the narrowest point between sea and lake is only about three meters. Make your way to the nature reserve and take your time. If you are lucky you will see flamingos and different types of turtles.
The beach of Afionas—many call it Butterfly Bay due to its shape—should not be missed on your list of Corfu attractions. Two seas with different water temperatures face each other, separated by an approx. 30 meter wide strip of land. This beach can only be reached by a 25-minute descent on foot, or with a water taxi from the beach of Agios Georgios to the northwest. Definitely worth a visit!
Agios Gordios beach is an attraction of Corfu that draws thousands of tourists every year. Despite that, you can easily stick it out on the beach and in the small tourist village. The beach is popular with families, couples, and larger groups. Directly on the sandy beach you will find a variety of restaurants or takeaways. In the evening you can enjoy spectacular sunsets.
At the foot of the southern tip of the island you will find this landmark of Corfu. Arkoudilas Beach is a little-visited beach that is natural and surrounded by a beautiful backdrop. It is a rather long beach, so even in the high season you will have enough space. Whether you come with your family or as a couple on a very romantic vacation, here you can be yourself completely.
Pontikonisi (Mouse Island)
For €2.50 you can take a boat to this small island, home to a 12th century Byzantine monastery and a plethora of pines and cypresses. Legend has it that Pontikonisi is the ship of Ulysses after it was turned to stone by Poseidon. The island is protected, but you go out there and climb the stairs to visit the monastery, which has a cafe and souvenir shop. You may see a strong resemblance to the famous painting by Swiss symbolist Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead, which may have been inspired by Pontikonisi.
At the bottom of the green cliffs below the Myrtiotissa Monastery you will find a heavenly beach. Myrtiotissa has a narrow strip of fine sand with perfectly clear water, sheltered by a number of rocks a few meters from the coast. Due to its isolated and remote location, Myrtiotissa Beach has become the choice for naturists on Corfu, although everyone is free to use the beach. The unspoken rule is that naturists will bathe at the more private ends of the beach shielded by rocks, while non-nude swimmers hold to the center.
Unlike most of the rocky bays of Corfu, Issos’ Blue Flag beach is an open bay adjacent to Lake Korission in the south of the island. Like dunes, the golden sand at Issos seems to go on forever. If you want some more life and amenities at hand, you can stay close to the resort of Agios Georgios on the east side. You can also walk west and within a few minutes you will be away from the crowds. Further from the civilized world, Issos Beach is also popular with naturists, while the constant breeze attracts windsurfers and kite surfers.
Aqualand Corfu Waterpark is a paradise for children and families who love a combination of sun and water. It offers over 36 different slides, 15 adventure pools, jacuzzis and many other fascinating games! Aqualand Corfu Waterpark is a unique and unforgettable experience of joy, happiness and endless fun! Millions of people around the world have visited this water park. If you visit Corfu, don’t miss this unique experience!
Cape Drastis is the northernmost tip of the island (and one not to be missed). Now, there always seem to be inconsistencies as to when Cape Drastis is open, but it is certainly easiest to access in the summer months.
At the top of the road there is a gate that is “sometimes” manned for you to request access. This is not always the case and you may be lucky enough to just drive through it. The road to Cape Drastis can also be a bit steep, so drive carefully. Once you arrive you will appreciate how beautiful this place is. My favorite time to visit is later in the day when the sun hits the cliffs—it really is a dramatic place. Also don’t forget to bring a couple bottles of water. There are few facilities in this small place. Still, it is one of the best things to do on Corfu and there is also a wonderful walk around Cape Drastis.
Considered one of the best sunsets on the island, Logas Beach is a great place to chill and relax while watching the sun set into the sea. Go to the beach or stay on top of the cliffs and situate yourself at the cliffside restaurant with a frappe or ouzo (for the non-drivers).
An important Greek product that has been used for centuries is honey, both for devouring and for healing purposes. Hippocrates said this Nectar of the Gods “cleans sores and ulcers, soothes hard sores of the lips, and heals carbuncles.” Aristotle believed that honey extended life. “Mr. Honey” (whose real name is Panagiotis Vasilakis) is a gentle, easy going man who tells his story of how he left a stressful career in Athens for beekeeping in Corfu—a profession he knew nothing about before he got here! You can meet his bees and learn about the process of collecting the honey. You can enjoy and buy many of the natural products he makes. This is one of the more unique places to visit on Corfu, don’t miss a day with Mr. Honey! Panagiotis is passionate about beekeeping and is happy to share his knowledge about bees and honey with you. Tours here are free, including honey samples. The shop is called MKV—Melissokomiki Kerkyras Vasilakis.