Corfu Island holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
CORFU ISLAND HOLIDAYSGreece
The holiday island of Corfu has Greek as its official language, although its long history as a tourist destination means English and common European languages are spoken in most tourist resorts.
Greece is a member of the European Union and the Eurozone, with the euro its official currency. Corfu Town, the island’s capital, has a number of banks and there are licensed currency exchange bureaux in all the tourist centres. Currency can be exchanged at hotel front desks at a less favourable rate. ATMs are found in most tourist hubs, and in Corfu Town, major credit and debit cards are accepted at most outlets. But in rural regions and for small purchases, cash is preferred. A mix of cash and card is best.
Nationals of European Union countries, including the UK, may enter Corfu without a visa and stay indefinitely on production of an ID card or passport. US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens may enter visa-free, along with citizens of certain other countries. Nationals of countries not listed will need to contact their nearest Greek embassy for further details.
Corfu enjoys a Mediterranean climate over the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The east coast sees the hottest weather, with the west coast more moderate. Winters on the island are mild and pleasant, with temperatures averaging 10°C and four to five sunshine hours a day. Spring temperatures sit around 25°C, with alternating showers and sunshine. Summer is hot and humid, with highs of around 30°C and cooler nights, and autumn is showery and warm, with temperatures ranging between 24 and 28°C.
Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport is the air arrival hub for the holiday island, offering chartered and scheduled flights from a number of northerly European cities. The peak period for arrivals lasts from April to October and the vast majority of routes are on a seasonal basis. The main carriers from the UK are EasyJet, Jet2, Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Thomson, serving London-Gatwick, London-Luton and London-Stansted, and a good choice of UK regional airports.
For UK travellers from the southeast, EasyJet runs from London-Gatwick and London-Luton, and Ryanair flies from London-Stansted. Birmingham is served by Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook, and Ryanair flies from East Midlands. Jet2 and Monarch fly from Manchester, while Jet2 also serves Leeds-Bradford and Newcastle. Ryanair serves Edinburgh and Glasgow, with Thomson flying from Cardiff, Dublin, Exeter, Bournemouth and Bristol. Flight times to Corfu from London average just over 3 hours.
Travelling in the shoulder seasons saves money, with the exception of Easter and the UK school holidays. Late booking of charters can bring bargains on package trips at little more than the cost of a flight. Low-cost airlines offer special deals and refusing extra add-ons is a cost-cutting exercise. Prices of flights and accommodation soar in the peak summer months, but last-minute discounts can often be had. Transportation on Corfu is by bus, taxi or hire car.
The alternative to air arrival on Corfu involves either train or long-distance bus from London and ends in a ferry journey from Athens, Bari, Brindisi or Venice. The most practical route involves the longest ferry journey and begins with the Eurostar from London to Paris, connecting with the Paris/Venice sleeper express. From Venice, Anek Lines and Minoan Lines ferries sail to Corfu along the spectacular Italian coastline.
Public transportation on Corfu is by bus or taxi, as there are no rail lines on the island. City buses connect Corfu Town with its airport and cover places of interest, while longer distance buses cover the main towns around the island. Corfu has two motorways, the GR-25 in the south, linking Corfu Town with Lefkimi, and the GR24 in the northwest, linking the town with Palaiokastritsa. In rural areas, roads tend to be narrow and winding, and mountain roads, hairpin bends and varying road conditions can cause problems.
Corfu’s buses are identified by their colours - blue for Corfu Town and green for buses running to the rest of the island. The blue bus terminal is at San Rocco Square, with helpful maps showing routes, ticket machines and electronic displays.
Bus number 7 runs to Dasia, number 6 goes to Benitses, number 11 goes to Pelekas and number 19 is the airport bus. Green buses run to all of Corfu’s villages and terminate near the New Port. Bus travel is comparatively cheap, comfortable and convenient.
Car hire from trusted international players in the field is easily arranged in advance or at the airport or in town, and local companies also provide service. If your holiday agenda includes seeing all there is to see all over the island or searching for isolated beaches, hiring a car is the best way to get around. In the high season, there’s a scarcity of available vehicles, with booking in advance the only way to be sure of your personal transportation.
Corfu Town is the island’s charming capital, first established by the Venetians and subsequently a colonial hub for France as well as Britain. Its fascinating history has resulted in many architectural delights including the Venetian Fortress, mansions and palaces. Just 10kms away is the traditional village of Kynopiastes with its 17th century Agio Paraskevi Monastery, pretty churches and narrow tiled alleyways lined with traditional homes and shops.
Nymphes is a must-see village for its wells and waterfalls, linked with the legend of a nymph who bathed here regularly, captivating the local men. At the edge of the village is the small, ancient Askitario Monastery, originally home to a 5th century miracle-working monk.
The town of Paleokastritsa is a bizarre mix of modern beach resort and monastic community set in lovely, unspoilt countryside. Panagia Theotokos Monastery dates from the 13th century although most of its buildings are from the 17th century. The local museum holds the skeleton of a sea monster and the beaches here are perfect for a relaxing afternoon and refreshing swim. Local boats offer trips to grottoes and caves.
For holidaymakers with children, a day at the Aqualand water park is an essential part of any holiday. One of Europe’s best water parks, it’s set just a short drive from Corfu Town and covers over 70,000 square miles of innovative slides, from gentle to scary, as well as rides, pools, attractions, eateries and other delights. Shows of Greek dancing and traditional music are also part of the fun.
The former fishing village of Benitses is one of the most traditional of all the Corfu resorts and lies 12kms from Corfu Town. Visitors keen on golf will enjoy a game at the Corfu Golf Course, designed by architect Donald Carradine. For the best view on the island, head for Mount Pantokrator, Corfu’s highest peak, the summit of which is accessible by road.
