Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, the second largest of the Ionian Islands, forming the edge of Greece’s northwestern border. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, administered as a single municipality. It includes the island of Corfu and the small islands of Ereikoussa, Mathraki, and Othonoi.
The island is rich with ancient archaeological sites dating back to the 7th century. It was influenced by many different civilizations that passed through it, such as the Sicilian, French and British civilizations.
The island’s area is estimated at 588 km2 and is divided into three regions: the mountainous northern region, the central undulating region, and the southern depression.
Corfu is also characterized by its architecture and as one of the most diverse Greek islands despite its modest size. The ancient city on this fantastic island has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Corfu boasts many palaces, museums, castles, archaeological sites, more than 120 beaches, over 100 villages, almost a thousand churches, an extensive mountain range of valleys, rivers, waterfalls, forests, and beautiful caves.
It is also rich in cultural heritage, historical monuments, and charming landscapes. It has excellent weather throughout the year and the most beautiful villages, perhaps at the forefront of which is the traditional village of Benitses, known as the old fishing village.
Corfu has always fascinated tourists with its natural beauty, which led to tourism being the primary source of income for the region.
The Origin of the Name Corfu
The name Corfu is originally derived from the Italian language as a modification of the ancient Greek word Korevo, which means “Top”, to denote the two peaks between which the city lies and where two castles were built.
It was also the name of the nymph daughter of Asopos, the Greek god of rivers, who was kidnapped by the sea god Poseidon, and given the island as a gift, according to ancient Greek mythology.
The History of Corfu
Archaeological discoveries indicated that the island of Corfu had been inhabited since the 10th century BC when the Phoenicians settled there, then Greek immigrants came from the city of Eritrea in the isle of Eva.
After that, the island was ruled by the Corinthians in 664 BC; then, Corfu regained independence from the Corinthians and relied on commercial power. Still, it entered into a conflict with Corinth and then allied itself with Athena.
In 229 BC, Corfu was under the rule of the Romans. However, after the division of the Roman Empire, the island fell under Byzantine influence.
From the 11th century onwards, the island fell under the influence of several Italian cities. Between the years (1214-1259 AD) it was under the power of the Byzantine Emirate of Epirus and others until 1386, when it fell under Venetian protection.
The Ottomans also tried to control Corfu but failed. Thus the island is the only one the Turks did not take hold of due to its distinctive geographical location and the strength of the Byzantine and Venetian fortifications.
Afterwards, Corfu came under French control in 1797. Then, joint Russian, English, and Turkish forces took over the island after two years of French occupation. They established the Ionian state, the state of the seven islands, and Corfu was the capital. In 1807, the island came back under the control of the French, and a period of great cultural and economic prosperity began.
Eventually, Greek became its official language, and the first modern Greek university was established.
Corfu joined with the islands in the modern state of Greece in 1864, but during the Second World War, it was occupied by the Italians and then the Germans. During the war, Corfu was bombed several times, leading to the destruction of many historical buildings.
The Weather on Corfu Island
The climate in Corfu is generally mild, with hot and dry summers and mild winters. The winter months may attract those who want to avoid the crowds, as that is when the island is tranquil, so it is an excellent time to visit.
The coldest month is January, and July and August are the hottest, with temperatures that can rise to 35 degrees Celsius, and some days it gets even hotter.
Transportation on Corfu Island
The best way to get around and discover Corfu Island is to walk, take a bus or rent a private car.
Taxi: You can take a taxi for short trips around Corfu, but be aware that most drivers do not use their meters, so agree on a fare before boarding.
Rent a Car or Bike: Renting a car or bike makes it easier to get around the island for a cheaper fare. Book online in advance and pick it up as soon as you arrive from one of the major rental agencies at the airport.
Bus: A bus is a good option if you are on a tight budget, where you can distinguish the buses by their colours. For example, blue and white buses go from the airport and the cruise ship terminal to Corfu city, and green buses travel from the city to the resort areas and villages around the island.
Things to do on Corfu Island
Corfu has been one of the most renowned islands around the world since the 20th century, and many visitors go there to relive their childhood memories, as it was a favourite destination for family vacations for decades. The island’s northeast coast is primarily developed by a few British holiday companies, with large, expensive villas.
Corfu was visited by many European royal families and elites, including Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and Empress Elizabeth of Austria.
The island has an attractive climate for tourists during the summer and spring, where you can find charming beaches with their soft sand and clear waters.
Corfu is also famous for its cobbled streets, churches, and castles of Venetian (Italian) architecture and its ancient forts dating back to the 15th century AD.
It is one of Corfu’s most important historical and archaeological landmarks, dating back to the 1890s, attracting thousands of tourists yearly.
The palace is located outside the village of Gastouri, 10 kilometres southwest of Corfu Town. The white Neoclassical villa was the summer escape of Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Then it belonged to the Kaiser of Germany in the early 20th century before the outbreak of World War I when, sadly, it was looted.
When you visit the villa, you can explore the gardens filled with towering palm trees and Neoclassical statues.
It is located 36 km northeast of Corfu and is one of its most tranquil cities. It is considered a seaside resort that is very popular with travellers from all over the world, thanks to its fabulous beaches, great restaurants, and relaxed atmosphere.
Kassiopi was founded in the 3rd century BC. It has numerous monuments, including a Byzantine castle standing on a hill overlooking the city. Its beautiful beaches provide recreational activities, allowing visitors to enjoy parasailing, horse riding, scuba diving, and swimming.
It is the island’s capital and is also famous for its old buildings dating back to the Venetian era. It has a vast city square adorned with horse statues dating back to the 16th century and lined with churches such as the red-domed Church of Saint Spyridon.
The city includes a port on its waterfront, ferries regularly go from Corfu to Igoumenitsa, and boats take daily organized trips to Albania.
Corfu Old Town
The old town is one of the best places in Corfu with its stunning medieval European designs, drawing inspiration from Italian art and culture with a British flair that made it one of the most important sites on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Old Corfu is distinguished by its large squares, the most famous of which is the Piazza Spienada, and its cobbled lanes and narrow streets. Also, the famous Liston Street restaurants, cafes, and shops are similar to those on the Boulevard Paris de Rivoli.
Mount Pantokartur is the highest peak on the island of Corfu, going up 906 meters. Hence, it is easy to identify by residents and visitors alike, who come to enjoy the fantastic view of the island while spending some time relaxing in the fresh air.
At the top of the mountain, you will find the Pantokrator Monastery, built in the 14th century. You will see magnificent views of Albania to the east, the Diapontia islands to the north, and the islands of Paxos and Anti Paxos to the south.
Mon Repos Palace
Mon Repos Palace is one of the best places to visit in Corfu; as it showcases the history of the British colonization of the Greek island during the 19th century. The palace was built with an elegant classic facade and luxurious furniture to be the home of High Commissioner Frederick Adam before it became the property of the famous writer Lawrence Durrell during the thirties.
The palace features 260 acres of residential buildings, ancient traditional baths, artefacts, and lush, manicured gardens. It also houses a museum with prints, lithographs, fossils, and artwork, some dating back to the Byzantine era, with rare palace documents.
If you are a history lover, then the village of Old Perthia is the perfect place for you. The oldest remaining village in Corfu, it is located at the base of Mount Pantokrator. It was established as a safe location offering pleasant sea-viewing points.
The village has eight churches and more than 100 traditional houses, where you can walk through the beautiful streets and encounter some of the few locals still staying in the village houses, dine in the charming restaurants and watch the sheep roam among the fig and cherry trees.
It is a Byzantine fortress located east of the old city and is classified as one of the most important tourist places in Corfu and is also known as the Old Castle.
The castle is distinguished by its unique architectural style that combines Byzantine and Italian Venetian architecture and the charming panoramic sea view from the top.
Today, if you visit the castle, you will find ruins, including a small church, an underground chapel, and the original castle walls. When you reach the top, you can view Corfu Town, the sea, and the Greek mainland to the southeast.
- Entrance tickets to the Angelocastro Castle: 3 euros.
Corfu Golf Club
The Corfu Golf Club is located in the Ropa Valley, 17 km from Corfu Town. Swiss architect Donald Harradine designed it and incorporated natural elements, such as the river Nafsika, lakes and meandering streams.
The best time to practice golf is from March to November, when you can enjoy the warm sunshine and blue skies.
Corfu Museum of Asian Art
The Museum lies in the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, and it is the only Museum in Greece devoted solely to art and antiquities from around the Asian continent.
It was established in 1928 as a Museum of Sino-Japanese Art to host collections of around 15,000 artworks from across Asia. It has an array of rare pieces and is known for its international and travelling exhibits.
Beaches in Corfu
Corfu is full of many beautiful beaches that tourists love to visit and enjoy, and here are some of these magnificent beaches.
La Grotta Beach
It is one of the most popular beaches in Corfu for its picturesque nature and crystal clear waters.