Corfu’s landmarks focus on its architectural delights which stretch over six centuries, as well as its sheer natural beauty. Forts and castles, royal palaces, historic, ornate Greek Orthodox churches, monasteries and several museums tell of the island’s past and the occasional incongruity gives a special flavour to sightseeing on the island.
One such architectural delight is Corfu Town’s early 19th century Regency Palace of St Michael and St George, home to the Museum of Asian Art. The collection of Ming Dynasty ceramics, Tibetan temple art, Indian sculptures and Japanese ukiyo-e prints may seem incongruous here, but are fine examples of their periods and dynastic styles.
The Church of St Spyridion was built in 1596 and holds the mortal remains of the saint, smuggled to Corfu after the fall of Constantinople. The silver reliquary lies in the small side-chapel and is carried around Corfu Town four times a year in a splendid procession. The interior of the church is beautifully decorated and holds many silver objects.
Corfu Town’s medieval quarter is now a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Venetian palaces, cobbled squares and ancient churches. The Venetian Old Fortress guards Corfu Town from its promontory and contains the lovely Church of St George, and Mon Repos in Kenoni is a former royal palace set in glorious landscaped gardens and now home to an interesting archaeological museum.
Set in the village of Gastouri, the Achilleion Palace was built for Empress Elizabeth of Austria and is a magnificent white marble structure with an over-the-top, sumptuous interior. After the empress died, the palace was bought by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, who visited it regularly until WWI broke out.
Corfu Town is the island’s hub for entertainment and nightlife, with many visitors preferring a leisurely dinner followed by a wander to a café on the Esplanade for drinks, Greek music and good conversation. A good number of bars and small tavernas back the beaches and give great sunset views. Night spots with cool music and hot dancing are found along the coast between the town and Gouvia beach resort, with a choice of typical Greek nightclubs, Greek music venues and lively places such as the well-known Corfu by Night.
For the young party people set, it has to be admitted that Corfu isn’t Ibiza, but the clubs along Kapodistriou offer the latest music and, past the New Port, there’s a strip of flashy dance clubs which are guaranteed to please. For more sedate evenings, open-air orchestral and band concerts on the Esplanade are the thing, and sound and light shows give a glow to the evening. The Corfu Festival kicks off in September, offering opera, theatre, ballet and concerts by international as well as Greek artistes.
If you’re feeling lucky, you’ll find the Corfu Holiday Palace with its glittering casino, although you’ll need to be 23 or older to get in and mingle with the international set crowding the place in high summer. Opening hour is 20:00 and, as with the nightclubs, closing is at 03:00. Evening boat cruises offering dinner and drinks are another popular night-time option, with the bonuses of fresh, cool sea air and the view of Corfu by night.
Corfu cuisine reflects the island’s Venetian heritage, with pasta dishes such as pastitsada (layered beef and pasta with a spicy tomato and béchamel sauce), the local version of a much-loved Italian recipe. Meat, especially veal, plays a major part in the island’s gastronomy, is locally reared and served with parsley, garlic and wine vinegar in the traditional sofrito. As with all Mediterranean islands, Corfu has seafood as an important source of protein, served stewed in a tomato sauce as bourdetto or with herbs, lemon juice, lashings of black pepper and root vegetables as bianco.
Olive oil from the island’s many groves as well as the olives themselves is widely used, and its strong, somewhat bitter flavour adds to the taste of each dish. Although dishes common to the rest of Greece, such as moussaka and marinated, skewered lamb, are found on most menus, Corfu cuisine has many unique culinary delights which are not found on the mainland or other islands. Many delicious traditional recipes hark back to when all the ingredients were thrown into a pot and simmered for an entire day.
Chicken is popular, grilled or roasted, and the feta and kefalotiri cheeses are an important part of many dishes. Corfu has few vineyards, but the wine produced here is perfect with the cuisine, as is the local Retsina wine. Ouzo, distilled from vine stalks with aniseed added for flavour, should be sipped while munching olives, and Greek beer is served freezing cold. Desserts are traditional, using filo pastry, chopped nuts and lashings of local honey. The best tavernas for authentic Corfu food are local favourites away from the main tourist drags.
Corfu’s beaches are divided into west and east, with the western strands generally sandy and great for beach games and sunbathing, and the eastern bays tending towards the pebbly. Seas, however, are calmer in the east. Kassiopi has more character and more atmosphere and crystal-clear water, although the beach is stony, and isolated. Glifada has acres of sand but rough seas. Messonghi Beach is perfect for families, while the beaches around Corfu Town are pebbly. For getting away from it all, remote Pelekas Beach gives fine, soft sand and seclusion.
The more remote regions of Corfu have long been favourites for romantic island breaks in small, family-run hotels set on tiny bays and surrounded by the glorious Corfu countryside. Renting a private villa with a pool is another option for romance among the bougainvilleas, and Agios Georgios on the island’s west coast is a quaint traditional village with little tavernas set in a charming square.
Corfiots, like all Greeks, adore children and do their best to make sure they’re having a wonderful time on holiday. A quiet resort, a sandy beach and calm seas are best for families, with the long stretch of sandy strands at Sidari perfect for bucket and spade fans as well as smaller, family-friendly accommodation found on the edges of the resort. Another option is an all-inclusive hotel catering for kids’ needs with a dedicated pool, activities, a children’s club and babysitting so parents can enjoy a night out.
The island’s rugged interior is great for hiking, trekking and walking, giving everything from gentle slopes to steep climbs in the central mountains. The Corfu trail is famous, ending at the dramatic cliffs along the western coast. For a thrill, cliff jumping is found in several locations and deep-water soloing (solo sea cliff climbing) is a new experience. Sea-kayaking and canoeing, waterskiing, paragliding, horseback riding, sailing and yachting are all popular here.