Near the Rocky Mountains, with its deep caves and dense green plants, the beach was named in the Italian language as “Cave Beach”. It includes the most popular beach bar in Corfu and serves delicious, refreshing drinks with live music, adding to the fun atmosphere.
Located on the northwestern tip, a 20-minute walk from the small village of Sidari, it is considered one of Corfu’s top natural wonders.
Canal d’Amour is characterized by its sandstone rock formations that create a natural passage from its small beach. You can jump off rocks into the warm, salty sea and swim through tunnels and caves to explore the underwater world.
Paleokastritsa Beach is located on the western coast of Corfu Island and is considered one of the best tourist spots in Corfu.
It is the best place for diving, where you can dive and see hundreds of colourful fish, barriers, and picturesque coral reefs swimming and growing at the bottom. In addition, an ancient Venetian monastery, painted in pastel colours, is located on the highest hill overlooking the sea.
Glyfada Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Corfu, located on its western coast, within the Corrison Lagoon marine reserve.
The beach has soft sand and clear waters, ideal for recreation, relaxation, and swimming. Besides that, there is an ancient monastery of Myrtidiotissa, located at the top of a nearby hill, with beautiful panoramic views of the beach.
Barbati Beach is perfect for swimming, snorkelling, diving, sailing, and sunbathing. It is well-known for its long line of stylish restaurants, bars, and clubs that attract visitors for their delicious local cuisine.
The Best Festivals on Corfu Island
Many festivals take place on the island every week in August. Usually, every village celebrates the saint for whom the local church was named, and then music and dance festivals follow. Here are some of these famous festivals:
Varkarola Festival or Saint Spyridon’s Day
This festival is held in the summer on 10 August every year, where the locals celebrate the miracle of Saint Spyridon who is believed to have saved the island from the Turkish invasion on 11 August 1716.
The rituals of this celebration include the recreation of a naval battle during which a series of boats sailed along the Gulf of Paleokastritsa. It also includes performances from traditional bands and Greek dance shows.
At the end of the celebration, one of the boats is set on fire, and large firework displays are held to commemorate the burning of the Turkish naval fleet during the eighteenth century.
The locals also celebrate Saint Spyridon’s Day every year by holding a large procession in the city of Corfu, the island’s capital, for three days and nights, starting on 11 August.
These processions start at 9 am and are attended by bands called brass. A silver and gilded box containing the body of Saint Spyridon is displayed for worship, and then the band’s performance commences.
The Virgin Mary Festival
This festival is held in any church dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the island on 15 August and is one of the major national holidays. During this festival, residents enjoy Greek music all over the island.
International Dance Festival
The festival is held on the southern side of Mount Pantokrator for two consecutive days, the 17th and 18th of July. It includes many dance performances and traditional Greek music and hosts artistic groups from other countries.
Hotels on Corfu Island
With all these beautiful attractions on the island that you likely won’t be able to explore in one day, you will need a place to stay and relax, and here are some of the best hotels and resorts you can stay in during your time on the island.
Mayor Mon Repos Palace Hotel
Mayor Mon Repos Palace Hotel is located in the south of Garitsa Bay, 1 km from the city of Corfu, 4 km from the port of Corfu, and 2 km from Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport.
The hotel has a small freshwater pool with sunbeds, air-conditioned rooms, and a balcony with views of the Ionian Sea. The rooms have a refrigerator, an LCD TV, and a private bathroom.
Almyros Beach Hotel
Almyros Beach Hotel is located in Acharavi, 36 km from the city, while Glyfada and Corfu International Airport are 42 km from the hotel.
It is characterized by rooms with a sea or mountain view, while others have a seating area to relax in, an outdoor pool, a children’s playground, and a terrace. Also, a restaurant serves delicious and unique meals, and the hotel offers bicycle and car rentals.
Corfu Holiday Palace Resort
Corfu Holiday Palace Resort is located close to the city centre. It has a unique view of Pontikonisi Island and the lagoon, with access to outdoor and indoor pools and a sandy beach.
The resort’s restaurants serve Greek and international cuisine, and guests can enjoy Japanese dishes at the Sushi Bar.
The Royal Grand Hotel
The Royal Grand Hotel is 300 meters from the sandy beach of Kanoni, the port is 3.5 km from the property, and Corfu Airport is 1.5 km away. The hotel also features an outstanding view of Mouse Island.
The hotel has a swimming pool, two restaurants, a bar, and a café, all overlooking magnificent views. Also, you can enjoy refreshing drinks and different unique dishes at the restaurants and bars and taste their special breakfast. The hotel rooms have air conditioning, a safe, minibar, flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom.